(WD Partners CFO Jim Brittan and Owner and CEO Chris Doerschlag. Photo by Jeffry Konczal.)
WD Partners believes a one-size-fits-all model no longer works for retailers. Instead, owner and CEO Chris Doerschlag says these businesses should be taking an integrated approach to problem solving.
“Retailers built their foundation on repeating and scaling the same model over and over again,” he says. “The faster they could build locations, the more revenue they could generate. But the world has changed. In lieu of cranking out the same model, store, or concept in every location, we’re helping them put together unique solutions.”
Clients come to WD Partners with a variety of needs. For example, a long-established ice cream chain approached the company about creating a next-generation store. To accomplish this, the WD Partners team began by researching the brand, its competition, culture, marketplace, and customers.
“We really try to listen to the customer about their pain points in terms of how they want to grow and embrace the future,” says Jim Brittan, WD Partners’ CFO. “We identify opportunities for clients to look at new avenues for growth or accelerate their existing channels of growth.”
It can be difficult for clients to change the way they’ve always done things, says Doerschlag, but the team helps them every step of the way.
“WD gives them the opportunity to create the disruption that drives the innovation their customers are asking for,” he says. “We can not only help you think about what you need to accomplish, but we can also help you execute.”
An innovative approach
Five years ago, WD Partners recognized that it, too, needed to change. They took a hard look at their portfolio and the clients they were targeting.
“We made a very conscientious decision to seek out clients who could see the value we bring to the table. We made sure during our discovery process that our clients could leverage that value,” Doerschlag says.
He says that direction allows WD Partners to create better solutions and stronger long-term relationships. During the discovery process, the company makes sure the clients understand how they can leverage WD’s approach and are not focusing solely on cutting costs.
“Cutting costs is a really short-term methodology,” he says. “It’s incredibly easy to create a stronger bottom line if you take labor out of the equation. But that short-term gain can lead to long-term pain, particularly in a customer service environment.”
Doerschlag says WD’s strategic thinkers immerse themselves in a client’s company to understand its goals and help grow both the brand and profitability.
“Once we connect with the right audience and communicate that value, it’s magical,” he says. “It’s amazing when clients see the value we can add. Clients that continue to approach our solution as a commodity are not the best fit for us. That’s our differentiator for growth.”
Doerschlag has been part of WD Partners, which was founded by his father, since 1993. When he was younger, he was focused on growing and scaling the business. But his focus has changed since then.
“I’m much more interested now in providing value,” he says. “Size and scale are almost secondary. For me, it’s about doing interesting work and building a culture that allows talent to thrive, although I also have my eye on how we can continue to grow on a global scale.”
And although the company has made several acquisitions in the past, Doerschlag prefers to grow the company organically.
“You can acquire to grow, but it’s not about growing to sell for me,” he says. “Instead, it’s important to have a functional culture, and acquisitions can be a poison pill to that. Culture is critical, and it’s difficult to cross over with other organizations when making acquisitions.”
To maintain its culture, WD Partners hires carefully.
“It’s more art than science,” says Brittan. “You can only do so much through the interview process, but our hiring managers know how to sense the personality traits and characteristics that we think are going to make a potential associate successful.”
The company hires not necessarily for skill but for attitude, says Doerschlag. “We can train for skill, but we are so highly collaborative that we need people who don’t put ego first.”
Doerschlag believes hiring people just because they are highly creative and talented and can drive business is a short-term strategy.
“It’s not about being the one hero,” he says. “It’s about the team being the hero. That’s really important to us. You need a certain personality type who has the talent to execute on the project.”
And once the company has hired and trained the right people, Doerschlag sets them loose.
“I will micromanage until you prove to me that I don’t have to, then I’ll get out of the way,” he says. “Once you prove to me that not only do you have the competency, but that I can trust you in terms of how you make decisions, you will have a lot of freedom.”
Brittan understands the value of a personalized approach to services, and it’s something he saw in Huntington in 2017.
“We went through an expansive new loan structure associated with a company recapitalization,” Brittan says. “As part of the underwriting process, the Huntington senior credit officer personally visited our Dublin headquarters and met with Chris and me, and other members of the leadership team. I've been doing this for 30 years, and that's the first time that's ever happened.”
He says it was clear Huntington wanted to better understand WD Partners’ business and the objectives of the transaction in detail.
“What impressed us is they came back with what we both thought was a very flexible and a very well-thought-out loan structure tailored to what we were looking for,” Brittan says. “And honestly, it’s been working out very well for us.”
About the OrganizationName: WD Partners
Location: Columbus, Ohio
Phone: (888) 335-0014
Mission: To innovate and execute the highest caliber customer experiences for our clients, their customers, and our teammates.