Most Powerful Women

CST Brands' Kim Bowers on balance: Wobbling can be kind of fun

November 14, 2013: 12:44 PM ET

The CST Brands CEO, who will join the list of Fortune 500 women CEOs in late 2014, gives an inside look into what makes her tick.

131005154455-mpw13-kim-bowers-620xaFORTUNE -- As chairman, president and CEO of CST Brands, Kim Bowers leads the convenience store retailer's more than 1,900 locations. Valero Energy spun off CST last May, and the company's $13.1 billion revenue will earn it a spot in the 2014 Fortune 500 -- and Bowers will join the growing list of female CEOs in the Fortune 500.

Fortune's Most Powerful Women started as a list in 1998, kicked off its annual Summit the following year, and has since become a community of the preeminent women in business, government, philanthropy, education, and the arts. This weekly Q&A features one MPW's personal take on leadership, aspirations, and (of course) balance.

1.What is the best advice you ever received?

When you think you have communicated enough, keep on communicating. Make sure all employees understand the importance of the company's mission and how their actions contribute towards that mission every day.

2. What would you say to a group of young people looking to enter the tough job market?

Do what you love, work hard every day, check your ego at the door, and learn everything you can. Never say no to an opportunity to take on more responsibility.

3. What was your biggest missed opportunity?

I should have taken more accounting and finance classes -- and paid attention in college.

4. What is one startup you would have wanted to found?

In-home salon service company with online scheduling and 24-hour service.

5. What do you do for fun?

I love to cook and read cooking magazines -- and dream of all the fabulous meals I likely will never have time to prepare!

6. What business or technology person do you admire most? Why?

Southwest Airlines' (LUV) Herb Kelleher. He was laser-focused on the company's mission, communicated it beautifully to all stakeholders and created an incredible employee culture of awesome customer service. I saw him recently waiting for a flight, and he was a huge celebrity among the employees -- they love him even years after retirement.

7. What other companies do you admire? Why?

USAA, Nordstrom (JWN), the Container Store (TCS) -- all know what their value proposition is, have great employee cultures and superior customer service.

8. What is one goal that you would like to accomplish during your lifetime?

Be there to help with the grandkids in a meaningful way. Hopefully, that's a ways off with my oldest child at 20 years old!

9. What was your first job?

I waited tables. Talk about learning the importance of hard work and a positive attitude.

10. What's your take on the "having it all" debate?

Balancing means never standing still -- some rare moments you balance perfectly and all is perfect, but most days you wobble. But, wobbling isn't bad -- in fact, it can be kind of fun.

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About This Author
Colleen Leahey
Colleen Leahey

Colleen Leahey joined Fortune in May 2011 to cover leadership, technology, and small business. She also focuses on building the Fortune Most Powerful Women franchise in the digital and live media space and manages programming for the MPW Summit. Previously, Colleen worked at The New Yorker and Bicycling magazine. She is a graduate of Georgetown University and lives in Manhattan.

Email Colleen Leahey | @cmleahey
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