Brett Beveridge throws out a surprising statistic in presentations he gives to those interested in the retail industry. It is how, contrary to popular belief, only about 12 percent of consumer commerce happens online, with the vast majority still occurring in traditional stores.
Bricks-and-mortar retailing is alive and well, the CEO and founder of The Revenue Optimization Companies (T-ROC) is happy to report. And Beveridge would know: a huge part of his company and its proprietary digital tools are focused on helping companies do a better job of selling products in traditional stores.
Coral Gables, Florida-based T-ROC is a sales performance agency working largely in the US and Puerto Rico, providing custom training, merchandising, and inventory management to the likes of Sam’s Club, Apple, AT&T, Cricket, Dollar General, Walgreens, and many others. T-ROC has been recognized six times on the Inc. 5000list of fastest-growing companies—it employs six thousand full-time and twenty thousand contingent staff.
Given that the company was founded in 2000 and really hitting its stride about eight years later, it’s no stretch of the imagination to understand that as went the Great Recession—when retail sales dropped to their lowest point in thirty-five years—so too went most of T-ROC’s clients.
“It was a really tough time,” says Beveridge, whose firm had just rolled out a home improvement merchandising concept launch for the Home Depot in 2008. Occupying two thousand to four thousand square feet of floor space in stores in six states, the program was suddenly pulled. “That took us back to zero.”
But Beveridge is a believer and a survivor. “We asked, ‘what do retailers need to do now in a recession?’” The answer was to help them make the most of the traffic and markets they were serving. T-ROC survived, as did its clients, and they clawed their way back as the economy did the same.
To be clear, there are a sea of changes happening now in how retail sales are transacted. Part of the trend is for online-based companies to nonetheless establish a physical presence in the brick-and-mortar world. Amazon bought Whole Foods at the same time it set up what look like old-fashioned bookstores. Online clothing brands such as Bonobos offer “guideshops,” where customers are measured before ordering from a screen. Electronics retailers, including phone carriers, have dedicated stores or stores-within-stores in big box retailers. The distinctions between virtual and physical stores are becoming less and less clear.
“I absolutely am the guy high-fiving and having fun, and appreciate working where people are proud of what they do.”
Changes of this nature are in Beveridge’s blood, as is selling. He sold health club memberships in college and then, with a friend, he sold early versions of cell phones from a van in parking lots in the late 1980s. That business thrived, and they eventually established retail locations before selling the company to Sprint/Nextel.
From that experience, he came to understand that selling complex products requires special knowledge and skill, and that retailers could use outside help to finesse it. What has evolved are four companies—the Retail Outsource, Mobile Insight, the Consumer Insight, and SYMBITS—that each provide different types of services, operate under separate P&Ls, and all report to T-ROC, which handles financial management, start-up financing, legal, and other administrative functions.
Unlike some entrepreneurs who invent widgets that then require a business to sell them, Beveridge says he’s a businessperson largely driven by a will to succeed. But truthfully, given how he sells being good at selling, he’s not so different from the widget designers: he sells the thing he knows best.
Beveridge created something else that is essential to fast-growth companies, and that’s the T-ROC culture. “I absolutely am the guy high-fiving and having fun, and appreciate working where people are proud of what they do,” he says. That culture includes a core set of values—be entrepreneurial, work honestly and with integrity, embrace change and the learning that change requires, amaze your customers, and have fun—which come natural to him. “The company culture is my life values.” He believes it was critical to surviving the recession.
Twenty years into the business, Beveridge is confident he’s built a team of people who are as adept at selling and managing as him. He offers no distinct plans for exiting the business, but he is taking stock of what he’s learned and will share it in a book set for release in the first half of 2020: Do It Anyway. He writes about the whys and hows of pursuing entrepreneurial dreams.
“For people who are on the fence about starting a business, I say in the book, ‘go for it,’” Beveridge says. “They should know bad things will happen, but there are ways to survive it.”