Welcome back to Season 2 of the Pawn Leaders Podcast. Today we have Greg Engstrom, who has been in the pawn business since 1986. He is the president of the Indiana pawnbrokers association and recently put on the incredible Midwest pond conference that I attended and spoke at. He was also on the board of the NPA for 11 years, the winner of Pawn Broker of the year in 2016. He is also a pilot, a scuba diver, and a mountain climber.
Yigal Adato: 00:04 My name is Yigal Adato and this is the Pawn Leaders Podcast, a podcast to help you make more money, stress less and live an epic life all while working at the pawn shop. Hey Pawn family and welcome to season two of the Pawn Leaders Podcast. I’m so excited this season’s going to be bigger, it’s going to be better, and these guests that I’m interviewing are giving such incredible value that I really hope that you take the information, you go back to your stores, you go back to your families, you go back to your lives and you implement as much as you can. For those of you who didn’t know, we took a break because, the wife and I, we had a baby, our beautiful baby girl is healthy and I want to thank everybody for sending us messages and sending us, you know, just, just warm wishes, to the new baby girl. So here goes nothing, here’s season two of the Pawn Leaders Podcast.
Yigal Adato: 01:07 Hey, Pawn family, welcome back to another awesome episode of the Pawn Leaders Podcast. Thank you so much, for those of you who haven’t subscribed yet, go and subscribe to the podcast. So let’s you know exactly when a new episode comes out. If you haven’t subscribed, please subscribe and leave a review. Also, don’t forget to join us in the Pawn Leaders Podcast community where we talk about the episodes, we ask questions, talk about leadership and culture and the pawn world. And with me, I have somebody who is extremely involved in the pawn world and the pawn community. With me, I have Greg Engstrom who is, who has been in the pawn business since 1986, with his stores AmeriPawn , he was, he is the president of the Indiana Pawnbrokers Association and prone and incredible Midwest Pawn conference that I went to and spoke out. He was also on the board of NPA for 11 years, the winner of Pawn Broker of the year in 2016. And, just a couple of little tidbits of information. He flew a plane, so as a pilot, a scuba diver and a mountain climber. Greg, welcome to the show.
Greg Engstrom: 02:13 Oh, thank you Yigal, it’s my pleasure and my honor to be in your presence.
Yigal Adato: 02:19 Oh, thank you. I appreciate that. Actually I should be saying the same thing because you know, again, I asked people who should be on the show and Gregg, Gregg, Gregg, Gregg came up so much. That’s why I’ve been hounding you to get on here. So thank you for being on.
Greg Engstrom: 02:35 Well it’s my honor. Quite a devoted pawnbroker.
Yigal Adato: 02:41 Nice. So let’s, let’s talk about, you know, 1986 rolls around, you open your first store. How did you get into the pawn business?
Greg Engstrom: 02:50 So it’s, I can’t really take credit for it. A matter of fact, in my career and in my life, all the good ideas and moves and decisions I’ve made are somebody else’s.
Yigal Adato: 03:03 Okay.
Greg Engstrom: 03:04 So I actually had a jewelry store, prior to ever thinking about the pawn business. And my manager at the time had worked in a pawn shop and he says, Hey, we need to open a pawn shop. I said, no, you’re crazy. Not In this town. They would never let it happen. So we applied and here came the license in the mail. Getting a pawn license in Indiana at that time was rather involved. However, because I already have the jewelry store, we already bought second hand goods, had relations with banks, had relations with the police department, and had a reputation in the community. It was a piece of cake to get our first license and actually we got the license in 85, but it was such a surprise that we were not ready and we ended up not opening the store until 86.
Yigal Adato: 04:00 Oh Wow.
Greg Engstrom: 04:01 So Ben and I, we, we put this thing together and, Ben didn’t really want to be a partner because starting a new business, you have no sure income. So, he wanted to be sure he had his, a salary and so forth. So, that started a kind of a long career. Ben worked for me a total of 32 years before he retired in 2015, I think. 2016 maybe.
Yigal Adato: 04:30 Wow. That’s amazing. So you guys, he gave you the idea, you opened up the shop and then when was it that you went from one store to the second store?
Greg Engstrom: 04:43 So, we, we rented a small store in 86 and the business grew rapidly and we needed space. We needed it bad. So, we ended up buying a building a one store away, one building away, which we still occupy in 1989, much bigger. We have a 10,000 square feet sitting on two acres and our own parking. And, actually I’m talking to you from the office building. We added in the back few years ago. So, that’s grow own. And then, we opened our second store in 1992. Let’s see, no, that’s not right. Well a Port we opened in 1990 then Lake Station 1992, and I also had stores in Crown Point that I opened and closed and Hammond. And I had one inside of flea market, for about six months. That’s kinda tough cause they’re only open three days, so, uh, at the same time we had a jewelry store and added a second jewelry store and another pawnshop and Michigan city. And so now, kind of come full circle and have divested of those other retail stores and just have the three pawn shops now.
Yigal Adato: 06:11 Nice. So you kind of, you were growing, growing, growing, and then you just said, you know, I just want the three stores, either ones didn’t work or it was just too much, correct?
Greg Engstrom: 06:19 Well, a lot of things and, you know, something that was a life changer for me, I got remarried a few years ago and, my wife’s a nurse and actually a, a cardiac nurse. And her first husband had died from kind of a unusual and rare heart condition and, at a young age of course. And so we were married about three weeks and we’re driving somewhere and I said, oh, my left arm was hurting. And I said, when I hanging out the window, we had all, I get that pain and well, you know, nurses are so she asks me more and more questions and I’m like, Oh boy, here we go. So anyway, make a long story short. I ended up in the cardiologist office the next morning. He does his thing. It gives me a cup of coffee. How you feeling? I said, I feel fine. He says, well, let’s run some tests. He says, that meets you at the hospital. I said, all right, when are we going to do that? He says, well, I’ll meet you there in about an hour. I said, well, why don’t we schedule it so I can get it on my calendar? He says, well, let’s just go get it done. All right, so we went the hospital run on the treadmill, man, I rocked and rolled. I met tread belt. I did it. And you know, they inject this glow in the dark stuff in your veins and put you to machine and all that. And I said, oh, that was, that was kinda fun, Joe, now what? He says, well, come with me. So this is a brand new hospital and I get to see the inner working. So it was kind of excited because I’d never been in there and everything being new and this monsterous hospital. So we ended up at the doctor’s desk in the center of something, you know, with all of this activity and these writing out this stuff. And he says, all right, they’ll have a room for you. I said, well, when’s that? He says, well, tonight. Well wait, you know, I’ve got deployment in the morning and few things, now we’re, we’re, we gotta do something. So anyway, wanted to do andiogram in the morning. All right, I guess, you know, so this is the real game change. So that night my two boys come in and the other, her children and everybody’s kind of in shock because, you know, I’m not overweight. I’ve been pretty active and maybe a lot of stress and high blood pressure, that sort of thing. But, one of the, you know, all the procedures curse, I’m hooked up to every computer known to man and all that, taking my blood pressure every time I tend to fall asleep. And so, the nurse came in with this a scale and she says, Mr. Engstrom, can you get up on the scale? And I’m like, well, of course I can. I, you know, all the wires and everything. I stand up, I get on the scale. This other nurse comes in or having a quick conversation and I, you know, whatever. And half hour later, a nurse comes in and says, Mr. Engstrom, you are not allowed to get out of bed tonight. Here’s a bed pan. I’m like, whoa, whoa. Hold on. No, I got stuff to, this is not happening. You know, that I’m not having a heart attack or anything like that. You know, I just had some pain. So next morning, cause guess what? I learned how to use a bedpan. That’s, that’s a, that’s a, that’s a life changer believe me. So anyway, the next morning they come in with a gurney to take me down to the, I dont know, whatever room it is in the basement, not tomorrow, but the, so anyway, they hooked me up to this portable monitor. Now my wife was there and she knows what all this stuff is, and she knows all the lingo, which I know none of it, and they’re talking or whatever. And the nurse says, Mr. Engstrom, can you get up on the gurney? And I said, yeah, I can. So I hopped right up there, no problem. And they’re talking about this little screen and a little blimp and whatever. And a man, we’re on our way, we are moving. We’re down to the end of the hall, we’re down to base or the thing, put this under your tongue. And you know, so the end of it is that I was so close to having a heart attack that when I got out of bed to get on the gurney, it was starting, right and there. Fortunately being right there, you know, they were able to stop it before any heart damage and so forth. But, it’s kind of a game changer because after an event, you know, it’s like your life flashes before you for a second. Things that used to be really important, are not as important anymore and the things that were kind of second best are now very important. So, that’s how we went from growing this empire to no end in sight to, you know, I bought a boat, we bought a farm, you know, we got rid of a lot of the stress, a lot of the stores and now life is just fantastic.
Yigal Adato: 11:22 That’s an incredible story. I know that, you know, we talked about that at Midwest and it’s a feeling of mine, and tell me if you agree that a lot of pawn brokers are highly stressed out.
Greg Engstrom: 11:33 Yeah. So yeah, the, the high blood pressure thing, at one point they said I had high blood pressure for 10 years and I said, that’s not possible because I go to the doctor and it was always low. And so eventually they said, you need to get a blood pressure thing and take it to the office. Yeah. Guess what? When I’m in the office, my blood pressure’s high when I’m sitting in the waiting room looking at month, three months old magazine my blood pressure low. So yeah, it you know, upon pawn broking is kind of a unique business. You really have to be driven because, you know, you look at a truck driver and he’s shifting into a dozen different gears to every time it comes to a stop sign, as a pawnbroker we have to shift a lot of gears from sales to buying and negotiating to damage control, to public relations, all these different hats and you have to flip them around quickly. So it’s actually for most pawn brokers I know it’s actually kind of a high to go from buying a diamond ring for $2,000 to shaking hands with a senator then, you know, having dinner with your wife, all these different things. I don’t know if it’s a natural chemical reaction or whatever, but it’s, it’s very uplifting.
Yigal Adato: 13:02 So what would you do differently? I mean, looking back at the moment where you almost had that near heart attack and knowing that you are growing this empire and what would you have done differently when it comes to that stress to be able to either monitor it or not, you know, not have that high, cause I, I’ll never forget, somebody told me in the pawn industry, they say I work better when I have more stress. That was like, word for word. So what would you have done differently if you, if there’s a young pawn broker out there listening, growing his empire, or her empire, like many want to. What advice would you give them to not have that much stress during this?
Greg Engstrom: 13:44 You know, that’s a hard thing because I think whoever told you that they worked better under stress then not have to me, my twin, I’ve always felt that what the things are the toughest. I was the most capable and, it’s easy if that’s your thing, which was my thing, to just put on a little more every day. You know, all, I’ll get it, I’ll do this project, I’ll do that, we’ll expand that. We’ll do this over here. The problem is that, the, that’s a good thing. I think. You want to paint a store and it’s a project and you, you get it done and then you want to add another showcase of jewelry and then you want to advertise a new thing. I think that is good. And I think that’s the big driver is that kind of stress. The issue is the underlying stress and that is the employee, the top of line that maybe you need to talk to that you haven’t. So that’s hanging on. Some unfinished project, some phone call, you haven’t made, all these underlying things as you’re jumping from this hat or this gear to the next project and back and forth. There’s a lot of underlying stress. And I think that’s, what us as pawn brokers and any business people need to watch because that’s kind of the killer. And along with the, the underlying stress is guilt. You know, Oh, I missed my kid’s baseball game. That eats up every parent.
Yigal Adato: 15:26 I’m sure. I’m sure.
Greg Engstrom: 15:30 I guess the, the part is that I would say is, as much as possible, take the, the dust pan and dust up all that underlying stress. You missed your kid’s game, make sure you’re at the next one and taking icecream for her, you know, kind of do that extra. But I think the cleanup, of that, underlying stress is what a lot of us skip, you know, and just live with.
Yigal Adato: 15:59 Thats, I love it. That’s such great advice and I couldn’t agree with you more. I also remember my time as a pawn broker. You know, there’s, there’s two things that come to mind when you talk about that. One is I was having a conversation on a strategy call with somebody and they just kept on repeating like that they feel alone. And so, I think that the, the feeling of the pawn business is so different than all other businesses and nobody understands us.
Greg Engstrom: 16:26 Well yeah. Yeah, that’s true. That’s very true. That’s, you know what, that you mentioned the Midwest Pawn Convention and of course the national conventions right around the corner. I have and as you mentioned, maybe somebody has mentioned my name more than once. I have more friends, more than a hundred miles away from me, than I have inside my little circle, you know, 100 miles pawn brokers from all over and, and you know, we communicate all the time. There was a little thing going on on the Internet today, somebody had a rosary for sale and, so Tom Stout from Wisconsin makes an offer. I make an offer. Then Jamie Smith from Iowa makes it until we’re bidding against each other. And the person who had it for sale, the store that had it for sale, thought there was an ugly fight going on, between Indiana and Iowa. But we’re like best of friends and you know, we’re kind of pinching each other, you know, but you can’t see it when it’s just typed out on the internet. But, yeah, the cohesiveness pawn brokers, it’s like not others. We can’t talk to normal business people or, you know people that have regular jobs, if you want to call it that, because our world is so different.
Yigal Adato: 17:53 Yeah. There’s also one more thing that, you know, you said that we all wear so many hats and in today’s with technology and the Internet, you can hire out so many things for a fraction of the cost. You know, you can hire a, an accountant, a bookkeeper, or a CFO, a marketing manager, somebody to make your website at the fraction of the cost that it would be to hire somebody full time. So I think now more than ever, we as pawn brokers have the opportunity to give off and delegate those tasks to other people and concentrate on growing, you know, the pawn balance, our sales, the culture of the business, which I think is super important.
Greg Engstrom: 18:36 Yeah. I was listening to your podcast that you did with a, I think the keynote speaker at the national about
Yigal Adato: 18:43 Yeah, Joey Coleman.
Greg Engstrom: 18:45 Yeah. The customer retention. And that was really kind of an eye opener because, well, two things. First one was the amount of customers, banks clues on a regular basis is unbelievable. I think pawnbroker customers are more loyal than bank customers, but he’s right. We spend a lot of energy and money marketing to a new customer when we probably should concentrate a little more on the current customer, but I think, you know, most pawnbrokers I know, and most stores I’ve been in, they do it darn good job of you know, calling people by name and they know what they want and helping them out and you know, very few pawn shops that I have been in and I should, I should clarify that my friends, pawn shops that I’ve been in, that is generally the case. I’ve been in pawn shops where I don’t know the person when I’m traveling. Of course, I hit all the local pawn shops and I do see that in some places. And I wonder how, how does that work? How do they, you know, if you’re not saying hello to people and you’re not keeping the cases halfway clean, you know, how do you survive? And like you say, with the world’s getting smaller, you know, it’s a good investment, keep your customers the best you can.
Yigal Adato: 20:18 So let’s, let’s, let’s get into that and let’s get into, you know, you are board of the NPA for 11 years. Current president of the Indiana Pawnbrokers. You won the Pawnbroker of the year in 2016, which I think is an incredible award, for a pawn broker to win in today’s pawn market. With everything that you’re seeing, what does it take for a pawn broker to be successful? And what does it take for a pawnbroker? What mistakes do you see pawnbrokers are making, that if somebody is listening to this, you can say, please right away, change these things so that your business can improve.
Greg Engstrom: 20:56 So the first thing I will say is, you know, looking at where we’re at, economically and where the pawn businesses in a cycle. So just a few years ago, it was easy to be a pawnbroker. You could make a lot of mistakes because the money was in the goal. And of course, with everything we do, it’s all about volume. It’s not the price of gold. It’s not the price of a cell phones, it’s the volume. So, business was incredible in 2010, 11, 12, and as, that that part of the industry has slowed down. It’s gotten back to where I was in the 1990s being a pawnbroker. So what I’m saying is, you, you have to do all these different things. So you have to provide good service. You have to keep the shelves clean, you’ve got to buy, you’ve got to sell, you’ve got the loan money, you’ve got to retain customers. It’s more pawnbroking today than it was five or six years ago. You could call yourself a pawnbroker, but you didn’t really have to be a pawnbroker. You know, the thing. And, and I, I’ve, I’ve met with a lot of politicians and testified and Senate hearings and house hearings, here in Indiana, and one of the things that I believe in real strongly, and it’s an uncomfortable topic of what pawnbrokers do. And what I’m saying is, who’s our customer? Now, we always say generally the underemployed, seasonally employed, people that just aren’t very good with their money, they’re our customer along with people who have a lot of money, but something bad happened or they have a good job, you know, they get divorced, they get sued, they lose their job, they’re, you know, whatever. But let’s talk about the customers that we serve, nobody else will. These are the alcoholics, the druggies, the, the convicted felons. You know, these are, we know wife beaters and, and, and all these kinds of things that nobody wants to talk about and because it’s uncomfortable, but as pawnbrokers we all deal with them. We all give them access to some money. That’s an easy loan in our now if they’re a thief and they’re stealing stuff, that’s, that’s different animal, that’s, I’m not putting them in this group at all. I’m talking about people that really need money and there’s nobody else it’s going to take care of them. So what I have seen is pawnbrokers that shy away from these people. They don’t want to deal with them. They’re a pain. They’re loud. They are, they’re smelly they’re you know, their stuff has always junk and you know, a lot of excuses, man, these people need us and quite frankly, we need them. We need to provide liquidity to those people that have nowhere else to turn. And it’s kind of a hard thing to tell to a politician. It’s, it’s scary. It’s, it’s like, you know, the first time somebody admits that they have an addiction or they, you know, whatever bad things are in their history. But this is not a bad thing. This is what we do and who we help. Of course we help all the other people, but we’re helping a group of people, nobody else will touch. And I really, I’m passionate about pawnbroking is about, and I see you’re asking me what I would tell a pawnbroker to stop doing is ignoring those people. Granted, it’s hard to make money on a $5 loan. People that are stinky sometimes scare away other customers, but these are people they need us and that’s what our sign is for. That’s what we do.
Yigal Adato: 25:13 And you said it the best, you said these are people, and they need help sometimes as well. It’s not always going to be to do more drugs and alcohol, but it’s going to be to, to pay for a bill or two to send money to somebody that needs it, whatever that is. So I love, no one’s ever said that. And my 16 years of pawnbroking owning my stores in my third generation mentality but, so I thank you for bringing that up at, that’s pretty cool.
Greg Engstrom: 25:41 It’s an uncomfortable topic though, isn’t it?
Yigal Adato: 25:43 Well, 100% because you don’t want to tell people that that’s the customer base that you have. You have this, you want this image of I’m serving this type of customer and this is what I’m helping the community. But those guys, I’m not touching, but the truth is that we do.
Greg Engstrom: 26:01 Yeah.
Yigal Adato: 26:02 Even if they don’t walk in stinky, right? They can walk in and be perfectly okay and take it to, to, to drown their sorrows because of some traumatic event that happened. Whatever that is.
Greg Engstrom: 26:15 Yeah. Everybody’s got a story, you know, but I, I do draw the line at thieves, you know, those are what kind of don’t like those. And we will cut them off.
Yigal Adato: 26:26 Yeah, no, I agree with you. I think that, I think that we’re, we’re as pawnbrokers within the community and it’s our responsibility not just to sit there and think about making money, but how we help the community. Because when that happens, when the community starts believing us, that’s when we make money. That’s when the clients started coming in. That’s when, unlike the banks, we don’t lose as many clients, so often.
Greg Engstrom: 26:55 If you don’t mind me shifting directions, just the touch, you know, talking about, politicians and politics, I, I put a post on pawn, pawn chat a while back and, it was probably in March and I asked the pawnbrokers to be sure that they have they’re pawn continuity insurance taken care of before I forget what date I put. And like everybody’s asking even, insurance agents that are there on the channel. What are you talking about? What his pawn continuity insurance? And I said, well, and I had to admit that I made it up. But what it is, and it’s actually pretty important in my opinion, is, there is one group of people who can put you out of business with a pen while wearing a suit. And that is our civic leaders and our congressional leaders. So, the point is that that was right before the primary and, you know, I’m amazed talking to some pawnbrokers, I say, how much insurance do you pay, you know, for your business and your building and your inventory and your customer’s inventory. Oh, it’s thousands of dollars. Well, how much do you pay to ensure that something doesn’t happen to your ability to do what you do? You mean like what? So you go to a Chili supper, you donate to a campaign you donate to a nonprofit, which may have some political affiliations, get to know your politicians. And so few of them, you know, we feel stigmatized because we’re pawnbrokers. You know, it’s almost like if we were some other kind of minority, how other people feel and, and so there are a lot of times afraid to talk to politicians are afraid to go to city council meetings. But I can tell you, and I’ll give you one, one war story, because I’ve been the president of Indiana. I’ve been very active in our state legislature for several years. And, I found that when you need a politician, when there’s a bill on the table, when there’s something going on, it’s too late to call your senator and say, Hey, my name is Yigal, and I’m a pawnbroker and I need your help. Not to say that they’ll, they won’t do anything because naturally they’re serving and they will, help to whatever degree they can or feel they should. However, if you’re their friend and you can call up and say, hey, this is Greg, hey what’s with this bill, senator so and so put up, that’s a whole, it brings it to a whole different level. And I’m not talking about spending thousands of dollars like we do on our regular insurance. I’m talking about a few hundred dollars here and there. You know, each election you support a couple of people, you send them checks, you go to the Chili supper, don’t ask for anything, you’re just going to meet them. Say, hi, I’m Greg, I’m a pawnbroker. I owned a pawn shop at the top of the hill. And, and without a doubt, they’re going to say, well, what do you do? What is a pawnshop? And there’s your opportunity. And as you develop that over a period of years, believe me, one Chili supper is not going to make you best friends as we know. But over time, as you build this relationship, you’re going to find that their friends or other politicians. And so it’s easier to grow that list of friends you have. And if something comes up, then you can say, you know, hey, what’s going on with this? So, there was a, let me tell you my story. So in Indianapolis, our state Capitol, Indiana is a part time legislators state. In other words, the legislature only meets three months. The rest of the year, people have other jobs, so they’re not full time, which they are, I think in many states, but regardless. So, you know, we were, we were dealing with several bills, in Indiana. We actually, and I’m not going to say we got passed because there’s always many players, but, we helped eliminate the sales tax on gold and silver bullion. We eliminated the 80 year ban on loaning money on handguns in Indiana.
Yigal Adato: 31:54 Wow.
Greg Engstrom: 31:54 And also, helped pass legislation, excuse me, that no longer allows these, gold buyers to set up at the hotels or the full page ads. It’s no longer legal in IndianaSo had it quite a bit of experience down there and meeting these people and you know what, they’re just like you and I, they’re just like a pawnbroker there were in a little better suit because pawnbrokers can’t afford to wear a suit because you get ruined. And, you know, they’re just, they’re just, they have two feet just like we do. So, anyway, there, as happens in other states, bill comes up, this is the last legislative season and, it was about pawnbroking and, the senator that wrote the bill, is former FBI and a former state policemen, so he’s, he’s got some, some experience there, but the bill he wrote essentially shorten it right down to a nub. It would say that if I filed a police report on my, stolen camera, I can take a copy of that to the pawn shop, give it to them and take my camera home.
Yigal Adato: 33:11 Craziness.
Greg Engstrom: 33:12 Yeah. So, you know, we forget about due process and everything else. Anyway, I called the senator’s office, left messages, so forth and so on. Kind of went round and around and wasn’t able to actually, wasn’t Indianapolis and went to his office and I’ve got to speak with his assistant who just made an appointment, you know, for, at a later date. Anyway, I’m sitting here in my office just like I am today. A phone rings, it’s another senator who I barely know, but I know through somebody else who he is and he says, Hey, you’re president of the Indiana Pawnbrokers. I said, yes. He says, what do you think of this Senate bill, whatever the number was. And I said, sorry about that. I thought I turned off-
Yigal Adato: 34:01 You’re a pawnbroker. No problem.
Greg Engstrom: 34:05 So he said, well what do you think of this bill? He says, what’s your stand on it? And I says, well, in its current form I have to be opposed to it. Have you reached out to the senator? I said, yes, I have. In a matter of fact, I have a meeting with his staff for next week he says, all right, here’s the deal. He says that bill is in my committee. It will not get a hearing unless you call me and tell me otherwise. So in other words, because of this relationship that the Indiana Pawnbrokers has with a few senators and representatives, we, we stand up there a little bit and we’re, we actually got this call, what do you think? And this bill was dead.
Yigal Adato: 34:53 Hello?
Greg Engstrom: 34:54 Yup. Just like that the bill was dead.
Yigal Adato: 34:57 Craziness. That’s amazing, so you have to be involved. You have to know who the politician, who can, like you said, sign away your business.
Greg Engstrom: 35:07 Yeah. One other quick one is in the process of getting the 80 year ban on handguns alone to Indiana eliminated, we had worked at that, Steve Krupnick, my predecessor was president of Indiana and also as a pawnbroker of the year many years ago, kept trying to get this thing going, but we had trouble and I put out in the pond in our pawn community, I’m working on this, anybody have any context? And a pawnbroker from Bonney Lake, Washington said, Hey, I’ve got the cell phone number of a guy at the NRA. So unbelievable. I’d called the NRA office in Washington D.C. you know, you kind of know where those calls go. And I got ahold of this guy and I told them what we’re doing and he says, good, you’re going to be in Indianapolis tomorrow. And I said, well, yeah, it’s a matter of fact, I will be why? He says, because I’ll be there and that let’s sit down and talk. I mean that started the whole, so we actually got the backing of the NRA from another, you know, another pawnbroker put that together. It was awesome. So, the, the, the political thing, you know, it’s like sausage, you know, you, you may like it, you may not like it, but you sure don’t want to watch it, watch it going on.
Yigal Adato: 36:36 I think it’s, I think it’s imperative that if you’re a pawnbroker and you believe that everyone else is gonna do it for you, you’re wrong. You need to get involved. And I think it’s when may, it’s what’s made you successful. Am I right? Like being involved, going to these, you know, to the NPA going, you know, holding the Midwest conferences and conventions and being the president and leading and seeing what you want for your business and seeing that through the government and politics because we have to, that’s how our business works.
Greg Engstrom: 37:11 Great. Yeah, so you know the, the side bonus to being involved politically is the politicians also know a lot of other people. So if somebody has a, you know, a firearms collection, they’re looking to liquidate, you might get a phone call. Hey, this is senator so and so, my buddy is looking to sell his guns and it’s happened, absolutely.
Yigal Adato: 37:36 Greg, let me ask you this question and, and with this question we’ll, we’ll go ahead and wrap up the interview. You’ve been around the block, you’ve seen the pawn industry, you’ve seen the gold prices go up, pawn industry change, for many stores, only three stores from the NPA to Indiana. There’s a lot of young pawnbrokers listening to this and they’re thinking to themselves, you know, this isn’t the same business that my father and my mother or the other people ran back in the day. From your experience, what can you tell them to make the experience better, as well as to not to now worry as much? Because some of them are worried that, you know, some of them want to get out. Someone would want to say it’s not the same business. Like you said, you said you used to just open the doors and money would have come in. So what can you tell the young pawnbrokers listening to this?
Greg Engstrom: 38:34 So the, the pawn businesses is something that, you know, I started out in the jewelry business and absolutely fell in love with the pawn business and I am one of the pawn shops best customers. And if you are a pawnbroker, you have 20% of the items and your possessions don’t have a price tag on them, right? So that’s a true pawnbroker has got stuff at home. The TV still has a price sticker on it. But here’s the thing, as a pawnbroker, you can change like a chameleon except for one thing. The one thing a pawnbroker can’t change is you loan money to people who need it. Everything else you can change. You can say, I want a cash money orders or I want a case checks, I want to become a ups store. I want to do all these other things and other services that you can add to your business and change. You know, there was times when beanie babies were super hot. You can, you can be in the beanie baby business. But the core, what keeps the business going is the loan. So keep the core the same. You’re loaning money to people who need it. And then all the other things you can change on a dime. You can like, I see a lot of pawnbrokers getting more and more into collector coin. You know, while that’s hot, you can roll with it. If that’s no longer hot and say beanie babies comes back, you just scoot the coins over put the beanie babies in baseball cards, but we can move around and we can do a lot of different things in our store we have. The important thing is, and I would, I told my banker this years ago, we walked around the store and I said, see this stuff in the back room? He says, yeah, a lot of stuff back here. I says, it’s all moving. It’s all rattling and there’s money falling out of every piece back here, not a lot, nickels, dimes, pennies, but it’s all fallen to the floor. And once a month we just sweep it all up. That’s the core. So then build around that core.
Yigal Adato: 40:53 I love it. And I’ll add that, I’ll never forget, I wasn’t too much of a proud pawnbroker in the beginning and it wasn’t till a little old lady came up to me and hug me and said, Mi hijo, you know, you might not understand how important you guys are to the community, but because of you guys, people get to work, babies have pampers, we have money to keep the lights on. And that shifted my mindset. Like the core is lending money, like you said, to people who need it. And when we believe that, you know, some, some pawnbrokers are a little bit ashamed, but do you proud pawnbroker. You know, be proud, the fact that we’re helping people and the community to pay their bills to get through difficult situations because without us, I dunno what they would do. So-
Greg Engstrom: 41:47 Right. I mean, the were, a pawnbroker is the only one in a community who will give a person money when they need it, regardless if they ever paid us back regardless if they’ve never paid their water bill, as long as they’re not a thief were their place.
Yigal Adato: 42:09 Yep. Love it. Greg, thank you so much for, taking the time to be on the show, and if you guys haven’t gone to the Midwest Pawn Convention, you don’t have to be from the Midwest, like you learn something in all these conventions and I believe that especially in today’s pawnbroking world, we can’t get enough of learning more tactics and strategies and just meeting other people like us. You know, I got to meet a lot of people at the conference, which was very, very well done. So check out the Midwest Pawn Convention next year, which is going to be held where? You guys know yet?
Greg Engstrom: 42:48 Yeah, it’ll be in Lillyville. It’ll be in May, I think it’s about the first or second weekend in May.
Yigal Adato: 42:54 Perfect. And so Greg, once again, thank you very much pawn family. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast and go to pawnleaders.com if you want to have a chat with me about anything you need for your pawn business. Get Greg. Thank you again. I appreciate you have you on the show and listening to what you have to say? Thank you, my honor. My pleasure.
[03:04] Prior to opening a pawn shop, Greg operated a jewelry business
[03:50] Greg got his license in ’85, but didn’t open the store because he and his business partner were not ready
[04:55] They later opened a bigger store, with more parking, in 1989, and continued to grow, until he chose to only operate 3 stores
[10:29] Greg got ordered to stay in a hospital because he was close to having a heart attack and doctors were able to catch it before it happened
[10:55] Things that were once important, aren’t important anymore. This helped them to scale down the amount of stress and number of stores and now life is fantastic!
[15:05] What advice would you give young pawnbrokers to not have all the stress? “There’s a lot of underlying stress and I think that’s what a lot of us as pawnbrokers and any business people need to watch, because that’s the killer. And along with the underlying stress, is guilt”
[15:49] The cleanup of the underlying stress is what a lot of us skip
[18:53] Most pawnbrokers do an amazing job at becoming familiar with their current customers
[22:55] What does it take for a pawnbroker to be successful and what mistakes are they making that they need to fix? We need to serve these people that have nowhere else to turn.
[29:24] It’s important to start networking with politicians from early so they become familiar with you
[39:14] “The one thing a pawnbroker can’t change is, you loan money to people who need it”
Visit the Midwest Pawn Convention next year May in Louisville.