From left: Jeven Russell, Nathan Mindeman, Robert Lister and Darin Wray
SBJ file photo
From left: Jeven Russell, Nathan Mindeman, Robert Lister and Darin Wray

2020 Dynamic Dozen No. 1: Russell Cellular Inc.

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Russell Cellular operates over 620 Verizon Wireless stores spanning 37 states and Washington D.C. This is the company’s ninth time on the Dynamic Dozen list and third time taking the top spot.

Springfield Business Journal: What has been key to your recent growth?
Jeven Russell: 2019, specifically, was an anomaly of growth for us. Last year was our biggest year of growth from a sales performance, location, number of retail stores. We had about a 50% increase in location count last year. Navigating that and experiencing such a massive growth year, so much of that falls back into the core of our business. The employee experience is at the forefront of everything that we do. It’s our teams that continue to determine our success and our growth. Secondary is systems. Our company was founded on having solid systems, something that was duplicable as we have expanded and navigated our growing and evolving industry of wireless technologies.

SBJ: With 2019 being a banner year, what are the top issues when it comes to managing growth and how do you mitigate those issues?
Russell: It really comes down to our company’s culture. As we operate retail locations across the nation and find new opportunities, it comes down to making sure that we’re putting our people first and empowering them to take a sense of ownership in their business. A large amount of our growth came from two major acquisitions back in May and June of last year, onboarding around 70 locations with both of those. Adding 200 stores to our organization last year, 140 of those coming from two major acquisitions, there’s certainly some challenges that come on from merging systems and onboarding those team members. The best way that we’ve been able to navigate that is really leveraging our culture.

SBJ: Is the sky the limit for growth? Where is the tipping point?
Russell: Quite frankly, I think we’ve hit a part of our industry with some market saturation, but with anything, with technology, it is constantly evolving. We’re trying to mitigate what risks we might have. Our biggest liability is the inventory that we bring on hand and making sure that we are investing in right products and partnerships. We spend a lot of time making sure that we’re doing industry forecasts and trying to stay in tune with what’s next on the horizon. Naturally, being a cellphone company and selling devices, at a certain point in time everybody has a cellphone. We’re at that point today. As we get the opportunity to see new technology come into our industry and into our space, that allows us to continue to find new solutions, new products [and] new services. As our business stands today, there’s not a lot of growth opportunity within the world that we live in now and the products and services that we sell. It’s definitely less than what it’s been in the past. But I think what’s most important is forecasting – what will that look like in six months from now? A big component to our industry is the 5G technology rollout. There’s kind of a race of the carriers. We are partnered with the best carrier with the best network and is quickest to get their 5G technology rolled out. 5G is being called the next industrial revolution. Every piece of how our world operates can be impacted and enhanced with 5G technology.

SBJ: Russell Cellular moved into its new $6 million headquarters in Battlefield at the end of last year. What has that move allowed the company to do?
Russell: Part of that was just forecasting and determining where we think our growth path will look like and making sure that one, we’re setting ourselves up to have the right infrastructure. There were some immediate needs to move out of the facilities that we were in; we were spread across four different offices. To move everybody back under one roof, to really focus in and encourage collaboration and focusing in on the efficiencies of our business and how we can better support our retail sales organization, there were immediate benefits. We have increased and added more positions and created new opportunities in our community for new jobs. We want to be a company that people are proud to work for. This was a stake in the ground for us that we have been here and we will continue to be here to support the communities that we serve and really proud to be able to bring that to Battlefield and have a building that puts employee experience first.

SBJ: In 2020, we reported on three acquisitions for the company and you had, before coronavirus, predicted this year to bring in $650 million in revenue. What does the rest of the year hold?
Russell: If I look back at 2019 and the anomaly year of growth that we had, I wouldn’t expect that that is the case this year. We don’t have a number in mind and we’re not trying to grow our company for the sake of growing it. Navigating through this pandemic certainly changes everything. We’re running retail locations, and there is no doubt this has impacted our business from revenue and just changing our business model. We’ve seen a drastic decrease in revenue during this time. We’ll continue to focus our business around finding the right opportunities, serving our communities and taking care of our people first and foremost.