Each week, we seek expert advice to help a small or medium-sized business overcome a key issue.
Can there be another Cash Man? That’s the question Russell Oliver has been asking himself over the past year as he attempts to bring his 43-year-old gold-buying business to new markets in Ontario.
Most Torontonians know Mr. Oliver as the gregarious, loud-mouthed owner of Oliver Jewellery, which has 16 employees. His commercials, which feature him yelling at viewers urging them to sell him their gold and ends with the catchy “I’m the Cash Man” jingle, have made him a household name among regular folks and gold sellers alike.
For more than four decades, Mr. Oliver has operated out of one midtown location, but he would now like to open stores across the Greater Toronto Area and possibly in other provinces.
However, he thinks he needs a “mini-me” – someone as passionate and extroverted as he is to be the face of the new stores.
“They have to be outgoing, loquacious, get on with people and can get people’s items from them,” he says. “I need someone like myself.”
He has found one person to run a new Oakville location, which he opened in November – his son Jonas “The Cash Kid” Oliver. He does have two other sons, but they aren’t interested in running new stores, he says.
Mr. Oliver is ready to open a new location in Peterborough – he has the space picked out – he just needs to find someone to operate it.
He has spoken to headhunters, posted on Craigslist, searched on Workopolis and put ads in trade magazines. He has interviewed eight people and he has even gotten as far as testing some of them out in his Toronto and Oakville stores, but, in the end, no one has been a good fit.
“They’re missing something,” he says. “We need to figure out what exactly that is.”
If he can’t find someone like him to man the stores, then his expansion plans may have to be put on hold, he says.
The Challenge: How can Russell Oliver find someone like him to run new locations in Ontario and beyond?
THE EXPERTS WEIGH IN
Peter George, chief executive officer at branding agency McKim Communications Group Ltd., Winnipeg
This is a huge problem for businesses that are built on the personality of one individual. His best strategy is to be the face of the business as long as he can.
He can make cameo appearances at the stores, but the person he hires doesn’t have to be like him. He can split the jobs – he’ll be the spokesman or the mascot, the other person can operate the store.
However, if he wants to find someone like him, he should do what he does best: create a commercial about it. Have people send in audition tapes and get customers to vote on YouTube or in-store to pick the new Cash Man.
Meg Schmitz, senior franchise consultant with FranChoice, a company that helps people find franchises to buy, Chicago
It might be a dumb idea to try to expand when you’re the secret sauce. One problem is that he doesn’t really know how well his other stores will do without him there. You can build a lot of profit margin with just a personality. Someone else, even someone as charismatic, may not be able to drive people to the store.
Maybe there is someone out there, but eight interviews isn’t enough. He needs to talk to hundreds of people and maybe he can find them by recruiting through commercials. He also can’t be anxious and jump the gun. Be patient and strategic. He has a brand to protect.
Brian Scudamore, founder and CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, Vancouver
I ran into the same problem when I wanted to expand my business. I looked for someone just like me, but I’m a pretty unique individual and couldn’t find another me. I had to take my skills and systematize the way I work – put down in writing what you want someone to do and then train that person to do it.
Instead of finding someone like him, though, make the stores look and feel like they are his places even without him there. He could do that by putting up pictures of himself on the wall or a video of him welcoming people into the store. Look at Steve Jobs. Everyone felt connected to him personally, but most people never met him. You walked into the Apple store and said, “This is Steve Jobs’ place.”
THREE THINGS THE COMPANY COULD DO NOW
Have fun with it
Ask potential job candidates to submit audition tapes and run a contest on social media.
You can build a lot of profit margin with just a personality. Be patient and make the right choice.
Create a “presence” by hanging pictures of Mr. Oliver on the wall or running a video of him welcoming people into the stores.
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Interviews have been edited and condensed.