Student of the Week: Ron Hansen of Wind River Outdoor Co.

When did you first know you were on the right path in the specialty retail industry?
I can say that we are still are not 100% there, but being able to admit that you don’t have the answers is the first step.  I always wanted to be the best in whatever I did and this job is no different and attending Mann U or other seminars really highlights what we are doing right and, more importantly, what we are doing wrong. Success is a long journey that requires thoughts and actions and a consistent application of those two. While nowhere near finished, WROC is starting that journey to become the best fly fishing and specialty retailer in Wyoming. Mann U really highlighted some things that we needed to pay attention to and change. The effects have been nothing short of amazing.

What’s your favorite part of your job?
I love the fact that I get to work with really good people and in an environment that most people want to be in. The outdoors is in all of us, and people really enjoy coming into the store or calling to speak on the phone. Helping others become better in the outdoors is a great job and worthy of all my effort.

What’s the most valuable lesson you learned through Mann U?
This is an obscure answer: I learned what I did not know. There were so many good ideas from attending Mann U that I simply cannot give one instance. How to speak to employees and vendors, what metrics to watch, what open to buy means, marketing, etc. Dan and Leslie are very good. Let me state that again—Dan and Leslie are VERY GOOD at the retail game and making retailers understand that today’s business environment demands their highest attention and skill. Retailers cannot operate like they did ten years ago or even two years ago. Dan and Leslie have the ability to speak the retail language and relate to us because they have been there doing just what I am doing. They understand the outdoor industry very well and know the pitfalls that we are facing.  I could not give them a high enough rating because, in my opinion, they are an incredible resource and know how to tackle tough business conditions and grow your business both in terms of sales and profitability but also enjoyment. That is where real success lies.

Give us one pointer for developing a genuine relationship with your customers. 
Be honest with them. Today’s customer knows more about subjects then retailer’s give them credit for.  Don’t BS the customer, tell them straight up what a product is about, if you have it in stock or if you can get it for them. Specialty retailers need to understand that a bad instance in one retailer affects us all and that we should be thought highly of, unlike large chain stores. We should speak positively, with enthusiasm and in a way that doesn’t elevate us above the customer.  Get on their level and help them become better. In doing that, the customer will value what you do and trust in what you sell them. Then you have a customer for life.

Your bumper sticker would read, “I’d rather be… ___.” 
Fly fishing and photographing.

What was your favorite part of working with the Mann Group?
Everything. While I have not yet been able to schedule them for my business, I look at everything they have taught me over two separate occasions and use it daily. I really enjoyed the discussions on how to talk with employees and vendors to set a clear expectation of what I expect from my business. Combined with how to improve sales, margins and inventory, I have really taken charge of my business rather than allowing the business to run me. Most business people allow their business to run them and that is simply not right; Dan and Leslie understand this and really push you to take charge of the situation, set realistic demands of your staff and set a course so that you can have your life back.  I have not found another education outlet that has the information, skills or experience that Dan and Leslie bring to the table. I will be attending another Mann U seminar and hopefully soon!

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