There are some lessons that only come with age and experience. On October 26th I had the privilege to sit down with small business owner John Popp, owner of Popp Hardware and Popp Laminating & Binding.
Years ago John Popp became BNG Holdings’ first payment processor customer, and that relationship has lasted for a decade.
I drove out to Lidgerwood ND to see John’s store, and it sits proudly on Wiley Ave S, welcoming those who drive through the small town.
Sitting with John was a humbling experience. He’s run his businesses for over 40 years, taking over for his father. He’s a part of the American dream.
When I asked him what the secret to his success was, he quickly listed three things off on his fingers, and let his former teacher side slip out for a moment.
“Keep your store stocked. Watch your pricing. Take care of your people. That’s the three things”.
I asked him to elaborate, since I wasn’t certain how you’re supposed to accomplish all three things.
John smiled and began sharing his secrets of success he had learned over the years.
1) Keep your store stocked
It seemed to be a pretty basic concept, keep track of your merchandise. It requires a lot of effort though.
When walking through Popp Hardware, one of the employees was scanning every piece of equipment.
“I have to do this everyday,” he went onto explain. “It lets us know how many we have so we can order more, but also alerts us to theft.”
John confirmed this for me during our interview.
“I had a customer once that brought in five drill bits that were twenty-five to thirty dollars. He said, “I got these and I want to return them.” I said, “Do you have your receipt?” He said, “No.” I didn’t know him. I looked at the POS, how many am I supposed to have on hand and it said five and I looked. The peg was empty.”
Being aware of what merchandise you’re supposed to have is the biggest key to detecting theft.
“The POS helps you, but the main thing is right up here, and in the minds of my employees also.”
Keeping your store stocked and preparing for your customers needs are key also, John imparted. “When winter is coming, we like to make sure we’ve got antifreeze in the store, stuff like that keeps your customers happy.”
2) Watch your pricing
Pricing is largely where businesses will make their profits, and there can be a huge discrepancy in pricing mark-ups from place to place.
It’s standard to mark up prices from their actual value to make a profit (business have to stay open, afterall). John was critical of unreasonable markups.
“There are items that you’re totally amazed that people can charge as much as they do, but they’re what are call “blind items.” You base your pricing on your people. Never gouge them, never trick them, never lie to them, be honest with them.”
Perhaps that’s why John is still in business after all these years. I noticed the prices as I wandered up and down the aisles. I’ve been in small town hardware stores before, and the items tend to be more expensive than going to a larger chain.
John’s prices were kept pretty fair, considering how far his store was outside of the Fargo area.
Integrity is a factor in maintaining long term customers. Be fair with your prices, and don’t let the bottom line guide you into overcharging customers. If you do, they may not return.
3) Take care of your people
Customer service is the most important, but also the most challenging aspect of any business.
John stressed to never yell at your customers, and not to hassle them over returning broken items. It’s much easier to replace damaged equipment, than a customer who had a bad experience at your business.
“If somebody wants to return that glass and they don’t have their receipt don’t hassle them if you know them. If you know them it doesn’t really matter. Treat them right they’ll come back.”
John lived up to his words, he embodied customer service. Everyone who came in he greeted, even strangers. There are many hunters this time of year that pass through Lidgerwood.
Even living in a small town, Popp Hardware’s staff treats everyone like a recurring customer. It’s definitely is a trait lost in larger chains.
Success is more than profits
John taught me that success goes beyond a bottom line.
The secrets he shared seem simple, but they come with great effort.
Learning from his business , take the secrets to heart, and create your own legacy.
Want to work with a partner that embodies the secrets of success?
If you’d like to learn more about how your small business can have payments processing success, like John and Popp Hardware, contact us here .