Hardware Retailing

JUN 2018

Hardware Retailing magazine is the pre-eminent how-to management magazine for small business owners and managers in the home improvement retailing industry.

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HARDWARE RETAILING | June 2018 52 F ather-son duo George and Barry Hill have been working together as co-owners of Hills Hardware Hank in Wabasha, Minnesota, for a couple of years now. George bought the business in 1998 when his children were in high school. While Barry worked in the store on and off through college, he never thought of it as part of his career path. He pursued a degree in political science and public administration, then tried a handful of different jobs, but nothing seemed to be the right fit. Then, a management position opened up in the hardware store. Barry decided to give it a try. After a couple of years, he bought half of the business from his mother and became a co-owner. Since then, Barry has initiated an expansion to the business with the purchase of the building adjoining their store. He also introduced new categories and implemented a new POS system to help run the business. Eventually Barry plans to buy the other half of the business as George eases into retirement. They've already been talking with the bank so they're ready for the financial portion of the transition. When it comes to operating the business, they've also been taking a methodical approach that will help avoid some of the potential pitfalls of two generations working side by side. Divide Responsibilities When Barry decided he wanted to buy into the business, with the intention of someday purchasing his father's remaining share, he realized he had a lot to learn. He may have been familiar with the day-to-day operations, but now he needed to take a big-picture look at the business. He also had a lot of ideas for how to make the business better. The best way for him to do both, they decided, was to divide up his responsibilities. "We've given ourselves clearly defined duties," says Barry. "My dad controls the purse and the administrative part of the business. I run the store. As he gets closer to retirement, we'll start moving more things off his plate and onto mine." They communicate with each other regularly so they know what is going on in all parts of the operation. But having distinct responsibilities has made them a good team. It also helps Barry understand what he still needs to learn and gives him more freedom to implement changes. For example, it didn't take long for Barry to realize that updating the store's technology would go a long way to increase efficiency. He installed a POS system that would help with ordering and store processes, such as managing returns. His father fully supported the move, but when it comes to actually using the system, he's just as happy to let the younger generation do the work. Hills Hardware Hank When Barry Hill became active in Hills Hardware Hank, he initiated the purchase of an adjoining building to make room for better merchandising and new categories.

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