Q: Kindly give our readers an introduction to your business. Please include what your business is all about, in which city you are located and if you have offices in multiple locations/ cities.
A: Quality Inventory Services (QIS) is based in the Kansas City area, although for certain accounts we travel nationally with clients from Anchorage to Miami. We are a B2B provider of inventory counting services and the accompanying data collection used in modern inventory decisions.
While our origins are in retail inventories, our major speciality is in hospital pharmacy inventories. These are highly intense, detailed, data intensive inventories for which few companies in the US are qualified to count. Customers include some of the largest hospital systems in the U.S. And our custom software, highly trained long term staff and easy procedures for our customers give us an extremely loyal customer base.
Q: Kindly give us a brief description about yourself (it should include your brief educational or entrepreneurial background and list some of your major achievements).
A: Originally from Hannibal, MO, I received my BS in Marketing from Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield, MO. Also part of the US Naval Reserves during college, I went into the Navy for two years after graduation, during the Vietnam conflict. I then returned to SMSU (now Missouri State) and completed an MBA on the GI Bill.
Major achievements include being a founding member of NAAIS (North American Association of Inventory Services). Our company vice president is also Past President of ISN (Inventory Services Network), a software group dedicated to development of inventory software for the non-national services so we can compete on technology issues.
Q: What inspired you to (start a new business venture) or (to make significant changes in an existing business)? How did the idea for your business come about?
A: After working for a national inventory service I realized that accurate inventory was not particularly important to them and decided I could prosper by being the best in the business, and I believe we are. I honored my non-compete and then started QIS.
Q: What three pieces of advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
A: Never mix company money with personal money.
Count on needing three times the cash you thought you would for startup or expansion.
Watch the tax consequences of any decision.
Q: What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
A: Understand accounting so you can understand your own books.
Good people skills, both with customers and employees.
Know the history of your industry and be able to make educated guesses about where it is heading, because it will never just stand still.
Q: How many hours do you work a day on average?
A: Now, after nearly 40 years in business, probably 8-10 hours, but often seven days a week. In the early days it seemed like 24 hours a day.
Q: To what do you most attribute your success?
A: The discipline to just keeping moving forward. We’ve had some major hits to business over the last 40 years and bounced back, but sometimes it seemed like it was just my stubborn refusal to fail that kept us going.
Q: How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
A: Word of mouth has, by far, been the best marketing for us.
Q: Where did your organizations funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it? How did you obtain investors for your venture?
A: Mostly self funded and there are no other investors at the moment. There were times when I borrowed money against my home equity to cover payrolls during growth periods. Brings new meaning to “meeting a payroll”. Bank financing has been minimal and mainly for occasional large equipment purchases. And we keep a line of credit open with our main bank to cover cash flow swings.
Q: What is the best way to achieve long-term success?
A: Don’t ever coast. The times I’ve coasted, someone has always snuck up behind me to bite me in the you-know-what. Also, stay current with prevailing technology in your industry.
Q: Where you see yourself and your business in 5 – 10 years?
A: We’ll grow substantially, but incrementally so we never let the quality of our services suffer. Growth is great but if you give up your standards to get there you won’t be able to sleep at night. Is it really worth that?
Q: Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
A: Quik-Trip! That is one well oiled money making machine. They have systematized every single step they take so that the customer’s experience is always predictable and satisfying.
Q: How important have good employees been to your success?
A: Extremely important because the customers love seeing the same people on each inventory we take for them. It’s a security blanket for them.
Q: How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
A: I have so many off the wall ideas I’m used to having them shot down. The naysayer on my staff is quite good at that. However, the good ones keep coming back and I’m pretty persistent on those.
Q: What motivates you?
A: I am really proud that QIS has such a phenomenal reputation and will never get tired of hearing kudos from customers all the time.
Q: What are your ideals?
A: To be the best inventory service in the country, bar none. Not the biggest. The best.
Q: How do you generate new ideas?
A: See three questions up!
Q: How do you define success?
A: Continual kudos from customers. They are the built in revenue platform for future growth. If no current customers go away it makes it that much easier to expand.
Q: How do you build a successful customer base?
A: NEVER give them bad service or make them think you aren’t totally committed to getting it right.
Q: What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
A: The knowledge that we’ve grown something that is truly respected by all who know us.
Q: What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
A: When a major retail chain contact said they would put us up against any inventory service they had ever seen and we would still beat the pants off them in terms of quality of service.
Q: What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
A: Willingness to risk for a greater reward, both monetarily and spiritually. Employees like their paychecks and like contributing, but they don’t want to be the ones mortgaging their house to meet payroll.
Q: What kind of culture exists in your organization? How did you establish this tone and why did you institute this particular type of culture?
A: Always striving for the best means our employees are extremely proud of the work they do. That means a huge incentive to keep getting the positive feedback.
Q: In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.
A: Stressful, but worth it.
Q: If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
A: I was on the first WalMart inventory team EVER. I should have stayed in closer contact with them over the years.
Q: How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life?
A: In hindsight I was so consumed with starting QIS and keeping it going that I now know I didn’t not spend enough time with my family. People who are thinking about this path should go into it with a plan to live a balanced life.
Q: How did you decide on the location for your business?
A: After growing up in Hannibal and going to college in Springfield, then traveling the world with the Navy, I decided Kansas City was big enough, but not too big.
Q: Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
A: Enough stubbornness to make sure we reach our true goals.
Q: Who has been your greatest inspiration?
A: My older brother, Don. He was great at his chosen profession but had the right balance across all areas of his life.
Q: How can you prevent mistakes or do damage control?
A: I wish I could prevent mistakes, but obviously we are all human. We just admit our mistakes, fix them, learn from them and develop procedures, if possible, to keep them from happening again.
Q: What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
A: Hiking is a recently acquired hobby. And I’ve always been a tennis player. When my daughter was young we used to take “day-cations”, meaning short trips of 3-4 days in surrounding states. For a long time that was the longest I could leave the business.
Q: What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?
A: Lots: Irregular and long work hours, making it hard to have steady routine in my life. Lost lots of sleep with getting up at 2 a.m. to round up a crew somewhere.
Q: What if you choose to make memories and not make money!?
A: My wife and I did just that by heading off to US Peace Corps for 2.5 years when we were 53 and then emigrating to New Zealand in 1999. Yikes! It was an adventure!
Rattling around Kansas City in our comfort zones was not all that much fun or interesting. Boredom sucked for us! Here’s why:
Living in Western Russia
Buying a 36’ coastal sloop
Learning to Sail in Auckland, NZ
Cruising the S. Pacific
Returning to America: It was my wife’s turn to do and be where she wanted to live. We take turns living in different parts of the planet.
Sitting around and doing household projects; not our style. We both found jobs when we returned; Roxanna teaching and me driving a bus, teaching guitar and chess at a small school.
Planning for the future was an activity we ignored when we were younger. It was a bit stupid of us.
Playing tennis met John Boullear, owner of the company I now work for part-time. My job description is one of being the Business Development manager to help John grow his business.
Counting things is more complicated and interesting than I imagined. Lots of business’ need a 3rd party to verify balance sheet financial data for accountant or a company audit firm.
The process begins with find a company with sophisticated and complicated parts using in making a product of some type. Bankers lend money based on verified parts inventory counts. Verification or certification is what my company does by counting individual components in manufacturing company, food items in grocery stores, and drugs in hospital pharmacies.
Retail firms, supermarkets, manufacturing plants in order to determine their financial performance with accurate “cost of goods sold’ and “gross profit” computations that provide the accountants information used in order to determine respective profit center performance.
Part of our process assists companies to find theft either with employees or customers and which section of the store the pilferage occurs. Every retailer, accountant, banker and auditor knows shoplifting is expensive.
Another area of our business is counting heavy things such as bearings, washers, nut and bolts, gaskets, axels and other manufacturing parts.
Contact QIS to Schedule a Consultation:http://www.qiskc.com/#!contact/c24vq