Scott Alomes says that the most alluring part of taking his job at pawnshop magnate EZCorp was that the company was facing a really difficult time, which was significantly impacting the share price, reducing morale, and had no clear strategic direction—a strange indicator of a must-have job. “This great company was going through an unbelievably difficult couple of years, and our CEO really needed someone he had a relationship with and could trust,” Alomes says.
Though he had absolutely no prior pawn experience, Alomes had cultivated a reputation as “roll your sleeves up and get it done” master in the banking and finance world, having managed successful company comebacks both in Australia and the UK. The now CHRO at EZCorp says, frankly, that if there hadn’t been a problem, he wouldn’t have been interested in the job. Four years into the turnaround with successful metrics on virtually every level, Alomes is able to take stock of EZCorp’s successful refocus on its core businesses and getting its organizational eye back on the ball.
Alomes says he’s not entirely sure how he got into the business of turnarounds, but he saw coming to EZCorp as a win-win-win proposition. “I was excited to come to the States to work in the biggest economy in the world,” Alomes says. “This was a distressed asset, so I saw the only direction we could go as up.”
The CHRO understands his response may seem flippant, but the due diligence he had done on EZCorp let him know that the company’s remarkable growth and story wouldn’t stop simply because of some poor investments and need for organizational change. “From a personal development point of view, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make a difference and really help change a lot of lives of people for the better,” Alomes says. “I’m old and crabby, so I just looked at it as a very unique opportunity with absolutely no downside.”
Refocusing required a number of concurrent initiatives and projects. “We knew we absolutely had to build a new strategy in order to move the business forward, and we had to do it passionately,” Alomes says. Part of that strategy included working to identify talent and what the company needed in order to move forward. “This is absolutely 100 percent a people business, and they are your only competitive advantage; if you don’t have that focus, you’re not going to get anywhere,” Alomes says.
It also meant working to differentiate EZCorp’s publicly traded presence in the pawn industry from the other ten thousand storefronts that are able to operate without organizational oversight. “I’m not sure that people understand just how regulated our industry is,” Alomes says. “From a brand reputation standpoint, we want our customers to know that this is a safe, integrity-based business.” That brand reputation leads to attraction of both customers and retention of high-caliber talent.
“You need to understand your people and in being transparent with them, they also need to feel that they can be transparent with you. It’s not a one-sided conversation.”
In realigning strategy and scope, Alomes says redefining the values of EZCorp was also essential. Service, accountability, and empathy now serve as company-wide pillars that Alomes says were created in response to engagement surveys.
Alomes says that authentic leadership has been absolutely paramount in his role. “I don’t want to sound like a flower child, but it’s really just about being real,” Alomes says. “You need to understand your people and in being transparent with them, they also need to feel that they can be transparent with you. It’s not a one-sided conversation.”
That transparency is part of a much larger conversation, literally. “Bottom line: you have got to be communicating all the time,” Alomes says. “In helping make everyone accountable and own their roles, there always needs to be a conversation happening; those lines need to be open.”
Tweaking organizational processes has also led to significant growth at EZCorp. From leadership development to creating career structures, small improvements have allowed huge gains.
As EZCorp’s successful turnaround continues, the company is focused on a number of digital projects looking toward the future. “There will always be a need for storefronts in our business but relying on that traditional model is not going to sustain us as we move ahead,” Alomes says. “What are the digital platforms available to us and how do we make it easier for customers to avail our services?” The CHRO says the traditional pawn market is a stable and strong business but digitally diversifying offers its customers so many more options. It isn’t just a good idea; it’s a must.
The signs are there: share prices are up, HR scores are moving to a level that Alomes deems “world class,” 80 percent of promotions are internal, and attrition rates are down. “This sounds piecemeal, but these are the significant indicators that we are moving in the right direction,” Alomes says. Crabby though he claims to be, Alomes seems to be quite happy with EZCorp’s rebound.