Small town store uses high tech to become big success
Buffalo, South Dakota, is just about as rural as life can get in the United States, but it’s the center of the universe for Sam Olsen. At the tender age of 24, Sam and his parents purchased the local hardware store and within five years he has become one of the most dynamic entrepreneurs in the region. In addition to the Buffalo Hardware Store, he has acquired three other businesses and says his investment in Paladin Data Corporation’s platform has played a big part in his success.
Sam was born and raised in Buffalo, a small town of 350 hearty souls in the northwest corner of the state. He jokes that the 50,000 head of cattle in the region vastly out-number the 1,200 residents in Harding County. It’s not exactly a technological mecca, but with an entrepreneurial spirit learned from his parents, Tim and Laura, who own a construction company, and a business education from Black Hills State University, Sam has leveraged retail technology to make his businesses incredibly successful.
“From sitting on the couch in my senior year to running a hardware store is quite a leap of faith,” Sam says, recalling his journey from college student to businessman. “We started the business my senior year of college and the first order of business was to find a point of sale platform to run it on.”
Like any thoughtful budding entrepreneur, he did his homework, studying more than a dozen business platforms before choosing Paladin.
Taking over Buffalo Hardware was almost like starting from scratch. He remodeled the store, refurbished the exterior, and expanded both the greenhouse and lumberyard.
The previous owner operated with a cash register, pen and paper. So, Sam not only had to update the technology, he had to implement an entirely new operating plan. Paladin’s proprietary Market Driven Inventory Management™ helped him get a handle on his inventory investment, improve and set his margins, and eliminate dead stock. It also gave him a single point of control to manage his entire business.
To say it was a success is an understatement. Buffalo Hardware’s sales tripled in Sam’s first year as owner and in 2019 the store notched over $2 million in sales. He attributes some of that success to how easy it was to implement Paladin and on-board his employees. The system’s simplicity and flexibility won him and his employees over.
“We had to overcome an employee fear level – we had some with no computer skills at all. With the touchscreens, having the simplicity of Paladin, and the ability to point and click – it seems just about anybody can run it, which was big,” he explains.
Since purchasing Buffalo Hardware, Sam has opened or acquired three other businesses – Buffalo Ranch Supply, Olson Propane and Olsen Fuels. He uses Paladin’s multistore capability to run all but one of his businesses, and says he’ll switch that one over eventually. Paladin gives him the incredible flexibility to see how his stores run individually and as a whole.
“It was just a natural fit for me being able to use Paladin to manage my businesses,” he says. “The data you get is so clean, easy to get to, and easy to use. It has improved our processes in preparing quotes and filling orders.”
Buffalo Hardware also uses Paladin’s Mobile2Checkout, to serve customers in the greenhouse, lumberyard, or at remote locations. The Mobile2 suite of products allows store associates to take Paladin with them away from the checkout stand improving customer service. Mobile2Deliver lets stores track deliveries, attach notes, photographs, and collect customer signatures.
Sam and his businesses are an integral part of life in Buffalo, a hometown he truly loves. In addition to being one of the leading businessmen in town, he serves as president of the chamber of commerce, vice president of its economic development corporation, and is vice president of the Olson Livestock Foundation, which provides calves to young ranchers.
He plans to start a fourth business, an auto parts store that would be integrated to his fueling station, and someday he wants to combine his hardware and ranch supply businesses at a single location. He feels that Paladin gives him the foundation to make those plans into reality.
“My goal was to make sure we had a system that would take us into the future. We had to have the technology to help us succeed. You don’t change systems every year, so we made sure we made the right decision. Paladin just gives us the data we need,” he explains.