61: Embrace Change with Len Summa of DataAge

January 23, 2019

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Yigal Adato: 00:00 Hey pawn family, it’s Yigal and welcome back to another episode of the Pawn Leaders Podcast. I want to thank each and everyone of you for taking the time to listen every single week and I hope that the podcast is giving you so much value that you’re actually taking back information and implementing it in your stores. I’m excited this week because I’ve launched my new website, pawnleaders.com and if you go there today, you can download a free guide that I wrote for you guys called the three pillars of profitable pawnshops. Now in this guy that outlined the three pillars and it’s kind of 12 steps within the three pillars of what you need to do to grow your loan balance, to make more money, to stress less and live that epic life that we always talk about here on the podcast. One of those steps is marketing. And one of the best marketing tactics I’m seeing today are online Google reviews. And I don’t recommend anybody else except for podium. Most of my mastermind members use it. A lot of the people that I know use it and they’re getting incredible results for pawnbrokers everywhere. You know a pawnbroker uses it and all of a sudden they’re getting more and more reviews and when a client is looking on Google and they type in best pawnshop and you’re using podium, let’s say you have 150 reviews and your competition has 60, guess where they’re going to go. Some of the people in the mastermind had 500 reviews, 300 reviews, 400 online reviews, and they’re crushing the competition because they’re using podium.com so go to podium.com/pawnleaders and get 10% off of your monthly subscription fee. I worked this out just for you guys so we can give you a break on the monthly cost, but it’s so valuable that what they charge, I think they should charge more, but check it out, podium.com/pawnleaders to get 10% off of your monthly subscription fee to podium.com. Now to talk about this episode, I have Len Summa, who is the CEO of DataAge. The makers Pawn Master. Pawn Master been around for a long time. They’re a software provider here in the pawn industry and we talk about embracing change and technology. Now, Len’s has been around the block and he’s seen tons of pawn shops and they service lots of pawn shops. So we talk about kind of where the pawn industry is today, where it’s going, what he thinks that pawnbrokers should do, and what mistakes are making. So check out this episode with Len Summa and let me know what you think.


Yigal Adato: 02:34 Hey everyone, my name is Yigal Adato and this is the Pawn Leaders Podcast, a podcast that help you make more money, stress less, and live an epic life all while working at the pawnshop.


Yigal Adato: 02:56 Len, welcome to the show.


Len Summa: 02:58 Yigal how are you and happy holidays and happy new year.
Yigal Adato: 03:02 Thank you so much. Likewise to you. Thank you so much for being on the show. I appreciate you. You know, I know that dataAge and Pawn Master, you guys have been a staple of the pawn community for so many years, so it’s an honor having you on.


Len Summa: 03:15 It’s my pleasure. I love what you’re doing in the pawnbroking community yourself and I’m looking forward to today.


Yigal Adato: 03:21 Awesome brother. So first and foremost, I’ve asked you this question before. I think we have to talk about it. You work with the incredible hawk. Tell me really quickly just a little bit about how that worked and how that jumped in you to the pawn industry.


Len Summa: 03:36 Yeah, absolutely. I mean, when I used to put my resume out, that was the first thing people highlighted on, cause I think it’s a, I guess it’s an interesting story, right? So, you know, I play college football at a pretty high level and when I found out I wasn’t going to be the starting line backer for the Pittsburgh Steelers, I figured let me figure what I’m going to do with my life. And I had the pleasure and opportunity to grow up around the Ferrigno, get a very, very nice inviting family that got to know, I got to know them pretty well and was presented an opportunity to kind of develop a business concept. And this was late, early nineties I should say, when fitness as you would know, really started to hit the forefront of the American people and from a mainstream point of view. And obviously he’s known for bodybuilding and everything like that, but they were really interested. They had the vision to say, you know, it’s not all about bodybuilding, it’s about general fitness and that would include, you know, your cardiovascular and all that type of stuff. So, I had the opportunity to work with them on a very close level to develop that business. I was fortunate enough to open about four or five stores and yeah, that’s my story with the Ferrigno’s. And yes, he’s a legitimate six, six, 305 pounds for sure. Even at the ripe old age of 70 something.


Yigal Adato: 05:10 Wow. Incredible. Amazing story. So let’s kind of fast forward a little bit from that story and talk about how you got into working with DataAge and how you became essentially who you are today in the pawn industry.


Len Summa: 05:23 Yeah. And you know, my background started off in the Microsoft channel working for some pretty large value added resellers. But how I even got into that is when, you know, when I owned and operated my own businesses, it was all about the customer, right. You know, how do you continually support the customer, even on the retail side, because my businesses, which are now known as fitness showrooms, it was pure retail. Right? But even though it’s retail, here’s your product, ma’am, or sir, you still got to support it. You know, how do we put it together? How do we use it? And at that early age, you know, I really found the value of customer service, but I, wound up having to go purchase a help desk software. And that’s really was the dovetail into learning about software where the rep at the time walked into our stores and I believe this guy was driving $100,000 vehicle and I was driving a $27,000 vehicle.


Yigal Adato: 06:28 I think something’s wrong here.


Len Summa: 06:30 [Crosstalk] a month going just to rent in five different locations. So, I explored it and said, I think the time for me to, you know, leave my business was right. I’m happy to say my ex partner that has taken the business to the next level. But I really wanted to get into the software and understand it and that’s what happened. I wound up working for two very, very large Microsoft vars and then I was able to then connect with the company in the learning management space, which really mushroom my career. In terms of how I came to know dataAge, it’s a funny story. I was actually in Denmark. I was tasked to parachute a company from Denmark into the United States, wasn’t really particularly happy with their business plan and the folks over DataAge, you know, made a call and to their credit, the visionaries here, Tom Streng and Randy Peffly, two co-owners and it says a lot about their wanting to take the company the next level. They brought me in, they told me, you know, where the market was, what they needed and you know that was a perfect marriage and came in and seven years later, believe it or not, here we are.


Yigal Adato: 07:53 Amazing. So seven years later you know, thousands of clients using the software. Let’s talk about, you know, how people and pawnbrokers today are leveraging the technology and what mistakes they’re making, right? Because the technology is there to be used and you guys have serviced, again, thousands of clients. What are you seeing that’s happening in the Pawn Industry today with mistakes at the pawnbrokers are making, especially in the technology realm.


Len Summa: 08:21 Yeah. And you know, that’s a good point you made about, you know, leveraging the technology in terms of new technologies on the horizon. You know, if you’re a good vendor, you’re always connected with your customer base to understand each functionality is out there. And I’m proud to say that we’re always on top of that, in some of the new things where the areas of focus, you know, it was always around data and reporting. Marketing is a very, very hot topic, which I think we’re pretty good at what we do and you know, our focus is really to help the pawnbroker in that realm as well. So we’re pretty excited about that to make sure that our customers continually had to have a real competitive advantage in their markets. You know, in terms of mistakes, let’s hit on what you just said right there. There’s really not one silver bullet or magic bullet out there that says, well if you do this, you are going to, you know, get to the promised land it’s just not that way. However, I find a lot of pawnbrokers, especially pawnbrokers that are leveraging, were using a technology and as a footnote still a lot of pawnbrokers out there that believe it or not, our pet to pad and it just happens to work for them. However, I do think they’re at a quite terms of leveraging what-


Yigal Adato: 09:45 Len I’m sorry. Give me one second. Did you say like pen to pad that these people are still doing pawns by hand?


Len Summa: 09:51 That is correct. That is correct.


Yigal Adato: 09:53 [Inaudible] 2018 this is going to come out in 2019 and people are still writing, I can’t even imagine that. That’s tough to imagine.


Len Summa: 09:59 There are more out there then you know, you would care to imagine. And again, we think that is definitely an area of market penetration for us as well as everybody else in the space. Yeah, there’s still a lot of there, a lot of those pen to pads out there and educate them, not push them, but really educate them with hardcore data and statistics and you know, I think we set it in the last time we spoke as those seven deadly words. We’ve always done it that way. Right?


Yigal Adato: 10:34 Yeah.


Len Summa: 10:34 I think those words, we can’t stand here and I think those words are the death of a lot of folks believe it or not. But you know, in terms of those mistakes hitting with leveraging what you already have, there’s not one silver bullet out there, right? I mean, you have in hand already. In the old [Incomprehensible] as most technology people use 20% of it. You know, that’s been our charge where at least it’s been my charge since day one. It’s one of the reasons why we started DataAge University and we invest a lot of money to put our trainers on the road to go and not necessarily sell, but make sure our customers are leveraging the powerful tools that they have in hand already because it’s just not all about selling, right? It really is about trying to help.


Yigal Adato: 11:27 Yeah. Especially today like I think that a lot of people, you know, let’s say they purchase a software or any tool for that matter, and they’d bring it in and they’re working so hard at the counter that they kind of forget to study and research and learn about what that tool does. And we can, I mean, not just software, right? But like Facebook marketing and offer up any type of technology that’s out there. And they just use it, like you said, 20%. And then they complain about like, well, I don’t have the tools at hand. I believe. Yes, you do. And sometimes you just have to take a moment to learn how to you use what you have.


Len Summa: 12:03 And I would completely agree with you. I’ll go one step further. I’m a big football guy. I’ve got a universal remote. I’m sure you do as well. I just push on and off. I’m sure my universal remote can make me a cup of coffee if I wanted it. You know, it’s just, you’re exactly correct. And what happens is as you get too focused on what’s the latest and greatest, and in the meanwhile, you’re sitting on a potential treasure trove of capabilities and that’s really been our push really, like you said, as the leader in this industry. You know, we’ve been at a point for a lot of years now where, you know, we’ve got a solid brand, it’s really time to give back in terms of education and I think you could see that with our content and things of that nature. So to me, right there is a tremendous disadvantage. And again, for the brokers who are very, very successful, they dive deep into their technologies from the reports to the capabilities of it, you know, how do I get more eyeballs on my business and drive more foot traffic. So we’re a big proponent of that. And again, with our customer base, we built out an entire division called DataAge University really to just focus on that.


Yigal Adato: 13:26 So let’s talk about that really quickly. I mean, so people aren’t using the technology, right? That’s what we’re talking about the mistakes that pawnbrokers are making these days. What are a couple of other mistakes that you think that pawnbrokers are making when it comes to technology or just within the operation itself?


Len Summa: 13:42 I think we covered the technology which is broad, we could sit here for five hours and talk about the capabilities of technology. Quite frankly, it’s a bold statement, but for a long time. I think, you know, a lot of pawnbrokers really are, the relevance of technology hasn’t really seeped in to the industry as it should. But in terms of the operating listen, it all boils down. I’ve heard many of your podcasts, it all boils down too, you’ve gotta have a plan. Listen, I was there, I got lost in the day to day. And quite frankly, that’s why I’m sitting here, 20 years later and not owning my own business because I got so wrapped up into the day to day that I didn’t take time to set the goals, execute to the goals. I thought I did a pretty good job of listening to my customers but that’s another area, you gotta listen to your customers. What’s going on concurrently. All right. Business dynamic, the landscape of business is constantly changing tune with that marry up your goals. Whatever those goals may be, it could be revenue, it could be new customer acquisition, it could be your ecommerce platform. I think from working with over 5,000, pawnbrokers and with 4,000 close to 4,000 shops now that is probably one of the top three areas of [Incomprehensible] Boy, if we could put a little focus to that, you’re gonna see a tremendous change in your business.


Yigal Adato: 15:20 Love it. I agree with you. I think that planning a lot of times, you know, pawnbrokers they don’t plan. They just show up at the shop, open the door, hope and pray that people walk in and then go home upset and thinking, you know, the business isn’t the same as it used to be, I’m not making the same amount of pawns. But the truth is that if you’re not doing something different, if you’re not connecting with your community, using the technology, people aren’t gonna walk in as much anymore.


Len Summa: 15:46 Yeah. And you know, it’s a, hey business is business. And this is a, you know, might seem a very cold and callous statement, but hope is not a strategy, it really isn’t. It’s just not a strategy. And another thing that we see because I go out in about all the time, I tried to make a lot of site visits and while you’re in, you know, your customer’s store, I appreciate the respect allocate in to me, you know, coming in. But it’s a very simple art to master. And I know that’s another area of our business that we are very hyper vigilant on. But, and I know a lot of our successful brokers, and again, success is determined by many different ways, but focusing on your customers. I mean, our mantra here is we treat our customers like family. We know a lot of the successful brokers. I sit off in a corner and I watched them and they know people by first name, they know their cousins. And even in this very sophisticated day and age, you know, that’s an tried and true. You know, know your customers.


Yigal Adato: 16:57 So I asked a lot of pawnbrokers, when I have strategy calls with them, I say, why do you have a pawnshop? A lot of people say, oh cause I want to make money and I just kind of shake my head sometimes, right? Although we need to make money, we’ve got to pay for our family and our living and all that type of stuff. But I think that you said it right. If you’re not focused on your client, if you’re not caring about the client you can’t do as much business as you think. And that’s what I’ve seen. Just to reiterate what you’re saying, the successful pawnbrokers and what I knew successful, the guys that can take two or three weeks off here and there, the ones that have management teams, ones that want to have good pawn balances and good net profits, they care about their customers so much and want the best for them, that their customer cares about them back and brings them business as well.


Len Summa: 17:44 And that’s true. You know, another area that I could say is their desire to serve and serve their community. Just to side a use case that happened with one of our customers just recently and it was a write up by the NPA is our folks over at a pawn USA in Claremont, love those folks there, I become very good friends with them. What they just did in returning that purple heart to that WW2 veteran to his family. That does from a human point of view, you don’t get any better than that. A lot of the shops you go into, you know, you’ll know right away, I mean, I could sight so many of our customers, the moment you go in there, it’s like, okay, the stigma of being in a pawnshop that’s gone. Now let me shop. Basically, it’s as simple as that. So you’re right, it’s not all about making money. That’s a means to an end. And, you know, that’s why we all pretty much get up and go to work. But there’s really so much more, you have to have a passion in what you do and a real enjoyment for the day to day, right?


Yigal Adato: 19:01 Yeah. 100%. And the biggest problem I see sometimes is that you got some grumpy pawnbrokers out there, like standing at the line just pissed off for some odd reason. The customer is not going to want to do business with you anymore and your employees are not gonna want to hangout with you.


Len Summa: 19:16 Yep. And you know Yigal, I like think, I don’t look at them as grumpy. You know, cause I think as a small business owner, there were days where I was as high as a kite and I was as curmudgeony as you could be. And from my own personal experience, I know my curmudgeonynist stand from setting unrealistic expectations. Why? Because I really didn’t have a plan. Everything was day to day, moment to moment, minute to minute. Once I established a plan and I had a roadmap or a track, you know, those curmudgeony days kind of win a way and you know, inevitably really, you know, drove me. I had a good run. But this is not my true calling in life. So, you know, at the end of the day, small business, small business, it’s very, very tough. It’s very competitive. You’ve got to deal with the big multi chain box stores that at times you feel like they’re giving stuff away. So our goal has been really to reach out to people. And that’s another area where I think pawnbrokers that are very successful. They leverage their partners, whatever their partner is, in this case, data age is a, to the pawn master customer. Our mantra is we want to be a partner in their board room, not a vendor in their hallway. Right. And a successful broker call us, call our marketing department, get some ideas, use our marketing calendar. So, you know, that’s the approach that we’re trying to take. A lot of the pawnbrokers pay maintenance, they pay a nice fee to whomever, if there are capabilities or services out there, I would leverage him, make a phone call. It doesn’t hurt. You won’t get to know him unless you ask. Right?


Yigal Adato: 21:07 Yeah. 100%. And with that said Len, I wanted to ask you, because obviously, you know, being in the technology world and having the amount of clients that you guys have, what are some things that you see for the future of the pawnbroking business? The pawn industry, you know, in 2019


Len Summa: 21:25 a pawnbrokers that have been in the industry and it’s a family business. I do think that the folks who can’t adapt are going to find themselves in a very precarious situation. You know, they don’t think people are, there’s a mass exodus and people are going to go out of business, but you know, times get a little tighter, right. You know the business wasn’t what it once was. And if you can’t adapt and make some changes and maybe listen to people, I think just the concept of bringing in another set of eyes and ears is you need to embrace that you really do because you could get yourself stuck in a silo. And I think I’ve said this to you before, is when I owned my own business. Everything that I thought I was doing right, I was actually doing wrong. And the stuff I thought I was doing wrong, I was actually doing right, but I was so connected to the business that I couldn’t see, I couldn’t see it. So I think, you know, the change aspect of it, whatever change may be, it could be change on how you look at your employees or how do you work with your employees. Are you more open to take suggestions? Just think the word change is a very, very good thing. And I think it needs to be embraced at the highest of levels through every organization. And even here at DataAge, I mean, we’ve been doing this for 30 years, right?


Yigal Adato: 22:54 Yeah. You know, it’s funny that you mentioned a different set of eyes and I agree you need to bring in a different set of eyes. You know, I left CashCo almost four years ago and every time I walked back in and I was in there this week because I go hang out with my brother and I see stuff that I never saw being in the building for 13 years. So, and then I mentioned it to my brother, I’m like, Oh, if he says thanks, thanks for letting me know, I’ll make a change or we’ll clean that up. So make sure that like, I agree, you need to adapt. You need to bring somebody in. If you don’t want to hire a consultant for some crazy reason, have a friend walk in the store, just tell me that the bad, the good and the ugly [Inaudible]


Len Summa: 23:35 And if you don’t want to get official with it and go hiring a consultant, you know me, I’m a big proponent of a lot of these social platforms where I think the entire pawnbroker community is missing a golden opportunity to connect with other pawnbrokers. Now, I understand that it’s a highly competitive world, but you know, the pawnbroker sitting in Los Angeles versus chatting with the pawnbroker in Florida. I love, and I’m a big proponent of sharing ideas, especially in this niche community. Right?


Yigal Adato: 24:12 Yeah, I agree. I think we all learn from each other.


Len Summa: 24:15 There’s no question. So I would encourage people to get out into those social networks and you know, there’s a couple of them out there that we sponsor. And I would just do the research, do the homework and I’m telling you there’s a lot of good chatter out there. You see it. I mean, you can’t go wrong. It’s free. There’s nothing to lose. Even if you just sit as a bystander in the bleachers, I’m telling you there’s a lot of good stuff that you get out of there.


Yigal Adato: 24:42 Yup. No, I couldn’t agree with you more. I think that, before I remember when I would go to pawn conventions, I was told as a third generation pawnbroker, you never want to tell people what’s actually happening in your business. But as the years went on, I started just talking more and then people would share and then we’d be sitting at a table eating and they would give me the best idea ever because I connect and I share and I was willing to open up. So if you’re sitting in the city, I understand if you don’t want to share with your competition, your direct competition, but like you said, there’s social media groups out there, there’s LinkedIn, there’s Facebook. I know that like a lot of the states have like their own blogs and their own-


Len Summa: 25:30 [Incomprehensible] as you’re winding down your day, some of our most successful brokers, I’d be honest with you, a lot of them have connected with one another and they’ve become great friends. But I know a lot of them have even, you know, transacted business with one another. So there’s, I’m a big proponent of it. The whole social media thing and then understanding and even from a strategy point of view. We’ve got some customers that have 100,000 followers on their Facebook.


Yigal Adato: 26:03 Yeah. That’s amazing.


Len Summa: 26:04 It’s good stuff for sure.


Yigal Adato: 26:06 Love it. Love it. Len, you’ve dropped so many awesome bombs here on the podcast. I appreciate you being on. I want everybody to know where to find you and

that’s at www.pawnmaster.com correct?


Len Summa: 26:18 That is correct.


Yigal Adato: 26:19 Awesome. So check out Len and his team. They’re doing great stuff in the industry. Len it’s been an honor and a pleasure having you on. Thank you so much.


Len Summa: 26:27 My pleasure, my friend. Happy New Year to everyone out there. Okay.


Yigal Adato: 26:30 Thank you so much. Take care and for everybody else. See you in the next podcast.


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Yigal Adato

Yigal is a 3rd generation pawn broker, and is now a mentor, coach and educator with the pawnbroking industry.

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