Growing up in the 80s and being around pawn shops my entire life, I was surrounded by the stigma that the pawn world was ruled by men, and women-owned shops were very rare. Also prevalent was the mentality that the shop will just run and grow by itself. Many of the stores I encountered in those days gave little to no effort in the way of growth strategizing, growth monitoring, or new idea implementation.
Cut to today, where men and women co-exist in unison in the pawn world and where, when you look closely, many of these shop owners share a common ingredient in their recipe for success: LEVERAGE. I am business partners with both my husband and my mother, and we equally understand the role that leverage has played in our 40 year old business model. I want to share a few specific instances where we gained leverage by making some key additions and changes in our own business.
Leverage comes in many forms. It’s an advantage, an upper hand if you will. For us, we feel that our power of intuition is one of our biggest sources of leverage. Effective critical decision making skills are paramount in the pawn business, from an operations perspective all the way through to marketing. It is a subconscious feeling that guides the decisions we make on a daily basis. Likewise, we employ talented people who have that similar type of ‘voice of reason’ because every decision we make must be calculated using gut-instinct to minimize risk. These same employees exhibit superior customer service, which is another source of leverage that we have over our competition. How do I know this gives us a leg up? We benchmark.We visit our competition. We experience them as a customer would so that we can come back and report on our own selves to see how we are doing in comparison.
The landscape of the industry is changing, and we’re full speed ahead. Gone are the days where the only goal is to wait for the customers to show up and hand write loans in a store that never saw a mop, much less a remodel. There used to be comfort in the complacent mindset that the stigma around pawn shops couldn’t be changed. But I feel that our industry is in a bit of a revolution thanks to all the men and women in the industry today. Wer'e beginning to understand the value of image. For example; from a female shop owner’s perspective, I want other women to feel proud to be a customer of my stores. I want them to walk through the door because they want to, not just because they have to. Likeability is leverage too, and once people meet you and like you, the word spreads. We spend a lot of time working on our likeability factor but there's more to it than just being a friendly face, this is a multi-pronged approach. From social media presence, giveaways, interfacing with customers on a personal level, price competing, going the extra mile, keeping clean and inviting stores, and employing qualified people with stellar customer service – the list goes on and on. Likeability translates to Google reviews and with 67% of people looking at Google reviews before ever visiting a business, this needs to be a top priority.
I like the beach, but we are not islands. Back in the day shop owners didn’t network. But man, we were completely missing out on the power of collaboration! Nowadays we realize that we need the input of our fellow pawnbrokers to incite creativity or exchange ideas, that's one of the reasons I wrote this post. Many of us are networking now in person and on social media forums, and this networking eventually translates to each of our bottom lines in one way or another. Making new connections is leverage because the more people you know whose experience you can call upon, the stronger you become as a business owner.
Small, independent shops dominate 85% of the pawn industry pie. My goal for 2019 is to dive deeper into the networks I've connected with so that I can continue to find new ideas to grow my customer base, help me realize new market opportunities, and strengthen my overall leverage. Our industry is growing, and has more room to grow with only 40% of unbanked households taking advantage of our services. An injection of leverage into a shop just might be the key ingredient for capturing a slice of that market share.