The people angle is the toughest job for resale operator
What has been your biggest challenge?
You have to realize selling used clothes is not rocket science. The business model is not that difficult. The tough part is really the people angle. We try to hire nice people, people that walk in with a little bounce in their step and a smile on their face, and we go from there.
Where do you find your best employees?
We just ask our customers. If you don’t ask, you don’t get it. We advertise to them, but really it’s just talking to the customers who show up week after week after week and really have fun in our stores—why not just work here! You’d be surprised how many people we get that way.
You’re rare among resale franchisees. Most stay owner-operators and don’t get into the number of stores you do. Who has helped you with those unique business challenges?
My fellow franchisees who own multiple stores. I rely heavily on them for advice because we all have the same issues. The typical owner doesn’t have the same issues I have, so that’s why I go to the other multi-unit operators. We get together yearly just to share ideas because we are a unique group.
What was the biggest turning point in your business?
Hiring a district manager, which I did around store five, just because that freed me from being the person who unlocked the door and did all the training. It took a little bit of pressure off of me personally. I think as far as each store goes, hitting the $1 million sales mark is a big turning point because it frees up so much more opportunity for labor—sales always help!
What was some of the best advice you received as your business expanded?
I guess from my father, he told me not to grow too quickly. So we slowed it down a little bit. That was good advice because you can get overwhelmed pretty quick. I opened up three stores my first year. In hindsight, it’s a miracle it even worked. But they were small stores, the volume was low and I had eight employees per store. I didn’t just jump into these million-dollar stores; we grew them—thank God.
Staff writer Nicholas Upton asks what makes multi-unit operators tick—and presents their slightly edited answers in this column in each issue. To suggest a subject, email email@example.com.
How about the worst advice?
At times, I’ve been encouraged to pay higher rent than I thought was necessary. I’m receiving that still to this day. I guess I have to be careful of landlords. That’s the part of the business that gets kind of dicey. We were very, very conservative in the beginning, going into B and C centers before we could move up.
What was the biggest personal lesson you learned along the way?
I’m sometimes too quick to speak or give my opinion, which is something I have to be careful of. It’s a challenge for me because I always have to put my two cents in. I’ve learned to become a better listener and listen to my staff and ask more questions instead of just work things out. That was a tough lesson, but it was a big one.
What’s some of your best advice for other operators?
We really believe in that KISS theory—keep it simple stupid. If you throw too much at people, a lot is lost. We try to keep it very clear and explain why we do what we do; they’re more apt to understand it and follow it.