The honest reality of entrepreneurship is that oftentimes you’ll think you have everything figured out and then some pitfall happens or something new that you have to overcome.” That is the sentiment that entrepreneur Rod Marchand, President and CEO of Marchand Retail Group, knows all too well and that’s why he is sharing it with us in his very first book which is aptly titled ‘Man [email protected]#K’.
“It’s supposed to be a very inspirational book,” Marchand said. “But it’s not just that. It’s a story of my journey and the things we have had to overcome along the way.”
Among those challenges include the near-death of a child and a major fire at their business—yeah, real-life stuff.
However, it’s not all tragedy in the book. Marchand lays out, in a very easy-to-consume manner, his path from an employee at his parent’s mom-and-pop electronics retail shop in Harvey, North Dakota to what is today, a much bigger operation.
Marchand and his wife bought the company in 1999 which, at the time, was housed in a 1,600-square foot location. Today, the Harvey location sits at 20,000 square feet.
We sat down with him to learn more.
What is the book about?
Despite what the title says, it’s not a vulgar book. However, the title is the sentiment that is the honest reality of entrepreneurship. As an entrepreneur, when things are going well and you think you have things figured out, that’s usually when some life event happens or you run into something new that you have to overcome. It’s a very inspirational book and it’s intended to be that way. But it’s a story of my journey. It’s a very open and honest book about the reality of life and what it takes to persevere and overcome and grow your business.
We are the second generation of our retail group which was founded by my parents as a little mom-and-pop electronic store that I grew up in. The book describes this whole journey. My wife and I bought the company in 1999 and we’ve grown it since then from a 1,600 square feet location to a now 20,000 square feet in small town, Harvey North Dakota, and we’ve been in multiple industries, but we mainly sell furniture, appliance, and floor coverings out of the Harvey location.
At one point, we got very heavily into the E-commerce platforms, specifically selling furniture on Amazon. We were doing great with that volume-wise, but couldn’t make any money because of all things being equal on the internet—the lowest price wins. Also at this time, around 2014, the bed box industry and major competitors like Casper, Ghost, etc. were really blowing up. We saw that consumers really liked the delivery method. It was convenient and easy to do. But we found that most of the products in the industry were imported from China. You could choose from five models that were already pre-designed and you just picked the one and slapped your own label on it. They were poor quality, had bad quality control and just a lot of issues. There really wasn’t anything that was a premium product. That gave me the idea to create my own mattress with a focus on health and wellness—to put a premium product in a box. We started Accord Comfort Sleep Systems with our own proprietary technology. The book is about our journey from the beginning to where we are at now with that.
So is the mattress part of things the majority of Marchand Retail Group now?
It’s really still kind of the minority of it. The business in Harvey is actually very large and successful and we go all over the state. We’re heavily invested in the commercial flooring business for schools and hospitals and things like that. But we intend on Accord becoming a significant part of the business. Our Fargo location just opened about 30 days ago and we intend for that to become our headquarters and flagship store. And we definitely didn’t accidentally pick Fargo. It’s a great market, a large market, a growing market. It’s a very entrepreneurial community and it’s very supportive. That’s kind of why we chose this market in North Dakota. Its primary purpose is so that we can bring franchisees in to see the corporate store and then franchise this mattress business model nationally and even internationally. We are talking to a group out of Toronto as we speak to potentially open up three stores in Canada as well.
So how is your mattress company different?
We offer all core comfort and sleep systems from foundations, bases, linens, pillows, mattresses and all sorts of bundles. It’s kind of a unique niche and market because these products are exclusively ours. You can’t find these anywhere else. We’re not selling our products in other stores.
My twin sons, Quincy and Spencer now have some equity stake in the business so we’re actually the third generation. My son Spencer is the CEO of the mattress company and he’s just going to be turning 25. This young guy is really heavily invested in the industry and the designing of these. All of the hybrid models that we launched recently were all his build, so it’s kind of neat that he’s my mattress designer so to speak.
It seems like your business has changed a lot over time.
Definitely—when my parents started the store, my dad had retired from the Navy and so he started as just an electronics dealership. Then we went from electronics to appliances and then we added furniture. And each time we expanded into an industry, we either moved a location or expanded. Floorcoverings were a big passion of mine. That was the kind of the first time my father and I partnered as a team. When we did that, it was the early 90s, when big box stores were crashing a lot of electronics margins. Everything was disposable. We got out of that industry. We got into window treatments and for a while. We have invested in and out of a lot of different industries.
What’s the purpose of the franchising model in your mind?
It’s more for just building the brand. However, we may want to open more corporate stores in Grand Forks or Bismarck, or even the Minneapolis area or Sioux Falls. But the beauty of franchising is that it’s not always our capital that we’re laying on the line. However, we would want to vet the franchisees very well because we want good business people and people that would be productive and do a good job. But it’s a really great way to grow quickly without such a heavy investment.
What’s been unique so far is that we’ve done this all on our own. We haven’t raised any outside capital or taken on any other investors. We’re kind of proud of that fact.
Another unique thing about us is that we’re really looking at the younger generation. Our beds fit in a very small box and can be taken home from the store in a Prius! We’re going a little bit more with the instant gratification concept. You can come in, try out the bed, and no kidding, take a king-sized mattress and put it in your Prius and drive home. We’re like the IKEA of mattresses.
What are you looking for in a franchisee?
The fee for entry is very low so it’s a great opportunity for someone who does really well at sales but can’t afford to open on their own. It’s a chance to own a very large business with a low cost of entry. However, we really want people who are going to represent the brand well.
What was your relationship like with the family business in your youth?
My relationship with my dad was tough. But of course, he’s from a different generation. I certainly don’t interact with my children in that same way. I got the loan to buy the business when I was 25 and it was kind of a “he’s gotta go or I gotta go” because we can’t work together very well.
I don’t think ruling with an iron fist and being a dictator or a multitasker is really that productive. I think it’s actually very restrictive to your ability to grow.
Have you always wanted to write a book?
Yes and no. That’s a funny part of the story.
I was at a resort in 2000. Right after we had bought the company and then expanded, it was growing so fast and we were undercapitalized. When we did it, we were having a lot of financial stress. And my good friend decided that we should go down to the Atlantis resort that just opened in the Bahamas.
The only reason we went is because my buddy went to school for Hotel Management and he ended up being the GM for that resort. So we got comped rooms, otherwise, I shouldn’t even financially have been down there.
While I was down there, I couldn’t think of anything but the trouble that’s going on back home. We decided to go out and see a comedian. This guy comes out, introduces himself and says, “I’ve been thinking about writing a book about my life. I’ll call it man, fuck.” It was hilarious. I said for years that I would write a book and title it that, but what really inspired me to do it was Kevin Harrington, one of the original sharks from Shark Tank. He reached out to us because we had such an innovative product. We went down and presented to him at a Shark Tank-style event in Florida where he’s living. He was giving a kind of motivational talk after the pitch and mentioned the importance of reading. I subscribe to that, I read a lot myself. And he said, “Has anybody here ever written a book? And if so, I’d love to read it.” At that moment, I decided I was going to start writing as soon as I got home.
Did you have any sort of hurdles in writing the book?
The only thing was during the editing process, they kept wanting me to make it longer. I struggled with this. I wanted it to be like talking to me. Very quick and to the point.