As part of our tribute to our 2016 Retailer of the Year, Karen chats with Bealls Florida chairman Bob Beall on what makes him most proud, his best and worst business decisions, and the lessons he has learned throughout the years.
Q: After several decades in this business, what makes you most proud?
A: I’m proud that we’re one of the few independent, non-public retailers still in business. When I look back at the panoply of retail stores that have disappeared over the last half century, I feel very fortunate.
Q: What do you worry about these days?
A: Looking ahead at the constant changes in technology (e-commerce, 3D printing, the possible demise of the large retail store in the not-too-distant future, etc.) does cause me concern, but I prefer to see it as an opportunity, rather than a threat. That said, worry is probably necessary to survival.
Q: What were the worst and best business decisions you’ve made?
A: I’ve made many bad decisions that I’d rather forget about. But I believe the best decision I made was to insist on launching our outlet stores outside of Florida. We started out in Arizona, a state not unlike Florida in many ways, and then filled in the states between Florida and Arizona. It’s proven to be a successful strategy.
Q: Finally, what have you learned from your years in the business?
A: I’ve learned from many years in the business to hire the best people I can afford and let them do their jobs with minimal interference. I’ve learned that constant reinvestment in, and reinvention of, the business is necessary to avoid obsolescence. I’ve learned that it’s better to do business in the Sunbelt than in any other part of the country. I learned from my dad that we should welcome family members into the business but insist that they have an MBA and spend a year or two working successfully for a national competitor to show that they have real commitment. Finally, I’ve learned that we all stand on the shoulders of those who go before us.