Ryan Smith had been working as a construction surveyor when the market began to go south. Smith decided to try something new and different, and in July 2012, was hired by Jacksonville, Florida-based Jax LTO LLC, dba Rent Wise Home Furnishings as a driver at the company’s Beach Boulevard store. Within a few months, he was moved up to account manager, and within a year, was promoted to store manager.
“A partial owner who was also a district manager left the company sort of suddenly, and my store manager was promoted to replace him,” Smith recalls. “So my manager recommended me to the owner to take over as store manager. He told the owner, ‘Trust me, he’s ready. He can do it.’ It all happened fast, and I was still learning the business, but it came to me really natural.”
“Ryan was placed as a manager during a difficult time for our company,” agrees District Manager Russell Coffmann. “We had to rely on his self-motivation and hardworking attitude to maintain store revenue. And, to our happy surprise, he grew the store successfully. He’s a star employee day in and day out.”
Indeed. Smith holds the records for the company’s highest-grossing month and week for a single store. Additionally, Smith trained the store managers at Rent Wise’s other two locations. It’s no wonder Rent Wise named Smith its 2020 Store Manager of the Year.
Key contributors to Smith’s rent-to-own success are his hardcore work ethic, his convivial personality, and his balance as a leader between being uncompromising and being compassionate.
“Everyone – even my supervisors – call me The General,” Smith chuckles. “They say I run a tight ship, I bark orders. And it’s true, I expect nothing but the best from my team. I expect us all to do things right, to take care of our customers. I can be firm when necessary, but I’m also understanding. I listen, I get it.
“I guess I’m a gung-ho kind of guy,” he continues. “I never stop. I don’t sit down, I’m just constantly doing something. I never go sit in my office, I don’t sit down for lunch, I just work. In fact, I just lost my father recently, and I had to miss a work day to go to his funeral. So then I worked my day off to cover for the day I missed.”
“Ryan is extremely dedicated,” asserts Rent Wise Owner/Operator Jeff Smith (no relation). “Even during his toughest personal moments, he still shows up and strives to be the best. He’s a genuinely great person to be around.”
“All of the employees working with Ryan get a well-balanced portrayal of what it’s like to work hard and love what you do,” agrees Coffmann. “That mentality can’t help but carry over into the work ethics of his employees. He gets the job done and has fun doing it.”
Smith’s love of RTO comes through his naturally outgoing character. He describes himself as a “social chameleon,” able to create real rapport with anyone and everyone.
“No matter who walks through the door, I can approach them, make them comfortable, and make it work,” Smith notes. “My store’s customer base is about 30% Hispanic, and I don’t speak Spanish. But my customers come in and still want to deal with me, even though I might have a bilingual employee available. They want me, because we’ve built that relationship between us.
“I love helping people,” he continues. “We deal with everyday people living on fixed budgets. We offer a service that lets them acquire the finer things in life and make affordable payments. Every time I get to hand over a certificate of ownership, it’s a proud day, because I know I’ve made someone happy. It might sound corny, but even if Rent Wise offered me a higher-up position, I don’t think I’d want to stop being a store manager.”
Smith spends his time off of work with family – his two adult sons, his two granddaughters, and his mom. He’s also a firearm afficionado who not only loves the shooting range, but also collects and assembles guns.
So, whether at play or at work, Store Manager of the Year Ryan Smith is going great guns – and feeling pretty fired-up about it.
“It seems like Rent Wise is grateful to have me, but I’m actually the lucky one to be working here,” concludes Smith. “Just like our business provides things for our customers that they would never be able to have without us, our leadership has given me opportunities I could not have had on my own, and I’m thankful.”