Last month, 60 Rent-A-Center district managers and high-performing store managers from RAC corporate, RAC Mexico and franchise operations attended the Rent-A-Center DM Academy, a three-day training event designed to equip new and future district managers with the tools, knowledge and resources they need to manage large territories of multiple Rent-A-Center operations.
That level of intensive, targeted training is not unusual for the rent-to-own brand, but Keven Dalke, Rent-A-Center’s director of franchise operations, says the district manager role is particularly important to the franchise model, which is designed to support expansive multi-unit franchisees.
“The district manager is the eyes and ears of the owner, as they are in the stores on a daily basis,” Dalke said.
By allowing them to oversee much of a franchisee’s store-level operations, Dalke says Rent-A-Center empowers district managers to take an ownership mentality with regard to their stores, preparing them for further development and freeing franchisees to focus on high-level operations, such as development plans.
“We believe strongly in the importance of investing in our district managers,” Dalke said. “It provides a unique opportunity for them to get experience taking an ownership approach to business.”
Dalke, who himself worked as a district manager for Rent-A-Center for years, knows how important the role is to any given franchise operation.
“When you are in that role, you see yourself as having the most responsibility of anyone in the company,” he said. “You are managing multiple stores, keeping staff motivated, hiring and training store managers, making hard decisions and creating a positive customer experience. It’s a heavy workload, and you are a crucial part of the operation.”
Because district managers oversee store-level operations for each of a franchisee’s locations in a given territory, they are the franchisee’s primary point of contact, speaking “daily or weekly with the ownership, depending on the size of the operation,” Dalke said.
Those conversations typically “circle around people,” he said. “How is the team? What are the open positions or recruiting needs? Building and maintaining great teams is a critical component of the position.”
The District Manager Academy not only ensures all district managers are well prepared for the role, Dalke says it also gives them actionable plans for operational improvements to take back to their districts.
“It’s not just a bunch of theory in the classroom,” he said. “The DMs develop 30-, 60- and 90-day plans for their district. When they leave the academy, they take those plans back to the franchisee and set them into action.”
Though the district manager role is designed primarily to allow franchisees to pull back from store-level operations and focus on growing their network, Dalke says the position is also instrumental in executing Rent-A-Center’s culture, which is crucial to the success of each store and the entire system in turn.
“A district manager equipped with the right tools and support will create and maintain a customer-centric environment in each store, encouraging customers to return time and again to Rent-A-Center for the products they need,” Dalke said. “They are key to fulfilling our promise to customers."