BY GENE MARKS
Homage to Jim and Rich
Gene Marks, CPA, runs a 10-person technology consulting firm in Bala Cynwyd, Pa. His
latest book is In God We Trust, All Others Pay
Cash: Simple Lessons From Smart Business
I’ve lived in the same neighborhood out- side of Philadelphia for over 10 years now, and it’s time to pay homage to two penny-pinchers that really get it: Jim and Rich.
Are you thinking of starting your own business? Do you already own a small business
and wish you could be doing better? Forget about the experts and the pundits. Stop
reading the columns and the articles. Ignore
the advice from the talking heads and the
geniuses. The two guys to learn from are Jim
Jim owns Township Cleaners and Rich
owns a gas station/repair shop directly across
Montgomery Avenue called Wark’s Auto.
These are their real names. These are their
Neither of these guys are super-million-aires. They’re not building empires. They
don’t plan to take their companies public. I
don’t even know how profitable they are. But
trust me, they’re profitable. I’m sure, like the
rest of us, they both wish they could be making more money. I’m sure they’d like to retire
one day and sit on a beach. Are they happy? I
don’t know them well enough to say. But I do
know they’re realistic. They work hard. And
smart. And they show up every day.
And therein lies the first lesson for fledgling penny-pinchers.
Show up. Early. And stay late.
Township Cleaners and Wark’s Auto cater to people who need to drop off their dry
cleaning before their workday starts and fill
up their gas tanks on their way home from
a dinner meeting. These guys always seem
open. They start the day near dawn. They stay
open late. They’re open on the weekends.
And they always seem to be there. When I
bring in my shirts, Jim takes them from me.
When I pay for gas, I see Rich in the shop.
They keep a close, close eye on things. Maybe
they’re micro-managing too much, I don’t
know. But nothing seems to get by them.
They’re on top of every customer, every job.
They don’t seem to delegate a whole lot.
Which means that neither of them probably
has the skill set to manage a large group of
people. But that’s OK. They seem to know
their own limitations. So instead they manage
the hell out of their small group of employ-
ees. They roll up their sleeves and sew, press,
change valves and replace carburetors.
faces again and again at Township Cleaners and Wark’s. During this same time I’ve
managed technology projects at much larger
corporations and routinely dealt with a revolving door of employees who have come
and gone from these companies, whether at
will or involuntarily. But at Township Cleaners and Wark’s the people have pretty much
remained the same.
Are the benefits superior? Are their sala-ries higher? Probably not. It’s because these
people recognize a devoted, serious business
owner and have decided to hitch their wagons along with him. For better or worse. And
from what I can tell, it’s better.
Another thing I like about their business-
es? They bend over backwards for their cus-
tomers. First of all, they’re fast at what they
do. They value our time. Jim runs his little
dry cleaning shop like a machine. Rarely am
I in there for more than five minutes. I’ve
dropped off my car at all hours of the day for
Wark’s to repair and then come home to find
it has been delivered back to my house, keys
in the glove compartment. I ask Jim to put a
rush on a sport jacket and he says, “No prob-
lem.” My wife asks Rich if she can run over to
have a front headlight replaced and he says,
“No problem.” There are too many people in
this world who give us problems. Township
Cleaners and Wark’s are not among them.