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May 8, 2023

Gina Schaefer Reveals Nuts On Bolts Strategies On Building A Business And Changing Lives (#227)

Gina Schaefer Reveals Nuts On Bolts Strategies On Building A Business And Changing Lives (#227)
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"When you’re the underdog figure out to use this to your advantage." - Gina Schaefer

Gina Schaefer is the founder and CEO of over a dozen hardware stores in Washington, DC, Baltimore, MD, and the surrounding areas. As a member of the Ace Hardware Cooperative, Gina leads a multimillion-dollar business that employs more than 250 people. She is dedicated to maintaining a strong corporate culture and has begun a transfer of ownership through an ESOP to her teammates. Schaefer’s big passion is for developing urban markets, supporting small businesses, and helping women to succeed in all aspects of the hardware industry.

She has tirelessly focused on national efforts to increase the federal minimum wage and to pass legislation to strengthen antitrust and monopoly laws.

Always striving to be creative, think differently, and make a difference, Gina received the Women Who Mean Business award from the Washington Business Journal and the Top Women in Hardware & Building Supply award. She has been recognized as an industry Top Gun by the National Retail Hardware Association, honored by Profiles in Diversity Journal as one of its Women Worth Watching, and recognized by Hardware and Building Supply Dealer as one of 2016’s People of the Year.

Gina serves on the Corporate Board of CCA Global and the nonprofit board of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, and she previously served as a member of Ace Hardware Corporation Board of Directors and on the nonprofit boards of House of Ruth and Think Local First DC.

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Your liquidity event is the most important financial transaction of your life. You have one chance to get it right, and you better make it count. 

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Enjoy the interview!


[00:00:00] Jeffrey Feldberg: Welcome to the Deep Wealth Podcast where you learn how to extract your business and personal Deep Wealth. 

I'm your host Jeffrey Feldberg. 

This podcast is brought to you by Deep Wealth and the 90-day Deep Wealth Experience. 

When it comes to your business deep wealth, your exit or liquidity event is the most important financial decision of your life. 

But unfortunately, up to 90% of liquidity events fail. Think about all that time and your hard earned money wasted. 

Of the quote unquote "successful" liquidity events, most business owners leave 50% to over 100% of the deal value in the buyer's pocket and don't even know it. 

I should know. I said "no" to a seven-figure offer. And "yes" to mastering the art and the science of a liquidity event. [00:01:00] Two years later, I said "yes" to a different buyer with a nine figure deal. 

Are you thinking about an exit or liquidity event? 

Don't become a statistic and make the fatal mistake of believing the skills that built your business are the same ones to sell it. 

After all, how can you master something you've never done before? 

Let the 90-day Deep Wealth Experience and the 9-step roadmap of preparation help you capture the best deal instead of any deal. 

At the end of this episode, take a moment and hear from business owners like you, who went through the Deep Wealth Experience. 

Gina Schaefer is the Founder and CEO of over a dozen hardware stores in Washington, DC, Baltimore, Maryland and the surrounding areas as a member of the ACE Hardware Co-operative. Gina leads a multimillion dollar business that employs more than 250 people. She is dedicated to maintaining a strong corporate culture and has begun a transfer of [00:02:00] ownership through an ESOP to her teammates. Schaefer's big passion is for developing urban markets, supporting small businesses, and helping women to succeed in all aspects of the hardware industry. 

She has tirelessly focused on national efforts to increase the federal minimum wage and to pass legislation to strengthen antitrust and monopoly laws. Always striving to be creative, think differently and make a difference Gina received the Women Who Mean Business Award from the Washington Business Journal and the Top Women in Hardware and Building Supply Award. She's been recognized as an industry Top Gun by the National Retail Hardware Association, honored by Profits and Diversity Journal as one of its women worth watching and recognized by Hardware And Building Supply Dealer as one of 20 sixteens People of the Year. Gina serves on the corporate board of CCA Global and the nonprofit board of the institute for Local Self-reliance. And she previously served as a member of ACE [00:03:00] Hardware Corporation Board of Directors. And on the nonprofit boards of House of Ruth and Think Local First DC. 

Welcome to the Deep Wealth Podcast, and as usual, we have an epic episode lined up for you. We have a fellow business owner, a thought leader, an author, a person who's paying it forward, a person who's making a difference. And you're gonna walk away with a whole number of new insights and strategies. You're gonna be feeling good. How about that? But I'm gonna stop right there. Gina, welcome to the Deep Wealth Podcast, an absolute delight to have you with us.

And Gina, there's always a story behind this story. What's your story, Gina? What got you to where you are today?

[00:03:39] Gina Schaefer: Well, Thank you first of all for having me. I really appreciate the opportunity. I am a hardware retailer. I sell nuts and bolts for a living. And the backstory, the funny sort of trajectory is from software to hardware. I left college and through a winding road ended up in the software industry.

I kept getting laid off. It was during the mid nineties, the boom and bust of the tech era then, and [00:04:00] I moved to a neighborhood that needed a hardware store.

[00:04:02] Jeffrey Feldberg: Wow. And so you found a need and you filled it.

[00:04:06] Gina Schaefer: Logan Circle had been destroyed by the riots when Martin Luther King was assassinated. It's a beautiful neighborhood in the middle of Washington DC. I moved here because I could afford it. I was young and didn't have a lot of money in my pocket, and I bought a place here and got very involved with the community.

And they wanted a hardware store. We wanted a hardware store.

[00:04:23] Jeffrey Feldberg: And you know, Gina, we're gonna go through this wonderful book that you've put together. The title, very much linked to what you're doing, Recovery Hardware: A Nuts and Bolt Story about Building a Business, Restoring a Community, and Renovating Lives. But before we do that, I know you mentioned offline, and this is really our wheelhouse here at Deep wealth, you're gonna be having a liquidity event or an Exit for yourself. It's gonna be with the employees that are gonna be stepping up to the plate to do that. But I wonder, as you look back to the business and your input as an owner all the years, what have you taken away as a business owner who's been involved in the community?

[00:05:00] How has that changed you? I'm just curious from yourself running the business.

[00:05:04] Gina Schaefer: Well, I think, I mean, I can answer this in a variety of ways, but I am really passionate about Main Streets and it doesn't matter if the Main Street is in a small rural town or if it's in the middle of a large city. And I think the thing that I have, probably the voice that I have grown the most over the last 20 years our business will be 20 years old in March is that, Main streets need a voice. They need small businesses like mine and a lot of my neighboring businesses and the communities are stronger and better off when that main street is strong. And so, I think the wiser I feel like I've gotten in my older years the more impactful the more serious that seems in my head.

[00:05:40] Jeffrey Feldberg: And so with that to the book. When did you know you were gonna write the book? Because let's face it, as business owners, were all there running the business, whether it's in hardware, in terms of a store of what you're doing or you're running a SaaS company, whatever it is, it doesn't really matter. It's always busy.

There's always something to be [00:06:00] doing. And writing a book isn't necessarily at the top of the list. So, did you wake up one morning and say, I'm gonna do this, or what's the story behind the story on the book?

[00:06:08] Gina Schaefer: Well, not only is it never at the top of the list, but it also takes a really long time, and I never expected to have an attention span to be able to take two and a half years to document something. People had asked me for years to write a book, which I don't think is that unusual for entrepreneurs, but I kept thinking, I only run a hardware store or 12 hardware stores.

Why would I write a book about that? What could the ankle be? And we've been very fortunate to share a block with a recovery program. The Women Walker Addiction Services program is part of the Whitman Walker Healthcare program. And we almost by accident, started hiring folks from the recovery program and 12 or 13 years in, one of those teammates who's been on my team now for 19 years said, the community has nicknamed us Recovery Hardware.

 I still get chills when I say it out loud cause you can't give yourself a nickname. You certainly can't give yourself a nickname as lovely as that. And so, the second he said that to me, I thought, gosh, if I ever do write a book, that's gonna be the title. I used to joke. It would be from [00:07:00] software of a hardware.

Cause that was my trajectory. But recovery here, hardware was so much more impactful.

[00:07:04] Jeffrey Feldberg: And Gina, now that you're talking, I remember when I started reading your book and even before I got into the book, there was a quote, which I'm gonna read for the listeners. It stopped me in my tracks. And as I'm getting to know you, as you're talking, it's all starting to come together and make sense. So, for the listeners, the quote is, I always wondered why someone doesn't do something about that.

Then I realized that I was somebody and is attributed to unknown. What a powerful quote, and it really set things up for the book, and is that something that you live your life by in regards to that quote, obviously resonates with you?

[00:07:38] Gina Schaefer: It is. I've had some touch tone quotes throughout my life, most of them having to do with being original and making sure that my stores weren't cookie cutter. And then I read this one a couple years ago and it really resonated with me. We all have the ability to do something. We don't have to you know, save the world or do the really big things that need to happen, but we can make an impact in our community and in our team's life for me [00:08:00] every single day with something small. 

And that's why that, that's actually the page that I signed. Someone asked me to sign the book. That's the page that I signed because I want my readers to know that they also are somebody and can do something.

[00:08:11] Jeffrey Feldberg: Oh, that's terrific and I love that insight. And let me ask you this, I'm gonna jump around and I'm gonna go right to chapter 10 because it's, firstly, it's saddled you better than you think you are. You're better than you think you are. And I know for most business owners, even myself included, ran a business.

Sold. It was very successful with that. But there are times with that imposter syndrome, or as business owners, entrepreneurs as founders, we doubt ourselves. So, for our listeners, as they're listening into this and you're sharing your wisdom and you've been around the block or two with what you've done and what you've seen, so, what's going on with Chapter 10? You're better than you think you are.

[00:08:47] Gina Schaefer: Can I tell a quick story that didn't make it into the book?.

[00:08:49] Jeffrey Feldberg: I would love that. Yes.

[00:08:50] Gina Schaefer: I think this relates, I mean, it's perfect and this would've been the chapter, but when I would fly in and out of Chicago, out of O'Hare, there's a piece of that airport where they practice setting the airplanes on fire and they put [00:09:00] them out and it's practice.

And they probably do this at airports all around the country. And I would leave meetings and I would see that, I swear every single time I left these meetings, I would see that exercise happening, and I always felt like it was emblematic. It was my imposter syndrome. Did I do well? What am I doing? My whole career in life, were going up in flames.

And it finally occurred to me, it took years for me to really have the epiphany that the flames were not the important part of the exercise. The practice and the repetition was, and so, for me in that chapter, writing it, it was learning about one, each step. That got me to finding my voice, to becoming a better board member, to becoming a better leader.

And it takes practice. We can't just do it once and be great at it. So, I love that the visual to me is very important.

[00:09:43] Jeffrey Feldberg: Yeah, I can just see that and it's you know what the next book, part two. And listen never say never so from that story to just really believing in ourselves. And I'm sure over the years, as you were mentioning earlier, things [00:10:00] just came up and you had to go within and keep on moving forward, and it's a new day. What would be some takeaways on that topic for our listeners that you've seen or that's really helped others in your life? In the business?

[00:10:10] Gina Schaefer: Well, I think one of the things that I've done the most is just ask a lot of questions. I know that seems really silly, but I think as leaders we feel like we have to have all the answers, or at least we have to look like we have all the answers. I opened my first hardware store in 2003. I was 30 years old, which is not super young, but I didn't know anything about hardware.

I had never run a retail business. It's a very male dominated field. I didn't know anything. And so, if I was going to fake it until I could make it. I had to figure out how I was gonna do that, and for me it was just being very transparent about what I didn't know. And so one of the biggest lessons I've learned then is ask a lot of questions.

And I always, every time I have a conversation, particularly with younger women who are coming up in some sort of field that they're feeling a little bit as of an outsider, I say, just ask the questions. You never know what you're gonna learn, who you're gonna meet. What a light bulb that's gonna [00:11:00] set off. Yeah, it seems a little silly and simple when I say it out loud, but it's really made all the difference. I think for me, being in an industry I knew nothing about.

[00:11:07] Jeffrey Feldberg: And not only an industry that you are new to, Gina, you're in an industry that's dominated by big box stores, by the time when you entered, by the time you started. They were already there on the scene doing that. And my goodness, how, and you're still here today, that's not an accident.

Success is not an accident. You have these multi-billion dollar entities that you're competing against who have the budgets, the people power, the distribution, everything. You name it, they have that. And you're here today. What's going on with that? How'd you do that?

[00:11:38] Gina Schaefer: Gosh, now I'm more afraid of my competition today, I think well, as you know, I'm a member of the ACE Hardware Cooperative so a lot of people don't know that ACE is a purchasing co-op. There are no national franchises for hardware store owners. We either buy from a wholesaler or a cooperative or some combination of the two.

And I think from the very beginning and you know, if you've read the book, we had a little bit of a challenging start, rocky start that [00:12:00] partner for me has been incredible. They have the, it's not anywhere near a marketing budget or training, an advertising budget that a Home Depot or Lowe's example.

But they have a much bigger budget than little Gina Shafer in Washington DC has and so, there are about 5,000 independent ACE stores around the country. We get to lean on our cooperative partner to help elevate our visibility on television, on radio and SEO search. And then all of the back office support that they provide with in terms of training employees and getting better pricing from our vendors.

I could never do that without them. They're my secret sauce. And then when you layer on top of that, just a really good culture in the group that I've created with my team in just a wonderful city that really supports local businesses, 

[00:12:48] Jeffrey Feldberg: And there's a terrific takeaway, therefore, listeners of no one is an island and to him or herself, and yes, it's your store and you're managing and obviously running that you have your blood, sweat, and [00:13:00] tears as the saying goes in it, but you also have the benefit behind you of a group, an organization who's helping you do that.

And you know, with that though I don't think the group gave you this insight. And I wanna go now to chapter number four, and there's two things in it, so,, firstly the title of the chapter, but then also I wanna pull into a quote because you brought the two together really nicely. So, chapter four, don't give up five minutes before a miracle.

And that in and of itself is a whole topic. But then you said something interesting and you were talking about Shane, which I'm gonna stop there. I'm not gonna go into the whole story. But you said you don't have to go to your way to hire someone. You just have to remove the obstacles to their employment.

So, why don't we start there with that quote, and then let's go into the actual chapter itself, because that's really an, a very interesting way of looking at hiring and getting the most out of people. So, what's going on with that? What's been your experience?

[00:13:51] Gina Schaefer: Well Two things. So, Shane was the quote, The miracle, don't give up five minutes for the miracle. And the whole point, and it was a really good lesson for me, is that everybody I think [00:14:00] he thinks is just on their way, they're just about to do something amazing or something that might change their life or something that might make them a bigger, better person or a safer in their own environment.

Whatever it is. And you know, Shane was in recovery and so this was a big deal for him. He did not want me to give up on him. He did not want me to see him as someone who was struggling with addiction. He wanted me to see him as somebody who was on his way to that next step. And it might take five minutes to get to that next step.

So, that's why that quote is so important. And then going out of our way for someone to get a job, going out their way. When we opened so my husband is my business partner, he joined me about three months after we opened so it's, we, I'm certainly not the only person in this business.

We banned the box that required an employee tell us if they were a fellon. And that was not a legal requirement at the time that we banned the box we just did long before it became a bigger deal in the country. We didn't think it was any of our business what people's pasts were like. We wanted to know how they were gonna perform in the future as an employee in a hardware store.

And so we have as a country, made it [00:15:00] very difficult in so many ways for people to get a job. They have to tell us if they were in jail or if they were in prison, or there are such speculations when there's a hole in someone's resume. You could be a single mom that had to leave the workforce to take care of your children for several years, and that eventually comes back to haunt them.

When people wonder why there's this chunk of time when they weren't working so we wanted to make sure that we weren't causing more challenges for people who were trying to get a job. 

[00:15:26] Jeffrey Feldberg: Wow. And you know, interesting with that, just from a quick aside, really, as business owners, we're the change makers, as I like to say. We make the world go round. We find a problem, a painful problem, we solve it. We create jobs. We really make a difference, and we not only change the lives of our customers.

When done right, and it sounds like you're doing it All right, Gina. We can also change the lives of our set of employees, our team members as we like to call them at Deep Wealth, and really have them reach their destiny and So, for other business owners that are listening into this and they're saying, Gina, wow, you're really taking a chance.

You're hiring people with a [00:16:00] quote-unquote questionable past at best, who not to judge a book by its cover. But it's hard not to judge a book by its cover, particularly with social programming and the society that we live in. How do you sleep at night? How have you been successful doing this over the years?

What would you say to that listener who's thinking that?

[00:16:18] Gina Schaefer: I love this question first of all. So there is a chapter or a quote in the book, you can't judge everyone by the best or worst thing they've ever done. And we truly believe that here, one of the very first, you know, retail is rife with shoplifting and theft of all manners. And one of the very first times that we were being stolen from was an employee that we hired who was middle class from the Midwest with a college education and his parents owned a business.

If you looked at him on paper, he was the perfect person. He was articulate, he was educated, he was confident. Nobody would talk to me and say, oh my gosh, why would you give him a job?

[00:16:54] Jeffrey Feldberg: Sure.

[00:16:55] Gina Schaefer: And he stole $3,000 from us before we caught him. Next to him, who started almost at the exact same [00:17:00] time, was a man who was on house arrests as a drug dealer. Everybody said, what is wrong with you? Why would you give him a job? He ended up working with me and running my busiest business for 11 years, taking it from very small to almost triple the revenue.

Nobody thought that it was weird that I hired the kid who had gone to college, whose parents owned a business and so it was a very good lesson for me early on, and when people say, how do you trust so, and so, why would you have hired so, and so? I immediately, if I have the opportunity, tell 'em the story of that kid because I think that we are very quick to put blinders or pockets of stereotypes on people without thinking about people say to me, for example how many people in recovery have you fired?

Are you also gonna ask me how many people I've fired who weren't in recovery? Cause let me tell you, there's plenty

[00:17:47] Jeffrey Feldberg: Sure. And Gina, I'm wondering because as of this recording, timing wise in the marketplace right now, it's really an employee's market where they can choose and pick and [00:18:00] call the shots. It's not really an employer's market and so, when it's expensive to find people and when finding good people is more challenging than it ever has been for.

What would you tell the business owners listening in terms of giving that chance, maybe to someone on paper who doesn't have that education that you're looking for, or has this questionable background, or they were in trouble with the law. What's been your overall experience that you can pass along to someone who's saying, oh, you know, they don't really check all the boxes.

We have this very tight criteria and we've got this and that, and this is how we've always done it before, and why change that now we'll just suffer through this and we'll just find the right kind of person that we're looking for. Who does check all the boxes? What can you add to that narrative?

[00:18:42] Gina Schaefer: Clearly you've heard all of the excuses because you, ,you just articulated all of them. I tell folks that they need to do a couple things. One, they need to show up their culture. They need to figure out where there are holes in their culture. And as CEOs, we aren't always the best people to figure that out.

 It might be hiring an outside board, hiring a business coach, doing some. [00:19:00] you know, Internal case studies, figuring out where the holes in your culture are that are not allowing these things to happen. The same thing happens with gender equality or inequality. And a lot of times, leaders would say we didn't know or we didn't notice.

Why not? Who weren't you asking? And so, I think we really as business owners, leaders, have to think about what our culture is, who we're attracting and why. And then I wouldn't specifically say to everybody, Hey, go out and change all of your rules and hire from one particular population, but think about who in your community.

Might be on the outside or might be considered other in your hiring population. The Harvard Business Review did a fantastic study. It's been several years ago, but I remember serving on a corporate board and we were having a very hard time attracting women, and the criteria was they had to be in the C-suite.

The Harvard Business Journal and those of us who, were logical about it, thought gosh, women historically have not been in the C-suite so we're looking in a, a micro pile we're never gonna find and so their advice was [00:20:00] expand the sandbox. Figure out where outside of that C-suite, somebody that's perhaps at a high level in a university, they're not gonna have a C level title, but on and on and so you can see where it comes to anyone hiring at any level can think about. How that criteria might be tweaked a little bit. If you're trying to do something like we have, maybe there are veterans in your community who are part of an underemployed population. Maybe there are single moms part of an underemployed population.

Maybe there are folks with some sort of physical disability. There are all sorts of groups that have been marginalized from the workforce based on some of these criteria that you don't have to just run out to a local recovery clinic and figure out how to partner with them to increase your workforce.

People wanna work in really supportive places. They wanna bring their whole being to work and so that's what we try to do here. We try to say, if Jeffrey, if this is all Jeffrey's being, we want him to come to work and be able to talk about it, celebrate it, be supported because of it and not hide it.

[00:20:59] Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:21:00] Sure, and with you focusing really on the recovery community and really making a difference with them. Whether it's a recovery community or it's another type of community that a business owner is gonna give a chance to people who probably aren't gonna get the chance if we're open about it by most businesses.

And also if you take a step back employment, that's really the identity for so many people. How many times in a social situation you've met someone and within the first 60 seconds of meeting that person, Hey, tell me what you. Where do you work? What's keeping you busy? It's so important to us.

So, I'm wondering, when you began to hire people and from the Whitman Center and in the recovery community, did ward begin to get out and you really established yourself in there? Did it give you some kind of I hate to use the word competitive edge, but did you become really, hey, if you're looking for something and you're a good person, speak to Gina.

She will look beyond the obvious things, and if you're a good person, maybe you'll have a crack at something. How did that pan out for you.

[00:21:56] Gina Schaefer: Yeah. It was all very organic. We never set out to do this on purpose. And you [00:22:00] mentioned Shane earlier in the conversation. Shane left. He got very mad at me one day and he left no spoiler alerts for the book. But we laugh about that whole incident in hindsight. But he left and started telling everybody in his recovery meetings that they should come talk to that lady at the hardware store, I'm air quoting that lady, cuz I think it's cute that he called me that.

And so the word spread that way he really knew that we were a safe harbor in so many ways that we weren't passing judgment on some of the experiences that our teammates had in their past. And even though he needed to work on some things and wasn't gonna stay employed with us, he thought everybody else should be. We have their folks to this day who work with us who came from that very beginning as a direct relation, a direct line from Shane who are still here.

[00:22:40] Jeffrey Feldberg: And really when you think about it, and I look to employees and future employees and team members, they're really like a stakeholder and they tend to get overlooked so just as we're prospecting for clients and we have a whole marketing campaign and we're making outreaches and we're keeping in touch with them, why not do the same thing for future team members?

[00:22:57] Gina Schaefer: So true, really. That's why [00:23:00] selling the business to our team through the ESOP has been so, much fun and so validating for us for that very reason. No one builds a retail business this big on their own. I am not helping customers day in and day out. I need all 260 folks on the floor doing that.

And if they can own it and make it even better and make it even stronger against the competition we face, then we're gonna give that a shot.

[00:23:21] Jeffrey Feldberg: Absolutely. And Gina, this is a terrific segue to chapter 11 and for the listener, you can control the wind, but you can adjust your sales. And so being in retail, having gone through the pandemic, Gina, you would be right there, front and center. You're in the cross hairs of what just transpired.

And so now you've been through that, you can look back. What would you share with the listener, both about chapter 11 as well as any personal insights that you've gleaned over the years?

[00:23:49] Gina Schaefer: I think that chapter was really about, it was about chances. It was about change. It was about overcoming, you know, Captain John overcame a lot of adversity and realized that he could change [00:24:00] the direction of his life. And for him it was because he was willing to ask for it. He wasn't afraid to say, this is where I want my life to go.

Will you come there with me? 

And I wasn't afraid to say yes. My husband and I were not afraid to say yes. And so I think, the real lesson there is it doesn't matter how old we are, it doesn't matter what we've experienced in our past. There is so much opportunity ahead of us. The ocean is a really big place.

And we can all have a piece of it. And so that's really what that chapter meant to me.

[00:24:26] Jeffrey Feldberg: And speaking of the chapters, if I can put you on the spot, because you're probably gonna say well, Jeffrey, they're all like children. How do you pick one? But if you had to look at the chapter, is there one chapter that really resonates with you more than the others? And what would that be and why?

[00:24:38] Gina Schaefer: Yeah, I think so, there's a couple, now that I've read it 9 million times, you really gets sick of reading your own book when you write it. But the chapter about the secret garden resonated with me from the very beginning. And so the Secret Garden tells the story of one or two of my teammates who have homelessness in their past.

And the epiphany for me was, wow, when you walk in and you're talking to somebody, [00:25:00] you have no idea what they've experienced. You have no idea what you've gone through. And Carl, whose story I tell at the beginning of that chapter is really one of the most interesting, exciting, enthusiastic, knowledgeable people that I've ever met.

Within our plant business, if you walked in, you would never assume that Carl lived on a park bench for almost a decade of his life. And so I think that chapter probably for me was, wow, we really need to think about who we're talking to and perhaps the lives they've lived and what we can learn from that and how interesting that makes them.

And yeah, probably my favorite.

[00:25:32] Jeffrey Feldberg: And well, you knowI I can see that for good reason. And you know, Gina, for the listeners, firstly, I really encourage you to get the book and you'll go through it. The stories are heartfelt. They're from the trenches. This is not theory, it's what Gina went through and her insights into that. And I wanna circle back to chapter six for a moment.

So, for listeners, chapter six, if you're feeling the pressure pushback. And Gina, I love the way you started the chapter because the quotes that you use, they're just so spot on. And you [00:26:00] said you took Paulo Coelho's quote, when you want something, all the universe conspires to help you achieve it. That's how you start things off.

And then you begin to tell the story of Wason so what's going on with that? I don't wanna give any spoiler alerts. You can have the pleasure of doing that, but I would love for the listener to hear a little bit of the backstory here and the takeaways for them.

[00:26:19] Gina Schaefer: Yeah. Waston is also in recovery, 19 years at this point, and is a member of my leadership team. And at the time he was in the first 10 or 12, first 20 of my employees, my teammates. And he was very reticent to change. And we needed to automate. Hardware stores are considered a mom and pop business, but we needed to be a modern mom and pop and so that chapter was really all about forcing change and for me as a leader, realizing, I dunno if you've ever read the book, the Energy Bus, but that was probably the touchstone for us at that point, you either needed to get on the bus or off, and my bus needed to be technologically savvy and he and I needed to figure out how we were going to [00:27:00] remain employees together, co-employees, coworkers with change happening and so it was a challenge. We all, we laugh about it now, but it was tough going there for a while.

[00:27:10] Jeffrey Feldberg: And Gina, it sounds as though because you had such a diverse workforce, and I mean you were doing this before this was even popular, before there was even a term for this, it sounds like it really infused into your culture. Just a different way of looking at things and an expanded horizon and maybe taking risks that you otherwise wouldn't take before.

And so for our listeners out there who are wondering, you know, do we welcome diversity into the workplace? Do we really change? Gina, what have you found with that? How has that been? I mean, how's that just to me, from an outsider looking in, having gone through the book, speaking with you, it seems like that's been a game changer.

And for listeners who are on the fence with that, what would you say about that?

[00:27:48] Gina Schaefer: I think, I believe that we, our workforce should reflect our base. And for me in Washington DC that means a little bit of everything [00:28:00] because that's, the 700,000 people or so, that live here. We look like everyone. And so I think we have to, as business owners, look around and realize who we're serving, what's gonna resonate with them, who they're gonna talk to or interact with, that they might have a more interesting or bigger or elevated experience with, because Oh yeah, I grew up in Sub Sahara Africa also and then that connection's made or yeah, I was in recovery and my boss doesn't care if I talk about it while I'm helping you make paint. Because it's part of my whole being. I mean, I dunno if this really gets to your question, but I think we really have to think about are we reflecting what our customer base looks like?

Who are we leaving out of that customer base? Historically when there were no women in the workforce, there were female customer. We just weren't being seen as a consumer in that, in those particular cases. And so perhaps we were sensitive to that because there was a me, the CEO at the top, but I wanted to make sure that I had women on my team that if you came into the hardware store and you would feel more comfortable talking to a woman, you [00:29:00] had that opportunity.

[00:29:00] Jeffrey Feldberg: And I know so many CEOs, business owners, founders struggle with, okay, I want to be representative, whoever our community is. I want to have people on our team that's part of that community that people can relate to. A lot of times though, when I speak to business owners, and I'm really blessed to speak with so many business owners, one common theme that I hear is Jeffrey.

When I'm looking for someone who's qualified that I can really put into the business who's representative of whatever community I happen to be in, it's not that easy, and a lot of times I can't find the individual. I would gladly hire that person if I can find that person. And so reading between the lines it's almost a negative self-fulfilling prophecy because again, depending on what's going on or where that community is or what's happening, what's not happening, maybe they have that experience.

Maybe they have the education, but maybe they don't, or maybe they just don't have that experience. How have you dealt with that? Gina and you really feel, regardless of whether you're in the hardware industry like you are, or you could be in your former industry, in the software industry, in the [00:30:00] high tech industry, I would imagine that it's really gonna be one and the same in terms of those challenges.

Any sage advice?

[00:30:05] Gina Schaefer: Yeah I don't think it's sage at all. I think we kind of have to put our money where our mouth is. And if we as a society want to improve on some of these issues, we're gonna have to take some hard chances if we even should consider them chances. The pressure also gets put on the one candidate you find, right?

Like I remember being nominated to be on a board and I was gonna be the first woman on this board. That was so much pressure for me because I knew that if I screwed up, I was gonna screw up for women everywhere. they were placing so, many eggs in the basket of this one woman that they had found who they thought might be qualified.

We can't put that pressure on the one candidate. We have to be willing to hire and fire quickly and remember that we've done it in the past. Nobody hires an employee that stays forever almost nobody, not anymore. And so, we have to be willing to take some of those chances. 

[00:30:51] Jeffrey Feldberg: And you bring up an interesting concept, Gina and so many business owners struggle with this. I know when I have my business, I struggle with the same thing. Oftentimes as business [00:31:00] owners, we're very quick to hire and slow to fire. I will give them another chance. Give me another week or two. Let's see what we can do.

Or let me have a little one on one session. I'll coach them. We'll see where that can go, or I'll give 'em a warning and give 'em a 30 day period to pick things up. How do you deal with that? You know what, because I suspect you've been there. We're all human. We all go through that. We want to really have that person succeed.

We brought them on board for a reason, and sometimes our emotions can get in the way. With that so how do you balance that? Or did you ever balance that? What's your secret sauce to that?

[00:31:33] Gina Schaefer: All the time. I'll revert back to the beginning of the conversation and Shane, don't give up five minutes before the miracle. I am the person who thinks the miracle is always right around the corner. I had a very funny conversation with a teammate years ago who had spent some time in jail and he said, you're not allowed to hire anybody anymore because you hire everyone.

And I was like, but you, I hired you. I mean, we have a lot of fun with it, but I think we only get it right 60% of the time. I would never pretend that we have it right all the time. We try to set some [00:32:00] parameters that give people a long lead time to really screw up and get terminated.

We are cognizant of the fact that retail, for a lot of people is a starting job and or for us it's a returning, starting job, a recovery job. If you will and so, those two parameters, those two reasons to me mean they deserve a longer lead time. But the managers that I work with, and we have 12 stores, we have 12 general managers, they have to be willing to have those hard conversations, and some of them are better than others.

[00:32:27] Jeffrey Feldberg: Any system that you've put together over the years in terms of a mindset of, okay, we're gonna bring so, and so, on board, and if A, B or C happens within this time period, then X, Y Zs gonna happen? Have you put something together like that? And if you have, what does that look like?

[00:32:41] Gina Schaefer: Yeah we do have some non-negotiables, which I encourage any business owner to create, and a non-negotiable for us is in the employee that steals something and that's you're terminated no matter what. And that's an extreme example and pretty easy to see where it would go. We have, hourly employees, unfortunately are tracked by the clock, and I say unfortunate just because it makes their job even harder.

We [00:33:00] have an attendance tracker that is very lenient, but it's meant to be a structure for the managers to be able to have some parameters to say, Jeffrey, you've been late 12 times. I am terminating you. It doesn't matter if you're the best customer service provider on the floor, you have violated this parameter and everybody knows what those parameters are. So, it's not like you get to the 11th day and all of a sudden you're told if you're late, one more time, you're terminated.

[00:33:25] Jeffrey Feldberg: And so, Gina, my takeaway here, and for the listeners, this is some sage advice for you. It's, Gina has very specific KPIs, key performance indicators. Her managers know them, the team members know them. It's visible, it's talked about, and regardless of what you're doing, if you cross that line, then that's it.

And it's not a surprise. You knew about it ahead of time. And Gina, I would imagine that for yourself, for your managers, for your leaders, it also makes it easier for them because they're not inventing things as they go along. They have a system. Okay, Jeffrey, you did A, B, and C. Terrific. But you know what, D, E, [00:34:00] and F uncalled for not tolerated. Thank you. But no thank you.

[00:34:04] Gina Schaefer: You gotta go. Yeah. It takes the emotional piece out of it. I mean, we're always emotional if we really care about the employee and we want our managers to care about the team. But it takes a little bit of that guesswork gap. If you read, there's the chapter, there's a dragon in my living room.

I mean, the Marcus story is the perfect example of that. Marcus got fired I think probably within the first month of working with us. Boom. Just screwed up royally when it came to attendance.

And liked his job so much that he called us every single day after he was terminated and asked for his job back and we finally gave him his job back.

We're like, clearly you wanna work here we're gonna try this again. Other people would've said, sorry, you're dead to me. We'll never give you another job. And that was probably, I should know this, maybe five years ago. And Marcus still works with us. And so, you know, we took that.

I think a lot of people never got a first chance in life. There are so many pockets of people who just never got a first chance. That I always hesitate to say we give second [00:35:00] chances. In that case though, Marcus got a second chance because he had gotten terminated.

[00:35:04] Jeffrey Feldberg: Sure. You know, that's a human element, a human part of business, and it doesn't show up on a spreadsheet. It's something that isn't the easiest thing to do. But if even for ourselves, we look back at our own careers, particularly early days. I'll just speak for myself. I did some of the stupidest things that were so far off base, I learned from them.

I became a better person. However, if someone was gonna judge me. And you talked about that in the book you referenced a little bit earlier, whether it be your biggest win or your biggest loss, don't judge somebody on either of those because we're people and there's more to us than just that, and that's a fun part of business is navigating your way through that.

Now, speaking of fun, and I wanted to bring this up there because it sounded more like a personal conquest for you. But there's something in there for the listeners as well. Chapter 13, I bought an icon. I'm not gonna tell the story. I want the listeners to hear it from you, but there is such a passion that went into this, and really for all business owners, [00:36:00] we have a dream in our mind when we start the business that one day, if I can only do this, then blank.

Why don't you give the background and share with the listeners what was going on and some of the takeaways from you to our listeners and the big takeaways for the listeners.

[00:36:15] Gina Schaefer: Yeah, Eric the associate that I tracked the lesson to in that chapter had explained to me once that it was better to be respected than liked. And every one of your listeners might think that's completely logical. But I've spent my whole life wanting to be liked.

I want my customers to like me, my team, to like me. And to me that's a powerful motivator. And I bought a store that was, I think, 96 years old when I bought it. Iconic in the country, not just in Washington DC but in the hardware world in the country. And the transition was not as smooth as I had hoped.

I assumed you know, everyone would like me, like always, and it did not go quite as planned. Because as Eric said, they needed to respect me first as a business owner and believe that I was gonna be a good [00:37:00] business owner, a good steward of this 96 year old company, then they could like me. Really what I needed was for them to keep spending their money because it was a very successful location and I certainly didn't want the concern about me to taint what people were spending to keep it as viable as it was Yeah, it was emotionally, that was a big struggle for me. I had a really hard time writing that chapter because I found myself well, first of all, my editor likes to joke that I like to repress the negative memories, and she's your life is not as rosy as you want everyone to see. 

[00:37:30] Jeffrey Feldberg: Don't we all, Gina, don't we all?

[00:37:33] Gina Schaefer: I dunno, apparently some people are better at writing about it than me. So, I would find myself, you write a book and you write a hundred first drafts of each chapter and so I would write one about that and it would be really negative, and I feel like I'd be like therapy, getting it on paper, and then I'd write another one.

Oh, it was beautiful and the transition was great. And anyway, we had to meld and we did.

[00:37:53] Jeffrey Feldberg: Well, you certainly did. And you know, for our listeners again, I am just cherry picking. There are 17 amazing lessons through [00:38:00] these chapters of just life wisdom and walking down a path that for most listeners, you probably have never been down. Or maybe you started but never quite finished. And that's what I love about a book, Gina, like the one that you wrote where through your life experience, which is what this is really, if you think about it in a few hours, we're learning what took you decades.

To learn and not always easy learning. Some painful things in there along the way that were the benefactors of where perhaps you fell down and picked yourself up. We can prevent ourselves from falling down because you had the courage to not only get through it, but put that in the book. And you know, it's a terrific segue as we begin to wrap things up here in this episode.

 We can just go through all the chapters and the many stories and that'd be wonderful. But let me ask you this. It's a absolute privilege and an honor for me to ask every single guest on Deep Wealth Podcast, and here's a question for you. I'd like you to think about the movie Back to the Future, and Gina, in the movie, you have that magical DeLorean car that can take you back to any point in [00:39:00] time.

So, here's a fun part, Gina so imagine it's tomorrow morning, you look outside your window and not only is the DeLorean car there curb side. But the door is open and it's waiting for you to hop on in so, you're now gonna go back to any point in your life. Gina is a young child, a teenager, whatever point in time it would be.

What would you tell your younger self in terms of life lessons or wisdom or, Hey Gina, don't do this, but do that. What would that sound like?

[00:39:27] Gina Schaefer: You love stomping your guest, don't you? What would I tell my younger self? First of all I was very fortunate to have parents that told me that even though I was a girl, I could do whatever I wanted. And I don't think they, in hindsight, really understood what they were saying to me.

But it worked because I decided that somehow it would make sense for me to run hardware stores in the middle of a city. Full of boarded up houses. I don't know what I was thinking. If I had to go back to that time and place, I would say you know, I started out as an underdog and so I think I spent a lot of years with a chip on my shoulder.

And that could go either way. It could either propel you to greatness or like wanting to be [00:40:00] better or you could mire in the negativity. And at that particular point, I would tell myself to stop miring, use it more to your advantage. Figure out how you're gonna be better because of it not stressed out and feel like the underdog.

[00:40:13] Jeffrey Feldberg: Terrific advice and haven't we all been there as the underdog and hoping and praying that people will give us an opportunity, but what terrific advice to leave off with our listeners. And for our listeners, again in the show notes, it can't be any easier. It'll be a point and click. We'll have a link to Gina and to the book, and I really encourage you to get the book.

Gina, if someone would like to reach out to you, if they have some questions, if they wanna learn a little bit more, where would be the best place online to find you?

[00:40:41] Gina Schaefer: They can go to and all of my information, contact information is there as well as information about the book. I'm on LinkedIn under Gina Schaefer. And Instagram under Recovery Hardware. I love new friends. Everybody's a new friend that I haven't met yet, I'm more than happy to respond and interact.

[00:40:58] Jeffrey Feldberg: Terrific. And again, for our [00:41:00] listeners, encourage you to click on those links, take Gina up on her offer, get the book Recovery Hardware: A Nuts and Bolts Story About Building a Business, Restoring a Community, and Renovating Lives. It doesn't get any better. And Gina, as we wrap with this episode, really a heartfelt thank you for taking part of your day, sharing your insights and your wisdom with us.

And as always, as we like to say here in the Deep Wealth Podcast, please continue to say healthy and safe.

[00:41:23] Gina Schaefer: Thank you. 

[00:41:24] Sharon S.: The Deep Wealth Experience was definitely a game-changer for me. 

[00:41:27] Lyn M.: This course is one of the best investments you will ever make because you will get an ROI of a hundred times that. Anybody who doesn't go through it will lose millions. 

[00:41:37] Kam H.: If you don't have time for this program, you'll never have time for a successful liquidity 

[00:41:42] Sharon S.: It was the best value of any business course I've ever taken. The money was very well spent.

[00:41:48] Lyn M.: Compared to when we first began, today I feel better prepared, but in some respects, may be less prepared, not because of the course, but because the course brought to light [00:42:00] so many things that I thought we were on top of that we need to fix. 

[00:42:04] Kam H.: I 100% believe there's never a great time for a business owner to allocate extra hours into his or her week or day. So it's an investment that will yield results today. I thought I will reap the benefit of this program in three to five years down the road. But as soon as I stepped forward into the program, my mind changed immediately. 

[00:42:26] Sharon S.: There was so much value in the experience that the time I invested paid back so much for the energy that was expended. 

[00:42:36] Lyn M.: The Deep Wealth Experience compared to other programs is the top. What we learned is very practical. Sometimes you learn stuff that it's great to learn, but you never use it. The stuff we learned from Deep Wealth Experience, I believe it's going to benefit us a boatload.

[00:42:50] Kam H.: I've done an executive MBA. I've worked for billion-dollar companies before. I've worked for smaller companies before I started my business. I've been running my business successfully now for getting close to a [00:43:00] decade. We're on a growth trajectory. Reflecting back on the Deep Wealth, I knew less than 10% what I know now, maybe close to 1% even. 

[00:43:08] Sharon S.: Hands down the best program in which I've ever participated. And we've done a lot of different things over the years. We've been in other mastermind groups, gone to many seminars, workshops, conferences, retreats, read books. This was so different. I haven't had an experience that's anything close to this in all the years that we've been at this.

It's five-star, A-plus.

[00:43:35] Kam H.: I would highly recommend it to any super busy business owner out there.

Deep Wealth is an accurate name for it. This program leads to deeper wealth and happier wealth, not just deeper wealth. I don't think there's a dollar value that could be associated with such an experience and knowledge that could be applied today and forever. 

[00:43:53] Jeffrey Feldberg: Are you leaving millions on the table? 

Please visit [00:44:00] to learn more.

 If you're not on my email list, you'll want to be. Sign up at And if you enjoyed this episode, if it added value, if you walked away with some new insights and strategies, please leave a review on your favorite podcast channel. Reviews help us reach new listeners, grow the show. And continue to create content that you'll enjoy and as we wrap up this episode as always please stay healthy and safe.