A decade's worth of radio commercials for Rankin's Hardware & Building Supplies has made Clarence Keller locally famous, even if he's more recognized by his voice than his face. A Camden native, Keller has worked in this fourth-generation family-owned store for 20 years. Camden is an old resort townon Maine's coast where the population varies as much as the weather. Rankin's customer base mixes local craftsmen and fishermen with "flatlanders" up for the weekend or summer.

Here's how Keller assures Rankin's stays on an even keel.

  • It's a people business. "The first thing I look at is the customer count, the number of transactions. To me...the customers are what it's all about."
  • Make salesmen your reporters. "We measure our status in comparison to what we're hearing from salesmen. We're getting some horror stories from around the state. Though things aren't what we'd like them to be, when we compare them to other places, we feel good."
  • Technology is a must. "We use a reporting program. That's a valuable tool in how I monitor our business."
  • Know seasonal influences. "I look at how sales compare to the previous year's month. I can go back five years. If sales are down, I can ask if last March we had a spike. That might make this month look bad, but it still might be the fourth best March ever."