How did it all begin?
BP: I started Performance in October 1989 at the same location where we are currently. I had been working in another local ski shop and realized there was a need for a shop on the south side of Orlando. A lot of the skiers who came to Orlando to train did not get done skiing until after the store I worked at was closed. I also felt like I had my own vision for how I could do things differently. The times, much like now, were not good to open a new business. A funny story was that when I was formulating a business plan, my mother enlisted the help of a friend who specialized in helping business development. She instructed him that his goal was to talk me out of starting my own business. I did such a good job explaining what I wanted to do and my business implementation strategy that he not only got behind my idea, but also helped me come up with the name and additional structure for starting my store. Apparently my mother was so upset she didn’t talk to him for years. Once she finally admitted this to me, it has made for some good laughs. From there I needed to get the right lines to get started. Herb O’Brien, Brian Gardner and Eddie Beverly of HO Sports at that time were instrumental in our success. They knew me from the work I’d done at the other store. I explained my dream to them, told them what I wanted to do, and Herb, as he seems to have done with a lot of people in our industry, believed in me and gave me the shot. Eddie then had to go to one of HO’s top dealers at the time here in Orlando, and tell them that they were going to open my store in South Orlando. This did not go over well, but it further motivated all of us not only to grow our business, but also to become the nation’s top dealer for HO and Hyperlite products over the next 10 years. I’m very proud of that. And I’m very grateful to Herb, Brian and Eddie for believing in my dream. Hopefully we all can agree it was a great business move on all our parts. I also made sure that with their new venture, Ronix and Radar, I was involved from the inception because of their loyalty to me and to Performance. My only condition was that I wanted to be “Dealer No. 1.” And I’m very proud to tell you that our customer number is 0001. And when we opened our new pro shop on Sand Lake Road in 2013, we dedicated the store to Herb’s memory as he was the first real believer in our business and what we could do!
What was it like in the early days?
When we started, our focus was to specialize in the best water-sports equipment and snowboard equipment in the world. I had one employee when I started, Clem Lisor. He was such a help to me. I would work seven days a week, and he would help in the afternoons and evenings. Another employee who has allowed us to be here today is Nancy Porter, my sister-in-law. My brother Jim realized that finances were not my strength and asked Nancy to help me out. With a degree in accounting from Duke and a work ethic like no other, she has been my voice of reason for the business and helps keep the store moving forward. Whenever I am approached by someone who is looking to get into any kind of business, the first thing I tell them is to make sure they have someone who will look out for the finances that you can trust implicitly. Nancy is this and so much more. From there I was blessed to come across some amazing staff members who cared about what they did, as well as improving the quality of people’s lives through our efforts. We work hard and try to offer excellence in customer service, both in the stores and through our online store. It’s truly a much more challenging world we live in today, but we remain true to our original goal – to offer our customers the best products with uncompromising customer service before, during and after the sale.
What have been the keys to success for your business?
Hard work, communication on many levels and commitment to excellence in what you do, along with developing quality relationships with quality people and companies. And ultimately treating people as you’d like to be treated. My parents and grandparents instilled in me a strong work ethic and sense of morals. I think I’m also humble enough to not let my past success go to my head. I see others in our industry who have success and they think they are above it all because they are successful. Things can change fast, though, and pride and humility in what you do must be balanced. I’ve worked hard to get to where I’m at, and I’ve made and make mistakes, but I try to work through them. I enjoy what I do, and I always feel that I can improve and evolve as a business. We have been fortunate enough to have some great companies and people to work with over the years. And as we move into the future, we are seeking partners in growth that share the same goals and vision for customer service we have.
How important are the knowledge and attitude of your salespeople?
It’s everything. I’m such a strong believer in offering great customer service. To do this you have to have the knowledge to speak about the products. Most of my staff are enthusiasts and may have a sector of the business in which they excel. However, we have such a diverse product mix that knowing about one sport isn’t enough, so we have to constantly work to improve our knowledge in all the products we sell. But remembering the basics is key – relationship selling is what separates my staff from a lot of stores. I preach to them that if they truly care about what they do, about improving the quality of customers’ lives on and off the water, they can make a difference.
With the growing importance of Web-based sales, where does the local pro shop fit into the new paradigm?
Wow, how many pages do you have? We’ve had to evolve our business to accommodate both. When I opened the store, my goal was to offer the best products and product knowledge with uncompromising customer service. We used to have people come to events and to the store to get new products simply because we were the first to get them, offered the best service and knowledge, and were committed to improving the quality of their time on and off the water. When Internet-based shopping started to take off, our goal was mainly to extend this pro shop experience, the products we sell and services we offer to our former customers through our online store at www.perfski.com. However in todays world, we must strive for a loftier goal and create consumer trust in our store, staff and the knowledge we can offer them to help ensure they make wise purchases online. We are going to work with our pro team athletes, the worlds best coaches and our existing staff to create this confidence. It will take time, but we are confident that our web based business will soon be the standard that others will look to.