There’s a new corporate headquarters in Wichita, and it has a familiar face at its helm.
“As I say to my people here: ‘Here we go again,’” says Bud Gates, who has a long history in the rent-to-own business.
Gates, was president of Rent-A-Center and eventually became chairman and CEO of Thorn Americas when it purchased the company.
More recently, he’s been the master franchisor for Canadian-based Easyhome. His Easygates also has operating agreements for 17 of the 50 Easyhome stores – including two in Wichita – in the United States.
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Now, Gates has purchased all of the U.S. division of the rent-to-own company.
“We are the business.”
Gates is adding about seven new positions in addition to the “fabulous group” of 10 employees he currently has. The new positions will be in areas such as finance, marketing, purchasing and operational support.
“We’re gearing up to provide all those things and be a full-service rent-to-own company,” Gates says.
Previously, his company offered franchise support while the company in Canada handled everything else. That company has started a new business called Easyfinancial, though, and Gates says it’s focusing its attention there and on its Canadian Easyhome operations.
“They really decided they were going to have to do one thing or another,” Gates says. “That made us and the U.S. operations kind of superfluous to their strategies.”
He first began working with Easyhome when it transitioned from being a Rent-A-Center franchise in the ’90s.
Gates left Thorn Americas in 1996 for what turned out to be a brief retirement.
“It didn’t go well.”
Thorn Americas sold its rent-to-own business in Canada to a Canadian company a couple of years later. A few years later, the Canadian company renamed the business Easyhome and enlisted Gates’ help to enter the United States market.
Until now, Gates has been the master franchisor for 36 states, and Easyhome in Canada had the 14 states closest to that country.
Now, Gates has the entire market.
“The first step we’ll do is reclaim the rest of this building,” Gates says of his 5,000-square-foot office at 1223 N. Rock Road in the Polo Club Office Park.
He had been subleasing space in part of the building, all of which he now needs.
Though he’s involved with day-to-day operations, Gates says he focuses on “more the big-picture stuff,” such as strategy, hiring, motivation and vision.
“We’ve got a great little business right now,” he says.
Gates says he plans to grow the company, but, “We’re not trying to pack stores into a trade area. I’d rather have half as many stores at twice the volume.”
He makes it clear he can handle plenty of growth, though.
“I’m used to running thousands of stores, so that doesn’t daunt me or the team,” he says. “I don’t see any reason why structurally it couldn’t grow to 500.”
Why stop there?