In this episode of the Servant Leader’s Library, we are joined by the visionary leader, Dan Fisher, of Majik Rent to Own.

From humble beginnings as a mom-and-pop video rental store in 1984, Dan and his father have grown their business into a thriving enterprise with 13 retail stores in central Pennsylvania.

Their journey is a testament to the power of perseverance, innovation, and servant leadership. Dan’s insights into the evolution of his business, the challenges faced, and the core values that have driven their success offer valuable lessons for aspiring leaders and seasoned entrepreneurs alike.

Watch the episode above or listen over at Spotify. Make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss the next great servant leader’s story!

Want to Be the Next Guest?

Episode Transcript

Nicholas Paulukow
All right, welcome, welcome podcast aficionados, to another riveting episode of the Servant Leader’s Library where we dive into the minds of visionary leaders shaping industries with their wisdom. I’m your host, Nicholas Paulukow, the brains behind ONE 2 ONE Incorporated, your go-to IT solution provider.

And today, folks, we have a treat, hotter than a fresh job on a Monday morning. Joining us is none other than the maestro of entrepreneurial wizardry himself, Dan, the president of Majik Rent to Own. Picture this: a tale as old as time starts as a humble mom-and-pop video store back in 1984 where the journey of Majik Rent to Own commenced from VHS tapes to a powerhouse in central PA.

They’ve morphed, evolved, and conquered each phase of growth, a testament to their thirst for knowledge. So grab your headphones, lean in close, and get ready to soak in the insights of a true industry luminary. Buckle up, folks, because today we’re unlocking the secrets of success with Dan from Majik Rent to Own.

Dan’s the president of Majik Rent to Own, a company he and his father founded and grew from a mom-and-pop video store in 1984. After many years of figuring out, Majik experienced several different periods of growth through this journey. Following a new period of learning and now operating 13 retail stores in central PA, it is recognized as one of the thought leaders in Rent to Own.

So Dan, welcome to the podcast. We really appreciate you joining us today.

Dan Fisher
Thanks, Nicholas. That’s quite an introduction. I don’t know if I can live up to that, but I appreciate it.

Nicholas Paulukow
Wow, you gotta love that. I’m so excited to hear more about this journey. I don’t even know if some of the young listeners are even gonna know what a VHS tape is, but hey, I think we’ll get into that. How about it?

Dan Fisher
Yeah, it’s funny when we have our new hire orientations, it’s mostly younger folks. And when I talk about those beginnings, you sometimes get a lot of blank stares when you talk about renting VCRs or renting VHS tapes. That’s a fact.

Nicholas Paulukow
That was the coolest thing, though, as a kid. I remember riding my bike over in Lancaster to Manor Video because I thought it was so cool to get a video, right? You had to wait till they returned them.

Dan Fisher
Yeah, it was definitely a different experience than on-demand. You had to wait in line, wait for someone to bring it back. You might have been waiting there at return time, hoping someone would bring the one you wanted. Yeah, different experience.

Nicholas Paulukow
Yeah, we had a little different level of patience, I guess, than on-demand today, right?

Dan Fisher
That’s a true story, yeah.

Nicholas Paulukow
Well, your journey is amazing. I mean, that is amazing what you’ve done. Could you kind of give a little bit more of a story about your personal start? Like, how did you get started? You know, where did you get started? And how did you end up where you’re at today?

Dan Fisher
Sure, I’ll try and keep it short. I love the story, so I tell it a lot. But when I was in high school, my dad had bought one of the very first video rental stores in Lancaster.

They had 400 movie selections, and it was literally in the corner of a hotel room in Mannheim Township. And that’s the way we got it; it was like a banquet room there where people would come in and rent movies. At that time, to even watch the movies, most people didn’t own a VCR, the player to play the movie.

So they would rent those over the weekend, take it home. It was kind of a clunky hookup process. And my dad had the idea, why don’t we just let them pay us $10 a week, and after a certain amount of time, they’ll own the VCR, and that way, they don’t have to bring it back and forth and all that good stuff.

So that’s kind of how the rent-to-own got started in our business. And then over the years, as I went through college and graduated, I started to see that we had in each of our stores, which we grew to five stores, we had maybe 20 or 30 different VCRs out on rent. And that was a steady income while the movie rental business was really up and down, and competitors were coming on the market.

They were all over the place if you remember back in the ’80s and ’90s. And so that was kind of a steady income, and we were struggling. There were so many competitors there, we struggled with the video business, but I saw the opportunity to rent other things.

So I started buying—I actually went out and got a credit card. I wouldn’t recommend this, but at the time, banks were not lending to people in our business. So I got a credit card and went out and bought some small stereo units and small color TVs and things like that and just started renting those on rent-to-own as well.

And then over time, I got more and more credit cards, and I got my brother involved, and his father-in-law, and they loaned us money to just keep going with this rental business. And over time, the rent-to-own business kind of dwarfed the video business to where it was really the main business. But it’s kind of a funny story.

My wife, who I didn’t even know at the time, was one of our customers in one of our stores. And after I met her, and we got to talking and realized she was a customer, she said, yeah, I thought it was so funny. I was going to rent a movie, and the outside of the store was lined with movies, and the inside of the store was washers and dryers and living room sets and things like that.

So it was a real mom-and-pop, old-school setup, but it did the trick.

Nicholas Paulukow
I love it. That’s great. You would fit really well in our business, right? Because we’re in the IT business. And so you have all the history of what IT is now starting to move into hardware as a service, which is a fancy name for what you’ve been doing for the last many years, right? You know, rent-to-own. That is amazing. So where was the first store? Was it in Manheim Township, you said?

Dan Fisher
Yeah, the first store was on Oregon Pike. It used to be called the Landis Valley Inn. And then soon after my dad bought it, we moved it over to what is still the Old Hickory, the little shops at Old Hickory.

The hotel doesn’t exist anymore. They replaced it with that strip center that’s there. But the Old Hickory Shopping Center was where that store moved to. So that was our very first location, yeah.

Nicholas Paulukow
Yeah, that’s amazing. So, I mean, that’s a huge risk, right? Because you were buying the product and then you were renting it out.

So does that mean that you carried that expense and hoped that they would pay you to term? Is that how that worked back then?

Dan Fisher
Yeah, it’s really a trust business and a relationship business. So yeah, we would put out, at the time, a VCR was five, $600. And we would collect $10 a week until they had paid us significantly more than our cost.

But still, it took a long time to recoup that cost. So yeah, it was a lot of trust and a lot of relationships with our customers.

Nicholas Paulukow
Yeah, hopefully, you didn’t have to use Vinny if somebody didn’t pay your bill.

Dan Fisher
No, that’s one of the misconceptions of our business is if you don’t pay, we come with a baseball bat. Nothing could be further from the truth, for sure.

Nicholas Paulukow
I love that. That’s amazing, that’s amazing. Well, thank you for—well, actually, you had said you kind of went to school.

What did you go to school for and then get into the business?

Dan Fisher
Yeah, so I was a student at Franklin and Marshall. I went for business administration. College, for me, was a growing-up experience.

I was a little immature coming out of high school, and I think I needed that rebellious year or two. So my first year at F&M was definitely not my most productive year of my life. But then I was working in the business when I wasn’t going to school.

And I think through college and through the business together, I really grew up a lot. And I learned—the one clear memory I have of a marketing class I had at F&M, the professor just preached never compete on price. Have a better product and market your differentiation and explain why you’re better.

And then that’s something that’s always stuck with me. So we’ve always been competitively priced, but we’re not trying to win customers by being the cheapest. We’re trying to win customers by being the best.

Nicholas Paulukow
Yeah, that’s amazing, that’s amazing. And from growing up in your household, was your dad always an entrepreneur? Was that ingrained in your head from day one, or how did that work?

Dan Fisher
I would say more workaholic is what my dad was. So he worked for a company called ITT Grinnell most of my life. And so he did that—that was his day job.

And then his night job was taking care of all the books for the video business and helping to order movies and all that. And my mom kind of became the face of the business day to day. She was there during the days, and then my brother, sister, and I would work the business in the evenings.

My dad was kind of more behind the scenes, doing the bookkeeping and helping with all the back-of-the-house stuff, I guess you would say. But yeah, his work ethic was really what rubbed off on me more than anything, for sure.

Nicholas Paulukow
Oh, that’s amazing. We hear these stories a lot from many entrepreneurs and business owners and leaders that have these really intriguing family growing-up instances, right? And it’s amazing to hear. Some are like, “Listen, my father taught me X because he was out of the military,” or “We just learned because we were hustling.”

And I think it comes around to what you’re saying, right? That work ethic, like the ability of your dad taking care of your family and, at the same time, working to create something bigger. So that’s amazing, that’s amazing.

Well, as we kind of move forward, our podcast is about talking about leadership and starting the journey and helping those who maybe aren’t fully in that leadership journey yet. So I’m sure you came out of F&M and you just had it all figured out, right? Like how to manage people and everything. But I say that in jest, right?

As a current entrepreneur myself, it doesn’t happen that way. But maybe it does, and you’re gonna tell us differently. But tell us kind of like your journey through leadership, especially since it seemed like you learned that at a young age.

Dan Fisher
Well, yeah, so there are parts of it I learned at a young age, and I would say probably the bad parts of leadership. I think a work ethic is super important, but a lot of times, and especially in my case, work ethic ended up, as far as a leadership journey, being a little bit of a challenge because I always felt like I had to do it all myself and I could do it all myself. And so early on in my career, it was all about Dan, Dan, Dan. And then what I learned really quite recently is leadership means investing in others and helping them grow so that you can grow as a company.

And I would say we went through several phases of that. In the first part of our company history, we kind of did it all ourselves. And a lot of it I’m proud of, the fact that I invented a lot of the programs and so on that we used. But then we discovered some industry associations, and I went there and learned from some people who had been doing it even longer than we had, and they had grouped together. And so I learned new pricing models.0

I learned all sorts of different things that helped us go from a business that struggled to a business that really became profitable. And then a lot of those folks are the ones that—well, I learned from them that, hey, here these are thought leaders in our industry sharing what they’ve learned and what they know with others. And I was like, wow, that’s kind of cool.

Why would he? Because many times their competitors were in the room, but here they are sharing their knowledge. And it’s a true, to me, a true leadership dynamic when you’re willing to just share what you know, and whoever uses it uses it, and it really helps everyone.

Nicholas Paulukow
Yeah, that’s great. I love that. We call that in my industry the go-giver mentality.

So as we mature in our leadership, we then find that the biggest asset is giving back or go-giving. Yeah, so that’s great, that’s amazing.

As you’ve kind of walked through your leadership journey, we use this term of like servant leadership, right? What does servant leadership mean to you? Like how do you define that?

Dan Fisher
The way I define servant leadership is the idea that I’m giving selflessly to the people, whether it’s in my company or outside of my company, and I’m teaching them what I know about leadership and really in hopes that they get better at leadership. And I think that what goes around comes around, so to speak. So if I’m investing in my leaders or even other leaders in the industry, then they’re investing in their teams, and slowly but surely that just makes for a very strong company if you’re talking about your internal company.

And I’ve kind of done that in our industry too, where I saw these thought leaders, and I said, you know what, I want to be a part of that. And fortunately, I had a couple of people take me under their wing and mentor me. And then slowly but surely, I’ve kind of stepped up, and I’ve done the same.

And it’s just, I’m sure anyone who’s been in this position, we all tend to have imposter syndrome, but it’s really strange to me when someone comes up to me and says, wow, you’ve done so much for me over the years. And I’m thinking, I’m the one that needs to thank the people who have done so much for me over the years. But just as far as servant leadership, I just really believe in investing in those people in our company, teaching them how to lead, teaching them what I’ve learned.

And certainly, so much of that is through podcasts and books and things like that.

Nicholas Paulukow
That’s great, that’s great. Do you have any kind of like moments or decisions that kind of shaped your leadership skills and ability? You kind of mentioned that a little while ago, right?

Like you said that you went from kind of like a family-owned business more towards kind of like a growth-oriented company. And I’m sure that really stretches your leadership lessons, I guess. I call them lessons because every day I’m learning a new one.

But do you have any areas that you could share with the listeners in regards to that? Like how that evolved?

Dan Fisher
We’ve had several phases, I would say, that the company went through. And the first phase was really, we got to four stores, or three stores I should say. Those stores were running on all cylinders.

I was very hands-on in all three of the stores. We had solid managers in all three stores. And then we opened our fourth store.

And I think at the time, with my limited leadership experience and knowledge, that was one too many because cracks started to form and things started to really fall through the cracks. And our family dynamic, our family culture, kind of started to fade away a little bit. And then we went through this phase where I kind of said to myself, well, I think we’re a little too big for me, but we’re not big enough to hire someone on to really oversee these stores.

So we need to grow. And so we made a conscious decision to open several stores. And over a two-year period, we opened four stores.

And then we fell into an opportunity to buy five more stores literally right after that. So we went from four stores to 13 stores in about a two-year period. And that, for me at least, I know people in the industry that open like five stores a year.

I can’t imagine. But for me, going from four stores with my limited leadership ability to 13 stores, it was incredibly overwhelming. And I think I overwhelmed our teams, and I drove away some of the people. In addition, I kind of upped my expectations because I started to see some complacency in place.

So during that same timeframe where we opened all those stores, we also lost four, five, six of our key tenured people. So we ended up with a very, very limited staff. You know, I was really struggling to hire and develop and so forth.

And luckily, I got one or two key people on board that kind of were my support team, I guess emotionally and of course, work-related wise. And together, we, you know, this is, I credit this, you know, after we muddled through those 13 stores for a couple of years, I got some really key leadership team members on the team. And we, you know, I credit Patrick Lencioni for a tremendous amount of our recent success over the last seven or eight years.

I read “The Advantage” literally…

Nicholas Paulukow
Yeah, that’s a good one.

Dan Fisher
…I had it on audiobook, and I listened to it in my car probably seven times in a row as I was driving from store to store and pulling all my hair out.

You can see I was successful there. And I listened to it again and again and again. And I, you know, then I had the print copy, and I needed to have that in my organization.

And I realized that what we had now was not anywhere near the family business that we started out as. And so I formed our leadership team. I had our very first ever offsite meeting.

And we just went through essentially, we went through the formula that “The Advantage” puts in place. And we established quarterly strategic planning meetings. We established key metrics, core values.

And then we started running our company really on that dynamic. So in today’s world, everything we do is based on our core values and based on our mission and based on our quarterly offsite strategic goals. And it really turned us back into that family business. Even though it’s a hundred people at this point, it’s a hundred-person family.

Nicholas Paulukow
Wow, that’s amazing. And for those that don’t know who Patrick Lencioni is, he’s the one that wrote “The Advantage” and “Five Dysfunctions of a Team.” So that’s great, Dan.

Patrick’s piece is always about like, until you build trust, you really can’t build anything else on top of it. So it sounds like you kind of went through a lot of growth and learning through that period of time. Help me out—you kind of said that you had lost some people during that time, and that’s gotta be hard, right?

But it sounds like it was somewhat—was it somewhat needed to get to the next level, or can you speak to our listeners about that? Because a lot of times, listeners that are new, what we call like level one leaders, they get really upset about like what we call the leading part, right?

Like the leading and managing people management sometimes, right? And so can you kind of guide us through that a little bit more?

Dan Fisher
Yeah, and I can tell you, even after doing this for so many years, it’s still one of the hardest things to do is to have to let someone go or to lose a long-time person, even if they end up quitting of their own volition. But it’s also sometimes what you really need. So in our case, we had people that were—I mentioned earlier were complacent. “This is the way we’ve always done it.

I don’t want to change. This culture thing you’re talking about is for other people. I know what I’m doing.

I could write the book on rent-to-own in our business.” And it’s just one of those things where if you have people that are not willing to change and grow, you’re really better off without them in many cases. And I think it’s true also that they’re also better off without you.

So if you have someone that’s just complacent and bored and they’re not looking to grow anymore, in many, many, many cases, five years after you part ways, if you bump into that person on the street, they thank you for that. And they say, you know what? I’m glad you challenged me because now I’m doing something that I forced myself to grow into this new role, and I’m doing much better.

And that’s happened countless times where we’ve had to let someone go who was maybe really good at the job but didn’t fit our culture. And nine times out of ten, the relationship you have with them outside of that working environment improves because they’re happier now. And of course, you’re happier.

And so many times you lose, like in our case, we might lose a store manager that’s become complacent. And almost immediately, when that person goes out the door, you hear from their staff how they hadn’t been doing X, Y, and Z. They hadn’t been training us, and they hadn’t been teaching us.

And since it’s really in our culture to train people and to teach people leadership and to have them grow, it feels good, honestly, after you let someone go, and then you see that growth happening again.

Nicholas Paulukow
Yeah, that is amazing. Another piece to that—you talked about what we call letting go of the vine, right?

So you said, or correct me if I’m wrong, but you’re like, man, when I hit four stores, I just couldn’t do it all on my own. And at some point, we grew, and it seemed to be a checkpoint that you’re kind of measuring that it was like I had to kind of let go. How did you do that?

Like that’s gotta be hard, right? It’s your baby; you’ve developed it, you created it. And now it’s kind of like growing up, and you have to let it to someone else.

How did you overcome that?

Dan Fisher
Yeah, one of the big lessons I learned during that timeframe was that everyone is not going to do everything exactly the way I am. And if I take my eye off the ball for a month or two months, there are gonna be things that slip. But the key is, if you have the right person in that right seat, and if they have key metrics that they’re working towards, sure, they may dip down and take a backwards step, but then they’ll probably exceed where, certainly where I could have done with five stores or six stores and me being very hands-on. So you have to be willing to let things fall off a little bit while people learn their mistakes. And we use this phrase all the time—you’re either winning, or you’re learning, right?

So I forget I heard it recently on a podcast, and we started using that internally a lot. And so it’s not winning and losing; it’s winning and learning. And certainly, if I’m very hands-on and I take my hands off, there’s gonna be some learning that goes on. But in the long run, you end up winning because you’re letting people learn their own way forward instead of you telling them every last little step and process to take.

Nicholas Paulukow
So that’s good. So like for those that are kind of listening that feel like they’re trying to—they constantly need to coach that employee or person, you’re saying if they’re the right person, let them go. You’re gonna see kind of a drop maybe in metrics, but if they are the right person, they will self-correct and kind of be stronger after that.

Is that what you’re saying?

Dan Fisher
Yeah. I mean, I think you definitely have to have guardrails on, and you have to have those goals in place. And if they’re not hitting the goals, talk through, hey, what’s the problem here?

What can I help you with? Can I answer any questions for you? Is there something that maybe we’re not seeing? But rather than me telling them what to do, asking them how I can help them self-correct.

Nicholas Paulukow
So where do you feel if you were still in the mentality of telling them what to do, where do you think you would be in your business today?

Dan Fisher
I would probably be in an asylum somewhere but certainly not more than—I don’t think I could have done more than four stores. I think I probably would have dropped back down to three stores actually because we had three very high-performing stores that I loved, and we did great with. But at that point, it’s probably 20 people, plus or minus.

I don’t think I can directly hands-on manage more than 20 people. I think 20 is probably even a stretch, and that’s probably where I was at that point.

Nicholas Paulukow
Wow, that’s amazing. So talk about that time that you built this leadership team, right? I mean, that takes a lot of leadership just to build that as well.

Can you share with the listeners how you went through that process? What were your expectations? Everybody thinks, hey, I’m gonna add a leader, and tomorrow everything’s gonna be fixed, right?

Or I hear that sometimes, right? Like it takes time.

Dan Fisher
Yeah, it takes a lot of time, and it takes a lot of hands-on work. And again, for someone like me who is uncomfortable with redirecting, the team dynamic really helped because what I did is I had these people who were already in my company, but I identified these as the people that I know had growth potential. So they came from kind of random areas.

I think there were—and it’s been about eight years, so my memory’s a little stretched—but I think we had a store manager who was a top-performing store manager. We had our accounting guy. We had our marketing leader.

We had our, who is now our CEO, but at the time, he was a district manager in training. He was a new hire that came to us from the grocery business. And so we had, I think, six folks on the team, and I brought them in because I knew they would be high performers.

I knew they weren’t people that were gonna say this can’t work; we can’t try this. And it was a situation, just again, just like Lencioni talks about, we had to build trust. And while the first meeting I felt was a great meeting, and everyone talked about how great the meeting was, that trust took a long time to build.

So every quarterly offsite, we worked on building trust for—I mean, we still do at every meeting, but it probably took us a year before people were just really willing to raise their voice a little bit and disagree. And we love that term “disagree and commit,” where we all put in our most vocal criticism or suggestions or thoughts, and then the best idea wins instead of me saying an idea and everyone’s like, “Oh Dan, that’s a good idea. Great job.”

Because there you’re not getting their input, and you want them to criticize the ideas. So it’s taken us—again, we still work on it at every offsite meeting, but we get better and better and better at it all the time.

Nicholas Paulukow
Wow, that’s amazing. So somebody that comes into your organization, it sounds like a store manager obviously leads people, right? What are their expectations when you bring someone new in?

Talk to the audience about what your expectation is as a leader for them in the first 90 days. What do you expect from them?

Dan Fisher
Yeah, so we bring even someone who has experience in management, we bring them into our training program, and our training program is very much focused on making sure that they embody our core values, first of all. And as long as they fit our core values and they have the mindset of a servant leader, where their goal isn’t to be the hero, isn’t to get all the praise, but rather to teach their team members how to do their specific jobs, but then also teach them how to own the results and care about the results. And we know then they can work through those team members and build them up. So someone who takes pride in their team members and the success of their team members instead of always looking for the praise themselves, that’s someone who I feel like is gonna be a leader for us.

And we guide them through that. So we have a whole series of books that we take them through almost like a, I guess like a book club type dynamic. And then we have a training process, but most of our training process is designed, of course, to teach them our business. But the management part of it is more just to make sure they’re a person who wants to invest in others and build others up for success rather than just doing it all themselves.

The thing we found in our stores is a store manager can carry a store on their shoulders, so to speak, to a certain level. But once you get to that certain level, you just can’t be that micromanager. And if you want to get to double that level, which is where many of our stores operate, you have to have that leadership team dynamic, where we have the leader of the store, but then he or she works through assistant managers, and then they work through their team members.

And that’s how we’ve achieved success at our largest volume stores is just that leadership team dynamic in each store.

Nicholas Paulukow
Wow, that’s amazing. So it sounds like a lot of intentional training and coaching, you know?

Dan Fisher
Yes, yes, all the time.

Nicholas Paulukow
That’s amazing, that’s amazing. You know, it takes time, and I’m sure you’re constantly updating that process as you learn more things. So do you find from how you’ve built your leadership team, how leading them, you had said you’d gotten up to four, I think you’re now at like 13.

So do you feel that there’s a certain point that your team will be able to expand to before maybe they meet capacity?

Dan Fisher
Well, I think the cool thing as to where we are now is it’s scalable as it is. So we have this, you know, within our stores, for example, our store managers have one-on-one conversations separate from the day-to-day conversations, but one-on-one conversations with each coworker every week, just asking them, what can I do to help you grow in your role? And then would you be willing to do this to help our store grow in their role?

They also have like mini leadership team meetings in their stores. So they kind of mirror what we do as a leadership team. And then we have a layer of district managers, where a DM oversees six or seven stores.

We have two right now. And so they have that same format, where they meet with their store managers, and they share best practices. Hey, we thought of this; this person in our store thought of that.

And so, you know, we try to get the best ideas, but we also make sure that every voice is heard. And we try and just instill that the whole way down the organization. So I feel like we’re scalable right now.

If we wanted to add a third district with six or seven more stores, I don’t think that would be a problem. The biggest challenge we have is finding those people who really want to learn, who fit our culture, and who are, you know, have that work ethic that we talked about at the beginning.

Nicholas Paulukow
Yeah, that’s amazing. And we do, I’m hearing you talk a lot about the core values. We hear that a lot, right?

And so, you know, it seems like core values to you are non-negotiables, right? Is that fair to say? If somebody doesn’t embody them, it doesn’t matter how good they are at the job.

That is how you’re keeping that like family business atmosphere. Is that accurate?

Dan Fisher
Yeah, a hundred percent accurate. It’s a complete non-negotiable for us. Even if we have someone who’s really good at sales, or they’re really good at, you know, the delivery role, if they don’t fit our core values, if they don’t treat the coworkers right and become part of that family dynamic that we have, then they’re not gonna—A, they’re not gonna like the job because it’s just not gonna be a fit for them, but they’re also just not gonna be a fit for us.

So we kind of, a lot of times, there’s a mutual, hey, this isn’t right for me, and they end up parting ways.

Nicholas Paulukow
Yeah, that’s amazing. It seems like you give a very clear playbook to those people to allow them to be successful in their seat.

Yeah, that’s great.

Dan Fisher
Yeah, we do. We have a—so I mentioned earlier, we have a new hire workshop that we do within usually the first 30 to 60 days. And it’s where we really try to show them how important our core values are because it’s typically myself.

So you have the company owner there; you have our COO there, who’s my right-hand person; and then you have our sales director, who is in charge of sales at all 13 stores. And so really three of the—they call us uppers, although I hate that term. But three of the leaders in the company are spending our entire day working with three, four, five new hires.

Wow. So we spend the whole day really focused on our core values, giving examples, asking them for examples, and we cover other things too. But the primary focus of the day is the core values, just to make them understand how important it is.

Nicholas Paulukow
That’s amazing, that’s amazing. Let’s switch gears to servant leadership in a family business.

So we have a lot of family businesses in our area, right? I’m sure that can be challenging. So, you know, talk to us a little bit about that family dynamic.

You talked about it earlier, right? I think you have some family members in the business or had been in the business. How does that play in with kind of a growth organization?

Dan Fisher
Well, it can be really challenging. And at different times in the business, primarily throughout our business, my dad and I were partners. He had the video business.

I had the rent-to-own business, and then eventually we merged them, and he became kind of the back-office bookkeeping person, you know, keeping track of the numbers, making sure we had money to pay bills. And I was more the operations guy.

But at different times in the business, my sister worked there for a number of years, my brother was an investor early on, like I mentioned, and his father-in-law was an investor. So it can be tough from a family dynamic, as I’m sure anyone who’s listening and is in a family dynamic understands.

The challenges my dad and I had were really two different people, obviously, right? So he was very blunt and said it like it was and wouldn’t beat around the bush. And I’m probably too far the opposite way, where I sometimes am not blunt enough and I beat around the bush too much.

And so, you know, we definitely were at odds many times in how to deal with situations. And I joke about how he was kind of a seagull leader, where he didn’t want to be involved in the operations. He didn’t want to know what we were doing.

But then whenever anything went wrong, he was quick to come down and tell me about it. But in the end, I think the key is just understanding your roles and being willing to have the tough conversations. I mean, I think that’s one thing my dad and I really did well was we were willing to have difficult conversations.

And sometimes we went at each other. Now, we never did that in the stores. We never did it in front of people.

Well, sometimes in our office, we would close the door. I’m sure people heard it, but usually, it was at one of our homes. And one of us, usually it was me, would tell him what I wasn’t happy about and why.

And I think you have to be able to have that because I’ve seen other family businesses where they all kind of get along except when the other’s not around. And it goes to that culture component, right? You can’t really talk about people behind their back.

You really should say what you have to say respectfully to their face. And I think he and I developed a pretty good dynamic in that regard where he grew to respect that I knew what I was doing. And we came to an understanding of this is your role, this is my role.

And as long as the company’s going in the right direction, let’s just stay in our lane, so to speak. And I think we grew to mutually respect each other in that way. And really, when you think about it, it’s the way any leadership team should operate, right?

My COO, for example, he does his thing. And if there’s something I’m not happy about, we chat about it. But in the end, as long as things are going in the right direction, I’m not gonna tell him really what to do because he’s doing a great job.

So that’s, I think, it’s similar whether it’s a family member or not. But I think some of us shy away from having those difficult conversations with family members.

Nicholas Paulukow
Family members, yeah, we’ve seen that a lot of times, and it’s created long-lasting family issues, which it does, it seems to be kind of sad when that happens. Yeah, kudos to your open and honest conversation as a family business center. As you talked also kind of about those core values, where did these core values come from, right?

Like, were they just things that you appreciated? You know, talk a little bit about how core values were developed for you.

Dan Fisher
Yeah, we used the formula described in “The Advantage,” and I’ll speak to it for a minute here. It’s essentially we identified, I think it was six or seven different—well, let’s say three or four coworkers who really we felt like—and this is the group that was there—we said, you know, we threw up on a board, this is someone who I think I would love to clone. If I had 50 of these people, I’d have a booming business.

And so we listed some names there, and then we listed some names on the other side of the board that were people who were really good at their job, but I really feel like we’d be better off without them. And they might be current or they might be past employees. And then we listed all the reasons why.

Why do we love this person? Why do we feel like this person isn’t a fit? And we came up with a bunch of adjectives.

We took the reverse of the one list and merged them all together. So we had a bunch of adjectives, and then we categorized them as much as we could, and we came up with really our three core values. We have three what we call everyday values that we talk about—any company would require integrity, for example.

No one doesn’t have integrity as a requirement, right? So we talk about those values, but then our core values are based more on these specific individuals. And in essence, these core values represent Majik, but they might not represent your company.

Your company might not need these core values. They would be more specific to you. That’s the way we identify the organization.

Nicholas Paulukow
That’s great. And did you find that it was kind of like a eureka moment? Like when you got those core values finally on paper, like, oh man, now I figured out like when I get upset about a situation, was it because it was infringing on what you felt was a core value, or did you ever have any of those moments?

Dan Fisher
I think to a large extent it helped us—it helped us really say who we’re gonna hire. So I mean, at this point in our company history, everything we do surrounds those core values. So our hiring process, we interview and we ask questions keyed around those core values.

When we train, every training document references those core values. If we give someone a written warning, it’s always which core value did you violate and in which way? And so everything in our company, there’s no confusion about what the core values are and how they’re implemented because they’re on every type of training and document that we do.

And so yeah, to answer your question, kind of yeah, it was a eureka moment because we’re like, hey, this is how we can clone these good people and avoid these other people is by just targeting the right hires and then making sure to reinforce that.

Nicholas Paulukow
I love it. That’s amazing. And you talked about kind of your core values went to this kind of combined with this servant leadership.

How did you kind of come upon servant leadership in that regard? Like, have you served in other areas that you felt that that was kind of the way that you wanted to lead, or could you kind of talk to the listeners about how that has evolved for you?

Dan Fisher
Well, one thing I mentioned earlier is in our industry how what really moved me was how these other leaders in our industry would serve by just getting up there and speaking and sharing and so forth. And when I got involved in that, I was so inspired by them that I started doing that. And even though I’m a very uncomfortable speaker in public, I’m an extreme introvert by nature.

And so getting up in front of a crowd and speaking is among the very last things I would love to do, but I forced myself to do it because I felt like I had a passion for certain things like these core values is one of them. And so I started speaking at industry events, and I started realizing that people want to hear me speak even though I’m not a great speaker. I’m passionate about what I’m talking about, and so they want to hear what we’re doing.

And so it’s a two-way street, right? I’m helping them, and then it’s rewarding to me because it feels good. And so I’ve served on our two industry boards of directors, and really what I love to do is hands-on training with our managers in training and our other coworkers who want to learn.

So one of the things I started doing about two years ago, I guess, was I lead book clubs in our company, where I just invite anyone who wants to read a certain book, and we read three chapters a week, and then we do a Zoom meeting where we just talk about what’s your biggest takeaway from chapter one, chapter two, chapter three. And then I share my insights with them on what they’ve said, or I don’t typically disagree with what they’ve said because that’s what they took away, but I might apply it to a real-life example that maybe I know about in their life or in the company’s life. And so things like that I absolutely love.

And what’s cool about servant leadership is when you give, it just makes you feel better, and it always comes back around. It’s almost selfish because it feels so good that you want to do it more and more.

Nicholas Paulukow
I love that. That’s well said. And when you’re executing servant leadership, how do you balance the needs of the employees, your customers, stakeholders, and still maintaining that servant leadership and core values?

How do you balance that? How do you find ways to balance that?

Dan Fisher
Well, I think for me, when I’m investing in the leaders of our company who are up and coming, and even new people in our company who want to be leaders, I just think it’s a win-win because they see me investing in them. They want to then help their coworkers. And one of the things about our core values is when people embody our core values, they want to help our customers.

One of our core values is we serve others. And so that’s the one probably that people brag about the most, right? So we have so many stories that are shared by our coworkers about serving others, and that’s infectious, right?

So whether it’s serving another coworker or whether it’s serving a customer or even a stranger on the street that they run into—I can’t tell you how many times our delivery specialists will be out on the road, and they see someone changing a tire or whatever, or they see someone with a flat tire, and they pop out and change their tire for them. Things like that, they just are constantly talking about. And for me, having a company full of people who—that’s the thought in their mind, it just feels really good.

Nicholas Paulukow
Oh, that’s amazing. That’s a great story too, right? Like that they’re jumping out to help someone else.

That’s amazing.

Dan Fisher
And it’s a common one. It’s not like a one-time thing. It just seems like every time you turn around, that’s the story you hear about.

And just so many different things like that, but that’s a pretty common one we hear.

Nicholas Paulukow
I love it. That’s got to fill your heart, you know, just to see that, especially from going with your growth, with now a hundred people being able to maintain such a wonderful culture.

Dan Fisher
Yeah, and the thing is, like, that doesn’t come directly from me, right? That’s one of the reasons I know that our culture is in place. And I know that our store managers are spreading that, you know, again, the servant leadership where they’re teaching our core values.

They’re teaching the importance of serving others and owning the results and doing whatever it takes, which are really our three core values to everyone. So everyone in their store is embodying that. And so when you hear those stories from someone who I don’t even know that well, you know, I pretty much know everyone in the company a fair amount, but sometimes you don’t bump into the delivery specialists because they’re on the road when you’re in the store.

But to hear that from someone who I’m not even that connected with, but they’re so connected with their store and our culture, then you know that the servant leadership is working because it’s spreading throughout everyone.

Nicholas Paulukow
It’s there. That’s amazing. And you know, you talked about kind of the core values and the people and developing people.

I love that book club. That’s amazing. You know, how have you identified, you know, up-and-coming leaders?

How do you—what are the qualities? What do you see in them? What allows you to kind of connect that you are like, wow, you know, it’s worth putting some time into these people because they have the ability to lead.

Dan Fisher
You know, that’s a really interesting question. I don’t know that I know the answer to that. To me, anyone who wants to do more and step up and take ownership is who I’m willing to invest in.

And sometimes it pays off in the sense that, you know, this person just becomes really good at their particular role. So we don’t necessarily—like this book club, for example, I do, I open it up to everyone. I say, if anyone wants to do this, just let me know and we’ll do it.

And so sometimes it’s just someone who maybe is a sales specialist, and they just want to help their team be better. So they’re taking some leadership training. And then sometimes it’s someone who wants to be a manager.

And I feel like if they want that, then I’m gonna help them determine if that’s what they want. So going through some of these leadership books, they might figure out, you know, I don’t really want to do that. You know, when I think about myself, one of the least favorite things I do is having to give that critical feedback and that discipline.

So if I were coming up through our company, I might have said, I don’t want to be a leader. I’d rather just be a sales specialist or something like that. But that’s the cool thing about this leadership training is you’re giving people the opportunity to self-select to some extent.

So maybe they become really good at their role instead of moving into a management role because it just doesn’t seem like the right fit for them.

Nicholas Paulukow
The right fit. Yeah, I really love that. And you know, when you talk about kind of difficult conversations, right?

Some over the time, people are like, well, Nick, you don’t have any problem having any difficult conversations. I’m like, that is not true, right? Like, although it’s just part of the role when you do it right and the non-glamorous part.

But talk to us a little bit about—you said earlier, like when we have a difficult conversation with someone, we pair that with a core value. Explain how you teach someone to implement that. And can everyone in the organization say, hey, you know, I’m really concerned that X is not living our core value, or does it only come from a manager or supervisor?

Dan Fisher
Well, we would hope, and our teaching and our goal is that there is peer-to-peer accountability and not in the sense of you tattling on me, but if I’m not embodying our core values, I would hope that my coworker—maybe there’s two delivery specialists, and they’re in the truck all the time, and one of them is late to work all the time, right? I would hope the other one would say, hey dude, you know, we’re late on our deliveries here, and I’m getting home late from work because can you please set your alarm 15 minutes earlier, you know, and hopefully in a respectful way, you know? And—or maybe, you know, maybe there’s a sales specialist that’s snapping at customers because they’re in a bad mood or something.

I would hope that a coworker who sees that would come up to them and say, hey, is there anything wrong? I noticed you’re a little short today. You know, can I get you a cup of coffee or anything?

You know, do you want to talk or something like that? And that’s kind of that peer-to-peer accountability where you’re calling it out in a very respectful, polite way. But then we also, of course, teach our managers to identify that and the district managers. And the goal would be in a perfect world—and we do not live in a perfect world—but in a perfect world, if that peer-to-peer accountability doesn’t work, then we would want the coworker to let the manager know, hey, I noticed this, and I tried to say something, and it’s just not working.

Maybe you can say something to that person. And then, you know, again, we do progressive discipline in the same way anyone else does, but we would first have a discussion about, hey, this doesn’t really embody our values, and then it would be in written form and so on. But it’s always keyed on one of those values.

So if it’s attendance, it could be owning it because maybe you’re just not setting your alarm properly. It could be we do what it takes—come in earlier from the party the night before, things like that.

Nicholas Paulukow
I like that. So you’re basically saying that you’ve created this clarity, and that clarity is consistent across the organization, which allows you to kind of scale your business because it self-polices itself almost, right? I mean, obviously, you have to manage to it, but you have the right people in the right seats, and that you’re setting clear vision with those core values.

That’s amazing. That’s amazing. Not all organizations can figure that out.

 So thank you for sharing that. Yeah, that’s amazing.

Dan Fisher
And like I said, it’s certainly our goal. I wouldn’t say that in every store that exists in every case, but that’s our goal, and that’s what we work towards. And I think in most cases, we do a pretty good job.

And it’s one reason why after ten years since we’ve opened a store, we still have 13 stores because we focus so much on enhancing the quality of our people. And so we’ve grown a lot internally. Those stores have almost doubled in sales volume since that first meeting we had—that first offsite meeting we had about eight years ago.

And so we feel pretty good about that because we were kind of flat before that for a couple of years. And—but that’s what we’ve been doing is just working on making sure everyone fits those values and is teaching that and helping each other.

Nicholas Paulukow
I love it, I love it. What advice would you give to kind of aspiring leaders?

Like, you know, what feedback would you have for them?

Dan Fisher
Something I’ve discovered very recently over the last year or two is podcasts. And I just, whenever I’m, you know, I don’t work out every morning like I would like to, but I do a very lame workout most mornings. And when I do that, you know, it’s about a 40-45 minute thing.

I’m constantly listening to just a rotation of different podcasts. And I think that’s huge. Almost every morning I’ll text the podcast I’m listening to someone, right?

“Hey, you got to hear this because of X, Y, Z.” And so again, that’s why I try to help people that way too. I heard this and I thought of you, so I thought you might want to listen to it. But then also reading.

I tend to be an audiobook guy, but lots of great books and podcasts out there that really teach you. But the thing about podcasts is you’re actually hearing it many times from a well-renowned leader who has done this for so many years, and they’re just so knowledgeable and it’s really what they live. So I like that a lot.

Nicholas Paulukow
Yeah, I hear some consistencies with you, you know, about, you know, you’re constantly learning, right? Like it’s every day you’re learning something new and you’re kind of filling your cup to be able to then lead the rest of the team. And I think that’s a really important focus that you’re giving us there is because, you know, some people that are trying to get into leadership think it’s kind of like, I’ve arrived, right?

Like I’m here. And it’s really when we say a journey, it’s if you want to be a good leader, you’re constantly going through this journey. And it’s definitely, from my experience, not a flat line.

It has a lot of ups and downs, right?

Dan Fisher
Yeah, and there’s a lot of emotional ups and downs. There’s—yeah, and I think that’s the biggest mistake you can make is to say that I’m the leader, so I don’t need to do this anymore because everyone works for me, even as the company owner. You know, I think I’ve done more learning in the last five years, seven years than I did in the rest of my life combined.

 And I’ve owned the company the whole time, but I’ve learned more from podcasts and books and certainly other people in our industry and outside of our industry. So I think when you stop learning or trying to learn, you’ve really probably plateaued and you’re probably not going to do a lot more, in my humble opinion.

Nicholas Paulukow
Yeah, that is excellent. That goes along with a coach that I have that—so I’m big into, you know, there’s people that have been there, done that, right?

And I can always get good honest feedback, right? And he said to me the one day, I said, man, I’m constantly kind of, you know, thinking, you know, are we doing the right thing? Are we moving in the right direction? Are we doing this?

And he said, hey, listen, he goes, the day you stop that is the day that you need to wrap up what you’re doing. And I’m like, well, what do you mean by that? And he just said, listen, the key to that is you’re constantly thinking that because you’re trying to be the best that you possibly can be.

And the day that you’ve arrived and you think you got it all worked out is probably the day to sell the business and/or retire or do something else. And I was like, wow, that was very profound, you know? Yeah, it struck me or maybe it just struck me at the right time, right?

Dan Fisher
No, I think that’s great. I think, you know, the day that I don’t feel like an imposter in whatever leadership role I’m in is probably the day that I should retire for good because it’s just, it’s part of who I am. And I know everyone doesn’t have that, but it seems like almost every leader I know has imposter syndrome.

So that’s the other thing I would say to your listeners is if you feel like you don’t deserve what you’ve earned, you’ve probably earned it and just keep working hard and trying to better yourself and to give to others. And that it comes back around, but you probably always feel that imposter syndrome if you do today.

Nicholas Paulukow
All the time, yeah. And you know, one thing that Patrick Lencioni says all the time, right? Is he goes, and what I’m hearing from you, right?

Very humble, right? Like humble, hungry, and be smart. And I think he says smart isn’t driven by intelligence.

Smart’s how do you read other people and how can you see the bigger picture, right? And I hear a lot from you on that, right? Like being humble and hungry to learn and develop.

So kudos to you. And that probably is what makes you such a good leader.

Dan Fisher
Thanks, yeah. I don’t always consider myself humble, but I certainly try to be humble because I’m thankful for what I have. And I’m thankful for all the people that have helped me get here.

And certainly the people who work for me are largest among that group, right? They’ve done so much to make our company so successful and make our company really a well-known company in the industry. And I just—that makes me very proud, but it’s not proud for me, it’s proud for the team that we have.

Nicholas Paulukow
I love that. And I think Dan Sullivan writes a book about five levels of leadership. And it’s kind of amazing for the listeners kind of to hear, Dan, you’re kind of going through talking about some of those levels, right?

Like being like, you know, level one is you’ve been appointed, right? They have to listen to you because, right? Up to the different levels of kind of where you’re at, you’re like at that level four leader where you’re teaching other leaders, right?

And that’s a skill that many people don’t develop, right? Some might end in level two or level three, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But that’s really neat to hear your journey through those levels of leadership.

Dan Fisher
Well, I think it’s so rewarding. Like you hear it so often, these famous leaders. And I think when you first hear it, you think it’s kind of like just not really, you know, they’re just saying it, like how rewarding it is to teach people.

But I can tell you, going to industry events and teaching people, some of which I’ve never met before, some of whom I know but I don’t know well, and then just having them come up to me and say, hey, thank you, that meant a lot to me. Can I get more information? And so on, it’s just very rewarding, you know?

And so I don’t get anything from that. It’s a free speaking gig. But what I get is fulfillment, like them filling my bucket up by using that knowledge and by appreciating it.

And, you know, it’s kind of like you said, when you’re a leader and you’re not doing any learning and you’re not giving back, you kind of plateau and you just don’t—your bucket kind of empties out because you’re just doing instead of filling it back up with that learning and that, you know, filling it with other people, I guess.

Nicholas Paulukow
Yeah, that’s a great visual. I like that. It’s like the bucket is full, and you constantly are saying, I just can’t do more, I can’t do this.

But in reality, it’s the pivotal time of am I going to grow to the next level of being a leader? Which requires me to kind of let go and kind of very much what you did there, let go and then delegate to others and then build even another team. That takes a lot of work that a lot of business owners never even get to.

So I appreciate you kind of teaching us and kind of walking us through that today.

Dan Fisher
Yeah, it’s a really difficult transition. I even, over the last year or so, I’ve really tried to step back and give my COO and his team a lot of freedom. And it’s just amazing how rewarding that is when things I thought I had to be involved in, I didn’t.

And so like so many times, we’ll talk every week—we have kind of a list that we get on through every week, and he’ll tell me about a problem, and me being me, I interrupt him and say, oh, I would do this. And he’s like, well, we’ve already talked it through, and here’s what we decided to do. And it’s usually a better solution than I came up with anyway.

And so I just love that he’s already got the solution. It’s already better than the one I thought of when he explained the problem. And it’s just very rewarding.

And I would just encourage your listeners to invest in whoever their team is and give them a chance to fail or not fail, but learn from maybe making a mistake or two. And it’s very rewarding to see your team grow like that.

Nicholas Paulukow
Yeah, that is amazing. And that’s got to make you feel good. It gives you the opportunity to kind of do other things at the same time, lead at a whole different level.

Yeah. As we start to wrap up today, we talked a lot about books, audiobooks. We talked a lot about Lencioni.

Do you have any other great podcasts or books or anything that maybe our listeners could jump on to kind of continue their journey?

Dan Fisher
Yeah, I’ll tell you, anything Patrick Lencioni, but I won’t belabor that.

Nicholas Paulukow
He has a couple great podcasts.

Dan Fisher
But some other ones, some of the ones we use in our leadership training—and this is kind of a progressive thing. So everyone’s heard of “One Minute Manager,” but that’s kind of our totally entry-level leadership training. It’s timeless.

It gives just basic leadership. And then after we train on that one, we have a book called “Monday Morning Leadership,” which I haven’t heard many people talk about that, listening to podcasts and so on, but it’s a super relevant book. It’s only like 80 pages, very easy to read, but it really teaches leadership 101.

And so I highly recommend that. I think the author’s name is David Cottrell, C-O-T-T-R-E-L. And then “It’s Your Ship” is kind of the third in our leadership series.

And that’s about a Navy ship captain who took the worst ship in the Navy and turned it into the best ship in the Navy during an 18-month period. And just extraordinary leadership training there. So those three I recommend as kind of like a progressive thing for a very beginning leader, and then maybe someone who’s in leadership but wants to take it to the next level. And then after that. And I’m trying to think of—there’s a podcast that’s a little bit more of a bucket filler for me.

It’s not necessarily all leadership, but a friend introduced me to it not too long ago, and it’s called “The Ed Mylett Show,” where sometimes it’s health-related, sometimes it’s leadership-related, sometimes it’s an interview, and that’s a good one. But I have literally—Andy Stanley’s great.

Nicholas Paulukow
Oh yeah, he’s a good one.

Dan Fisher
Craig Groeschel. Craig Groeschel is another great leadership podcast. John Maxwell’s leadership podcast I listen to.

So I have them like on a rotation on my earbuds.

Nicholas Paulukow
Oh, there you go.

Dan Fisher
I love all of those. There’s probably others I’m forgetting about. But yeah, you just can’t help but learn.

And it doesn’t have to be a constant thing, but I would say at least weekly, I’m listening to two, three, four podcasts, and I might be in the middle of a book. And I just don’t think you can ever be too old or too accomplished to keep learning and growing and then passing that along. I mean, that’s what’s fun about it is, oh, I think this person might be able to benefit from that type of thing.

Nicholas Paulukow
Yeah, I love it. Well done, well done. Thank you for that.

I appreciate it, Dan. And as we kind of come to a close today, what parting comments do you have for our listeners?

Dan Fisher
I would just say, and I’ve said it already, but keep learning. Just keep learning, keep growing, invest in your team, trust your teams, and you know what? Be diligent about getting the right people on your team and making sure they fit your culture.

Nicholas Paulukow
I love it. And there you have it, folks. Another episode of the Servant Leader’s Library is in the books, courtesy of your host, the most, Nicholas Paulukow, CEO of an entrepreneurial extraordinaire and leader of ONE 2 ONE.

A massive shout out to our guest of honor today, Dan, the president of Majik Rent to Own, for gracing us with his wisdom and his wit. From humble beginnings to industry titan, Dan’s journey is a testament to the power of perseverance, innovation, and yes, you guessed it, servant leadership. So whether you’re scaling mountains of business challenges or just trying to keep your office fern alive, lead with heart, serve with humility, and never underestimate the Majik of Rent to Own.

Until next time, dear listeners, keep those servant leadership torches burning bright. And remember, the library’s always open for one more Tale of Triumph and Transformation. Stay classy, stay curious, and keep leading the charge to our brighter, bolder tomorrow.

Want to Be the Next Guest?

Complete the sign-up form and share your servant leadership story!

Back To the Top

Similar Posts