From your perspective, what does the future of the RTO industry look like? What will be the challenges? For over thirty years, I have preached that if RTO is going to grow its customer base, it needs to be perceived by the public as a transaction with a number of great benefits not available through traditional credit or financing options. That doesn’t mean every retailer should start offering RTO, nor should RTO dealers start acting like the traditional retailer. There is a huge difference in the way business is done, and the way customers are treated. For example, business/consumer relationships end at the sale in retail; but that’s just the beginning in RTO. At the same time, we cannot alienate our core customers. So our challenge will be to identify population segments where RTO makes sense and educate them on the benefits of RTO.
Tell us about your family. Tammy and I married in July 1986, right about the same time I started delivering console TVs for Rent-A-Center. So RTO has always been a part of our lives. Tammy put up with all the moves when I went to work for Rental King, opening locations all over Ohio and Michigan as we grew that company from 15 to 70 stores. Tammy joined the RTO community when we moved to Erie PA to take positions at RentWay’s corporate office. Shortly after we moved to Erie, our son Dustin was invited to play basketball at a local church, and our daughter Bri followed her big brother to the gym. I eventually took over that league, renaming it the Christian League of Athletics for Youth (now CLAY Team Sports). CLAY saw up to 800 kids each season with teams sponsored by churches from a dozen denominations over a ten year period. We also helped start a multi-denominational community ministry program, which continues to minister to the less fortunate of Erie. We stayed in Erie for five years after RentWay and launched Measuring Up, a customer satisfaction survey company, in part to support our ministry efforts. 10 years later, with Tammy and I back in management roles for other companies, 100% of Measuring Up proceeds support Paradigm Shift Ministries, which Dustin formed in 2014 to oversee CLAY and our other ministry initiatives. Dustin’s weekly “Six Thirty Saturday Nite” online message has been seen in 80 countries around the world, including many countries where people could be killed for watching. Our daughter Bri recently left Passavant Hospital in Pittsburgh to return to Erie where she is pursuing her RN/BSN while working full-time at the Hamot Hospital Emergency Department. Both have been heavily involved in sports – basketball, track, soccer, softball and bowling. Dustin helped start a soccer program in Honduras, and Bri was ranked as a top 20 bowler in Pennsylvania while in high school. Along with watching them progress as athletes and leaders, one of my fondest memories of the kids was in the early days of Rental King when they were young. They handed out $100 Monopoly bills during an open house, telling customers, “Give this to my daddy, he’ll turn it into real money!” When off of work, Tony’s passion is music. He leads worship for Dustin’s weekly online services, and is in a band, the Created… Music Project, that features over 70 youth, young adults (and some not-so-young adults) playing concerts from soup kitchens to stadiums. When he’s not taking care of Showplace business, helping Tammy with Measuring Up, doing ministry or jamming with the band, he does part-time consulting and web design under the name Pro Business Link. “Rare is the time I sit back and relax, but those quality times hanging out with Tammy watching a TV show or movie are truly special moments,” shared Tony.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with us? I’ve had the opportunity to lobby for RTO in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Texas and Washington D.C., serve on many state RTO associations and a couple of APRO committees. Measuring Up has surveyed RTO customers in 23 states, and even provided a report on Customer Satisfaction in RTO to select members of U.S. Congress. Measuring Up and Pro Business Link, plus our bed-and-breakfast, The Haven On Vine, support our ministry efforts so Dustin doesn’t have to start, interrupt or end his weekly messages with a plea for money. I have had the honor and privilege of working for, or consulting to, some of the best people in RTO, and call them all friends. All know that serving God comes before serving them, yet I am still blessed with a job and clients, for which I am forever grateful. These leaders of RTO have impacted my life for the better – not just professionally, but as a husband and father. RTO has become the vehicle for my family to serve others in so many ways…the least I can do is apply all this RTO knowledge and experience in every way I can to grow our business and help our customers.