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Dave McNichol Named COO of Epic Ventures
06-06-08
RTO Online - The rent to own industry's trade website
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Dave has the uncanny ability to find, train and develop talent - a skill that is especially critical for a rental-purchase company that depends so heavily on customer relationships.
Louis Garcia, President, Epic Ventures

Dave McNichol (center) has been named Chief Operating Office of Epic Ventures dba ColorTyme. Also picture are CEO Scott Brown (left) and President Louis Garcia.

Photo RTO Online

Dave McNichol (center) has been named Chief Operating Office of Epic Ventures dba ColorTyme. Also picture are CEO Scott Brown (left) and President Louis Garcia.

Dave McNichol has been named Chief Operating Office of Epic Ventures dba ColorTyme. Epic Ventures operates five stores in the Baltimore and Washington DC markets. McNichol is a former Regional Director for Rent-A-Center and has 25 years experience in the rent-to-own industry.

Scott Brown, CEO of Epic Ventures, has known McNichol for 25 years. "In my opinion, Dave is THE best operator in the RTO industry. We're fortunate to have him on our team."

Louis Garcia, President of Epic Ventures describes McNichol as tenacious. "Once he gets hold of a program, consider it done. He has the uncanny ability to find, train and develop talent. Developing the right talent is especially critical for a rental-purchase company that depends so heavily on customer relationships."

Epic will open a new store in July in Landover, Maryland. Asked how 2008 is progressing so far, Garcia said, "We've got Dave McNichol - so we're kicking butt!"

Scott Brown, Louis Garcia and Dave McNichol were recently featured in the RTO Excellence section of RTO Magazine, the leading rent-to-own industry trade magazine. Below is the story in its entirety.

An Epic Venture
By Stephanie Graves
RTO Magazine

Before Scott Brown and his business partner, Louis Garcia opened the doors to their first ColorTyme franchise in Landover, Md., they knew their business would be a success. How did they know? Because Brown and Garcia had a well-mapped plan that, if executed properly, they believed, was fail-safe.

In November 2004, the partners, who had in the past worked together in the rent-to-own industry, sat down and compiled a list of 60 to70 best practices. From that list, the two determined which of those activities were most important. Twenty-two of the activities stood out as essential and became known as the Top Gun Checklist. And according to Brown, The Top Gun Checklist is what Epic Ventures is all about.

"Each one of these activities is critical to the success of the store," he explained. "Each month our vice president of operations and new business partner, Dave McNichol, conducts a Top Gun audit of these activities. Our expectation is that the GM's score 80% or better on every audit."

Brown said a Top Gun is someone who is the best of the best and he pushes his co-workers, which is the term Epic uses for its employees, to strive for that honor.

Epic Ventures doesn't have a corporate manual, but they do have their own "Eight Rules of Engagement" that is presented to each new co-worker when they come on board.

The rules range from, "Don't do anything to embarrass yourself or your store" to "I won't steal from you, you don't steal from me."

"Stealing could be literally taking money out of the cash drawer to logging hours you didn't actually work and getting paid for it," said Brown.

But perhaps the most notable rule of engagement is Brown's policy of charging his general managers $500 per hour if he has to do their job for them.

"If I ask an employee to do something like get the back room cleaned up, I expect them to get it done," Brown said. "I'm known to drop in the next day to make sure the work has been completed."

If it isn't, said Brown, he'll clean the back room himself. And he'll take all day to do it.

Brown said he's only had to take such extreme measures twice. It has proven to be an effective form of discipline.

Brown admits his management style is stringent, but he says it's simply a part of the culture the partners have created.

Garcia is the president of Epic Ventures. His role is to handle back office duties such as human resources, training and managing store inventory.

McNichol, the newest partner, is the vice president of operations. He's in charge of running all of the stores.

"Louis is the patient, laid back one," said Brown. "He balances me out. And I've known Dave for over 15 years. He is absolutely the best operations guy in the business."

As CEO, Brown is in charge of financial aspects of the business as well as site selection and marketing.

"When we determined what our culture was going to be, we came up with a mission statement," explained Brown.

Epic's mission is two-fold. The company aims to be the largest franchisee on a per store revenue basis and to improve the quality of life for themselves and their customers.

Though it may be odd to mention themselves before the customer, Brown said there is good reason for that.

"Your co-workers have to be happy in order for them to take care of the customers well," he said. "If they're not happy, they don't make the customer happy."

Epic expects a lot from their people, but they also pay them 20 to 30 percent more than the rest of the market.

"To ensure that we're executing at a high level we hire great co-workers and pay them well," Brown explained. "We conduct two reviews each year on every co-worker—one at six months and the other annually. The six month review is a snapshot of where they are now and what they need to do for the remainder of the year to receive a merit increase. Our co-workers receive raises based on performance and performance only. You don't get a raise just for being around for a year, you have to earn it."

To that end, McNichol audits each GM on a monthly basis to make sure they have executed all 22 activities in the course of the month. If they fall short, they are coached on how to improve for the next audit.

These activities work well for Epic Ventures, but Brown stresses that it's important for other franchisees to come up with a set of activities that best fits their organization.

"Craft the rules to fit your business model and what you want to achieve," he said. "We want to grow our customer base, so we focus on the growth piece. The more customers we have, the stronger the base."

With the opening of the first store, Epic implemented an advanced customer generator program.

Because of the density of people in the Baltimore and D.C. markets, Epic focuses on a three mile radius around the store and markets to those households every month. They use five different types of marketing for each store.

Twice a month, direct mail pieces are dropped to selected clusters of carrier routes called AZT's. The first drop is usually the first week of the month and consists of approximately 10,000 pieces. The second drop is mid-month and consists of approximately 5,000 pieces.

Additionally, every six months a mapping report is run by Central File. Again, targeting a three mile radius using specific carrier routes based on where the highest percentage of customers are coming from. These customers are sent marketing materials.

Epic also uses the ACT Database program to generate mailings to what they call Future Customers. Future Customers are prospective customers that have come into the store, have a genuine interest in doing business, but did not get the product for whatever reason. Each month they are mailed a postcard.

"We currently have over 1800 customers in our four stores, but we also have over 1700 Future Customers in our ACT database just waiting to become customers," Brown said. "That's what gets me excited about our growth prospects moving forward,"

In addition to Future Customers, Epic also has a database of inactive customers that they mail to.

Radio broadcasts are another way Epic reaches their customers. The company runs short, 15-second messages three times per day, six days per week during the morning, afternoon and evening drive time slots.

They have also developed a new program called the ColorTyme Advantage. ColorTyme Advantage is a card that looks and feels like a real credit card, bearing the customer's name and mailed out each month. Though expensive to produce, at $6.80 per card, it has proven to be an effective marketing tool.

The total amount Epic spends each month for each store is approximately $3,000.

"The key to advertising is reach and frequency. Consumer research suggests that it takes around 18 contacts before someone will buy from you," Brown explains, "Stick with it every month and your message will eventually reach the customer."

Top Gun activities, great people with great attitudes and consistent and targeted marketing efforts – for Epic Ventures, success is as easy as having a plan and sticking to it.

 

RTO Online is the official channel for Rent-to-Own Industry News and the only independent source of news for the rent-to-own, rental-purchase, lease-purchase trade. RTO Online (Rent to Own Online) represents the choice of the entire RTO Industry for trusted information, as it happens.

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