In addition to extensive planning and research, Timberville, Va. entrepreneurs Randy and Shirley Andes brought over 25 years experience and a lifelong dream to realization when they opened Randy’s Do it Best Hardware in July 2001.
Over the past five years, their business has grown quickly due to Randy’s astute management style and their emphasis on excellent customer service. At Randy's Do it Best Hardware, “there is no business without customers”, he said. They go above and beyond what is expected from the minute the customer enters our doors.
Randy’s work experiences convinced him that his management style and customer relations skills would enhance his own business. Their business plan assured them that this small but growing regional community with estimated population of over 100,000 was ready for a new hardware store. Their store is located in Rockingham County and being native to the area, they realized that customer travel patterns are not typical in the Shenandoah Valley, situated between Harrisonburg and New Market, Va. Randy defied market experts by mapping the rural routes that would bring his neighbors across and through the surrounding mountains to build his customer base.
Randy and Shirley are committed to knowing their customers, their families, and their personalities. Their friendly, knowledgeable sales people can usually find a solution for their customers’ projects or problems, and if they don’t have what they need in the store, they get a referral to someone who can help. Not only will they carry and load merchandise, if needed, they also help color match paint to wallpaper and fabrics and even do research and try to locate hard to find items or repair parts. There is also a shipping station right there on premises.
“New customers come in with a referral from friends,” Randy said. “They are told that if anyone could help fix it or find it, go to Randy's.”
Randy's Do it Best Hardware is better know in the community as the Friendly Hardware Store. The store features 8,000 square-feet of retail space and 2,000 square-feet of storage and rental space offering a complete selection of hardware and home improvement merchandise. They also specialize in kitchen and bath cabinetry. The store, which is spotlessly clean, is bisected by the main aisle which stretches the length of the store. Off the main aisle are sub-aisles with floor to ceiling merchandise racks, completely stocked with every conceivable kind of hardware goods. The racks are stocked daily, and goods are plainly labeled. The store carries electrical, plumbing, cabinets, tools, hardware items like nuts, bolts, screws, house wares, paints, etc.
According to Randy, the store has a niche market in the cabinet/remodeling business. There is one full-time designer on staff with more than 40 years of experience. The store has a full kitchen and bath showroom and a dedicated workroom where the designer can customize remodeling plans for customers.
Most of the Do it Best Hardware goods are purchased from, Do It Best Corp., which bills itself as the world's largest hardware store, with 4,100 independently owned hardware and home improvement retailers that are members of Do it Best Corp., the only full-line, full-service buying cooperative in the hardware, lumber and building materials industry.
After approval of a business loan guaranteed by the U.S. Small Business Administration shortly after opening the business, and after its first full year of operation in 2002, sales exceeded $750,000. With the assistance of the SBA guaranteed loan, Randy and Shirley were able to purchase store fixtures, computer equipment and merchandise.
Without this loan, Randy said, “We would not have had enough funds to open and operate as successfully as we have.”
Shirley adds, “We were of the opinion that if we were going to open our store we needed to do it right from the first day and let our customers know that we were a serious hardware store.”
The 7(a) Loan Guaranty Program is the SBA's primary lending program. It provides loan guaranties for small businesses unable to secure financing on reasonable terms through normal lending channels. The program operates through private sector lenders who provide loans which are, in turn, guaranteed by the SBA. A maximum loan amount of $2 million has been established for 7(a) loans. However, the maximum dollar amount of the SBA guaranty is generally $1.5 million.
The program eligibility requirements are designed to be as broad as possible so that this lending program can accommodate the most diverse variety of small business financing needs.
In 2005, sales at Randy's Do it Best Hardware were up 25 percent over the previous year and after four years of successful operations, their business plan and growth projections were proven accurate. Randy’s and Shirley’s commitment to first-class customer service led to this double digit growth in a relatively short amount of time. Randy said, “I am very pleased with the steady growth and I am very positive about the economy and the growth of the Broadway-Timberville area.”
According to Randy, the greatest challenge in starting the business was negotiating the lease agreement. He did not have experience in this important area and sought assistance from the James Madison University Small Business Development Center. “A business analyst reviewed a lease agreement and explained the terminology,” said Henry Reeves, the SBDC director. The store’s current location is where Randy wanted to be and he happily reports that the lease was recently renewed for another five years.
“My involvement with the SBDC and its professional staff has been a very positive experience,” says this entrepreneur. “I used the SBDC to help me develop my business plan, and their resources to find market demographics and sources and methods for financing, all of which were keys to getting the doors opened. I recommend using the resources available through SBDCs to anyone starting or expanding a business.”
Randy considers community service to be very important to a small business owner’s success, particularly in a small town. He is a charter member of the Broadway-Timberville Rotary Club, past president of the Broadway-Timberville Ruritan Club, and a past president and current member of the Broadway-Timberville Chamber of Commerce. Randy is also a member of the JMU Small Business Development Center’s Advisory Council and serves on the Events and Training Committee.
“You have to have a passion for your business to help make it work,” Randy states. “My wife is a vital asset to the success of our business in that she is the dreamer. She also is much more detail-oriented, which helps the budget, payroll, and billing side of the business run smoothly.”
Their working relationship has worked well for the business. Randy joked that not all couples enjoy this dynamic, however, in their experience, it has been very positive and helpful for the two of them to work so closely together.
As Shirley puts it, “Our skills complement each other and we respect each others opinions on how best to accomplish our goals. Working together allows us to share ideas on the many facets of the business.”
Randy’s advice to others going into business is, “Do your homework, know your market, and really take the time to educate yourself about the business. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel, but rather use the resources available like the SBDC and the SBA. That made the difference for me.”