Business (and Life) Lessons from a Husband and Wife Duo
When Steve and Kim Olson were working as managers at a mortgage company in Des Moines, one of their employees took a trip out of town. She came back gushing about a resale store she’d visited. She said she wished their town had a similar concept.
The store was Plato’s Closet®, and Steve and Kim remembered the name when the mortgage company let them go after 20-plus years of employment. As they searched for a new career, they wanted something that would support their family well into the future, and that’s exactly what they found.
Journey to Franchising
As Kim researched different franchise brands, she was looking for a concept that felt meaningful to her. After reading about the difference Plato’s Closet makes for the environment and the surrounding community, she knew she’d found a good fit. She had three teenagers at home, and they were constantly in need of stylish clothes at affordable prices, so she understood the concept’s appeal.
Steve and Kim opened their Plato’s Closet location in Des Moines in 2006. Their extensive experience managing people eased the transition into their new roles as business owners. They hired both of their daughters to work at the store and started teaching them about the business.
Know Your Strengths
From the start, Steve and Kim delegated tasks based on their strengths. Kim manages inventory and human resources, and Steve handles the finances.
“Everybody has different strengths, so it’s important to take advantage of that instead of stepping on each other’s toes,” Kim said.
When their two daughters, now adults, decided to help run the business, the Olsons split ownership of the company evenly among the four of them. One of their daughters was a theatre major and excels at customer service and building relationships. The other studied marketing and has a knack for sales. By focusing on each person’s strengths when dividing responsibilities, the family achieves more every day.
A Growing Operation
The Olsons opened their second franchise, a Style Encore®, in 2016. Both of their daughters were heavily involved in launching the second location. Eventually, their children will take over operations and make business decisions on their own. Steve is slowly transferring the financial responsibilities, and soon, he and Kim will no longer be involved in the stores’ day-to-day operations.
That decision doesn’t come lightly. During their first seven months of business, Kim worked open to close at the store every day. They didn’t hire a manager until they’d been open for seven years.
“We didn’t want to hand over any reigns until we were really confident that we knew all the ins and outs of the business, every single detail,” she said. “It wouldn’t be fair to expect someone else to run the store successfully if we couldn’t do it ourselves.”
The Olsons have big plans for their soon-to-be free time – but it’s not more vacations or rounds of golf. Both of their daughters were pregnant during the Style Encore grand opening, so they have two new babies to fawn over. As their daughters become more involved at the businesses, Steve and Kim will spend more time with their grandchildren.
“We want to help out with those new families,” Kim said. “That’s important to us.”
Overall, Steve and Kim believe they’ve learned valuable lessons by going into business together. They took a frustrating job loss and turned it into a family-wide success story. And they learned a lot about each other in the process.
“If you’re married to someone, you see them in certain scenarios. But when they’re also your business partner, you get to see them in a whole new light,” Steve said. “They have all these talents, all this knowledge that you would never have known about otherwise.”
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