About five years ago, Mark McCown thought he’d try something different professionally. He thought he’d leave Countryside Rentals Inc., dba Rent-2-Own to try his sales skills at a car dealership. But it wasn’t the smooth ride he had hoped for.
“I realized fairly quickly the grass isn’t greener,” McCown says of his short stint as a car salesman. “Rent-2-Own is really the best company. Mike [Tissot, Rent-2-Own President] provides great insurance, benefits, and pay for every position. He rewards good work with contests and point programs and other incentives. There’s just not another company out there that treats their people like this place does.”
The feeling is mutual; Rent-2-Own named McCown its 2020 Store Manager of the Year for his remarkable leadership of the company’s Waverly, Ohio, location.
McCown began his rent-to-own career at the age of 21, when his cousin persuaded him to join Rent-2-Own has a delivery driver. McCown steadily worked his way up through the company, holding every position within the store environment along the way. He has been consistently acknowledged for his achievements, having been up for Account Manager of the Year and received Customer Sales Representative of the Year previously, as well as serving as the Assistant Manager at a Store of the Year.
McCown has managed five Rent-2-Own locations since 2006: Grayson, Kentucky, and Athens, Gallipolis, Chillicothe, and now Waverly, Ohio. He was named Store Manager of the Year once before, in Athens, but he says the biggest win for him was 2019, when Waverly – which generated the highest revenue in the company last year – won Store of the Year under his management.
“Every crew I get, I build a team,” says McCown. “Even when the crew already exists, we become more of a team, more of a family, and everyone performs better. This past year, every person who worked for me was a finalist [in the annual company awards] – every single one of them. As a manager, it’s all about who works for you; you’re only as good as your employees. And these are just the best at what they do.”
McCown is well-known for his personal interest and investment in his employees, his “funny feller” charisma, and his passion for helping people.
“I’m not an iron-fist kind of guy,” he reflects. “If things aren’t what they should be, I don’t yell, I don’t get hot. I have conversations, and I get results. When team members are experiencing issues or problems, I’m the first one there to try to help. I want them to know I care about their lives outside of work, and they can count on me.”
“Mark is a selfless leader,” notes Tissot. “He knows his job is to take care of the people in his charge, and he does just that. He has the uncanny ability to lead from the front, the middle, or the back, and is one of the most encouraging leaders we’ve ever had.”
Not surprisingly, McCown applies the same principles to customer relationships, with just as positive results.
“With my customers, too, I look for opportunities to help more than some other managers might because I want them to know that Rent-2-Own is the place the go,” he explains. “If you’re a customer and you’re talking to me about what’s happening with you, I’m not willing to pick your stuff up. I will work with you, and I make sure they know that.”
But beneath McCown’s more velvet-glove approach to business lies a fierce competitive streak, driving him to continue to strive for higher and higher levels of excellence.
“Ben Davis, who is now a Divisional Vice President, is a close friend and was my manager for many years,” McCown recalls. “He drove me to want to be the best. Number one, number one, number one – that’s my mindset. It’s a constant hunger. The race is never won, you’re always running, always chasing. You can’t be satisfied; you always want more.”
During his off-time, McCown’s natural helpfulness and competitiveness still shine through. With four kids – ages 14, 15, 18, and 21 – he and his wife of almost 20 years, Heather, spend plenty of time with familial pursuits, and Mark is an avid outdoorsman who especially enjoys bowhunting and fishing. But he also grows a one-acre garden each year and brings bags full of veggies into work to give to customers and employees. He assists elderly family members and mows about seven acres of grass for other families every week. And he loves to cook, especially smoking meat; McCown and Davis partner up for occasional event catering and, yes, barbecue competitions.
But don’t go searching for a McCown’s “Big Guy” Barbecue restaurant to open up any time soon; having explored other options and returned to the rent-to-own fold, it seems Rent-2-Own’s 2020 Store Manager of the Year Mark McCown is happy to stay put and just keep upping his RTO game.
“I believe in what I do, and I believe in who I work for, and all that goes into the way I manage my employees and the way my customers feel about us, too,” concludes McCown. “I love what I do on all levels. I like seeing my customers get things and pay them off. I like seeing my team members grow, and I’ve got some of the best in all positions. So the work I’m doing is just rewarding all the way around.”