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Batteries Plus’ Shirley Duehring on Essential Business Ownership

Franchisee Shirley Duehring describes the challenges she faces with Batteries Plus open for business.

By Taylor Karg1851 Franchise Contributor
SPONSOREDUpdated 9:09AM 05/08/20

While businesses across the country have been forced to close in response to the ongoing coronavirus crisis, so-called “essential businesses” have been allowed to stay open. The essential-business designation has been a lifeboat for many businesses, but it entails its own unique set of challenges. 

1851 Franchise spoke with Batteries Plus franchisee Shirley Duehring, whose six stores have all been designated as essential businesses. After 25 years in business, Duehring’s stores are undergoing dramatic operational adjustments to meet an unprecedented set of challenges. 

1851 Franchise: Has your business undergone many changes since the crisis began?

Shirley Duehring: It's mind blowing to think what has changed, yet our stores have remained open and committed to the quality of work and to the customers. It’s a teaching tool for sure. The world is going to completely change. For us, very little of the operations are the same anymore and it’s about how we can adapt as things happen.

1851: How have day-to-day operations changed? 

Duehring: The big picture does not look drastically different, but our number-one priority right now is our staff’s health and welfare. Across all six stores, we have had to make concessions to keep working and at the same time keeping everyone safe. We are following the CDC and WHO recommendations as closely as possible. We are fortunate to have gotten our hands on disinfectants, gloves and masks. We disinfect every surface numerous times everyday. From card holders to door handles to keyboard, everything gets cleaned as soon as a customer interacts with something. We have to think about every action and how it might affect the safety of my staff and of our customer. 

1851: How are you able to interact with customers while maintaining proper social-distancing? 

Duehring: It’s been difficult, but we are being as safe as possible. Some of my stores have signs on the doors saying, “If you’d rather we come to your door, we can bring you what you need. Call this number,” so customers don’t have to come in at all. We are doing curbside pickup where we will put the product in the back of the customer's carl so there’s no interaction. 

1851: Has the essential-business designation helped your stores grow at all?

Duehring: Device repair has skyrocketed primarily because we have remained opened while other repair locations, like Apple, haven’t been labeled as essential. We have also seen an increase in cell phone batteries replacements. The one challenge with repairs is the customer needs to hand us their phone, so there isn’t a way to social distance in that transaction. We have also seen a spike in thermometer batteries and, as it’s gotten warmer, lawn mower batteries. 

Commercial business has also increased slightly. Because we are an essential business, we are providing batteries and services to hospitals, assisted living faculties, first responders and municipalities, and we are supporting Wake County’s general service association, providing batteries for their fleet services. Duke power has reached out for local and state backup power since utilizing laptop and electrical devices have surged.

1851: How has the Batteries Plus corporate team been handling the situation? 

Duehring: Batteries Plus has a new CEO at headquarters, Scott Williams, who has been in the role for several months, so he jumped right into the crisis. He has really risen to the occasion. The communication he provides to the owners and staff is incredible. When the crisis subsides, owners will not forget how he was there for us right at the beginning. 

1851: What kind of long-term effects are you anticipating?

Duehring: My company has been in business in Raleigh for 25 years. One thing we have noted over that time is that every experience with a disaster situation informs the public that we are not just a battery store. We are always here in times of crisis, working with organizations like FEMA during events like a hurricane. After the decline of this crisis, people will realize we are a partner both in crisis and in normal life. It’s something we have tried to drive home for 25 years, and hopefully that message will come across that we are in a position to help. 

1851: What would you recommend other businesses focus on during this time?

Duehring: I think it's critical that we are in communication, that we listen to what our staff is telling us and that we talk to one another, share ideas, have an open door policy and respect that everyone has something to say and share. It’s so important to work together as a team. There shouldn’t be a hierarchy in communication and in ideas. My staff knows way more about the front line than I do. We just need to put on a positive attitude, put one foot in front of the other and remain respectful. Fear won’t get us anywhere.