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Gearhead Outfitters’ Ted Herget on Winning Regional Customers Against National Online Retailers

3 min read

Ted Herget, who graduated from Arkansas State University with a degree in accounting, founded Gearhead Outfitters, a retailer of outdoor gear and apparel, in 1997. He has grown his business from its start in a friend’s living room to a retail chain now in two states and with 11 locations. Herget has participated in running and other athletic events ranging from sprints to ironman triathlons and 1-mile to 100-mile runs.

Ted Herget’s enthusiasm for running inspired Gearhead Outfitters’ 90-day online running program, Project 90, which will begin its fourth term this summer.

Gearhead Outfitters was an Arkansas Business of the Year winner last year in the 26-75 employees category. What’s changed at Gearhead in the past 12 months? What’s likely to change in the next 12 months?

We have opened four new locations in the last 12 months and now employ nearly 100 people in six cities. We have added a whole new element to our business with the opening of our first two Gearhead Outfitters Outlet stores. In the next 12 months we will relocate one of our current locations into a facility that is three times larger and will expand into the Springfield, Missouri, market. We are looking forward to creating more jobs and giving back to the communities we serve.

Your employees don’t have sales quotas, nor do they operate on commission. So just how do you motivate them, and why did you decide to do without quotas and commissions?

I treat my employees as business partners. We give everyone the opportunity to own their positions and create their own career path. It’s much easier for us to grow when there’s flexibility. We operate a flatter organizational structure without a centralized hierarchy. We want our focus to be on customer service, not sales goals. Our guests should get the same excellent service no matter how small or large their purchase is. Our internal motto is if you take care of the customer, the numbers take care of themselves.

Technology, particularly the Internet, has been a major disruptor to the retail industry. How has Gearhead evolved to meet those changes?

Every day we face new challenges and have to learn and adapt. Our focus has and always will be on customer service and offering our guests a great shopping experience. We try to embrace the technological advancements and use them to our advantage.

We can greatly enhance our customer experience by interacting with our audience in ways we haven’t been able to in the past. We are now able to meet our customers wherever they are and offer an extension of our in-store experience. We’re able to use our online platforms to learn more about our customers and listen to their feedback, suggestions and brand recommendations.

We also keep a small amount of our best-selling products on our website to better reach our regional customers and help drive customers back to our stores. We are committed to brick and mortar and the relationship it allows us to have with our guests.

What do you know now that you wish you knew starting out as an entrepreneur?

I didn’t realize the risk vs. reward and how much risk it takes. Starting out, I didn’t know the commitment level, time constraints, liabilities and exposure that come along with running a business. When we were a smaller business the mistakes I made weren’t as expensive. We are running a different business than we were 12 months ago. The mistakes are a lot more costly now. When the stakes are this high, we continue to be true to ourselves and do our best to always do the right thing.

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