How to Forge a Lasting Business Dynasty

“Confessions of CEOs” is a series on how business owners are changing the service landscape. Today, we’re speaking with Clyde Hamai, CEO of Hamai Appliance, an appliance and mattress retailer in Maui founded in 1970. Clyde shares his secrets on how to run a family-owned business that has lasted over three generations.

Clyde Hamai, CEO of Hamai Appliance

Why Hamai Appliance?

Hamai Appliance is the only independent retailer of appliances and mattresses in Maui. My father, Lester, started this business over 50 years ago, and I joined him a couple of months later, after I graduated from the University of Hawaii. My dad’s mission was to serve the local people with the best sales and repair service.  We still follow that mission over 50 years later.  

How have you kept the business going for 50 years across 3 generations of family?

We adapt because we want to succeed, not just survive. When we first started, Sears owned about 45% of the appliance and electronics market. Now their share is in the single digits in addition to going bankrupt on the mainland. I would have never dreamed that our competitors would be the big boxes like Home Depot and Lowes.

One of the most significant changes that we’ve made is the shift away from electronics. When Panasonic, our largest electronics provider, shifted their North America strategy away from independent dealers, we had to maintain relationships with mainland distributors. It was too costly for our business. We decided to phase out electronics altogether; it was a tough choice because our customers still wanted these products. If we hadn’t, we would have been out of business like so many other local retailers. Maui had over a dozen dealers like us, but now we are the only one left.

Despite COVID, we never closed. We received PPP and leveraged our proprietary delivery logistics employees. We empowered our delivery team to postpone delivery if they suspected risks from COVID. All of our sales personnel wear masks and clean the showroom floor to ceiling daily. If anyone of our employees tests positive for COVID, we’re prepared to shut down for 14 days. We care more about our community than we do about just profits. Disease transmission is not a joke.

What is it like to run a family-owned business?

Oh [Clyde chuckles]. Working with family isn’t always easy, but it can be incredibly rewarding. It was my dad’s dream to go into business with his sons. When he left his sales job at another store, where he had worked for over 25 years to start Hamai Appliance, he had no idea his dream would come true. My brother, Glenn, retired in 2013. I’ve been able to live that same dream. It is gratifying to hand this off to the next generation. 

Is running a family-owned business harder than running one without family?

Well, only about 30% of family-owned businesses transition into the second generation, but only 12% are viable in the third generation. A lot of this is attributed to whether or not you’ve been successful at separating work life with home life. I try very hard to keep work at the store and not take it home. I’ve discovered that it is not healthy to let the principals’ spouses get involved in running our business if the spouses aren’t actual employees. To do otherwise often results in the exploration of many touchy subjects at the company’s detriment. 

Three areas where family-run businesses can do better include:

1. Assignment of authority and respecting each other’s roles: Two of my sons and one of my nephews are each responsible for a branch of service. Everyone has to go through the correct channels to get stuff done. No one just gets to “pass go and collect $200”.

2. Crystal-clear communication: Never assume that people are on the same page. We frequently meet as a group; anyone can call that meeting. We value each other opinions and ensure that everyone is heard.

3. Maintaining respect: We are family, and we all bring different energy, strengths and ideas which can be valuable, even if the idea isn’t immediately adopted. My sons, Bryant and Garrett, and nephew Kelii, are modernizing the company technologically with their book smarts. I deliver practical advice on how to run the company since I’ve been doing it for 50 years. 

What is it like running a business in Hawaii?

It can be tough in our kind of business because we have to pay additionally for our independent ocean freight. That’s an additional 10-12% of the cost (a substantial overhead expense for any business). We overcome this in two ways. Firstly, we offer better service to our customers for all of the products we offer. Secondly, we also belong to Nationwide Marketing Group (NMG), the largest appliance and furniture buying group in North America. They help us buy products at a major discount and provide us with numerous industry-specific educational programs.  

There can also be some discrimination from businesses on the mainland. Many can’t service Hawaii, nor are they interested in flying here to grow it because of the distance. It’s still very much a challenge.

How have you kept up reliable customer service for so long?

We are the only turn-key appliance company in Maui that will sell, deliver, install and repair an appliance. We digitally track all customers’ purchases and warranties in our system, which ultimately benefits the customer in the long run by not having to manage those details independently.  Our sales team is very knowledgeable of all the brands we sell due to our manufacturer-led training programs.  

How do you give back to the community?

My father started an initiative in the community 40 years ago because he couldn’t find a single golf tournament for women. He decided to convince Panasonic to sponsor a friendly golf competition on Maui specifically for women. Every year until 2017, we’ve supplied the prizes for the Lester Hamai Memorial Golf Tournament while the participants paid the entrance fees. We donated the net proceeds to various Maui charities totalling over $90,000. We’re so pleased that the women in our community enjoy themselves at these events. Several years later, well after we had started the initiative, we realized that women are typically the chief decision-makers when it comes to appliance and mattress purchases, much like most other essential decisions in life. It’s worked out well both for the company and the community at large. The more we give, the more we receive.

Another dear initiative to our hearts includes the No Child Hungry (NCH) group. At our semi-annual Nationwide meeting, we helped pack meals for NCH. Nationwide has been supporting them for many years; they’ve packed and distributed over 1,000,000 meals and thousands of mattresses to disaster-fraught countries like Haiti. For our 50th anniversary celebration last year, we executed the program here in Hawaii to directly give back to our local community. We packed over 10,000 meals and distributed them to local organizations. We’re really excited about this program and looking forward to doing more in the future. 

What’s next for Hamai Appliance?

That’s up to my three boys. I’ve challenged them to grow our business.  I often tell them that when your name is on the door, you have to try harder. Maybe they’ll open up another store on Maui or one of the other islands.  We plan to be here for another 50 years. 

Hamai Appliance is a preferred partner on Beaze.

How to Trust and Verify at Scale

“Confessions of CEOs” is a series on how business owners are changing the service landscape. Today, we’re chatting with Ric Asselstine, CEO and founder of Geeq, a blockchain platform services firm. Ric discusses how to scale a business and the importance of trust in both people and data.

Ric Asselstine, CEO of Geeq | Photo Credit: Geeq

Why Geeq? 

Induced serendipity. A few years ago, I had been searching for a scalable blockchain solution to integrate with Terepac, a full-stack internet-of-things (IoT) technology. I read a paper called “Blockchain and the Economics of Crypto-tokens and Initial Coin Offerings” by Dr. John Conley, a Vanderbilt Economics professor, following his sabbatical from Microsoft. It turns out he had been thinking about a better approach to blockchain validation. We connected immediately. When I read John’s article, I immediately thought how bright he was and how easily he pulled simplicity out of vast complexity; most of all, I loved his sense of humour. I always look forward to reading the footnotes in his papers; like crackerjacks, he hides good things at the bottom. We’ve since developed a profound trust in one another. These days, I bring the bus, John brings the tech.

Together, we’ve created an affordable multi-blockchain platform secured by our Proof of Honesty protocol™ (PoH) ideal for protecting highly valuable enterprise data. 

How would someone go about using Geeq? 

By definition, blockchain allegedly guarantees that a particular action took place. Unlike other blockchain technologies, Geeq’s PoH truly provides that assurance.  Geeq supports all usual use cases for blockchain, including but not limited to:

– Smart cities

– Document management

– Supply chains

– Insurance 

– Micro-commerce (i.e. financial transactions involving very tiny sums of money, typically online).  

The actual use cases are limited pretty well only by the imagination. It feels like the dawn of the internet. 

By marrying our proprietary technology to a business model, we’re unleashing a new way to communicate, interact and transact at scale. The platform will manage billions, even trillions of transactions, enough for a smart city with all of its IoT devices.  No other blockchain platform comes close to that level of scale and trustworthiness, despite attempts at decentralized micropayments for several years. Our validation engine, PoH, seeks to enable the next era of decentralized business and will power a public blockchain platform, much like a car engine does. Not usually seen, but that which provides the power.

Why is trust so important?

Trust is the foundation of everything whether it’s a personal or business relationship. Our team endeavours to reinstate confidence in our fast-moving, fragmented world.  Despite the astounding evolution powered by the internet continues, trust continues to erode. Geeq is partly a response to that phenomenon, and we are working as quickly as we can.

What is the #1 lesson you’ve learned about leading the way in blockchain?

Persistence. Stick-with-it-ness. If you believe in something, or someone, you find a way to see it through.

What tool do you use every day to guarantee success at scale? 

I’ve developed a sense-making lens to focus my efforts comprised of 7 C’s: Code + Customers + Community + Compliance Creates a new Category of Commerce.  Without this organizing metaphor, it would be pretty tough to maintain focus on the pillars needed to succeed.  When I put these glasses on, things clear up pretty quickly and I’m more readily able to steer the ship.

When it’s all said and done, what do you hope Geeq to have achieved?

To be a thread that helps weave the world together.

Geeq is a preferred partner on Beaze.

3 ways to sustain a healthy sales pipeline as a service provider

In times like COVID, it can be super challenging to meet and connect with new customers. About 72% of Beaze customers found remote work to be incredibly disruptive to new business development. Below are some ways you can boost your sales pipeline volume and targeting:

Photo Credit: Charles Deluvio

1. Consider government contracts: Did you know that the US government obligates $960B in service contracts each year? There is a huge pool of opportunities across verticals including but not limited to construction, technology, wholesale, marketing, finance and staffing. Best of all, there are contracts available in all US states and these are often multi-year contracts. Beaze offers direct and real-time access to these opportunities including the exact point of contact who manages these projects. 

2. Connect with private-sector businesses outside of your network: While it’s true that word-of-mouth and referrals can be the most effective leads, these are only effective if you have a well-established network. Those who are starting cold or who are shifting their offerings are often not privy to the latest and greatest vendor contracts. Beaze connects vendors to opportunities across state lines in multiple verticals including marketing, advertising, sales, technology, property management, manufacturing and more. Best of all, Beaze does this 24/7, 365 days a year, even while you sleep. It’s great to wake up to a full pipeline.

3. Reciprocate! Refer business to win business: Businesses are 43% more likely to receive new opportunities from partners who remember you. Beaze makes it easy to refer off-target leads to colleagues and friends ensuring that you’re top of mind when interesting opportunities come around that are truly in your usual swimlane. After all, why leave money on the table?

How has your business been coping throughout COVID? We’d love to hear your comments below.

Why outsourcing services is easier than you think

Have you ever wanted so badly to have someone else take care of certain business problems but didn’t know who to turn to?

Have you ever outsourced work to a third-party vendor only to deeply regret it?

Over the last year, Beaze interviewed hundreds of businesses who failed to successfully outsource specialized managed services over the long-term. We discovered that the average amount of time to find and secure a vendor is 43 days; it’s akin to flushing $12K down the drain. It’s no wonder people just stick with who and what they know.

Keep reading to find out the 5 main reasons why firms aren’t able to achieve the kind of successful, long-term relationships with the service vendors they hope for and 4 ways on how you can avoid these traps.

Why outsourcing services can be easier than you might think | Beaze, a B2B vendor procurement marketplace
Photo Credit: Lauris Rozentals & GLK Creative Studio

1. Finding appropriate service providers worth considering. When business owners are finally willing to consider outsider help, over 68% don’t even know where to start looking for specialized help outside of their personal network. Businesses frequently rely on word-of-mouth to find experts in the appropriate fields and would often fall back on search engine results hoping to at least get contact information of service providers. Unfortunately, the recommended vendors they contact are often way out of their price range, don’t have the capacity to take on new work or are a poor cultural fit. Many customers emphasize the uniqueness of their corporate culture and complain about how incumbent vendors often disregard internal processes and pre-existing tools. It often takes at least 1 week or more just to find a starter set of vendors to consider.

2. Vetting providers for their alleged core competencies: While 93% of businesses would opt for word-of-mouth, they would still want to kick the tires on these vendors by comparing at least 2 or 3 in tandem just to be sure that the niche expertise is indeed there. These customers often rely on Google or LinkedIn searches to find alternative service providers. Over 72% of customers admit they lack either the necessary subject matter expertise to make an informed decision or bandwidth to determine whether the solution pitched is going to get the job done. Often, they cannot determine whether the price quoted is reasonable for the value to be extracted and so they are often sticker-shocked. If this happens to be their first search, they would not have any appropriate baseline by which to compare the quote received. Waiting for numerous quotes could take weeks, simply due to the amount of coordination and back-and-forth required to get to an official bid from repetitive questioning. Customers don’t know what questions to ask to even begin a meaningful screening process. As well, onboarding providers in a quick and efficient way. When service providers were engaged, 68% encountered a steep learning curve related to the internal corporate culture. This internal baggage was not really perceived during the bidding process and so would often blindside service providers.

3. Vetting providers for their ability to provide high-quality customer service. Communication responsiveness is the #2 concern with customers; any company failing to communicate within 48 hours is generally disqualified from consideration. After all, the customer could be hiring the vendor on behalf of a secondary customer. Reputation is everything and so the hiring party has much to lose. Having valid use cases is another key requirement for customers. They need to know you can do the job. Many SMB service providers do not have communication service-level agreements, i.e. deadlines by which they need to respond or resolve issues. 

4. Maintaining a productive and cordial relationship: A remarkable 42% of customers listed cultural sensitivity as being a major concern. Many found their vendors to be eventually disrespectful of the work being done by the customer’s company which led to significant strains in the relationship. 

5. Avoiding spam: In 2019 alone, US businesses spent over $20B in overhead costs caused by unwanted solicitation. This comes in the form of automated calls, email spam, cold outreach and physical mailers tossed in the recycling bin. Firms spend 11% of their work time trying to avoid these forms of communication from outside vendors and wish they could do away with them altogether.

As you can see, searching for and vetting vendors fatigues the best of us; the above challenges boil down to the following five reasons we’re all very familiar with:

  • Customers don’t know who to ask;
  • Customers don’t know where to find the right vendors;
  • Contacted vendors are too busy to respond;
  • Contacted vendors turn out to be way out of budget;
  • Contacted vendors turn out to be less than honest about their capabilities;

Fortunately, Beaze changes the service landscape in a multitude of time and cost-saving ways that benefit both customers and service providers:

1. Queuing up worthy providers who are ready to respond: Beaze requires that prospective vendors respond within 24 hours of being invited to a lead. Those that fail to meet that requirement are kicked out of consideration and immediately backfilled with another set who is ready and primed to go.

2. Having a panel of subject matter expert vendors figure out the problem space: Beaze experts narrow down the problem space in layman terms that are verifiable and comparable using suggested discussion topics collected through machine learning. Vendors are able to submit key use cases to demonstrate their capabilities in driving true return-on-investment (ROI). These use cases illustrate communication style, competency and cultural sensitivities.

3. Automatically replenishing the prospective vendor pool whenever they prove themselves unworthy: Beaze has a broad network of vendors who are ready and able jump into a conversation mid-stream and keep the conversation on track towards the conclusion; so, even when previous vendors drop out (either of their own volition or forcibly by the customer), ready and eager providers can be introduced getting themselves easily caught up.

4. Providing comparable bids with clear value propositions and price: Beaze enables providers to submit meaningful bids to address your specific project concerns in quantifiable terms so you know what you’ll receive as an outcome.

Customers on Beaze are able to find, vet and hire vendors in under 7 days (an 83% improvement). Imagine what you could do with that extra time and energy.

How do you tackle vendor procurement? We’d love to hear your comments below.