BlackNLA’s Q&A with Entrepreneur

Today, we are talking to Bruce E. Mattare owner of Tronix Country, a company that provides financing for a wide selection of electronics. After seeing his commercials on television, we wanted to get a better understanding of how his business got started. He’s shared with us information about his career, his business, and even some tips for successfully starting your own business! His work includes consumer marketing, marketing lifestyle and demographic data, investing, and personal finance. His bio can be found at the end of the article. Here’s what he has to say about his business Tronix Country.

Let’s start with the basics. How did you get started?

The basics, I started the company (Tronix Country) at my kitchen table with a shoestring budget. It was a huge challenge as everything had to be built from scratch. The software, phone systems, staffing policies and procedures all had to be created, by me.  It was very overwhelming wearing multiple hats, but as with any startup business, if you want to succeed, it must be done! For the first year, I personally took the orders, and managed all other business aspects until I could afford to hire more people. I was confident from conversations with customers that we were on the right track and that we fulfilled a real need, which is what gave me the energy to push forward, regardless of the obstacles.

Were you always on the path to Entrepreneurship?

No, it wasn’t by design. In college, I quickly realized my passion for business and marketing. My commitment to achieving success and learning as much as I could is what paved the way to Entrepreneurship.  Initially, I started as a marketing assistant for a company that marketed lifestyle and demographic data. Within two years I had been promoted twice and was in charge of multi-million piece mailings for one of the largest financial publications of its time. Every step of my career was simply the result of dedication and commitment to exceeding the expectations of what was required.

I think if there’s anything I can attribute toward my accomplishments, it’s that I focused on providing value to my employer. I took every opportunity to learn different facets of my job and the business. I wanted to be an integral part of my company’s success.  Even now, as an Entrepreneur I still draw upon those old experiences, never taking any of them for granted. The work ethic and dedication that I put in are clear variables in my success.

Why was contributing toward your employer’s success so important?

I’ve always felt that if I did what was right for the business, by doing a little “extra,” then the business would take care of me. I focused more on the work than the actual pay. My perspective has never been that of “What can the business do for me? Or how can I get a raise.”  I say that, because the more valuable I made myself to the business, the more valuable I made myself to every other business in the event things didn’t work out. Fortunately, I worked for some very successful people who took note, and had no problem appreciating and rewarding my commitment to their business.

Because Entrepreneurship wasn’t your goal, how did you end up a business owner?

I spent a lot of time working for other successful entrepreneurs.  I made it my business to learn as much as I could from those businesses and decided that the next step would be to start a business of my own.

How did you end up with Tronix Country?

I worked at a company called BlueHippo. I spent a lot of time interacting directly with the customers. During these interactions, I picked up on how difficult it was for a lot of hard-working people to make a simple purchase- like a computer. I also discovered that a lot of people with past credit problems are terribly underserved by businesses through exorbitant fees, excessive interest rates, onerous and predatory contract terms, or simply not meeting the businesses expectations. That is why I started Tronix Country. I wanted to develop a model that created a way for people to make large purchases, while simultaneously managing the risk of financing default. I was determined that Tronix Country would distinguish itself by providing value-added services such as reporting our customers’ payments, providing astounding customer service, and creating an environment that rewarded its employees.

You mentioned BlueHippo, there was some controversy surrounding them.  Were you a co-founder of BlueHippo?

No, I was not the co-founder in the sense that it was me and one other person. I was a part of the original group of about 10 people who started the company, but I was not an owner. There was only one owner and he was the company. Working for BlueHippo was my greatest disappointment. The business could’ve done a lot of people tremendous good. However, the way the owner applied the model raised serious ethical issues for me.  I tried very hard at making it a company that could serve its customers honestly and ethically, but I couldn’t manifest the required changes with the owner in order to achieve that.  And although I was given an opportunity to own a substantial part of that business I chose to resign in May 2004, about 12 months after it was created.

Some people say your business model is controversial. What do you say?

The business model Tronix Country uses is considered controversial by people who unfairly associate it with companies like BlueHippo, cash advance loans with exorbitant rates and other predatory lending companies. Today, you can buy a computer at almost any major retailer or website. But what if you don’t have the cash or the credit to make a purchase outright? What do you do? I would say that it is controversial to limit or restrict options for consumers. The best environment for all consumers is to have choices.

Saving money is the best option if you want to get the most bang for your dollar, but it’s often the hardest to do for a lot of people. Life happens and unexpected bills make it virtually impossible for a large portion of our country to save money, much less, enough for a computer. Rent to own is an option but typically you don’t own the merchandise until the very end and there’s no guarantee that it’ll be new when you get it. With Tronix Country, we are a little more expensive opposed to purchasing outright, but less expensive than any rent to own program.

So what you are saying is that for some customers your company may be the best if not only option to purchase a new computer?

In simplest terms, for consumers who either don’t have the cash or the credit to make a larger purchase, Tronix Country is the most viable option. The real benefit is that we provide a way to make larger purchases through a series of smaller payments. This does two things: the first is it gives people the ability to establish credit and to use that credit for additional purchases. The second is that it gives people the chance to demonstrate to other financial institutions that they can be responsible with credit and are a low risk to obtain other financing. We report payments to consumer reporting agencies and major credit bureaus. This is the more valuable benefit, considering that an individual’s credit profile can have a huge impact on their ability to obtain financing, insurance and even qualify for a job.

Customer service is key component in any business. How do you manage your customer’s expectations?

I know that meeting customer expectations in business is paramount to success.  Not exceeding expectations is certainly grounds for disappointment for me because I’d feel like we failed. In my opinion, one upset customer is one too many and is unacceptable. With more than 200,000 customers, we pride ourselves on working hard to achieve 100% satisfaction. I tell my staff if we make one customer happy, he or she might tell two people about us. However, if we make one customer upset you can bet at least 20 people will hear about it. I recognize the value in happy customers. Every day we continuously look for ways to improve our business and serve our customers better, whether it be with training staff or enhancing our overall service levels it is a constant pursuit.

What has been your biggest challenge?

My association with BlueHippo has been one of the biggest challenges. The company was started in 2003, I resigned in 2004, and it didn’t officially close until 2009. It wasn’t a good company and it did not base its operating philosophy on delivering value and service to their customers. Inevitably that was the reason I left, but people continue to associate me with its entire six years of existence nonetheless.

I will say, because of my experience with BlueHippo, I realized there was a tremendous need for a company like Tronix Country.

What would you tell BlackNLA readers when it comes to their professional success?

First off, don’t ever let anyone tell you that you cannot achieve your goals and dreams. Disassociate yourself from those people. Misery loves company and not everyone around you wants you to succeed, despite their statements to the contrary. Second, never stop learning. A lot of people think that when you finish school you finish learning, but really it’s when you begin the journey of learning. I say that because school has a curriculum, life doesn’t. In school they tell you what you’re going to learn, but in life you need to figure out what you need to learn in order to be successful. I recommend you begin with learning everything you can about your profession. Then, be ready and open to learn about other professions as well. I’ve had to learn about law and software development, despite having no formal training in them. You can’t simply rely on others for advice. Its okay to trust, but you must verify information and know for yourself, before you make decisions because ultimately you have to live with the consequences of your decisions. Read books about money, business and marketing. Read as much as you can. And third, be honest with yourself and others. It may seem obvious, but I’ve been around a lot of people who are not completely honest with themselves and ultimately everyone gets let down. Honesty is the core value and belief that I believe has led to many of the accomplishments and successes I’ve experienced. Being honest and living up to your word is the one thing that no one can take away from you.

What other tips would you have for someone who wants to start a business?

Understand what money is and learn how to use it properly. Understand where and when to spend money in your business and when not to. Manage your credit wisely. People don’t realize that if you want to open a merchant account and your credit is blemished, it can hinder you from opening an account, taking payments and ultimately making money.  I have a free guide for your readers who are interested in learning more about this. Also, if you get into business only to make a lot of money you will have a much harder time achieving success. Pursue your passion. Passion is what gives you the energy and drive to push through adversity and difficult times. The pursuit of money did not give me the energy necessary to create a successful business. Money follows the success associated with having the passion to build the very best business you can. Secondly, understand marketing and how to generate customers. Without customers and sales it’s impossible to grow your business. And third, after you get started, I would focus on honing your skills in being able to recognize ability. The greatest ability one can have is the ability to recognize ability within other people. The people around you and apart of your organization are the ones who will help determine whether your company will be successful. Focus on finding talented people who can contribute toward the success of your business.


Bruce E Mattare Biography

A native of Washington DC area, Bruce attended the University of Maryland and later earned a MBA from Marymount University with an emphasis in Finance. His professional career began at Blackburn Marketing Group, parent company to Carfax, where he was responsible for marketing demographic, lifestyle and retail data for two of its subsidiaries. He seized the opportunity to work with pioneer financial guru, Louis Rukeyser, the famed host of the long-running PBS television series “Wall Street Week with Louis Rukeyser” and the Editor in Chief of both Louis Rukeyser’s Wall Street and Louis Rukeyser’s Mutual Funds newsletters. He also served as the marketing manager for Louis Rukeyser’s Mutual Funds newsletter. Later, Bruce accepted an invitation to work with financial manager Stephen Leeb, a frequent guest on CNN, to serve as the product manager for the Personal Finance with Stephen Leeb newsletter, (and doubling circulation in his first year alone). Later, he managed the launch and became the Managing Editor of Inside Personal Finance with Ric Edelman, the popular New York Times best-selling author and syndicated TV and radio host. Looking to apply the experience gained from his business mentors, Bruce helped develop new entrepreneurial models for several successful products and businesses. To ensure that these models were properly implemented, and fully compliant, in 2006, Bruce established Tronix Country, a company that offers equal access to individual consumer credit for electronics. To continue to serve its customers needs, Tronix Country is incrementally increasing its retail offerings, comprehensively and competitively. He currently resides with his family in Northern Virginia

 

About BlackNLA

Launched in March 2000, BlackNLA.com serves as a community resource center for African-Americans living, working and traveling to the Los Angeles area.  Visitors to the site can get information that pertains to their interests and lifestyles, as well as share information and network.  BlackNLA.com provides an online directory of information on businesses, restaurants, local organizations, healthcare professionals, music, travel opportunities, upcoming events and much more.

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