YOUR BUSINESS AUTHORITY
SBJ: What has been key to your recent growth?
Jeven Russell: It’s been about consistency, making sure we’re retaining the commitment to our brand, knowing what we stand for, what sets us apart, our culture and, especially, our core values mission statement. We celebrate 29 years in business this December. It’s always been about employee experience first and foremost and really trying to build an environment for personal and professional growth for Russell Cellular family members. On the other side of that, we’re in the technology industry, and we’ve been extremely fortunate with the business partners we’ve had. We’ve been with Verizon for 14 years, and they’ve been disruptive in a good way and really a leader in the space.
SBJ: What has the company’s growth enabled you to do?
Russell: First, our growth has allowed us to enter new markets, but not necessarily from opening new doors. We’ve acquired a lot of companies over the years. We purchased six doors from an agent in the Austin-San Antonio, [Texas] market (recently). Acquisition and new growth create new leadership positions in the company and serve more communities.
SBJ: What are your top issues when it comes to managing growth?
Russell: Every single one of our stores has its own microculture. As a company, we can impact that, but ultimately, it’s up to the leadership of that store to onboard them into the Russell Cellular brand. To stay connected, we recently flew in 25 district leaders. In a three-week window, 662 managers will get together with some of their peers. That’s been a pain point in our growth, staying connected. We’re in this together, but that’s hard to do over 43 states.
SBJ: Is there such thing as growing too fast?
Russell: Absolutely, if you’re not sure of your limits and capabilities. Some of that may be as simple as the software for your business, the right infrastructure for your team. We’ve made tremendous investments – two new vice presidents, four new directors and several new positions out of our home office alone. You have to make sure you have an infrastructure in place to support your initiatives. You have to have your team behind you.
SBJ: Where is the tipping point?
Russell: There is a point of market saturation. You can only have so many points of distribution. When you think about our business, specifically, I think there’s an end point for growth and where we can grow as a door count, so you have to focus on store growth. As things change with carriers and competition, the biggest point is being able to evolve your business. E-commerce over the last decade has changed brick-and-mortar retail, but we’ve kept pace online. It’s allowing us to show up where the customer wants to be met.
SBJ: What is the best business advice you’ve received?
Russell: I think two things: No. 1, surrounding yourself with people who are smarter than you. No. 2, always making sure you’re pouring into someone else’s cup and being open to being led as a leader. You have to have a certain level of vulnerability and be surrounded by smarter people and leverage their skill sets. You can’t do anything in business alone.
SBJ interviews the interim dean at the William H. Darr College of Agriculture at Missouri State University.