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Picking Up Where Dad Left Off

RN: You’re a fourth-generation furniture store. Was this your destiny?

Jacob: I wouldn’t say it was a given I’d be part of the family business. I was always interested in business. Other than the perpetual dream of being a professional golfer I’ve been interested in business. It just so happens I went into the family business.

RN: Tell me about your first job at the store.

Jacob: I started out in one of our retail outlets’ office for collections. It was my job to call and remind people if they were late with their payments. We had a collections van that rotated from store to store and when it came to my store, of course it was my job to go out and collect. Collection isn’t like it is on TV. There’s no hiding in the bushes and it’s nothing like Airplane Repo. You knock on doors and just talk to people.

RN: What did that job teach you?

Jacob: It woke me up a little bit. It was tough seeing people who had unfortunate events come up in their lives. A lot of times it was a medical reason they couldn’t or didn’t pay their bill. I understand that and I can sympathize with them. But it didn’t take me long to realize that without that income our business doesn’t run and we have employees who have families to support.

RN: What’s the biggest lesson you learned from your father, Stuart Shevin?

Jacob: Dad was a good teacher. I’ve heard so many terrible family businesses stories, but my father always kept family and business separate. He showed me that running a business is not rocket science. It’s really easy if you do what you say you will do and treat people well.

RN: Were you ready to take over the business when he died?

Jacob: You’re never ready to take over a business no matter how much preparation you’ve had. It doesn’t mater if you’re taking over as the store manager or president of the company it’s hard. It was hard for me, but I had a great team of employees around me who made the transition easier than it could have been.

RN: You live in a football-crazy state torn between two schools. How do you please Alabama and Auburn customers alike?

Jacob: I went to Alabama, but I tell people my favorite color is green so we work it out. Our policy is to have fun with it with the customers if they look like they can have fun with it. We’re not going to say, “Roll, Tide” to an Auburn fan if it makes them mad. We’re not going to lose a sale over football.

RN: Look into the future and tell me where the home furnishings industry is going.

Jacob: I don’t think e-commerce is going to be the way everyone buys if the Marketplace Fairness Act forces online retailers to collect sales tax like the rest of us. When you have major purchase like furniture the sales tax becomes a big angle. But if everyone has to collect taxes now the playing field is level and I think people still want to see an item in a store.

RN: Where can the industry improve?

Jacob: We need to do a better job emphasizing the value of our products and not just think of what we sell as a commodity. When you look at the price points in our industry, they’ve always stayed the same or gone down. Why are we so scared to increase prices? Look at the automotive industry. You never see new models come out with lower prices. We need to be working with our sales staffs to add value—our whole industry could improve on this. I’ve only been doing this for nine years but I remember how much better trained the reps were compared to today. Buyers are having to do that job now as opposed to manufacturers. We need to change that.

RN: What do you get out of Next Gen?

Jacob: I’m concerned about young people making their way into the industry. I don’t see a lot of younger reps coming through my doors or young people applying for jobs with us. I think (Next Gen) is helping solve that. Before Next Gen I knew one person in the industry my age. I had a hard time getting excited about change. This group has shown me we’re not alone. There’s a lot of young talent in the industry and we’ve got some good ideas.

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