Daniel Ruiz-Perez is a natural-born helper. It’s why he became a nurse in Puerto Rico, his first home. It’s why he rushed into New Orleans in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina. And it’s why, when the atrocities he witnessed during that period proved to be too rough for him to continue with nursing full-time, he turned to … rent-to-own?
“Rent-A-Center has provided me with the opportunity to keep helping people, just in a different way,” says Ruiz-Perez, who was named 2020 Store Manager of the Year for APRO member Impact RTO Holdings, dba Rent-A-Center. “In nursing, I was helping people with their health; in rent-to-own, I’m still helping people, but with their homes.”
Ruiz-Perez began at Rent-A-Center as a driver, but his inborn curiosity and love of learning drove him to promotion after promotion – from driver to credit manager to sales manager to store manager. Ruiz-Perez has served as a Store Manager for almost a decade at various locations; the most recent one is Impact RTO’s Jacksonville, Florida, Rent-A-Center location at University Boulevard West.
“I met Daniel at [Rent-A-Center affiliate] Acceptance Now,” recalls Impact RTO Regional Manager Jason Winters. “I quickly realized he’s an excellent manager with a great mind for business. I sent him to two different locations on the verge of closure, and he turned them both around within a matter of weeks. He single-handedly saved those stores.”
When Winters moved over to Impact RTO, he persuaded Ruiz-Perez to follow him. Following a year as a manager-in-training, Ruiz-Perez took over a struggling store and turned its collections program around – the first time of many he has swooped in to assist his company and his colleagues.
“Daniel helped a struggling fellow store manager with inventory and account management, turning her into a very solid manager,” Winters notes. “He spent a week in Georgia training and working alongside a team that sorely needed his help and leadership. And he has shared best practices with each and every store manager and assistant manager regionwide.
“Additionally, during the pandemic, Daniel has helped the whole region grow,” he continues, “through excellent inventory management and ordering processes that brought tons of new product into the region, which he shared liberally with his teammates – helping them sell and succeed by always having what customers wanted and transferring it to them every time.”
Naturally, Ruiz-Perez’s helper-self comes out in everyday interactions with his employees and customers, too.
“Our customers, we call them our family,” Ruiz-Perez said. “That’s what I tell people who come work for me – customers aren’t just people coming in to buy. Each customer is a person who has come to us looking for help because they’re going through something – even if they just need furniture to make their house look good so they can sell it. We need to be looking at them with a ‘How can I help you?’ attitude.”
When a customer named Kari came in to return a sofa that was almost paid off, Ruiz-Perez wondered why. It turned out, Kari’s sister had been killed in a car accident, and Kari was taking in her four nephews. She needed to turn in the sofa so that she could afford to rent mattresses for the boys.
“I told her, ‘Wait – don’t return anything yet. Give me a couple of days,’” remembers Ruiz-Perez. “I sent an email to [Impact RTO President] Shirin Kanji, and he provided us with the beds to give her. And he went extra – he had me buy pillows and blankets for them. The fact that he supported me like that in trying to help a customer, that’s a shout-out moment right there.”
“Daniel is an ideal team player and a great leader,” Impact RTO Vice President Paul Metivier says. “He is smart, hard-working, caring, and expects the best from people around him. He also has the world’s best laugh!”
“He is always the loudest and most expressive person in any group,” Winters concurs. “And his infectious laugh can be heard booming through any store he happens to be in. Daniel consistently shows that when you take care of your customers, do what you say you’re going to do, train and model the right way to do things, and hold everyone to high standards, you will succeed.”
In all his rent-to-own success, Ruiz-Perez still finds ways to put his nursing skills to work. He goes on annual mission trips with his church, working with HIV-positive patients; he was in Peru last year [pre-pandemic], and is in Mexico right now for a ten-day mission. And Ruiz-Perez learned one essential skill through nursing that he uses almost every day in his RTO work.
“Listening,” says Ruiz-Perez. “If you’re not willing to stop and listen to people, no matter how you’re feeling or what’s happening around you, you won’t be able to help anyone. To find a way to help someone, you just need to listen.”