47: Brick and Mortar Isn’t Dead with Jason Wilson of Riverside Pawn

October 3, 2018

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Yigal Adato: 00:03 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. Hey pawn family welcome back to another episode of the Pawn Leaders Podcast. Thank you so much for joining me. If you haven’t gone to join us in the Facebook group the Pawn Leaders Podcast Community, go in there because we talk about the episodes, we talk about leadership, we talk about marketing, we talk about strategy, we talk about life all in the pawnbroking world and today I’m super excited to have with me Jason Wilson, the owner of Riverside Pawn, who not only is a palm broker, but as an author who wrote a book called brick and mortar isn’t dead and I went through this book and has some incredible, incredible value, especially for our industry. So Jason, welcome to the podcast.


Jason Wilson: 01:01 Hey Yigal, thanks for having me man.


Yigal Adato: 01:08 No, it’s my pleasure. You know, I think we met because I reached out to you on LinkedIn and then I saw that you are an author. So, I went to Amazon and I said, wait a second. A pawnbroker who wrote a book about brick and mortar isn’t dead. I got to have you on, especially in today’s market with online. So, thank you for taking the time. You’ve got seven stores, multiple employees. I know you’re a busy man, so I appreciate you being on.


Jason Wilson: 01:27 Yeah, man. Anytime.


Yigal Adato: 01:29 Cool. So, let’s get right into it. Tell us a little about how you got into the pawnbroking world, how you became a pawnbroker.


Jason Wilson: 01:37 Yeah, so I’m 42 and I’ve basically been in the business for about 20 years. When I was 20, I just answered a local classified ads. There was only one time shop in town they were hiring. So I’ve got a job there and worked there for four or five years and then just kind of branched out on my own after that. Wanted to own my own store. We opened up the first Riverside Pawn in 2004, so we’re about to celebrate our 15 year anniversary there.


Yigal Adato: 02:05 Nice.


Jason Wilson: 02:06 So, we’ve been doing it for a pretty long time, but yeah, I got into it just by working at a local one and then branching out on my own.


Yigal Adato: 02:12 Awesome. And your book mentions something that’s super interesting to me. It said, you know, you dropped at high school, didn’t go to college, but this is a business that, you know, you’ve been in for 20 plus years. Have your own stores for 15 and you’re doing pretty well.


Jason Wilson: 02:26 Yeah, man. That’s, you know, one of the reasons that I wanted to write a book like this was, like I don’t really have a big educational background. I didn’t go to college. Didn’t go to any business classes. So, it was kind of all learning on the fly for me in business. Like, just like trial and error, learning as I go. I wish that back then I had something like this where, you know, I can say I want to open a business but don’t have a degree. Maybe there’s something out there that can help me and maybe there was, but you know that was 20 years ago. So, there’s no high speed internet. You had to go to the or use a dial up modem that takes eight years to load a page. [Incomprehensible] Info on anything, man. So I just wanted to get a book like this in the hands of people who are kind of in a similar situation who they want to open a business but maybe they’re past the point in their lives where they can go get a degree. You don’t have to have a degree. That’s the beautiful thing about opening a business. You know, if you have the business sense acumen and you want to make something of yourself and open a business, you can do it. You just need the right guidance along the way.


Yigal Adato: 03:29 Awesome man. This book goes through so many great, great golden nuggets of information that you give of your pawn history. Now just let everybody know where you are and how much interest you guys charge in that state with the holding period.


Jason Wilson: 03:45 So, we’re in two states. We have four stores in Virginia, because our stores are all kind of along the VA and sea border. So, we have four in Virginia and there if you add up interest and fees were generally around 13% per month, so it’s not too bad. [Inaudible] does this a little better. There’s a 60 day hold in Virginia. North Carolina we do 90 day holds, but we get 22% interest there.


Yigal Adato: 04:09 Gotcha.


Jason Wilson: 04:10 We have 3 stores there.


Yigal Adato: 04:11 30% isn’t too bad, man, I’m from California, so we were making three, 4%. It’s tough.


Jason Wilson: 04:17 Yeah, [Incomprehensible] three to 5%. I don’t know how you guys make it


Yigal Adato: 04:22 In volume man. We are doing tons of pawns a day. Large loan balances. But thank you for sharing that. So, let’s go into it. Let’s go into the book. Let’s go into what you learned. You got 33 employees and probably adding more and more, as this podcast is out. The book goes into three sections, it’s like the toddler phase of business, [Incomprehensible] phase of business and the adult stage of business. In the toddler phase, you talk about going all in, building trust from day one and being different to stand out. So give us some views on that and how you did that in the pawnshop to go all in, build trust from day one and be different from the competition so that you have the success that you have today.


Jason Wilson: 05:02 Yeah. So, basically through what I’ve learned over the years, I kind of saw my business grow through the three phases you talked about. Like when you first open up and you know this cause you just had a baby yourself. It’s kind of like you have this little baby and you have to be there with it all the time and it depends on you for its existence and you have to hold his hand through everything. And for the first two or three years of my business, that’s what it was. I was there all day, every day on the floor waiting on customers, writing loans, just doing the hands on stuff. And then eventually business grows and you can hire a couple of employees and you kind of transitioned into the teenage phase where doesn’t need you quite as much, but it’s not as mature as it needs to be, it’s still need some guidance. You still need to be there with it. And then last, towards in book we talk about the adult phase, which to me happened to when we started expanding and hiring more people and when you don’t need to be there, when your business can make it without you and you can branch off into other things. But as far as the toddler stage goes some of the main things to me where I’d been in the pawn business a long time before and you know, pawn business, just like any other business has changed so much in the past 20 years with the advent of the Internet and social media that you can’t do business the same way that you use to. Like you kind of used to be that a pawnshop you could open the doors and customers came in, right? [Crosstalk] they need money. They’re going to come in not anymore because you’ve got all this social media that as soon as the customer leaves your store they can go on Facebook and they can tell everybody about what happened in your store and it can make or break your reputation. And that’s a huge deal. So to me, the first few years of business I wanted to focus on building those relationships with customers were I knew that they were giving us positive word of mouth and reinforcement to all their friends. I want every experience when they came in the store to be a positive. And I told my team members early on when we started hiring people to look at every transaction, not just as a transaction, this is an opportunity for you. So build a relationship with this customer that’s going to lead us to do business for years and years and years. It’s not about the one transaction. It’s about building trust and people and developing relationships so that you can do business with these customers for years to come and never want to go anywhere else. Which also kind of leads into the, that you have to be different. Something about your business has to stand out, right? Even if you’re not a pawnshop. If you want to open a coffee shop, something about it has to be different from the coffee shop down the road. Whether that’s you’re going to be at a cheaper price point or you’re going to have a cooler area to hang out or you’re going to have a better product, better coffee, whatever business you want to be in, something has to set you apart from your competition. Something has to give them reason to come to you and not go anywhere else. So for us, that was, these guys, they want to build relationships with us, they empathize with us. They know that we need them, they want to help us. They don’t want to just look at us as customers that they can make a buck off of.


Yigal Adato: 08:14 So, how did you and I totally agree with that. I think it’s one of the number one things a pawnshop needs to do is build that relationship. How did you kind of disseminate that to your team that that’s so important to you?


Jason Wilson: 08:27 So, the main way to do that is just old fashioned, doing it yourselves, but they see that you’re doing it. Like when we hire people, it’s hands on training. So, there was seeing the people that have been trained before them. It’s kind of a practice what you preach kind of thing. Like if I’m going to tell you, hey, customer service is very important to us, that’s one thing. But if they’re going to watch me talking to every customer that comes in, not just robotically talking to them like at Walmart now, like a, hey, how you doing? Let me know if I can help you. But actually getting in to a conversation with people and getting to know them on an individual basis and showing them that you’re there for them and you care about them. So, then when the employees see that you’re doing that as a leader in a management role and it goes far beyond just telling them to do it, when they see that you do it and that it works and that you believe in and it sets the culture really sets the culture for your company.


Yigal Adato: 09:20 Yeah. I mean I see it as if you’re the owner or the manager of the business and you treat, some of them are crap. You’ve now given permission for all your employees to treat them like crap.


Jason Wilson: 09:29 Right. Every time. And that’s what they’re going to do when you’re not there, you need to do other stuff. They’re going to do what you did when they saw you do it. It’s just the leading by example kind of thing, which is the best way to lead.


Yigal Adato: 09:41 Okay. And so you go from the toddler stage, you know you’ve go all in, you build the trust and you stand out and then the book goes into the teenager stage and the first part of the teenager stage is hiring the right people. Now in the Pawn Leaders Podcast Community. And the questions I ask people, one of the hardest things over the most difficult things that they experience is bringing on the right people. We actually had a conversation about this today in the mastermind group when somebody said, I’m afraid because people are gonna steal and my response was, if you’re going to be afraid, you’re never going to grow, right? You can’t just be fearful. You have to train properly. So, how did you, Jason, hire the right people and train them properly so they had your back when growing the culture and giving that customer service


Jason Wilson: 10:27 Man hiring people is just trial by fire. It’s one of my least favorite part. You sit down with interviews for people and you really never know if the person that you’re setting in an interview with is going to be the person that shows up on Monday morning. Right? We’ve had people with stellar resumes that come in and kill an interview and they get on the floor and they’re not good with people. Right? And you can’t have that in your company or they can’t keep the cash drawer. So you can’t, it’s kind of a gut feeling thing. I get into interviews, I talk to people and I get a sense for what kind of person they are because there’s a lot of things you can train, but there’s some things you can train and you never know what kind of person is going to show up compared to their resume but there’s flip side to that also. One of my best employees, I talk about him in the book. He’s been with me for 12 years. He’s the guy that you wouldn’t really hire if you sat down for an interview with him, he has no education, he’s kind of clumsy, he doesn’t really have his stuff together, he’s kind of socially awkward, but man, he busts his ass every day and he is just stellar at customer service and customers love him man. When customers come in, there could be a lot of people and they’ll just wait at his terminals to talk to him instead of going to somebody because he’s a rockstar. He’s one of those guys that’s just, and you have to be able to do this and customer service, he can put anything to the side that’s happening in his life and just focus on the customer.


Yigal Adato: 11:57 That’s what sets.


Jason Wilson: 11:58 That’s what sets. Good customer service apart from bad customer service. Really, because anybody can give good customer service when they’re in a good mood. Like if you’re having a great day and you want to talk to somebody, you know, it’s awesome, but what about when your baby cried all night or what about when you and your wife or girlfriend fighting, can you put that aside and can you come in and just pretend like that doesn’t happened? Now my job is to help you solve your problems. I need to put my problems to the side and that’s what he is great at. So, finding the right people is just a kind of an on the job fly by night, trial by error thing.


Yigal Adato: 12:35 Jason, I want to mention two quick things and I agree with you on episode 34 Scott Winship, if you haven’t listened to it, listen to it. Basically says that you have to always be hiring consistently. You can’t just be hiring when you need somebody because that person might not show up when you need them. [Incomprehensible] I want to mention is that my father always taught us in the pawn business he said, Yigal, when you go into the store, you got to leave your heart outside. So, whatever emotions you got, whatever you’re angry at, whatever, you know the customer deserves the best of you. Not-


Jason Wilson: 13:05 A lot of people can’t do that.


Yigal Adato: 13:06 Yeah.


Jason Wilson: 13:07 A lot of people can’t do that and that’s why not everyone is cut out for customer service and especially in the pawn business you know, a lot of people that come in our door, the [Incomprehensible] they want to be coming in our door. They don’t really want to come in and pawn their TV or their necklace. So, it’s up to us to put them at ease and solve their problem in the best way possible. And that’s what makes somebody really good at customer service when they can put that stuff to the side.


Yigal Adato: 13:29 Yeah. And doing that, you know, you talk about the next point which is become a leader and I think that’s all about leadership as well. Being able to put your emotions aside and your ego aside to be able to deal with the situation at hand. How did you become a leader? What was the process that you said, man, I need to level up my leadership because I’ve got these businesses, I’ve got these employees. What was that process like for you learning leadership?


Jason Wilson: 13:55 It was kind of weird for me. When we opened our first store, I didn’t hire anybody for two years. I worked for all day, everyday by myself trying to build my customer base, grow my loan balance. The main reason I did that is because I didn’t want to put someone else’s life at risk. I didn’t want to offer someone a job and then we didn’t make it and it’d be my fault. So, I want to make sure that we were stable enough to hire someone. So, when I first hired someone I hired 2 people, and they were both older than me, cause when I opened the store I was, I guess 25 so I’ve probably hired somebody when I was 26 or 27 very first person people I hired were in their 30s or 40s. So, suddenly I’m thrown into, I’m not just running my pawnshop, I need to lead these people and not only do we need to lead these people, but they’re older than me. So, that throws another wrench into the situation. So, it’s a very delicate balance, but still that goes back to leading by example is the best way to do it. Like no matter what I tell them, it’s going to be better if I show them what we’re going to do. And Yeah, the ego thing is a big deal too, you have to know that in order to lead a team, you’ve gotta be willing to take a step back and it’s not all about you anymore.


Yigal Adato: 15:06 Yeah. And I think especially like you come from, you know, a place that you said that you know, you don’t have a college education, but that’s not what leadership is. Leadership is day to day showing people what to do the way you want them to do it. Doing it right, doing it with integrity.


Jason Wilson: 15:20 You have to remind yourself every day that you are the human example of what you want your company to be. You embody what you want in your company to be. So, if you come to work and you’re not ready to lead and you’re not ready to have good customer service, then your business is going to reflect. So, it’s on you to pass down to your employees how you want them to interact with your customers and how you want them to lead themselves on the sales floor.


Yigal Adato: 15:48 I need to say this again. You said you are the human example of what you want your company to be.


Jason Wilson: 15:54 Absolutely.


Yigal Adato: 15:54 I want the people listening to like really take that in, It’s important. You are the culture, You are the customer service.


Jason Wilson: 16:02 A lot of our stores are in smaller, smaller areas. So, when we go out in public, people are gonna recognize us. So, you’re not only the face of your business when you’re in your business, you’re the face of your business when you’re outside of it too. Cause you’re going to see customers, we see customers out at restaurants and stuff. You have to handle yourself just as well out there as you do in the store. I tell that to my team members also, you’re not just representing our brand when you’re in the store, you’re representing our brand at all times.


Yigal Adato: 16:29 Yeah, yeah, I agree. Especially when they’re wearing that shirt. Right. You know, make sure that they don’t, they just get people all around. So, in the teenage stage, you go to the next part, you go from becoming a leader to staying best of the competition. What do you mean by that? And is it like knowing exactly what they’re doing? Is it, you know, some people secret shop competition, some people are always focused on their competition. What’s your take on knowing what your competition is doing?


Jason Wilson: 16:58 So, I always tell my team, I like this saying a lot about competition is that we need to know what the competition is doing but we don’t need to obsess with it because every minute that we worry about what they’re doing is the minute that we could be better doing what we need to do, right? Every business, whether it’s in our industry, anything that’s going to have competition, it can be frustrating. I don’t let people perceive it to be negative, but it’s really not. It’s not a bad thing. It can do wonders for your business, it can motivate you. It can light a fire under you to do better. Some of the locales we’re in, we deal with you and I were talking earlier about national [Incomprehensible] and how the corporate chains are coming in. So, in some places we deal with them and in some places we deal with just a little mom and pop stores. So, main thing is just to stay abreast and know what’s going on. But don’t obsess over it too much because then you lose focus what you need to be doing on a daily basis because as long as you’re doing the right thing, you’re going to be fine. Competition’s not going to bother you. But don’t be frustrated [Incomprehensible] as competition because it’s always going to be that way.


Yigal Adato: 18:00 And I think it makes us better people when we have competition around and make sure that [Crosstalk]. All right, cool. So, then we go from the teenage stage to the adult stage and before we go to the adult stage, because that’s about building your circle ready for expansion, embrace your evolving role. I want to ask you, what’s been the hardest part of growing the business?


Jason Wilson: 18:24 The hardest part of growing, expanding and opening more stores is finding the right people, finding good people. Because at that point you need people who aren’t just pawnbrokers who aren’t just good at waiting on customers and customer service. We grew into hiring people that we have our own internet sales department, so we have people behind the scenes just selling stuff on Ebay, craigslist and things like that. We have our own in house HR where the girls that do the payroll and pay the bills. So, branching out into that, and not only that, but also finding people that, I call them your circle. You need to have a circle of people kind of ride with you, that it goes down the chain of command and it’s hard to find those people. That was the hardest part about expanding. Finding people that you know have the same motivation that you have and the same work ethic that they’re going to do things the way you would do them when you’re not around.


Yigal Adato: 19:21 So, when you talk about build your circle, you’re talking about basically building that team around you that’s got your back that thinks like you do, that respects the company like you do and who wants the best for the company so that they can take care of that chain of command. Correct?


Jason Wilson: 19:36 Right, right.


Yigal Adato: 19:37 Awesome. Cool. And so then you go into ready for expansion, you’re embrace your evolving role. What is embrace your evolving role mean?


Jason Wilson: 19:46 That was a really hard part for me too because my favorite part, and I’ve been in this business for 20 years, like I said, my favorite part is being on the front line and writing loans, talking to customers. I don’t get to do that as much anymore. Like in my role becomes more of a CEO kind of behind the scenes taking care of and setting vision for the whole company rather than just waiting on the customers. So, your role has to go from being that front line guy to being the person who puts out the fires, right? Like I’m the guy that gets called when something is wrong. Like I don’t get to just sit around writing loans, which is my favorite part. I’d rather be doing that then, but I have to embrace the fact that I can’t do that anymore. That I have to set the vision for the company and set goals for the managers and all the behind the scenes stuff that people don’t really see.


Yigal Adato: 20:35 And I think one of the biggest mistakes that pawnbrokers do after they hire their team is they micromanage and they can’t embrace that evolving role. So, there’s still writing loans. They’re not sitting doing the vision, the mission, and they’re kind of getting everyone’s away as opposed to orchestrating.


Jason Wilson: 20:52 And if you micromanage, you’re basically selling your management team that you don’t think they’re doing it right.


Yigal Adato: 20:58 Yeah, you can trust them man.


Jason Wilson: 20:59 That’s only to hold your hand through this. You’re not giving them the ability to make the mistakes on their own and learn from them. And we believe in that a lot. If a manager makes a mistake, we’ve never fired anyone for making a mistake, you know, fake gold is bought or broken items or anything like that, that we use them as teaching techniques. Rather than getting upset and coming down on someone, we need to sit down and talk to them. Tell them why that was a mistake and make sure it doesn’t happen again in the future.


Yigal Adato: 21:26 So, you’ve been in the game for 20 years. What would you say like a word of advice to somebody who is starting out who is 5 years in his 10 years in. What sort of advice that you would give them to be able to make it to the level that you’re at or to not make a mistake. What’s some that you would tell them or tell yourself looking back.


Jason Wilson: 21:47 Yeah. Well the most important thing I would say, it goes back to customer service and I tell my team this, I want you to interact with every customer as if as soon as they leave, they’re going to go right on the Internet and they’re going to post on their Facebook and on Yelp and on Google. All these avenues of that where they can talk about your business. I want you to pretend that they’re going to do that as soon as they leave. So, that puts in the back of your mind that you need to do this the right way every single time. Because, and it’s weird because that’s also a two way street, you can give really good customer service to 100 people now [Incomprehensible] the people are going to just be like, wow, that was cool. The one person that you pissed off and don’t do right is the person that’s going to go on there and leave the bad review, right?


Yigal Adato: 22:30 Yeah. Of course.


Jason Wilson: 22:31 You got to have it in the back of your mind every single time that you have to do the right thing. You have to be, you have to solve people’s problems. Everybody that comes in the pawnshop has a problem. They don’t want to come in and pawn their jewelry, but they have to. They’re in a situation where they have to. So, you need to take care of their problem and help them and empathize with them, it’s nothing more than just treating people the way you want to be treated. If you do that, then your business is going to succeed.


Yigal Adato: 22:55 Yeah. I think one of the biggest things that you just said was empathize with people. You know, people come in with so many problems. And when I was in the front lines writing pawns, it was very hard for me to realize that people needed $5 or $10 to turn work to pay for diapers, you know, formula. So, if you’re going to be rude to them, you just can’t make their day crappier. If you can empathize to say, hey man, these people need this 5, 10 bucks, I’m going to try to do it. I don’t want to go above and beyond what I can’t pay, but I gotta be nice. And once you do that, that’s what grows business.


Jason Wilson: 23:27 And you have to just put yourself in their shoes mean, you know, the pawn business is stereotypically gets a bad rep sometimes about solding stuff or whatever. But 99% of the time we’re helping a single mother buy diapers or we’re helping a senior citizen pay their utility bill until they get their check the first of the month. Like really we’re providing a service to people that they can’t get elsewhere. You know these people that need $200 to help pay the rent, you can’t go to a bank and get that, right? You can’t go anywhere else and get loan without checking your credit. And unless you go to a pawn shop. So, when they do that, I mean it’s really hard to lose sight of just how much you’re helping people and what a service you’re providing to the community. And people overlook that part of the pawn business and it really is. And it makes your career more rewarding. Like you’re not just out there making a buck, you’re making a difference, you’re helping people.


Yigal Adato: 24:17 Yeah. What comes to mind is that there are some customers who might lie about what’s going on with them, but don’t make that the basis for everybody. Right?


Jason Wilson: 24:27 Right. Absolutely. Yep.


Yigal Adato: 24:29 So Jason, this is really awesome man-


Jason Wilson: 24:32 It’s a service like any other service. Some people are going to try to take advantage of it. So, you’ve got to get in the mindset of focusing on the people that you’re helping every single day. And then you’re making a difference in your community.


Yigal Adato: 24:45 So, Jason, what do you see Riverside Pawn in five years?


Jason Wilson: 24:49 We’re going to shoot to be at 10 to 12 stores in five years. We’ve got a couple of other projects that we’re starting on. We’ve thought about setting up a consulting business after the book and consulting newer pawnshops on just some of the things that we’ve learned over the years. You know, kind of the, just the frontline stuff like customer service and leadership and things like that. So I think we’ll be 10, 12 stores in five years and just still doing the same thing as they were doing and teaching the same stuff they were teaching right now.


Yigal Adato: 25:17 Awesome. Guys, those of you who are listening go to Amazon right now, obviously, please don’t be doing it while you’re driving. Check out Jason’s book, brick and mortar isn’t dead. It’s very seldom a pawnbroker in the industry writes a book and if a pawnbroker writes a book, I think you should pick it up and read it. It’s worth the read, especially one who’s been in the business for 20 years, has seven stores. It has a successful operation. You can learn something if not a lot from this person. So Jason, thank you so much for being on the podcast.


Jason Wilson: 25:46 Yeah, thanks man.


Yigal Adato: 25:48 Yeah, and for those of you pawn family, thanks for listening. Once again, if you want to chat with me, go to pawnleaders.com it’s a 30 minute conversation. I don’t charge you for it. I just want to connect with you. Say thank you for being a listener and go to the Facebook group Pawn Leaders Podcast Community. Jason wish you the best and thanks for your time man.


Jason Wilson: 26:06 Thank you.


To continue the discussion join the Pawn Leaders Facebook community


For more information on working together go to www.pawnleaders.com.


Jason’s Book Mentioned on the show: Brick and Mortar Isn’t Dead


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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