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Pray, work, repeat for RNR operator


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Shannon Strunk

What is your motto for growth?

If you’re not growing you’re dying. Staying even is not OK. That applies to each individual store, that applies to each company, the entire enterprise. When you’re growing and making these things happen, all the employees in that branch feel it and capitalize on it.

You’ve recently signed a 58-store development deal to more than quadruple your RNR business. How has the brand changed over the years?

We really believe in that franchise. It’s strong, our internal same-store sales growth is 20 percent the last two years in a row, so to us, it’s just huge. When we first started, the focus was on wheels. That model changed completely. So 75 percent of revenue might come from wheels and 25 percent from tires, that’s been flipped on its head. It’s about 80 percent tires and 20 percent wheels, which means the audience is much, much larger now.

You were hit hard by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. How did you bounce back?

We had 40 percent of our locations in the hurricane zone, so when Katrina hit, it was bad. We’re in a daily cash flow business. We put product out and we collect on a weekly basis. So 40 percent of our businesses closed for two weeks, and that was not recoverable. So you either forgive it and move forward, or lose the customer and go further backward. At the time, we thought a hurricane that large would be the one that undid us, but we didn’t think it would ever happen. But it happened and it didn’t undo us, so we’re better for it.

How did you get through it?

It’s called get up, pray, go to work, pray, go to sleep and do it again. It just got tight; you make decisions differently when you’re going to run out of cash. So we made different decisions and held on, and it came back with a big bang.

You and your wife, Cynthia, are partners in the business. How does that work?

My wife and I are equal partners; we have a wall between our desks so she can’t throw shoes at me, but she knows everything and I know everything. We don’t make a single decision without the other. And if one of us doesn’t agree we keep hounding the other until we can change their mind or they can change ours.

You’ve said she keeps you rational. How does that interplay work?

There’s no doubt about it. I come up with all kinds of ideas, but if she let me do them all we’d be broke. She’s closer to the tree; I’m further out on the branch.

Family is the reason behind your ownership-first real estate philosophy as well. Can you describe that?

I believe that wealth is passed through family via real estate only. Cash disappears quick and businesses change through several generations. History says very clear that it won’t last through three generations. But the real estate is forever, so we buy everything we can get our hands on.  

Aside from family, who has helped you along the way?

The rent-to-own industry really has some big stars in it: self-made people that share all the time. We got caught up in that culture of sharing info regardless, even if they’re a competitor, we talk all the time. That has kind of changed how we operate because we benefitted from it, from people who grabbed ahold of you and said, “We gotta talk about this.” So the credit goes to the industry.

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