In 1996, Don Tollefson opened his first Batteries Plus location in Citrus Heights, California. As with many family-run businesses, Don’s son Ryan began working at the store during high school. In between mopping the floors and stocking the shelves, Ryan became more involved in customer service and was eventually drawn to the technician side of the business. But, after college, Ryan’s entrepreneurial spirit would lead him on a different journey – a home automation business specializing in computer support and high-end home theater systems.
“After college, my dad and I decided to go into business together – but it wasn’t with Batteries Plus,” explained Ryan. “While our home automation business was moderately successful, we had to adjust our business goals when the housing market crisis hit. It was then that expanding our Batteries Plus business became our main priority.”
From there, Ryan and his father decided to put all their effort into Batteries Plus, and Ryan opened up their second store in 2010. While Ryan’s dad helped guide him as he built his location from the ground up, his father continued running their first store. As a result of their quick success, Ryan signed on for additional stores, but soon felt the stress of growing too quickly. By their fourth location, the two assumed it would be as busy as their first, and quickly learned they needed to refocus their efforts.
“We got way too big of a space for the area and staffed it as if we were going to have a really busy store,” said Ryan. “It took us about a year to really figure out what was going on and how we could refocus to get back on track.”
Creating the Perfect Team
Once they had gotten back on track, Ryan’s father decided to step out of day-to-day operations, and Ryan realized that the key to the success of their locations lay with hiring good store managers. Ryan took the time to develop staff internally, and thanks to his hard work, was able to promote a long-time employee to district manager in 2012. With this promotion, Ryan now no longer works in his stores, but makes sure to stop in regularly and check in with his team members.
“I’m doing a lot more work on labor and inventory models, working with my managers on how to best develop their teams,” explained Ryan. “I assign books for managers to read, and then also work on expansion plans and strategies for the future.”
Serving the Community Through Crisis
While Ryan had finally gotten his stores on track for success, 2020 quickly posed a challenge thanks to the impact of COVID-19. When the pandemic hit the United States in the middle of March, Ryan and his teams saw an immediate drop in tickets and sales – forcing Ryan to cut back shifts to ensure the safety and comfort of his employees.
“At one point, we were down 40 percent in sales, so that was definitely scary,” said Ryan. “Thankfully, we were deemed essential and got to stay open, and things slowly began to pick back up.”
By May, Ryan was able to get his locations back to operating full time – and began hiring again to ensure they could continue serving the community as needed. The pick-up in sales gave Ryan the inspiration to begin thinking about expanding his Batteries Plus portfolio thanks to better real estate deals. With an improvement in the weather, consumers were out using their boats, motorcycles and ATVs – and came right to Ryan for batteries.
Fortunately, Ryan and his team were ready and got right to work assisting their community members in any way they could.
“I think it’s been great for our staff where they get to feel the satisfaction of fixing someone’s problem,” explained Ryan. “They aren’t world-changing problems, but it provides satisfaction to our employees when they’re able to help their customers out.”
As the pandemic continues to impact the way Americans live their lives, Ryan and his team are continuing to support their communities. While Ryan’s journey to becoming a Batteries Plus franchisee began over 20 years ago, today with his six locations across California, he continues to power communities across the Golden State.
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