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190: DeWaard & Bode Continues Evolving to Best Serve Its Customers

Written by Rob Stott

October 24, 2023

From moving out of the tire business in its early years to finding ways to create deeper bonds within its local community today, DeWaard & Bode has always placed an emphasis on evolving as a business in order to properly serve its customers needs. We sat down with Jordan Roorda of D&B to dive into the ways the retailer remains on top of the trends, the importance of hosted events and more.


 

Rob Stott: All right, we are back on the Independent Thinking podcast and I get to call it that, because of the guy I’m talking to today. Whether he remembers it or not, I’m sure he does. I don’t let you forget it really, Mr. Jordan Roorda of DeWaard & Bode, appreciate you hopping on this podcast that is like three years, 10 months in the making. How’s that sound? I’ve been trying to get y’all on here.

Jordan Roorda: You are a good and persistent man.

Rob Stott: That’s what I’ve been told. Well, I appreciate you jumping on, man, and well, first of all, before we dive into that little story, how are things going?

Jordan Roorda: Yeah, things are going fantastic. I mean, I really do feel like some days you have to choose it and a lot of days you have to choose it and make it happen as best as you possibly can. I mean, that’s the world that I and we choose to mostly live in. And yeah, so it’s a good day.

Rob Stott: It’s the retail business and we get to talk about it every week on this podcast. To jump back to that story for a second, for those that don’t know, when I came on board and decided Nationwide needed a podcast in late 2019, we got our start in 2020, early 2020. Good timing to start a podcast, right before everyone has to sit at home and listen to things. But we threw the call out there to the membership to help name the podcast and there were some floating around there. We had some great suggestions and ultimately landed on independent thinking, because of a submission by you. We were like, “Hey, hey guys, hey smart people over there, you know you have a name and a brand that you can lean into.” And I appreciate that. That was like the kick we needed to really lean into independent thinking, man.

Jordan Roorda: Well, that was very, very sweet of you to say that. And yeah, it is a good name.

Rob Stott: Yeah, for sure. You had some other suggestions like Roses Ramblings or I don’t even remember, some funny ones that were out there. But maybe someday-

Jordan Roorda: Can never hear Jeff Rose’s voice too often.

Rob Stott: No. I love it. Well, again, appreciate you jumping on and excited to dive into business and into what you guys are doing there up in the Pacific Northwest, so appreciate it. Tell us a little bit about yourself for those that don’t know, who’s Jordan Roorda and what’s your background and what path did you take to what you’re currently doing there at DeWaard & Bode?

Jordan Roorda: Yeah, Rob, thank you very much. I actually want to add on to your story about that in 2019. It was close to the same time that I jumped on a podcast with Dos Marcos. At that time, when COVID did actually hit, and so everyone was scrambling on who’s essential, who’s not essential, how to treat people, how not to treat people. And I really do feel like this is a time again, with what’s going on in the world and so much uncertainty both with the economy nationally, locally, and internationally, that it’s kind of interesting, because I was thinking about it this morning. Again, I’ll come back later on in our interview to try to recap what the thoughts were of that podcast during that time. So kind of an interesting tie in, I think.

About myself. I’m one that doesn’t like to necessarily talk about myself, I’d rather talk about somebody else or learn about somebody else. So I hope for whomever’s listening to this that they can get something from it for sure. So I am born and raised in Linden, Washington. I’ve done a lot of traveling, but stayed local. Worked for my father for many, many years. Went away, came back and really as far as the industry in DeWaard & Bode started, it was Jake DeWaard and Rube Bode. They started years and years and years ago. I remember as a little kid, my father worked his butt off, but he would take me with him whether it was a Saturday or whether it was even a holiday when the store was closed and I would help him clean, move appliances, clean toilets, just all that type of stuff, probably cheap childcare.

So it was something that as far as hard work and what family meant really was instilled in me a long time ago. And even before that, actually, I always like to say my story started more so with my grandfather. My grandfather actually was a Dutch immigrant, came over after World War II. Was a farmer and a bricklayer. Spent a lot of time at his place and between his work ethic and what he ended up teaching myself and both my father and what my father taught me as well, really gave me a love and a passion not only for our country, but also for our local community. And so to me it’s wrapped up in a word of legacy of course. So my passion is really derived from that. So growing up, like I said before, of course a lot of store involvement, a lot of hard work, and it would be the entire family.

I have a brother and a sister of course too, and they would also help out and my mother. And so with DeWaard & Bode, it was Jake DeWaard and Rube Bode, like I mentioned earlier. And my father, Jerry, actually worked for them for many years in delivery and then sales and then sales management and then he was going to leave. And it was Jake that said, “No, I don’t want you to leave. Let’s find an opportunity.” And actually it was somebody in the buying group that he went to with a business plan and went and ended up helping him develop that plan and buying into DeWaard & Bode. And eventually in the late ’90s he bought it fully out. So him and Doreen were sole proprietors of the company since. So fast-forward for him, 40 plus years. For me, and now it’s been 22 years. It’s been amazing to see the growth, to see the people come through, see the people stay, to see the customers, and that’s the exciting part. Yeah.

Rob Stott: No, I mean, the cool thing too is that you still get a firsthand… Even though the name on the wall, we talked to a lot of people, the last names are the names of the business. But you still got to see that sort of work ethic of starting from delivery, working through, investment in the business to fully taking it on. The work, to your point, work ethic. And it’s been instilled in you since the beginning and to watch that had to be, I think, a unique experience for you growing up in the space and within the industry.

Jordan Roorda: Oh, absolutely. You know what’s fun about it is, I was able to go to the buyer group shows at a fairly young age in my teens. And so it was one of those things where I really enjoyed not only getting to know people, but I love figuring out how things work. I love figuring out how organizations function, what makes the difference in organizations. And very simply it is people. I still love that to this day. I love figuring out how things work. I love meeting new people, I love fostering older relationships and because appliances is the vehicle, mattresses is the vehicle, barbecues is a vehicle, if you’re a vendor, that manufacturing is the vehicle.

But really what we get to do and who we get to meet and the opportunities we have and the impact that we can make, it’s not something that you go to a career day as a high school or college student and go, “This is what I want to be.” I remember growing up thinking I wanted to be a pilot or an NBA player. Even though I had decent height, work came first. Then pilot, I’m 6’5, so it’s not very comfortable to sit in anything but first class. So those two things, yeah, they’re not happening, but that’s okay, because there is one other passion I do have that still can happen. But for those who know me know what that is, it’s not to be a bald male model either. But yeah, so anyway.

Rob Stott: Well, I love it. You kind of jumped me on a question I love asking in these podcasts, and that is, did this path always… Was it always the option for you or did you feel like you had the opportunity to go… Obviously with thinking about being a pilot or NBA player, you had other ambitions, but did you feel like there was always a calling or something pulling you back that just wouldn’t let you get out of this space, this industry?

Jordan Roorda: Yeah, absolutely. Even from a young kid, I always wanted to be a moral good businessman, a Christian businessman. To me, that legacy, to be able to grow, to do the right thing, that really was probably the biggest pull for me. Again, there’s so many vehicles to do that, and again, we screw up all the time, so there’s no perfection, there’s no whatever. And that was really modeled to me and again, the opportunity, I go back to talking about my grandfather, it was post World War II. I mean, it was rough in Europe. Then to be able to come over.

It was so cool this summer, my second cousins from Holland actually came over and spent some time with us and it was just so much fun. I’ve been back of course too, but it was just so good to see them and to know the opportunities that we were given. That even though they’re wonderful people, hardworking, successful in their own rights, they don’t have the same opportunities even to this day. So yeah, so there’s some drive and passion from there. Yeah.

Rob Stott: No, that’s awesome. So if someone that visits a D&B showroom today, what’s the experience? What are you guys trying to set up for that customer experience as they walk through your doors?

Jordan Roorda: Yeah, always first and foremost to be greeted. It’s a very simple blocking and tackling, making sure the front’s beautiful and clean. We were talking earlier about staff and some of my most favorite, favorite, favorite people, coworkers, never call them employees or just coworkers, are the warehouse reception entry-level position. When we’re onboarding, if you want to call it that, when they’re starting new, I always tell them two things. One, our job’s the same, and that’s to take care of people inside and outside the building. The only difference is our responsibilities.

And then the second thing is, when you’re walking in, how do you want to be treated? How do you want to be greeted? What do you want to see? So literally some of the coworkers, I’ll say, “Okay, well, let’s stand in the front of the building. What do you see?” And that’s even for how store layout. Again, not perfect, but how store layout is, how flow is. And then the second place I take them is to where the owner walks in. Those are the two most important spots where the customer sees and where the owner sees. And if we can take care of those things and make sure that that’s good, we’re off to a good started.

Rob Stott: No, that’s awesome. Well, what they may not see today, and I love this, you guys have a really cool representation of how you lay out the history of the business on your website, the About Us page and diving through the timeline. They may not see tires anymore. I think diving back into that, the business has evolved a lot. So talk about that a little bit.

Jordan Roorda: Yeah, it’s funny you say that, I have that picture in my office.

Rob Stott: That’s awesome.

Jordan Roorda: I love some other old ones, but yeah. Well, what’s unique about that is our original location. So the tire shop actually is right behind it and it’s still there. The hardware store part also was just across the street, now it’s moved since, but it kind of divided up… But the tire shop is still there actually.

Rob Stott: That’s crazy.

Jordan Roorda: And it’s kind of cool too, because in that spot there was an old train car that would go through there. And so literally our term carload does come from train cars. They’d be dropping off appliances, tires, all kinds of crazy stuff. And even though the train’s gone, that track and that tire shop is still there, which is pretty cool. When it comes to, again, our history, that’s something I always ask people too when we’re doing interviews, like, “What do you know about us?” It’s not necessarily totally testing if they’ve read our About Us page or if they know us, but it is interesting, because it’s important. The thing is Costco’s growing, they’re going to out Costco us. Dot com, fill in the blank, they’re going to outdo it. So who are you? What do you stand for? And how do you treat people? And people still want to buy from people, even though obviously there’s increasing habits, trends, growth areas, of course, that are showing other things. But again, who do you want to buy from? We definitely try to model that.

Rob Stott: Yeah, that’s awesome. I mean, so timing wise, correct me if I’m wrong, I think it’s like early 2000s that you guys come in, your family takes ownership and can really start putting the fingerprint on it. So what do you remember about from then to where it is today, the ways the business has evolved and what you’ve been able to do?

Jordan Roorda: Yeah, no, that’s a great question. So what was really interesting was, so we had three locations and it was downsized to one, then to two, and then grew back to three. So at that time, between the locations and the leases and the setup, there was some cleanup that needed to be done. And it doesn’t mean that there was failure on the part of previous ownership or anything like that, but there needed to be a turn. And that’s something that Jerry and Doreen did a really great job with, with some slight rebranding. The name had been around since ’46, so it’s like you’ve been pounding that name for so many years to change it. Unless if it’s a bad slang word now today that wouldn’t be before or something like that, it’s not smart to change those things. But doing some light rebranding and turning is always important, always important. And I’ll never forget with retail specifically, unless if you’re, mentioned Costco, unless you’re buying a Costco, things do change. I mean, for example, when’s the last time you’ve been to a mall?

It used to be you would want to be next to the mall, they had free parking. It was huge. It was like, “Hey.” Now shoot, we still have one of our locations by a mall. Again, I’m going to ask you when’s the last time you went to a mall?

Rob Stott: Well, so being in suburban Philly, there are a few around, but the last time I went out of my way to go to one when it wasn’t… Now I will say some of them they’ve done a nice job attracting families that have young kids, because they put a Lego Land, it’s those cornerstone pieces, right? A Lego land or there’s a carousel or rides inside. But to go to a mall to shop, it’s been a while.

Jordan Roorda: Yeah, I mean, outside of those big key stores, a Target, a Dick’s Sporting Goods or something like that.

Rob Stott: Exactly. Yep.

Jordan Roorda: No. No. Not to give them plugs at all, in saying that, looking at the past with the DeWaard & Bode in the last 20 plus years, we’ve moved locations. We’ve had to evolve and change. I mean, even during COVID too. One of our locations was really challenged with current politics and different things that would grow certain things and not necessarily in a positive way for one of the locations. And even that was tricky too. So again, you have to constantly change and have to constantly give the right messaging and adapt and everybody knows that you have to change. The change is not easy, it’s hard. There’s still plenty of changes we still need to make and we’re still trying to make.

But as you’re asking the question specifically, I would say what’s the most unique coolest thing to see, is to see… Numbers and locations are great and don’t get me wrong, we have some awesome growth. Jerry and Doreen have done a fantastic job in growing from where they were to where they’re at. But really showing a balance and showing what we’re good at and trying some things and failing from time to time, but really keeping in the core of what we’re awesome at. So really just a nice balance of business between offering something from high end to low end, from scratch and dent to built-in, from builder sales to entry-level replacement. That’s really where I’ve been probably the most excited to see how healthy the balance is in the company.

Rob Stott: Well, the cool thing in hearing you describe it too, from where it was to what it’s become, not only do you have the opportunity to as a smaller and independent business, but you actively go out and look for ways to evolve and make sure that you’re doing the right thing. Something that those other names you mentioned, it’s a little bit harder to do that, right? So the fact that you take advantage of your position as an independent business to adapt and evolve and look for those things, is there anything you think they’re doing as far as how they go about searching for those new ways to evolve that another business could learn from? I know it’s not going to be the same necessarily for every business out there, but maybe just the approach or something like that that you think they could take away?

Jordan Roorda: I think one of the things I’ve mentioned specifically is, especially on a smaller business scale, it’s really hard for owner operator to be able to have the capacity to have time to be able to network, to be able to reach out, to be able to have your eyes open. This is the silliest cliche, but it’s so true. You don’t know what you don’t know. And it’ll throw out one other cliche, and Tom Hickman has said this before, “We is smarter than me.” And so any way that you can connect. And that’s why I love our buyer group so much, our group so much, is because the connective tissue is so strong and it’s there and it’s available and it’s open.

So even if it’s a single store and you can’t make it to the shows, there’s people to reach out to, there’s ways to connect. And Nationwide is actively trying to make sure and foster those areas for being able to connect, because there’s so many people that are dealing with so many of the same issues. Whether they’re big or small, it can be the same issue. So there could just be more zeros behind one versus the other.

Again, those are a lot of cliches. So true. It’s interesting, because one thing that I think is very key is Jerry being extremely open-minded to being able to look at the trends, to be able to look at things. With his upbringing to try different things and go, “You know what? I think I can do this. Or why not try it? Why be stuck?” I’ll never forget, my grandmother specifically, she always made clothes and she always would take style and design from Europe, obviously she was from Holland and she would try to make these things. These things would be a couple of years ahead of time. And that’s something too that I think that’s kind of ingrained in both my father and in our family and myself, is just kind of looking at trends and looking at things and going, “Yeah, that can work.”

And the thing is, as you grow and as you get bigger, it’s harder to get more people on board with that. So that is a difficult thing. So small owner operator, you don’t have time necessarily to connect and to learn. However, there is a lot of ways. But the beautiful thing is you can pivot so much faster, like you mentioned with those other companies can. That’s something that is amazing. Jack Welsh wrote a book called Winning, and he specifically talks about that in that book and how that was so important for them at the time of the GE to be able to pivot.

I would say that if you’re a smaller dealer, you’re listening to this, if you don’t have a lot of time, but you are listening to this, that means you do actually want to continue to grow. You can change quick. So don’t let those dollars that you may not have or that connectivity that you may not have intimidate you. I’d encourage you, you can change quicker and there’s less minds you have to change because of it. It’s harder when you’ve got more minds involved. But like I said, we are smarter than me. So being able to make sure you do have the right people and get their ideas. And the other thing too is, Jerry’s always asking too, the younger folks too, what their thought is, because he wants to know, “Okay, what are the younger people making and seeing?” We can’t stay just in our own bubble or even get stuck in an area where it’s like, “You need to hear what I have to say.”

Rob Stott: Right. It’s checking that ego at the owner’s entrance to the business, making sure that you value those opinions that are around you. And to your point about not being afraid to pivot, that in and of itself might be just something that I think a lot of people need to hear is, they may have ideas, but they’re a little hesitant to do something, because it may fail. I’ve heard you say the word fail a couple times throughout this talk. And not being afraid to fail, not being afraid to go after something that you think could pan out, because maybe it will. The chances are it will. Chances are it might not, but at the very least you’ll learn from it and you kind of move on from it, which that’s awesome. I know one of the things too that you also mentioned was connective tissue. I think no better example of that than what you guys are doing with connecting within your community.

I know a big part of your customer experience has been around, and we talked about it not in Nashville, but I think back in Dallas there was a panel that you were on and I got to be a part of. Where we talked about the things you guys do and alongside a couple other retailers within your communities and events were a big part of it for you guys. Something that I know you mentioned then that you plan on leaning more into here. So kind of set the stage a little bit, talk about what DeWaard & Bode’s doing around events and why that’s such an important part of your strategy.

Jordan Roorda: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for mentioning that. And I have to give credit to NMG and also Greg and Katie Loft, because they took it even further than what we did. And they had an amazing, amazing event because of it. So we used to be able to do a direct mail piece called a private letter sale, really sometime around our anniversary, obviously before Black Friday. And that would be special for people. We’d have some prizes and stuff like that. But really it was a sale. Now post COVID, but pre COVID, we looked at it and went, “People can buy stuff cheap online or they might be conditioned for holidays. How are we going to not only drive traffic, but how are we going to get folks to hang out with us? How are we going to get those footprints?”

So we said, “You know what? Why don’t we turn this into a hosting event?” We already are a part of the community and Jerry are Doreen do are very, very benevolent in taking care of the community and they don’t love talking about it. They’re the kind that kind of slipped by, slip a check in and take off, which is great. We also need to highlight those charities more and also highlight the community more. And everybody has their thing that they’re passionate about. We had this conversation and I know one business in Florida, they’re behind veterans. It’s like, “You know what? That is your thing then. That is what you need to be behind, because they need support too.” For us, it’s a lot to do with food banks, homeless women and children and that type of thing. And so those usually are the charities that we get behind.

So more specifically, they’re asking about, we started doing this hosting event and we call it the Black Friday early access event. But what we’re really doing is we are raising money for a local charity. We’re doing giveaways, we’re having manufacturers come in with their either funding for chefs or prizes and music and yeah, we have beer and wine. We give a three-hour window for people to come by, have fun, be able to support a charity, be able to win something. And there’s lots of great prizes, so there’s a lot of winners. Yeah, we do give early access to some hot deals and stuff. So we’re not going to waste that time. And we definitely do try to collect some information and get to know people and again, have as many reps or buy-in that we possibly can. This year’s really exciting. I’m so excited for this year. We actually are going to have No Child Hungry come. So we’re not only going to support our local food bank, but actually we’re going to do meal packing for Maui.

Rob Stott: Awesome.

Jordan Roorda: And so it’s going to be such a fun event. Can’t wait to see Mike and those folks. Yeah, so we’re inviting also a couple of different entities come in, some rotary people, some business folks from our builders association. Obviously we’re going to try to get some other folks in there too. So definitely some community key people. But yeah, I’m pumped, because I talked about it earlier, the last podcast I was on, we were just starting out COVID, and there was so much polarization that was going on and how to manage that both in the workforce and your customer base. There’s so much polarization today. Obviously there’s a lot of scary things that are going on internationally and a lot of stuff that is probably going to continue to happen that we don’t have control of. So again, I come back to saying and encouraging, how can you affect your local community? How can you affect your neighbor? How can you affect your coworker?

And for a lot of folks, they tune out and go, “That’s nice, but that sounds like BS.” Well, at the end of the day, it’s how you treat people. And so this event is an opportunity for us to invite folks into our living room, which is our showroom, and to treat them well. I mean, we end up getting 3-400 people easily in that short amount of time and it’s a blast. It’s going to be about support and it’s going to be about fun and at least it’s a few hours that we can go ahead and enjoy together. And while the world keeps spinning and all this other stuff happens, so yeah.

Rob Stott: Well, that’s awesome. I mean, to see how it’s grown too, what’s that mean to you? The kind of effort that you guys put into it and to see how the event itself has kind of taken shape over the years and to what it is today. Not necessarily how much effort, but what’s it mean to you to see what it’s become?

Jordan Roorda: Yeah, no, thank you for asking. It’s just another action arm of really what our core beliefs are. And so to be able to have the space and capacity to do that, it’s really hard sometimes for the ownership or leadership to buy in when they haven’t seen it or when they’ve never been able to be given that opportunity. That’s another thing to talk about too. There’s a lot of folks that don’t do things, because they weren’t given those opportunities. So you don’t know what you don’t know. But if they know that their business is going good and is going a certain way, why change it? Okay, we need to change a few things here or there. Our programs change annually. Okay, reps change, bosses have changed. Obviously there’s ebbs and flows, but again that you can’t control and that change is inevitable. And this I change that you can make and control and it’s fun to see it.

So you do actually have to have people that are motivated to do it. There’s going to be naysayers, that’s okay. We ran an event at one of the locations and you would’ve thought from one of the management that it was the worst thing that we ever did. And the reality is, it was missing the boat on that, because what we were doing is we were hosting people in that community. So again, it does last. Time is the most important currency that we have. And so for you to be able to go in, within reason and help, to go, how do we make it worth people’s time and how do we get their time?

Rob Stott: Yeah. To see it evolve into what it had, I mean, really it’s about finding that thing. You mentioned it, finding that thing that is your thing and making it happen. I mean, I can’t imagine anyone getting upset about driving some foot traffic into your store around what’s otherwise a pretty important time of the calendar year. So to just develop that thing, it’s better in the marketing world, any press is good press. In this case you’re doing something on behalf of the community with the support of others and bringing people together. So it’s thinking outside of that box. And when I say box, I didn’t mean your four walls of your retail store, but that’s honestly what you’re doing too. So to be able to do that within your community and see it have the success it’s had and will continue to have obviously, because you guys are still doing it, is pretty cool. I think something that everyone can learn from. So you just got to find that that.

Jordan Roorda: So Rob, I have a question for you.

Rob Stott: Yeah, go for it.

Jordan Roorda: Sorry to interrupt.

Rob Stott: No.

Jordan Roorda: I have a question for you. So I understand that, baseball fan, but also understand you know a thing or two about wrestling, is that right?

Rob Stott: I might.

Jordan Roorda: Yeah, you might. So when you first started and/or when you see people who first start, what does it look like?

Rob Stott: Well, it’s funny you ask, because I happen to be the novice coach. The coach for our high school wrestlers who have zero experience, and I’ll tell you, to call it a train wreck would be kind of an understatement, but it’s a work in progress. You got to start somewhere.

Jordan Roorda: You took the words out of my mouth and that’s no different with whatever your thing is. You got to start somewhere and practice builds muscle. Practice is a muscle. That’s something that whatever it’s, even if it’s small scale. I’ve got a really good friend and I kept challenging him. He opened a new little business and I said, “Okay, what’s going to be your thing?” I’m like, “It doesn’t have to be my thing, but what’s your thing?” And so finally a year into his business, he told me, he goes, “Hey,” he goes, “We are finally going ahead and we are going to support our food bank.” And I’m like, “That’s awesome.”

And so he told me how he’s going to do it and everything and I’m like, “Dude, that’s fantastic. And that’s your thing.” And they support local musicians too. So between those two things, that’s your thing. So first time you’ve tried it, it didn’t really work. You could look at your peers and you could be intimidated by it and they do the X, Y, or Z, or maybe there’s some ill will, because it’s not the same thing they do, but at the end of the day, it’s not about them. Don’t let them stop you from being you.

Rob Stott: I love it.

Jordan Roorda: Yeah.

Rob Stott: That’s awesome to hear. Well, I think a great take home message too, right? Got to start somewhere and don’t stop being you. Two excellent points. If you take anything out of this, that’s it right there. So Jordan, I appreciate it, man. It’s like I said at the top, three and a half plus years coming, so I appreciate you finally hopping on and finding the time for us. Great to have you on and hopefully not another three years before we have you on again. So this was a good time.

Jordan Roorda: Well, if you keep sending me wine like you did, then I have to say yes.

Rob Stott: Eventually it’s going to happen one way or the other. No, we appreciate it, man. This was a lot of fun and look forward to catching up. We’ll be in Vegas before we know it here.

Jordan Roorda: Yeah, we’ll be in Vegas a few times, so yes, we’ll be there.

Rob Stott: Amen. Might as well take up residence there for a little while.

Jordan Roorda: I know, I know, exactly.

Rob Stott: Awesome. Well, appreciate it and we’ll talk soon.

Jordan Roorda: Sounds good, Rob. Thank you so much. Take care.

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