Yigal Adato: 00:00 Hey pawn family, welcome back to another episode of the Pawn Leaders Podcast. I just got back this last weekend from the California Pawnbrokers Association Convention where an incredible time, and for those of you who listened to the podcast in California who came by to say hello, I really, really appreciate you and look forward to meeting you again some time. I just want to let you guys know that the Pawn Leaders Podcast Community on Facebook is growing. Don’t forget to join. Don’t forget to, you know, ask questions in there and really, really connect with other pawnbrokers. It’s so important to get the information that you need and to learn in order to grow. You see, one of the biggest lessons I learned this weekend is that those who are leading in their industry are learning. They’re there, they’re at the conventions, they’re learning about leadership, learning about jewelry, they are learning about, you name it. Every single compliance, every single part of the business. They’re not holding back. They’re investing in themselves. They’re investing in their associations and that’s what makes a great pawnbroker. That’s what makes a business grow is not just sitting there in your store writing loan tickets are selling. It’s actually learning and become a better you and making your business better as well. And with that said, this week’s guest is Perry Lewin, who is a third generation jeweler with over 30 years actively involved in the jewelry industry and 23 years in the pawn industry. He’s a current owner of Decatur jewelry and loan located in Decatur, Mt. Zion, Illinois. And we talk about so many things in this podcast and many people have wanted to hear him and his success story and how he does it. So here is my podcast with Perry Lewin. Enjoy
Yigal Adato: 01:52 Hey everyone, my name is Yigal Adato and this is the Pawn Leaders Podcast, a podcast that help you make more money, stress less, and live an epic life all while working at the pawnshop.
Yigal Adato: 02:15 All right, Perry welcome to the show. Thanks for being on. I appreciate it.
Perry Lewin: 02:19 Oh, you’re welcome. Thank you for the invitation. I’m very pleased and pleasure to be here.
Yigal Adato: 02:25 You know, every season I send out to the Facebook group that we have the Pawn Leaders Podcast Community. I say, who do you guys want to hear on the show? Who Do you think would make a difference if you listen to them? And your name comes up many, many times. Especially from Jamie Smith who [Incomprehensible] gave me a shout out for recommending you to be on the show. So, I knew I had to have you on. I know you’re a busy guy, so let’s get to it Perry.
Perry Lewin: 02:52 [Incomprehensible] absolutely
Yigal Adato: 02:54 Cool, man. So, you’re a third generation jeweler. Jeweler by trade, what got you into the pawn business?
Perry Lewin: 03:03 I was actually at Chambers Commerce meeting and an investor was there. I’m just attending the social and he wanted to open up a pawn store in the town of Decatur, Illinois. And I happened to be there and he knew I was a jeweler and the bells went off in his head. He says, Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding. I think I may have found the guy to operate my pawn store. And it was just an initial idea. It was not open here before. And so we went out to a series of dinners and meetings and one thing led to another and he convinced me to pull roots up from city Chicago and come down to Decatur and open up. And so we started from scratch and we didn’t know if it was going to work or not and we gave it a try. And I said, if it doesn’t work, I can always go back to Chicago. And 25 years later, I haven’t looked back.
Yigal Adato: 04:00 Nice man. How is it much different than the jewelry business that you guys were in before?
Perry Lewin: 04:05 Similar and different in very many aspects. Very similar that we do a majority of our business in jewelry, fine gold, platinum, silver, diamonds, gem stones. That’s probably our largest loaning base. It’s very similar in the fact that, well, I brought my jewelry knowledge and jewelry repair knowledge to the business and we incorporated that in there. How it’s different is it is a just everyday crazy businesses cause I’m sure you know, you never know what’s gonna come through your door. What’s going to come through your door or who’s going to come through your door any given moment and each day is completely different than the next.
Yigal Adato: 04:48 Awesome. Yeah. I couldn’t agree with you more. 16 years. Having my own stores every day was different, but that’s what was great about it as well. So, 25 years let everybody know you’re in Illinois. What are the laws in Illinois? What’s the hold period? What’s the interest charge?
Perry Lewin: 05:06 Oh, the interest charge is 20%. They actually write it as one fifth of the loan amount, which is more, has more of a [Incomprehensible] I guess, but it’s really, it’s 20% per month. The contract is for 30 days. And then by state law we have to hold for an additional 30 days. So it’s really a 60 day loan and you’re able to renew the loan just by paying the monthly interest and [Incomprehensible]30 days. And you don’t have to make a whole new loan, we just rewrites from the same original number.
Yigal Adato: 05:35 Got It. So one thing I want to talk to you about, what’s been the hardest thing that you’ve gone through 25 years of being in the pawn business? What’s been the hardest thing about doing this?
Perry Lewin: 05:46 I think the most difficult thing about doing this with being in the business is, there’s a lot of different things that are hard, but I think the hardest thing I would say is finding the qualified staff who really has year interest in a heart and who’s going to fight for just like you do. And I understand that employees are hourly or salary and they are there for a job, but to find, you know what, good employees are like great friends. You can usually count them on one or two hands. And so you really have to cultivate them, train them, bring them in, make them part of your family, which also you can’t get too close to them because when you put the emotions and a lot of your decisions [Inaudible] want them a part of the team, a part of the future and know that they’re not here just open to closes just for a paycheck at the end of the day, I’ve always said in my interviews, I said, are you looking for a job? Are you looking for a career? And there’s a big difference between those.
Yigal Adato: 06:58 Yeah, and one thing I do see that you guys do a lot of is you like to have fun.
Perry Lewin: 07:03 Yes, yes, we do.
Yigal Adato: 07:04 [Crosstalk] your work. I see your videos online. I believe we’re friends on Facebook or [Incomprehensible] and you’re always having fun in the store. You’re making people laugh. And I think that’s what makes somebody like yourself successful. Right? You’re running a business, it’s tough, you’re busy, but you never stop having fun.
Perry Lewin: 07:24 No, life’s too short. I mean, if you think about it in a normal work day, you actually spend more time at work and with your coworkers than you really do at home with your family and your kids sometimes. So, if you’re going to be doing that or forced to do that you better at least come up with an idea to your head. At least have some fun. Enjoy it. Because when you have fun and you are enjoying the life and you’re enjoying what you do, it shows through your work and you have passion at it, you’re going to do a lot better at it.
Yigal Adato: 08:00 So Perry, how did you, you went from jewelry. The investor came in and said, let’s open up a shop. You went from Chicago to Decatur. How did you learn the pawn business?
Perry Lewin: 08:11 By trial and error. The first pawnbroker that I was connected with was a business associate of the original investor and he sent me down to his hometown and Salem, Illinois, way deep South and southern Illinois. And I worked with this gentleman for a week and this was way before cell phones were even around Microsoft word wasn’t out, excel wasn’t invented yet. Basically I learned-
Yigal Adato: 08:39 [Incomprehensible] by hand?
Perry Lewin: 08:39 hand and remember those large, big Orion bluebooks?
Yigal Adato: 08:45 Yup.
Perry Lewin: 08:45 The big blue books of values, guitar values, stereos. We had those. And actually my wife makes fun of us. The way used to price things like everyone does now on Google. There’s the Sunday newspaper ads. You can get the Sunday newspaper and you’d get the, you know, you Lowe’s, Menards and home depot and true value and on and on. And you just have been, you knew what a VCR costs by that.
Yigal Adato: 09:14 Yeah. I do all the research. I mean I was, when I was running around my father shops, there wasn’t, I mean there was the Orion blue books and it was like, what’s the value? And they had, like you said, the magazines and the newspapers and some things they just like shot the value added. Hopefully that didn’t get screwed on it so its much harder back then. That’s for sure.
Perry Lewin: 09:35 Yeah, that’s trials and tribulations and [Incomprehensible] we met a lot of mistakes along the way and you know, I can’t wait to make my next mistake because if I make a good mistake and I can learn from it and gained some valuable insight and change the way I do things. I’m all for the next mistake.
Yigal Adato: 09:54 I love that. And I mean, you’ve got two shops currently. Correct? How many, how many staff do you have?
Perry Lewin: 10:02 We have a 14
Yigal Adato: 10:02 14 staff. Great. So, I love that attitude about looking forward to make mistakes because I know that in the pawn business we make mistakes. We might take something that’s fake, we might overprice something, we might give too much for something, whatever that is mistakes are made, but you do it with a smile, right? So
Perry Lewin: 10:21 Yeah, you have to, it’s basically, I look at it the same way as a I had to pay $300 or $500 or whatever fee to go to a training seminar. You have to buy your hotel, your airfare, your class schedule and cost you a number, $100 maybe a thousand. So, it costs you a couple of hundred dollars or a few hundred dollars here once in awhile to make a mistake. And you’ve learned from it. And it’s just as valuable as going out to Vegas and sit down in a classroom or a few days. And just hopefully you can learn from it, train your staff to do the right thing from that point on. And you know, it’s easy to count our successes, but it’s really difficult to remember your failures because a lot of people don’t want to remember failures, they just want to go on to with the good stuff. But I’ll tell you what, what’s really molded me and transformed me into who I am is going back and seeing all my failures and laughing at the ones that I can laugh at. And really scratching my head going, okay, we’re not gonna do that again.
Yigal Adato: 11:23 So give us an example of that. What’s been you know, you were learning the business 25 years. What’s been a huge failure that you had where you can look back and laugh at today?
Perry Lewin: 11:35 Oh, let’s see. There’s going to be a number of them. I’ll have to think of that as we go along, come up with another question and I’ll come up with that in a second. There’s a lot of them. Want to try to find one that’s good for the audience can really grasp that.
Yigal Adato: 11:48 Perfect. Okay. So, I’ll ask you this questions. Yeah. So I’ll ask you this question. There’s a reason why you’re successful, there’s a reason why you smile. What do you think pawnbrokers need to do in today’s industry, in today’s climate, with the advent of the Internet and offer up and all these types of things to stay successful and to stay ahead of the trend.
Perry Lewin: 12:15 Okay. There was a little bit of a delay in the connection there. So I think I got the question, what do I need to do today? And then today’s technology to,
Yigal Adato: 12:26 To succeed. [Crosstalk] brokers need to do today to still become, to stay successful with everything going on with the Internet and with all these competitive sites and with retail going down essentially. What makes a pawnbrokers to stay successful today?
Perry Lewin: 12:44 I am going to go on Jamie Smith’s philosophy is learn, learn, learn, read, read, read. Always be looking for the new technology, harness it, grasp it. Don’t be afraid of, a lot of people are afraid of change and the Internet and our technology and our life is going so quickly today that sometimes its hard to stay on top of the technology and stay on top of the new curves. But if you learn and read and get engaged in any type of chamber of commerce that you can get involved in your local, your state. Absolutely. [Incomprehensible], getting involved with the national pawnbrokers association and their email service not only gives you the information that will be very helpful to you, but it also keeps you abreast of all the latest frauds out there fake Rolexes, fake coins, fake everything out there. Everything’s been easily fake with our technology. So, I would say number one, get involved in your state and local and National Pawnbrokers Association and get involved, network yourself and be involved with people like you who can banter back and forth ideas and stay connected.
Yigal Adato: 14:10 Love it. Awesome. So 25 years, what’s next for Perry in Decatur, where’s it going to go? What changes are you going to make? What do you see for the future of Your Business?
Perry Lewin: 14:25 My goal is to parlay this into five stores. That’s my initial, I’ve got that as like a three year goal. To get five stores open and cause I always heard that your first and second store are okay, your third, it’s hard to get five. Once you get five, then this 6 through 10 typically are easier because you’ve got the systems in place. So I want to expand to five, is my short term goal and what I’m going to be doing personally is I’m turning some of the revenue we’ve earned over the last 25 years into some commercial real estate. So I can venture out into some other areas because I guess that I am in this 25 years and I want to start slowing down a little bit, but I do not want to give it up. I’m following Paul risers footsteps and I’m getting more into the precious coins, the silver, gold and platinum coins. I want to do a couple of coins shows. But, so number one, I want to expand and get into coin shows and kind of slowed down a little bit because I really want to spend some quality time with my family and my kids while I’m I still have a little bit of a chance. As a matter of fact, you kind of inspired me last year when you’re given that speech at the pawnbroker show about balance and how you’re working 16 hour days and you weren’t coming home and your wife said what she said to you and you’re like, oh, I’m in trouble. So I want a little bit more of a balance. So I appreciate what you’re doing out there. You’re doing a great job for all the pawnbrokers, everyone else, your coaching. So going back to the question about one of my biggest mistakes, is, I think I’d say one of my biggest mistakes in business I could say would be saying to my employees, I’m going to do something and either forget or fail to follow through on. My employees is always looked to me as the leader. And typically what I say they take for gold and if I don’t follow through on it, it makes me look bad. And then my employees don’t get the training that I promised them, which hurts them and ultimately comes back to hurt me. So train, train, train, train, train your employees and always be looking for your replacement every day.
Yigal Adato: 16:44 I want to go back to that real quick cause I think that, I mean in your pawn career 25 years. You could have said I paid $2,000 too much for this thing or I broke this item worth $5,000. But what you said was, you know, not keeping my word to my employees when I told them that I was going to do something. And I think that that’s one point that you mentioned that and everybody listening needs to listen to Perry because I’ve mentioned this before in the show. Keeping your word is crucial when you’re a leader.
Perry Lewin: 17:18 Absolutely. They really do. I didn’t realize how much they really take what you say to heart. And I’ve lost a couple of employees because they said, hey, you said you were going to do X, Y and Z has been a year and a half and I haven’t seen any of that. I’m like, oh my gosh, I am so sorry. By then it was too late. So, that was a big mistake. I lost six or seven year old employee who had already had a heavily invested money in training and time and longevity. And then I lose her because of something that I told her I’d do for her and I’ve failed her. So any young pawn brokers out there and you’re in a leadership position, train and follow through with what you say you’re going to do and if he can’t do it, give them a good explanation as to why.
Yigal Adato: 18:01 Be upfront and honest. Love it.
Perry Lewin: 18:03 Absolutely.
Yigal Adato: 18:04 Now Perry you’ve given us some gold on this interview and I appreciate it. Uh, I want you to give us one more piece of advice for the pawnbrokers listening. Maybe it’s a new pawnbroker who’s opening up a shop. Maybe it’s a young pawn broker. Maybe it’s somebody who’s got a store and they’re just tired of the business, right? Or they don’t see the fun in it like you do every single day. What piece of advice would you give them to keep going and just stay motivated
Perry Lewin: 18:35 In order to stay in business? Okay. I guess for the new ones. Okay, let’s go back to the older ones that, you know, I’ve been there for a number of years and they’re just kind of burned out is you have to kind of reinvent yourself, reinvent your purpose. Because if you don’t do that first, every day is going to be dredgery going into work and you’re going to have the same attitude when you have a bad attitude or you’re just not in good mood if things just aren’t working very well for you. And reflection your attitude and your employees and your customers pick it up. And so you have to reinvent yourself. So you’re having fun at, I like to play every day. I like joke with my customers, joke with my employees in a very fun way, but we all know when it’s down to business we get serious. And so we separate the two. For the new pawnbrokers out there because you have to build your tribe, you have to stay on top of the digital and social marketing, be involved in your community, give back to the community that’s given to you. Get to know your elected officials, get to know the building inspector and the advertising people. They’re the ones who are going to spread the words around about you. And then you also have to treat your customers as the way you ought to be treated in business and in life. If you happen to go to a retail store and you ask where men’s shoes are and one of the employees points over there, you’re going to be irritated by, really? Your Not going to get up and help me? You find yourself so busy in your own business, you’re so busy with the paperwork, you’re so busy in the cashier window, you’re so busy cleaning piece of jewelry. You feel like the customers are interrupting you and bothering you, but they’re really not because they’re the ones keeping you in business. So you’ve got to make each and every one of them feel needed, feel wanted and feel important. Especially you’re pawning customers who are really there because they need money and they’re coming to you for relief and if you make them feel good when they leave or they’re going to come back and back and back, they’re going to refer people to you and then they’re going to give you some Google and Yelp reviews. And that’s how you keep the ball rolling in your favor day in and day out. You’ve got to treat the $5 customer as important as the $5,000 customer period.
Yigal Adato: 21:09 Yeah, I agree. Perry thank you so much for being on the show. A big, big congratulations to you in Decatur. Doing loan for 25 years in business that everybody can say it and congratulations in to many more successful years.
Perry Lewin: 21:25 Thank you very much and congratulations to you on what you’re doing and hope to meet you sometimes shake your hand and say, thank you,
Yigal Adato: 21:34 My pleasure. Thank you so much.
Perry Lewin: 21:36 All right, I’ll see you later. Bye. Bye.