Dorvin Lively is the newest member of Ace Hardware Corp.’s upper-echelon management team — the Ace CFO hired three years ago was promoted to executive VP in January 2011.
Lively talked to Home Channel News about the co-op’s role as a growth engine, and the independent retailer’s fastest routes to high performance. He offers a credible vantage point, and brings a background equally fluent in retail shelves and balance sheets.
Lively was a professional accounting fellow at the Financial Accounting Standards Board in the early 1990s. He later became a senior VP and corporate controller at Toys “R” Us before moving on to Maidenform Brands, and then to Ace Hardware in 2008. In addition to overseeing all financial-related activities of the Chicago-based co-op, Lively looks over retail operations, business technology, retail training and business development.
For independent hardware stores, there are no shortcuts to success, he believes. But there are fundamentals. The following represents some of his free advice along these lines.
On common denominators of a successful retailer:
“There’s not a cookie-cutter answer to what makes a store successful. But for the sake of argument, it always comes down to a few basics. You’ve got to have the right products in the store. You’ve got to have the right amount of inventory. And then you’ve got to have the right people who are willing and eager to serve your customer when they come in the door. You can almost say that that’s the price of entry, and then you begin to differentiate yourself from there.”
On the opportunity for business-to-business customers:
“We believe that in most situations a store owner should try to drive some level of b-to-b business. In almost every small town in America, schools, churches and even local municipalities — they all need hardware-related products; they need things we sell in our stores. It can be the local plumber, handyman guys. We believe that that’s a huge opportunity that in some cases our stores aren’t capturing. Now there are some that do, and they do very well. But this is a point we’ve really been emphasizing in the last year or two.”
On the Craftsman brand’s rollout at Ace stores:
“Last year, we negotiated with Sears to ha