To celebrate March 8, International Women’s Day, we’re sharing this interview with one of our associates, Geena Virk. Geena owns and manages a network of 12 Petro-Canada locations in and around Abbotsford, British Columbia. Geena has been part of the Petro-Canada family since 1999, when she and her husband, Narvinder, took over a single Petro-Canada location. Geena also sits on the Board of Directors of the Petro-Canada CareMakers Foundation as well as the Community Grants Advisory Council.
PT: Geena, thank you so much for talking with me today! Having 12 locations to manage is a lot! What does a typical day look like for you?
I’m based in our Clearbrook office along with my bookkeeper. I look through reports from our different locations and ask, “What problems do we have to solve today?” This usually means working with a manager from a specific location and seeing what they need. Do they need sales incentives for their team, a little more training on how to do their books, or a site visit to help them identify where they can improve their location?
I have such a great team – the folks at all our locations feel like family. We have a manager at every store and most of them have been promoted from our original two stores; I recruited them into management positions. In fact, one of them has been with us for 22 years!
PT: What’s do you like about working with Petro-Canada?
It’s so nice to be a part of a Canadian company. I’m proud to be Canadian and proud of working for a Canadian company. So are my managers. They take ownership of the business and take pride in it. And we all like knowing that we (are a part of a company that is) making a difference out there. It is a privilege to work along side so many amazing people – namely the other associates across the network. We have a very talented and generous team of associates in our network.
PT: What are some of the things that would surprise people about owning a Petro-Canada location?
First of all, it’s a 24/7 business. We get calls at all times of the day, and every day of the week – including calls in the middle of the night. We have great managers who will be the first call, but Narv and I are the second call. When we're needed, we're REALLY needed. You have to be flexible and know that you could be needed at any time of the day or night.
Second, the safety of our team is, of course, a big deal. It’s a big responsibility to have that on my conscience every day and especially overnight. Every day, you hope and pray that all employees will make it safely back to their families at the end of their shifts.
Finally, being in this business, you never know what the day is going to bring. The business is always changing. We’re always evolving or tweaking the business. We never seem to be able to leave our work at work, but then that is part of the thrill of the business as well.
PT: What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?
That came from Shirley Dickman, my Territory Manager from Petro-Canada (Shirley retired in 2020). She used to tell me how important it was to make personal connections with my teams, to make sure I really got to know them. And Shirley walked the walk. She had 40 locations in her territory, but she always knew the names of my staff. She really cared about people and has been an inspiration for my management style.
PT: Do you have any heroes or mentors?
My grandfather, Sham Singh Sandhu. He passed away last year at 100 years old. He immigrated to Canada from India in 1952 to give his family a better life. I watched how hard he worked every day so that he could give his family a good life. My grandfather believed in tenacity, ambition and education, always telling us to make sure we educated ourselves and our kids. He was a proud Canadian. He is my reason for getting up and moving every day.
Thanks, Geena, for speaking with me! And don't forget to check out our Instagram for a couple of interview clips with Geena.