Tulsa retailer tries new ideas, gives employees room to grow amidst pandemic
When the pandemic hit and cities began to shut down, the executive staff at Galaxy Home Recreation in Tulsa, Oklahoma, locked themselves in a conference room every day trying to come up with new ideas to make sure the company survived.
“When your back’s up against the wall, that’s when you really find out what you’re made of,” says Ronak Shah, president and CEO. “For our company, it was the ability to be agile and morph. We weren’t going to sit around and wait and see. We were going to be bullish and aggressive and do things right now. Days and weeks were like a lifetime in March and April.”
One of the first things on the agenda was to take another look at Galaxy staff and what they could bring to the table. “We started identifying people within the company not by title or role, but, given this new environment, by finding the type of people who are going to succeed,” Shah says. “Who knows digital sales? Who can do marketing? Who can hustle and contribute ideas?”
For example, Eric Jenkins, a chemical and accessories sales representative, suddenly became the Galaxy website editor. When the company was working toward quick development of an online store, Jenkins began taking product images, writing content and suggesting marketing ideas.
Opening up new opportunities for employees fosters growth, Shah says. “It was about everyone stepping up and being able to see the true capabilities of our employees and how so many of them have a larger skillset than we realized,” he says. “The pandemic really showcased that.”
Making sure employees are happy is essential too, Shah says, especially during desperate times. “How do we provide them with training and work/life balance? How do we make it where they can work from home and still be contributing?” he says. “We’re seeing the fruits of [prioritizing them] — we have more productive and dedicated employees. By putting the emphasis on them, we’re going to grow as a company.”
Amid structuring the company for survival, Galaxy also invested in the community. The company conducted a social media food drive in March and April for the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma. Galaxy also hosted blood drives at the company’s Broken Arrow and Tulsa distribution center locations in June.
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“One of Galaxy’s defined core values is to make a meaningful impact within our Galaxy family and our community,” says Zena Shah, Ronak Shah’s wife and CFO for the company. “We want our team to feel proud of where they work. We are supported by the local community, so we want to support the community right back.”
Another step toward survival of the business during a pandemic: Proceed with growth as planned. The process for a fourth location started when the company broke ground two years ago. When the pandemic hit in March, Ronak Shah started calling realtors to potentially put the building that was nearly finished on the market. But by mid-April, things changed yet again.
“We felt that surge happening,” Shah says. “People are going to be home. They’re going to invest in their home.” Galaxy didn’t let the pandemic stop progress and opened its Edmond store in September of this year. “Everything we’ve done, we’ve done long term,” he adds. “So we know that this new store in this area is going to be a hit.”
While expansion was the motivator, managing growth at the capacity the industry is seeing has been both a pro and a con, Shah says. “It’s been very chaotic,” he adds. “We used to get 100 phone calls a day, and we were getting 1,000 at one point. And there is so much uncertainty. Right now the decisions we’re making are so far out. We’re accustomed to buying a hot tub and getting it two weeks later, and now we’re trying to decide for the entire year of 2021. If we don’t make the right decisions now, we could be irreparably harmed.”
Shah says trying new things has paid major dividends. The ideas brainstormed in a conference room in the early days of COVID are now standard business practices, “and we’ve continued to keep that mantra of throwing out new ideas and evolving.”