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Believe in your capability to climb to the top because you are meant to achieve great things. Crystal Maggelet shares her fascinating business journey and climb to the top of her industry. Crystal is the CEO of FJ Management Inc., a diversified family business that includes wholly-owned subsidiaries. In this episode, she joins Dan Clark to discuss the importance of business principles proven to drive your business to excellent results. Some of these are integrity, mutual respect, and humility. Dive deep to learn more and gain valuable insights on work-life balance to take care of your career, family, and community.
Crystal Maggelet Shares Her Fascinating Business Journey And Climb To The Top Of Her Industry
This is the show interview with the CEO of FJ Management Inc., including Maverik’s convenience gas station store chain, Crystal Call Maggelet. In this episode, Crystal Call Maggelet, CEO of FJ management and a graduate of Pepperdine University with an MBA from Harvard, shares her life and a fascinating business journey that includes being named the National EY, Entrepreneur Of The Year for Family Business in 2018, serving on the Liv Communities Board, Intermountain Healthcare Board, in Salt Lake City, Utah Committee for the Olympic Games and the Zions Bank Advisory Board.
Crystal is not only a brilliant and extremely admired business executive, but she is a shiny example of how to climb to the top of any profession through service before self, giving us an inside glimpse into how she balances her life as a proud and amazing mother of four children while managing the family’s charitable giving through the call foundation, co-chairing the Intermountain Healthcare Primary Promise Campaign and serving as a member of the Sundance Institute Utah Leadership Council. You don’t want to miss this episode with Crystal Call Maggelet.
It seems like in almost every episode, I brag about the significance of the conversation that I’m going to have with the guests. This is an extraordinary experience because I’m a fan of women in business. When I had an opportunity to speak to 3,500 women in military uniform in Washington, DC, at the very first Women’s Military Symposium, I was the keynote speaker and the only gentleman in the room, and I singled out one of my dear friends and heroes, three-star Air Force General Maggie Woodward.
In front of her colleagues, I said, “Maggie Woodward, with all due respect, is the finest female general officer in the entire United States military.” She interrupted my speech. I knew I was in trouble. She said, “I’m not a female general officer. I’m a general officer who happens to be a female and don’t you ever forget it.” I said, “Yes, ma’am.”
That completely opened my eyes to the significance of putting our emphasis on qualifications in education, training, personality, integrity, service before self, and a commitment to excellence in all we do. My guest is the amazing, talented, brilliantly smart Crystal Call Maggelet, who happens to be the CEO of FJ Management, wholly owned subsidiaries including Maverik and Big West Oil.
Because of her undergraduate degree, coming from Pepperdine University, and getting an MBA from Harvard Business School, Crystal brings to the fight and to the daily schedule of a CEO of a leader in business so many different sides to decision-making and life in general. Let’s start with where you grew up, how you grew up, and how did you get this entrepreneurial spirit and self-confidence that you could do anything regardless if you were a male or a female?
That has a lot to do with how I was brought up because my dad started our family business, Flying J, in 1968. I was born in 1964. From day one in my life, all I ever saw was an entrepreneurial father. I didn’t know what it was like for someone to go to work at 9:00 and come back at 5:00. My dad left on Tuesday mornings and came back on Friday because his business was on the West Coast. We lived in Brigham City, Utah.
I was lucky that my mom was also a strong dynamic person and very ambitious. Later in my life, she became very entrepreneurial, too. I didn’t have a chance as far as entrepreneurship or family business. It was all around me. It was in my DNA and also along the lines of confidence, no one ever told me I couldn’t. My parents were amazing in that way. No one ever said or pointed out that I couldn’t do whatever I wanted to do. I didn’t realize the blessing or how lucky I was to be in a world that happened. No teacher, coach, or anyone along the path I remember taking seriously if anybody even told me I couldn’t do what I wanted to do.
You need to find people who are smarter than you are. You have leadership skills that you can trust to help you build and grow the way you want to. That’s something you continue to learn.
Tell us about your siblings. Did they have the same mindset that they could do anything that they believed in?
I only have one brother. Through different eyes, different things happen. He did not have that same mindset, unfortunately. Every family has different situations. He might have had that opportunity, but I think life was harder for him in his situation. I don’t think that in any family, different siblings turn out a bit differently.
Let’s talk about the fascinating title of the first business, Flying J or FJ Management. Teach us about where that came from and the significance it has to your family.
If I go way back, my dad had great principles, like treating every employee well. If you did a deal with someone, you wanted to have them as happy as you are. That was truly a good deal. It wasn’t about you walking away like, “I made it. I took advantage of them.” He told and taught me and I watched him to be respectful, have integrity, and be truthful.
He was a tough negotiator, but I saw him treat people fairly. That’s something that’s the foundation of our businesses. We are not perfect. We have 8,000 employees and not all those employees may always live by the guiding principles that we have at FJ Management, but we strive to do that. Their integrity, mutual respect, and excellence are our guiding principles.
In our so-called recruiting crunch during COVID and coming out of COVID, the word on the street is that you turned recruiting into an attraction. In the Law of Attraction, we don’t attract whom we want. We attract who we are. As I’ve tried to prep for this interview with been coming for a long time to ask about what the reputation is on the street, it’s one of the most wonderful places to work. People absolutely love to come into the Flying JS and the Maveriks. Everything that you’re involved with as a family wears an umbrella. What’s your secret? What’s the Law of Attraction? Why are you one of the most fun and wonderful places to work?
It comes back to hoping we have mutual respect throughout our companies. I care deeply for our employees and my father did before. I’m a little different than he is. Our companies are a little bit different place than they were then. In general, I love having employees. I love providing careers. I don’t love what happens in our world where businesses are sold like used cars. The people in the wake are the people a lot of times. I don’t want to be one of those companies.
People can see that. They see that we are building value to last. That’s our mission. That doesn’t mean we would never ever sell a company. It just means that that’s not our intent. Our intent is to grow, get bigger, and build an enterprise that gives back. Mostly, families help families. We’re a family business. We want to help the families that work for us, as well as other families.
What’s your toughest job, assignment, and challenge in growth? Is it finding people who are natural leaders? How do you know that you can grow as fast as you want based on your focus on people? What do you look for?
It is the people because you’ve got to find people that are smarter than you are. You have leadership skills and management skills that you can trust that are strategic or can help you build and grow the way you want to. It’s not easy. I don’t know that I can say that I know how to do that. That’s something you continue to learn. At least in my case, I saw my dad have home runs in that and have problems.
I have had the same experience. It’s not a very sophisticated thing, but I rely on my gut a lot when I meet people and I’m extremely trusting, too. All those things are not always good. When you’re in a business and you’re growing it, It does come down to the people who are going to help you grow that business in the end. You can do deals all day long and grow a business. That’s true, but a business that gets better and better has got to have great people in it.
Is it fair to say that the Truckstop business and the oil and gas business are more male-dominated than female-dominated?
Just be yourself and do a great job.
That leads to my question. Did you find it tough to be a woman in a so-called man’s world and a man’s industry? If so, how did you battle that to rise to the occasion and rise to the top of the profession of your industry?
I did not ever find it that hard. I was mostly the only woman in the room and still all the time. When I was young and I wasn’t in a position of authority when I first went to work, my first job was buying and selling LPG products, propane and butane, and running our refinery fleet of rail cars. I would go to conventions, which is where you did a lot of business to meet the other traders and marketers of LPG products. There was one other woman that was 40, and I was 21. Either people felt bad for me or knew how naïve I was, but even there, I felt I was treated with respect.
I always tried to carry myself with respect. I didn’t try to be a man or be part of a man’s world. If I walk into a meeting and people are talking about Sunday football, I don’t follow football. I would just sit back, and wait until they were done, the meeting would start and it was fine. That’s a simple answer, but I just was a woman in a man’s world. I just was myself. That always has worked for me. I know it doesn’t work for some women, but for me, that’s the best thing I can tell women. Be yourself and do a great job. Do you have to work harder? Maybe. Do you have to show that you’re smart and work harder to gain respect? Maybe, that’s probably the case.
That sound like a good motivator.
Once you do that, you get accepted as a person I don’t think you’ve looked at, I hope as a man or a woman. You are a person.
I was a judge of the Miss USA beauty pageant and judges aren’t supposed to talk, but we’re kicking each other under the table. We’d already decided on who the winner and the first runner-up was until the five finalists were put sequestered in that soundproof booth, they were all asked the exact same question. The first one came out who we thought was going to win and the question was, “When is a woman equal to a man?” Sadly, she said, “I want world peace.” We all rolled our eyes, “What a drag.”
The second woman was brought out. We had chosen her in our own little way to be the first runner-up, “When does a woman equal to a man?” She looks right into the camera. She says, “A woman is only equal to a man when she acts like a woman.” I think I still had the scar on my shin when the guy next to me kicks me. That’s what you just said.
Explore that a little bit more from a woman’s perspective for every female reading this who somehow feels may be intimidated. They have to sell out, be one of the boys, or whatever the vernacular, the stereotype is. I want you to step up and teach us what you’ve just said, but take us a little deeper, a little broader, because that’s so powerful. That message is important.
It starts with you preparing yourself. You want to get the education that you can for whatever position you’re in and you want to work hard. That’s a message for all of us, not just for women. If you have that in your back pocket as a woman, you are equal to anybody else in the room. You’ve got to feel that. You’ve got to be confident. That’s number one. You’ve got to believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else is going to believe in you for long. You might sell somebody for a bit, but in the end, they’re not going to believe in you.
There’s a big difference between ego and self-confidence. Self-confidence is you feel so good about yourself. You’re not going and saying, “I did this. I did that. You can’t believe it.” That’s ego. That’s not self-confidence. That might be a lack of self-confidence. I do believe that if a woman or a man is prepared in that way, in any situation they get in if they stick to, “I’m going to be myself. I am prepared. I’m not going to be fake. I’m not going to say things I don’t believe. I’m going to listen. I’m going to be thoughtful about what I say.” All those things quickly will be respected by respectable people.
I was taught something by a young girl. Once I had a lot of women want me to mentor and talk to them. On this particular day, this woman taught me something. She told me of a situation where it wasn’t good for her in a firm of men. She said to me, “I had a choice. I could leave that firm and find another company.” I thought, “That is brilliant because when women that came before us did get in that situation, they didn’t always have an option.” I thought that was brilliant advice. I’ve been lucky. It’s not just how I’ve carried myself. That is a lot of it. Women do end up in situations sometimes.
The best person who is qualified to run the company should run the company, not a family member.
The beauty nowadays is there are companies that don’t look at men, women, color, or anything. They are just all-out gray companies. I hope we’re one of them. Instead of sucking it up in some places where they find themselves, if more women or people would go find another company, pretty soon everybody would have to treat everybody well. You wouldn’t have employees if you didn’t do it because they leave. Women shouldn’t suck it up if they’re in those situations. That’s another thing. They’ve prepared themselves and respected themselves. They’re not treated or not promoted. They need to go find another company because they’re out there.
What Crystal has taught me, among many things, is, “You can climb into a cockpit of a fighter jet or a bomber in the military. You can climb into the cockpit of a commercial airliner. You can be male, female, Black, Brown, or White, and the jet does not care. Are you qualified? Are you prepared? Can you push that aircraft to its ultimate capacity and potential that it was built to do? If not, don’t complain. Go get prepared. Do what you need to do.
It brings up something interesting. National Statistics indicate that about 85% of family-owned businesses go bankrupt by the third generation. When you step back and analyze that, it’s because this younger generation has somehow captured or embraced an entitlement mentality instead of an opportunity mentality. They refuse to subscribe to the core values and ideals that grandpa and grandma used to build and grow the company, sacrifice, work ethic, service before self, and taking care of your customers.
You kept using the word prepared. Let me throw something out about my experience with family-owned businesses. Many of the 3rd generation or maybe by the 2nd generation expect it to be turned over to them. You have your Bachelor’s degree from Pepperdine University. You continually prepared yourself to be able to take advantage of a family opportunity, and a solid business by getting your MBA from Harvard. Talk to us about that mindset. How did that come about growing up in your family? Did your dad say, “Here are the criteria. If you ever want to work in our family businesses, you must know this, get this education, and do this first,” and then come and talk to them?
I would have loved it if he did that for me. I try to do a little bit of that for our family without putting pressure on them. It’s an interesting situation. What my dad did is he said, “This is my company. If you want to work here, you’ll start at the bottom. You’ll make the same pay, and that’s fine. It’s not your company. It’s my company.” That was true. I knew that he was going to pass the company to our family. He believed and taught me that the best person who is qualified to run the company should run the company, not a family member.
There was no pecking order or expectation. In fact, it was almost like the opposite. It was almost like, “Don’t even think that there’s a career here for you,” with one exception. In my situation, I finished school early in three and a half years of college. I was looking for a job. I had no clue how to get a job. One day, my dad called me and did say, “I have a job at Flying J.” That was the LPG job I described earlier, “You need to come and take it.” I was grateful. I wanted a job. It was low in the company, but it taught me a lot. In that process, I decided that one way to better myself would be to get an MBA.
My father didn’t graduate from college. My mom’s whole side of the family hadn’t graduated from college. Getting an Undergraduate degree was one thing. I hadn’t ever thought of a Master’s. I always wanted to leave all my doors open, and grades, when I worked at a company. Whatever I did, I wanted to do my very best because I didn’t know what was coming. I still feel that way now. It’s like all you have is your reputation and education.
That’s how I ended up prepared for what came to me in 2008. It was a little bit of luck. I always wanted to be the best I could be at all I did. When I went to Harvard Business School, it was because I went to Boston. I visited the campus. I said, “I have got to come here. I have the opportunity. I’ve got to move to Boston. I’ve got to leave Utah. This would be so fun in my mid-twenties to be able to come here and study.” It was an amazing opportunity.
You mentioned that you trust your gut and intuition. We’ve already established the differences between the natural talents and tendencies of men and women. I don’t know how that’s controversial that we have specific roles or specific strengths. Women are naturally more nurturing. They naturally listen more. They’re compassionate. Women have all of these qualities that we men struggle to not just find and discover but to sustain in our lives and our personalities personally and professionally.
There is one thing that I’ve noticed in my interaction with my beautiful family. Now in 2022, my mom is still 94 years old, sharpest attack, my beloved wife, intuitive talents and abilities. Take us there if you can think of an example where you trusted your gut and it turned out to be the best decision in your life. Maybe you looked at a resume and he or she did not have on paper the qualifications, but your gut said, “He or she will fit into our culture.” They emerged as one of your greatest leaders or managers. Do you have an experience like that?
When Flying J did go into bankruptcy in 2008, I was a stay-at-home mom. I was on the board of Flying J. The family should run the company, be involved, or lead it through bankruptcy. I believed in my gut and my intuition that we had enough assets to pay people back and save as many jobs as we could. Those were my goals. My gut said, “You can do this.”
I was a little shy at first about that. I started working in the company, helping where I could, and then when the CEO left, some of the management team whom I knew came and said, “You should be CEO.” I knew I should be CEO. Was I qualified? You could argue, “I don’t know.” It was an $18 billion sales company with 11,000 employees. I’d run a hotel with my husband and shared the responsibility. My gut told me that I could do it and that I should do it. My husband and my family supported me. That was a good decision.
Get up in the morning and have a routine that would help you focus on the tasks for the day.
Not just for you and your family, but for the thousands of employees that you impacted generationally.
That’s probably one of my most like gut-feel because if I would have let my brain get in the middle of that decision, it would have been pretty scary to think about what that was going to intel.
Do you have a routine? You’ve accomplished so much. You’re the mother of four children. The formal introduction listed all the boards that you sit on and the influence you’ve had with the Olympic games, coming here, and everything that you do. The list goes on and on. How do you fit it all in? What’s your routine? Work-life balance is unachievable. It’s an either/or proposition. You seem to have circumvented that and turned it into an either/and proposition.
You don’t think like a multitasker. You think like a juggler. The juggler only controls the ball in her hand. Once you let go of the ball, you’ve relinquished control. Why worry about it? You focus on what you need to do. Teach us about your routine or your mindset. How do you get ready for this amazing day that you say you welcome almost in a variety of ways because every day is a little bit different.
The only routine in my life is I work out every single day, seven days a week. Very seldom do I not work out. That could be yoga, running, or doing a hike. I do some activities when I get up in the morning.
What time do you get up?
It depends, between 5:30 and 7:30 on the weekends. I’m not like up at 3:00 AM or something. That’s super important for me to get that workout. It clears my mind and gets me away. It’s my time. After that, I play hard. I work hard. I do believe that if you think about a lifetime, you can’t ever have balance. I always say to people, “Balance happens over a lifetime.”
For me, the things that I want to balance are my career, my family, and the community. I didn’t give a lot to the community when I was raising the kids and working. Now it’s my opportunity to fill that in. At 85, if I could look back and say, “For me, those three things were balanced,” I’ll be happy, but on any given week or day, no chance. There’s no way every day that that happens.
The last point I would make that is super important, picking up on your juggling, is that I don’t worry about things. I don’t worry and stew about anything, as best I can not do that. I just think about what I have to do. It’s not the mistake I made. I learned from my mistakes, I hope, and I carry that forward, but I try very hard to not worry about things. I try not to worry about my kids or that employee. It doesn’t mean that I don’t take action about things. When it fits into my schedule, I try hard to not worry about things.
It helps you refocus your energy so you’re not wasting it on nonproductive things. Your reputation on the street is that you promote from within. When someone clicks in your organizations across your whole suite of companies, they believe that it’s more of a career choice. It’s not just a stepping stone. They’re not just trying to fill the gap where they could find someone or something better.
I’ve interviewed many. What’s your secret? How do you make them feel like they belong, are needed, and are part of something larger than life? What’s your secret sauce in creating this almost unexplainable? I’m putting you on the spot because we’re trying to put it into words, but it’s a feeling, “I matter. People care about me.” How do you create that?
It goes back to how you treat people. I hope they feel like they could walk into my office. I hope anybody does. I try to be humble and down to Earth as best I can. People do see that. People see that I have a need. I need help. That creates opportunity. It’s not like, “She’s got this. She doesn’t need me.” It’s clear that I need people. I have a lot of people around me. What I’ve found through the years is the more people I can trust and take on responsibility, the more we all can accomplish.
We should show acknowledgement and appreciation throughout for our people, even down to the lowest levels and give them recognition.
I’m not probably as good as I’d like to be about this, but I hope we show acknowledgment and appreciation throughout our organizations for our people, even down to the lowest levels. Give them recognition. We’re not perfect, but I certainly strive to do that and hope that if somebody’s not that type of employee for us, they don’t last long because I do believe it does take everyone in our organizations.
People do feel the commitment. They do realize that we’re here for a long time. Some people come and go. They move on because they could make more money. We don’t keep everybody. I’m at a happy point in my executive team because a few of my executives are retiring, which is a happy moment. The executives are coming up. They’ve been with us for several years. It’s exciting. It’s fun. I don’t have to go look outside. They know me. They know how I operate. It will open other opportunities for other people too.
What a great leadership teaching moment where you already have people in your succession planning pipeline who have learned and have the same mindset, heartset and work ethic. It’s the natural step to take someone’s place. For anyone who’s in an entrepreneurial position, we need to figure out whom we can mentor to take our job instead of being insecure like, “Someone’s here to take my job.” What you’re teaching us is we want people to say someday, “I want your job. What must I learn? How must I think? What do I need to do in order to prepare myself to take over?”
People should not be shy about expressing to their leaders that they would like to learn more. Part of being a great leader is accepting that you want someone to be better than you. That’s a great day when someone is better than you, smarter or whatever that skill set is. It makes everybody stronger.
I’ve taught Public Speaking at the university for eleven years. I’m a professional speaker. I worked with most of the Fortune 500 companies. If you had one hour to live, what would you say to the world? What would you drive five hours one way to say to somebody for free? I’m getting to know you. I promised your assistant that I would say here that she deserves a raise. You said, “I’ve given her a wonderful raise.” She should be driving a new truck by Thursday because she is your incarnate. She represents you so well. She’s classy, sophisticated, and elegant like you.
She’s amazing. She is the wizard behind the curtain.
To your point, it seems that many people within your work, especially in your leadership, and higher management positions have the same attitude and the same gracious humility that you have. At some point, everybody wants to know what’s your message to the world. There’s got to be some secret sauce that’s not on your resume.
I will circle back to something I feel extremely strongly about. That is self-confidence. If I could only give anybody five words of advice, it would be confident in yourself for the right reasons, prepare yourself, and get a good education.
Focus on your core values, which are integrity, respect, and excellence. I love that. I would throw on their mutual respect and support through service before self. In my estimation, if I was going to give you a report card, it would be that you rose to the top of your industry and profession through service before self. How may I help others become better? They leave you saying, “I’m best when I’m with you. I want to see you again.” I appreciate you so much. I appreciate your time. You were one of the busiest, most accomplished human beings I’ve ever had on this show. Thank you. I would hope I could have you back. You’ve got some wisdom. Share it with the world.
As a closing comment, as a professional speaker, I’ve discovered, especially when I had that first experience with General Maggie Woodward, understanding the significance of preparation that a man can be a role model to a man, but a woman can be a role model to both a man and a woman because you can get men to do things that other men can’t get us to do. That puts you at the top of the hill and the head seat in every boardroom. On behalf of everyone in the Intermountain West, the team knows about your family businesses and understands a little bit about you. Thank you for everything you’ve done.
You are very welcome. Thanks for having me.
About Crystal Maggelet
Crystal Call Maggelet is the CEO of FJ Management Inc., a diversified family business that includes wholly-owned subsidiaries: Maverik, a 381 c-store chain and Big West Oil, a petroleum refinery. FJ Management also has a minority stake in Pilot Flying J. Other family businesses include TAB Bank, a community bank, and Crystal Inn, a small chain of hotels.
In addition to her current board role as Chairperson of the FJ Management’s Board, she is a director on the Pilot Flying J Board of Managers, a Director on the Savage Services Board, and serves on the Liv Communities Board, Intermountain Healthcare Board, Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games, and also the Zions Bank Advisory Board.
She is actively involved in managing the family’s charitable giving through the Call Foundation which focuses mostly on education and scholarships. Crystal also co-chairs the Intermountain Healthcare Primary Promise Campaign and is a member of the Sundance Institute Utah Leadership Council.
Crystal holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, from Pepperdine University. She also completed her college education with an MBA from Harvard Business School and has Honorary Doctorate Degrees in Business from Utah State University and Weber State University. In 2018, she was named the national E and Y Entrepreneur of the Year for Family Business. Crystal loves her role as a mother to her four children ranging in age from 21 to 26. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends. Her favorite activities are running, skiing, and traveling.