When Wallace Vernon of Killeen, TX decided to make a bold business move in hopes of increasing his sales and customer satisfaction, he had no idea what to expect. He already owned a rent-to-own business, but he developed a unique strategy to set his store apart from all of the competitors in a highly saturated market.
As an owner of several of Aarons® rent-to-own stores, Wallace needed to get his business ahead of the curve and out of the shadow of the national department store, Texas grocery chain and other businesses creeping into the rent-to-own market in his area. A certified public accountant by trade, Wallace’s business sense was astute, and he had a plan.
“I only have to be less incompetent than my competition. There’s always competition, in any good business, you’re going to have competition,” Wallace said humbly.
As an entrepreneur with 14 Aarons rent-to-own franchise locations and 11 Cash Pawn shops, Wallace had many appliances needing repairs from time to time. Rather than hire a full-time technician, Wallace discovered a way to invest these inevitable expenses in a long-term opportunity for extra revenue.
“I knew I couldn’t afford a full-time appliance technician. I didn’t have enough work, and I would need to get into a situation where I could market the technicians’ services to the general public,” Wallace said.
Wallace considered that if he added an appliance repair business, he could use the business to service his rent-to-own clients’ appliances as well as ensuring quality services for all of his other stores. Taking on an appliance repair business not only would help increase rent-to-own customer base through cross promotion, but also be another asset to his 30 other businesses.
Starting an Appliance Repair Franchise
In April 2012, Wallace started the Mr. Appliance® of Central Texas.
“It is just kind of a natural fit to the Aarons business and the appliance sales,” said Wallace. “It’s just another service that we can give our customers. And make sure that that service people that we send out to their homes are trustworthy and presentable.”
Going with a franchise was a natural next step for Wallace. First of all, the addition of a nationally recognized brand name to his preexisting business made entering the appliance repair service market easier than developing a strategy from scratch or adding a simple repair service. Secondly, since he wouldn’t be managing the day-to-day operation, Wallace needed a solution that would allow him to remotely operate the business with a tested business model. Business systems that would allow him to see daily reports were critical to ensure that Wallace’s expansion would be manageable and keep it from being a drain on his time and bottom line.
“The financial reporting… is one of the big selling points to me, because of the way I manage all my businesses. I don’t talk to my Aarons general manager or my Mr. Appliance manager everyday,” said Wallace. “That’s something that the Mr. Appliance business has provided me is the financial reporting data that I need to be able to manage the company from my office.”
Challenges Along the Way
Although, as with any new business venture, the Wallace’s new business had to overcome some challenges in order to achieve success.
First, Wallace needed to find a partner who could manage the everyday operations of the new business. Wallace said he looked for a person with the necessary technical skills, as well as experience overseeing employees and their work. The next challenge required Wallace to obtain the manufacturers’ certifications that Mr. Appliance of Central Texas would need to become an authorized service representative.
One of the biggest challenges to coordinating the two businesses was communication. Sometimes a Mr. Appliance technician would be called out for a minor repair that should have been completed by the rent-to-own store employee.
“They’re all different businesses and each one has to make a profit in the final analysis. We’re not reducing Mr. Appliance rates to do work for Aaron’s,” Wallace said. “I have many different businesses and many intra-company interactions, I have to keep a close watch on them to make sure that rivalry doesn’t overshadow the business’ purposes.”
Wallace believes that it is his job to make ensure these types of miscommunications and resulting frustrations are resolved as quickly and efficiently as possible, and having the appliance repair capabilities is the best way to achieve that goal. It ensures the well-being of both of his businesses as well as the satisfaction of both his customers. With an appliance repair business, Wallace has complete control of the rent-to-own client’s customer experience, and as a result, he creates cheerleader customers that share their exceptional experiences with friends and family.
“We have to keep our customer’s happy. That’s what it’s all about. I’m more confident that my Mr. Appliance guy showing up to my Aaron’s customer’s home is more likely to keep them happy than some guy I have no control over,” Wallace said.