GenNext: Eric Smith, Petersburg Hardware

His rules to survival in hardware; 1: Roll with the changes; 2: Under-promise, over-deliver.
Eric Smith Petersburg Hardware GenNext 2022
Eric Smith, a GenNext hardware industry leader featured in the HBSDealer October print issue, shown here speaking at an in-store event.

Owner Eric Smith says one thing you can count on in hardware: Each day’s plans change.

Eric Smith started with Petersburg Hardware, a Do it Best dealer, in 2004 working for his future in-laws Dennis and Sherry Bishop. He was initially hired to take a dying side of the store, cellular phone sales, and make it grow.

Eric spent countless hours growing what was a small kiosk in a hardware store into one of the top dealers in Southern Indiana.

Five years ago, Petersburg Hardware co-owners Dennis and Sherry, along with their daughter Robin Smith and her husband Eric, expanded a 5,500-square-foot, tri-level convenience style store into a 28,000-square-foot shopping destination.

“Yes, we are a large store, but we still keep the small-town values and hospitality,” related Robin Smith.

Family owned and operated since 1995, ownership was transferred to Eric and Robin Smith early in 2021.

“Our biggest success for employees is being a family. We care about what each person is going through in and out of the store,” said Eric.

“We focus on the environment that our customers see. If we are supporting our employees, it leads to positive energy on the floor with customers,” said the Smiths. “Our employees want to talk to customers and put our best foot forward.”

Eric and Robin Smith and her parents
Prior owners Dennis and Sherry Bishop, from left, and their daughter Robin Smith and her husband Eric Smith.

What does Eric like about the business?

“First, I genuinely like to help people, whether it’s finding the right product or just advice which leads to the next thing, problem solving,” he said

“I love a good challenge, and I love to help people figure something out. Last but not least, I enjoy seeing and working with my wife Robin every day.”

Also, what does he find challenging?

“The most challenging part of the business is how quickly plans can change. In a matter of seconds, your plan or goal can completely change. Sometimes it can change several times. You have the day planned out, and within the first five minutes your day is changed,” he said.

“It can be completely pushed back 2-3 days due to shipments, customers, employees, or weather. Some days I feel like I am battling a never-ending game of whack-a-mole. You just keep hammering at the next project, next issue and next challenge that arises,” said Smith.

What’s the best advice Eric has passed along?

“The top two things I try to teach my employees are: One, always under-promise and over-deliver. Your customer will always be happy; and two, it’s ok to tell the customer ‘I don’t know’ but the key is to tell the customer immediately ‘I will find that out for you.’”

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