Remember this word: batteries: Ron Rezetko had a solid business plan, strong financial partner and a clear vision to where he wanted to go. (FW Focus: Profiles)(Cover Story).
Likely, if that guy in the movie had been Ron Rezetko, the whispered word would have been "batteries" instead. And apparently, Rezetko would have been right.
Of course, in 1987, when this Wisconsin native quit his job as the marketing head of an industrial-automotive markets firm, a lot of people thought he was, well.... unnecessarily optimistic. But Rezetko foresaw a business-to-business and consumer market for batteries extending way beyond those diehards that crank up boats and cars. With a solid business plan, a strong financial partner and a clear vision, Rezetko used franchising to build a network of 175 stores across the country. Today, Batteries Plus is well on its way to becoming the "McDonald's of Batteries," a dream that Rezetko articulated in the early days of the 14 year-old company.
In mid-July, Rezetko stepped up to the chairman emeritus role at Batteries Plus. Here, he looks back at the last decade, remembering what charged him up in the halcyon days, as well as why, at age 60, he's still going strong.
FW: What made Batteries Plus an original concept?
Rezetko: Batteries Plus is the first of its type--the first to take battery sales out of the secondary market and into the new-wave, triple A market, sited at major crossroads, featuring free-standing buildings that are unique in their design.
FW: You were a little "ahead of the curve" getting into this market. What made you sure it would work?
Rezetko: I did well over a year's research and determined that we were going to become a battery-dependent society. It was just a matter of time. It was important to be the first to take the initiative to expand it.
FW: So you quit your job and opened your first store ...
Rezetko: Right. It took me the better part of a year, but I wrote a very accurate business plan. Very complete. I did so much homework that I knew what to expect ... I just didn't realize how fast it was going to go.
FW: How did you launch those first company-owned stores?
Rezetko: I started off with a financial partner. He took the secondary position because he ran another business, but he had good financial connections. He was able to get us money because, based on a good plan and a good history, (the financiers) thought we had a very good chance of surviving.
FW: Did you feel confident from the very beginning, or was it a year or two before you knew Batteries Plus would really fly?
Rezetko: I felt confident before I started. In the beginning, we had what the market demanded--that was the car and truck batteries, plus starters and fan belts. But we knew it wasn't going to stay that way. The first thing that came along were the cordless phones. Then there were a lot of hand-held power tools, then cellular phones and computers. It kept evolving: medical batteries, back-up batteries ... The most recent development is EPS [emergency power supply].
FW: So you went for the B2B market right off the bat?
Rezetko: Our strategy originally was to be half retail, half B2B.
FW: And franchising was a part of your strategy from the beginning, too?
Rezetko: Yes. It was the way to make the business grow. Franchisees usually are more successful than company-owned stores.
FW: Before you started selling franchises, did you have staff on board who were experienced in franchising?
Rezetko: No, nobody. But we hired a franchise-savvy legal firm out of Kansas City. So, even before we started franchising, we had done all the legal work, registering and the like. When I had questions, I talked to my lawyer. We were ready to open the door when the first prospect approached us.
FW: What did your growth strategy look like?
Rezetko: The informal strategy was to try and develop in the Midwest. But what was really happening was, geographically, we went wherever we had offers.
FW: How did you keep from spinning out of control?
Rezetko: For years, I worked for NAPA, an organization that has associate stores, so I knew about the responsibility involved in that relationship. Of course, by law, franchise owners have more rights than associate stores, so you have to perform even better. Some people feel a franchise needs to be grown larger and faster, so the brand can be recognized. But I'm conservative. I believe in control and in managing steady growth.
FW: So relations with franchise owners are integral to a brand's success?
Rezetko: I didn't go into business thinking I wanted to become rich. Success is measured many ways, but, for me, success is measured in how successful other people are.
FW: How did you work with the owners to ensure their success?
Rezetko: We were very selective about our franchisees. A lot of it was instinct. We relied on the "three Cs:" character, capacity and capital. Have you heard of the saying, "He's not heavy; he's my brother?" If you're going to have somebody invest money in your idea, you'd better be careful and certain that you give them all they need to succeed. That's a moral responsibility and I think it's very critical. Franchisor-franchisee relations? That will make or break a system.
FW: So now that you're seen one vision come to reality, what's ahead for Ron Rezetko?
Rezetko: I'm still on the board at Batteries Plus and I have one vote on the operating committee like everyone else. But this year, I'd like to write a book about business experience in general--the ways to qualify yourself for a business. And, I'd like to do some consulting, too. If I can help somebody be more successful and smile a little more, then I've succeeded.
Nancy Scott is a freelance writer who contributes frequently to Franchising World. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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|Title Annotation:||Batteries Plus|
|Author:||Scott, Nancy Rathbun|
|Article Type:||Brief Article|
|Date:||Oct 1, 2001|
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