SBJ: What’s been key to your recent growth?
Robert Lister: Naturally, it’s always the people. The people who are within the organization make such a great difference to your success each and every day. Bringing on really good people has been strategic to our growth. The second thing is really our vendor-partner, which is Verizon Wireless. They’re a great partner to work with – whether it’s pushing us out of our comfort zone a little bit or supporting us with key initiatives that we’re already doing.
SBJ: Verizon and other carriers are expanding their territories locally and nationally. Does that trickle down to Russell Cellular?
Lister: Yeah, it does. Anytime they’re enhancing their network in an area, it just makes it more appealing to customers. Anytime they’re continuing to build out a market that maybe they don’t have as good of coverage in as they should, naturally it opens up new doors, new areas of opportunities for us. With their focus on their network and continuing to put dollars in, that’s a recipe for us to continue to grow and evolve.
SBJ: How has Russell Cellular’s territory grown in recent years?
Lister: When I first came on board 17 years ago, it was just Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma. We’ve continued to grow that footprint from here. But then as we’ve gotten larger, a combination of some opportunities that have come our way – Verizon telling us to go in a particular market and some other individuals reaching out – we’ve been able to grow that footprint. We’re the largest agent in New York City, actually, with 13 distribution points. Last year, we opened up our first couple of stores in California. We’re adding 10-15 stores in California this year to supplement what we picked up out there. We started as this rural company here in Springfield, Missouri, and really grew and focused here, that built our reputation within the Verizon organization. At this point, we’re basically coast to coast. We’re in 30 states.
SBJ: What are your top issues when it comes to managing growth?
Lister: Staying true to who you are as an organization. Everybody gets in business for a reason, and they have some guiding principals, core values, pillars. As you grow as an organization, as you get larger – there’s one other task, one other project, one other idea that comes down on your plate – it’s very challenging to stay true to those guiding principals. We live by our three pillars that embody why we all come to work at Russell Cellular each and every day: opportunity, value and team. The other thing is there’s no shortage of good ideas as you grow, so being able to say no to good ideas. You’ve only got so much bandwidth, you can only take on so many projects at a time. While it sounds like a great idea in that moment, you might not have the bandwidth, you might not have the head count, the people, the resources to take that project on and get the most out of it that you should.
Ariake Sushi and Robata opened; Great Southern Bancorp Inc. (Nasdaq: GSBC) opened its newest branch in Springfield; and a longtime employee with City Utilities of Springfield went into business for himself with the launch of Van Every Drafting & Design LLC.