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Speaking with Frank Gastelum, the Two Million Dollar Man

Welcome to the third episode of Stories from the River!

Charlie sits down with Frank Gastelum, an artist turned successful Home Furnishings Expert at Broad River Retail, and the River’s top writer in 2021. They discuss Frank’s journey so far, what inspires him, and his advice to current and future Memory Makers.

We hope you enjoy this episode, and subscribe to our podcast for a new story each week.

Visit storiesfromtheriver.com for more episodes.

Stories from the River Podcast explores the personal journeys of Broad River Retail’s very own Memory Makers. Whether it’s interviews or standalone narratives, Stories from the River will bring you closer to what it’s like to thrive inside the company. This show will share personal experiences from stores, distribution centers, call centers, and corporate campuses, giving listeners a front row seat to what it’s really like to be a Memory Maker furnishing life’s best memories every day.

This show is brought to you by Broad River Retail. Visit www.BroadRiverRetail.com.

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FULL TRANSCRIPTION

Charlie:

Okay. We’re here with Frank Gastelum for Stories from the River podcast. Frank, how are you doing today? 

Frank:

I’m doing great. Thank you, Charlie. 

Charlie:

I’m so excited to chat with you. Frank is a home furnishings expert. You are the number one writer in 2021. You wrote over $2.13 million. Well, first of all, before we get into it, tell us a little bit about yourself, your background and who you are?

Frank:

Okay. Well, I’ll tell you. I moved here from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Charlotte, and I got engaged. And then I also changed careers. So it was a big change in my life. 

So, I moved here with my wife, and we had to be more centrally relocated, because I was an artist at the time. And I’s travel around the country to do our festivals. And then one day my wife said, you know, we’re going to start a family, a full time career with benefits. So, I changed careers into sales.

Although I’ve been in sales all my life, even as an artist. I ended up here at the Broad River now, what, five years ago? So I love it.

Charlie:

Yeah. So we’re going to get into the art background and because you are an artist by trade. 

So you’ve been with us a little bit over five years. 

Let’s talk about your career. Do you remember your first day? 

Frank:

Oh, gosh, I do. I do. I was excited and nervous at the same time. Because, you know something new. I didn’t know anything about furniture, but boy I’ll tell you, I picked up the guidance from everybody here and there, and it just helped me flourish.

Charlie:

What did you do before you got into furniture?

Frank:

Oh, I was selling exotic cars, Maseratis, Aston Martins, Ferraris. So I was there for five or six years. 

Charlie:

That’s something fun to sell. 

Frank:

Oh, it was a lot of fun. But, you know, you’re also dealing with the elements: the cold, the hot, and ..But this, this  is perfect. 

Charlie:

Okay. Love it. So, you know, our organizational purpose is: furnishing life’s best memories, just four simple words. 

So what has been one of your best memories at the River?

Frank:

To be honest , about five months ago, a lady and her four children came into a store and they seemed a little sad and I found out that her husband had just passed away. The kids are young, and so they were struggling with this. And she wanted to bring some life, some happiness back in her life. 

So they wanted to get a nice sectional for their bonus room. And boy, was so much fun out there to find the right pieces for them, and then helping them get to a ripe price for them.

You know, so what I was so emotional, that day would make them happy, as well as sad. But it was, when she hugged me when they left and the kids were like, little buddies in so, you know, these things really lift you up and help you, gosh, just love your job more. 

Charlie:

That’s really great. You know, when you can infuse purpose and love what you do and help other people. and you’re on the front lines, connecting every single day, It’s powerful.

Okay. 2.1, Frank, you were the first to reach $1,000,000, and then you and Lisa crossed 2 million, within hours from each other on the exact same day. 2.1. Let me not catch a short 2.1, three, four. How did you do it? 

Frank:

Honestly, I have to props to Cynthia. When I saw her cross off in the first million, as soon as she did and how she did, I thought, you know what? This is possible. 

I thought initially someone had said, you can sell it. You have to sell it to me. I was, you’re kidding me. But when I saw her, she did it and I kept watching her. It really propelled me to get there also. 

Charlie:

But that’s like the Roger Bannister moment, you know? So it started with your belief. When did you, like, say, I can go get $2 million?

Frank:

Three quarters of the way through the year. I saw how my first of my margin was really good, the first three quarters of the year. So I said, you know what, I started to catch Lee and I go, I know in our business we want to watch our margins because we want to keep the bonus, you know? So I said, I think I want to catch it because of that. If it weren’t for that, she would pipeline me up. 

Charlie:

Got it. So you were selling smart and minding your business? 

Frank:

Yeah, I was just you know what? Initially I was just selling what I do normally. So there was no point on you know, I, I give people good deals, but also, you know, I work for the company and I was just selling it from their heart and letting the people know that, hey, you’re there with them.

Be a friend to them, as opposed to being a sales person. Then they feel like, oh, you’re not going to make a deal, so they negotiate that with you. So, but, yes, I think that’s what I did.

Charlie:

Okay, so you’re driving around a brand new car this year. Tell us about the new car? 

Frank:

Man, it is so inexpensive other than a darn gas. It’s beautiful, though. I love it. It drives, you know, I have a Volkswagen Atlas, and it’s nice. This car’s wheelbase is longer so it feels the road, you know, in like in your Lincoln.

Charlie:

What type of car did you get? This is your what, your jackpot? You got one of the jackpot bonus giveaways and so you’re driving around in a brand new car.

Frank:

Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited L. So L it’s an atlas for the leg,so it’s got the third row, and it seats seven people very comfortably, with cameras inside for all the rows. I mean, it’s just LED lights inside. This is awesome. 

Charlie:

That’s great. Awesome. You really hit the jackpot in more than just the car. Do you have any plans?

What are you going to do with your jackpot bonuses? Are you taking any vacations? 

Frank:

Yeah, we’ve already booked our vacation for April, and it’s paid for. So we’re going to Playa de Carmen, in Mexico. 

Charlie:

That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Okay. So since you’ve been a Memory Maker here at the River, for you said a little bit over five years now.

What is something that you learned about yourself, that or about ,what you’ve been able to accomplish that has surprised even you? Because I’m sure you had self-confidence going in. What is something you did that surprised yourself about you?

Frank:

You know, honestly, is the fact that I was able to become a million dollar writer every full year I’ve been at Broad River Furniture. And I don’t understand why some people can’t get there.

I’m not going to say anything negative about anybody, but just guys just anybody watching. Just focus on setting your goals, and follow them in the program. 

You know, they give us training and just that’s all I’ve done is I follow my training. It was instilled in me. And then, with my experience in selling all my years, you can not necessarily tweak anything, but just add a little bit to it.

I have steps. Every process you plan,I always say planning the seed for the diamond care, and all and just working with people like that, you never want to oversell, but it just plant those seeds. And in the end it all comes into play and it works. 

Charlie:

Is it true that you’ve grown your sales year over year, every single year?

*phone rings*

Charlie:

That’s, that’s, we’re live on the podcast and stuff like that happens. 

Frank:

That’s the president of Mexico. But I didn’t take his call, because I’m talking.

Charlie:

As a customer who wants to buy.

Frank:

Okay, yeah. More likely. But anyway, I’ll turn it off.  So, sorry that I’ve lost my place now, the question you asked me. 

Charlie:

Let me ask you this: did you expect this level of success, being the top producer?

Frank:

Honestly, no, I did not. I knew I’ve always been in the top ten, since I started, and that was cool. But there’s so many really good associates out there that sell so well, no, I did not. But then again, you know, last year when the across, I thought, you know what, I’m at least going to I’m going to at least be to shoot it, to win the car.

And it records way through, that’s when I saw the light at the end of the tunnel was. 

Charlie:

You really cranked it up. The question, before the president of Mexico called, was have you grown your sales every year, year after year that you’ve been with this?

Frank:

Yeah. And you know and as well as I have gotten my margin better and better for you, also because again just following the process, that training, that always works. It works. You get better at it. 

Charlie:

Okay. Frank, you make it seem so easy. What do you think differentiates your level of performance from others in retail sales figures? Like, there’s got to be something different or unique. I mean, just make your sales and the performance take off.

Frank:

Gosh, you know, everybody has different styles of selling, so it’s hard for me to compare what I do to then.

But I just again, the way I’d do it, no matter who comes into the door, it’s I don’t I don’t see them for who they might be able to buy, is just I’m just there to help them. And I help them find what they need. And at the end of the day, you know, just make a friend, make a friend because then they trust you, and they’re gonna buy from you.

Charlie:

So you’re big on connection, you’re not judging the guests.

Frank:

Not at all. And, you know, in sales guys, anybody who works and coworkers and all, get to the point where you can do your own overrides. Because, that’s where you can help the guest better and easier and and your confidence builds up, and then you’re able to to sell more.

Charlie:

You’re saying, you know, for those you don’t know how, you get to the point of doing your own overrides. It’s where you become a trusted confidante. You ascend to a certain level and to the expert status, where you can do that yourself and manage your own business. 

Frank:

Yeah, that’s correct. That’s it. 

Charlie:

That’s a perk. It’s a great perk. So be an expert. 

So let’s talk about advice. You know, someone starts day one on the sales floor, what advice would you give a new Memory maker starting today? 

Frank:

First of all, understand it. You’ve got to be patient, because I’ll be honest with you, when I started working for Ashley Furniture, it was probably October, September, October and December.

I was almost reconsidering going, I don’t know if I can, you know, cause I made good money in previous jobs I had, so I wasn’t making ends meet, but that was it. 

The sales deliveries had to catch up. So I was a little bit, I don’t know if I can do this anymore, but then I just I was patient.

January, February came, then I started getting those 3 and $4,000 checks, and I said, I can do this.

Charlie:

So that’s a great message for a recruiter, and for folks contemplating coming in. The money can be really good, but you’ve got to piece the activity and build that, right?

Frank:

That is correct. Yes.

Charlie:

So, Frank, what’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Frank:

This advice I received, in terms of sales?

Charlie:

Yeah, sure. 

Frank:

Well, actually, the reason why I stay with the company is, one of my coworkers, a previous coworker, Dawn Gatti, she said: Frank, and I admired her so much, because she was so good. I don’t often know her, but she said, you are going to start making good money in a few weeks.

Just be patient. And I took her advice, and that’s probably the best, because now I’m so happy I’m still here.

Charlie:

I love that patient’s game, and it’s been a very rewarding career thus far. Sky’s the limit. We’ll talk about where you’re going in the future.

Okay, so let’s talk about what characteristics and qualities. What do you believe are the critical qualities or characteristics that most contribute to success in on the sales floor?

Frank:

First of all, take the training at heart, because it’s there for a reason. It works, okay? And just follow the steps, and set goals. Okay. You know, you guys spoke about it before, and it’s very important too, because you don’t have a goal and you’re just going in circles, okay? And don’t get distracted, you know, I don’t play games on my phone and stuff at work. I see a lot of my coworkers and friends, turn it off really.

And not because I’m trying to be a parent. But, when you motivate them, you can make good money. But sometimes you’re too distracted. 

Charlie:

Yeah. Just be focused on your practice. And treat it like being a pro, like a giant. 

Okay, I’ve got a good icebreaker question. At least I think it’s a good icebreaker question. This again, if this is a quick get to know Frank Gastelum,at your core. So, when you think about your legacy, or how you want to be remembered, what three words come to mind that you like to describe you?

Frank:

In the virtual?

Charlie:

As just a person, a human being.

Frank:

One, nice person, talented, and somebody you can trust.

Charlie:

Trustworthy, talented and nice. Nice can go a long way. Love it.

And okay, so let’s talk about unsung heroes. It always takes a village, right, to achieve phenomenal success. I know you’ve got a great team and great family support. 

Who are some of the unsung, unsung heroes or colleagues of your world? Tell us what they do to help you.

Frank:

Okay. Again, in the sales world, you know, it’s always, you learn every day. So, you can be good at what you do, but then somebody else can be better at something that you do better, so you gotta take that to heart and say, you know what, that’s great.

And,so I know first of all, Kim Trulio, she is awesome in furniture world, and this community in the mattress world, okay. So I learned a lot from her. 

Jim Walker. The guy can sell like a bandit. So I said, you know, he can do it, I can too. And I’ve watched how he does. And also I learned from him and Dawn Gatti, she was phenomenal, too bad she is not with the company anymore, but I remember her. Ken Edwards is a nice guy. 

So I just picked up a lot everybody, you know, and you have to, if you’re going to polish your train, be the better. So you learn every day. And so these are some of the people. 

Charlie:

Well, I loved the just learning from others and some I think of as a thief, just taking the best ideas from someone else.

Okay. I’m gonna pivot to culture for a moment. All right, Frank. And, you know, we like to think that our culture is pretty special, unique. Of course, we could be biased. But our culture, the River we like, think it’s special or unique. 

What is your favorite thing about our culture here at the River, and what do you think makes it so special?

And it could be Broad River or could it just be The Flagship? The Flagship is the nickname for your store.

Frank:

I, you know what? I like the way all the executives in the country, excuse me, the company knows your name. That says a lot. Because, you could work for somebody, and you’re just a number but here it feels special, because somebody comes in, especially like Heather, she knows everybody’s name and everybody loves her, and all the other executives.

I mean, Stacey, and I could say everybody’s name, but I don’t have to because, everybody knows you, and that’s that’s that’s cool, you feel, they make you feel special. 

Charlie:

That’s super important. You know, you can’t know someone if you don’t know their name. Heather is great. We’ve had Heather on the podcast, and she’s overseeing the Memory Maker Experience department for us, and so it’s a lot.

But, if you’re, if you’re the top writer or the company, people are going to know your name. 

So, let me ask you this, Frank, what is one thing about Brad River that you think would equally surprise others on the outside looking in? 

Frank:

The fact that you can make such a good living at it, and you know not have to work your life away.

You know, I have time for my family. I go on two vacations a year and I was still able to sell the $2. something million. So yeah, it’s a good career to come to, especially with this company. It is really good. 

Charlie:

Yeah. And we certainly don’t ask you to say that about, trying to, but you’re known for having great work life balance, and it’s just a testament to where you can have great work life balance, harmony, integration, and still perform at a phenomenal level. It’s a testament to just the way that you really focus on your craft, when you’re there.

Frank:

With Lebron, working for the company. So I could teach something, so. 

Charlie:

Oh, well, we’re still recruiting and we’ll see. We’ll see if he’s not, he’s not been returning our calls just yet.

All right. Let’s go back and talk to a younger Frank Gastelum. You’ve been with this for several years now. And if you could go back to your first day with us, what would you tell your younger self about what life is going to be, like on Broad River retail?

Frank:

Well, take everybody’s advice to heart that, yes, in due time it’s going to happen, okay. 

Because, and this is so important for everybody who is starting with the company to understand, you know, what our base pay is. It’s good and it gets us by. 

But after the delivery started taking place, that’s when you start making really good money. So I’m going to tell everybody, just be patient. That’s a very important word to cover this. 

Charlie:

Great. We appreciate you saying that. And it does build over time. Okay. 

So you’re not just about furniture and being a phenomenal retail salesperson. You’ve also as you stated earlier, started with your passion for art. I think you told me one time you’re still trying to get on Shark Tank. 

So tell us about what, can you tell us about your passion for art and the Shark Tank deal, and how is that going? 

Frank:

Actually, I think it’s going to go really well, because I just met with the company this past week, at the recording studio. They’re going to help me produce the video to go. I have to get through the casting crew. 

And, you know, because I tried, I did a video with a friend of mine, and it was okay, but it was hmm.. you could see the quality wasn’t good. These guys, they saw what I do and what I need. And so they’re saying I’m going to get it. I love, I love, I love my art. The fact that I invented the new style, and I have a patent and all. 

That’s, Charlie, it’s going to hurt. You know, I may have to leave the company. I’m going to have to thank you then for everything you provided for me now, you know, because that put me in a position right  I’m able to do what I’m doing now. 

Charlie:

That would bring us pure joy. Look, if you stayed here for many seasons, we’re happy with that. But if you go on in advance, and get on Shark Tank ,and take your artist endeavors to the next level, we’d love it. We’d love to see you thrive in any facet of your life. And that means, that means a lot to us. 

But before you go on Shark Tank, let’s have a little conversation about negotiating that with Mr. Wonderful. We need to have some prep. Some prep talks about that. 

Frank:

Yeah, definitely. 

Charlie:

I’ve watched my fair share of Shark Tank episodes. 

Oh, okay. Certainly you don’t love everything about the company, so let’s, if you could change one thing about the company today, with just waving a magic wand, what would it be?

Frank:

We know, every consultant can agree with me, the back up in the furniture. That’s something we can’t control. But, you know, we keep doing the best we can, obviously. I know you guys, it affects you guys too, as leaders of the company. So I’m sure you’re doing the best you can. 

And I will say that, you know, we’ve done so much better, so many other companies. I know each because I spoke to salespeople from other companies and they’re making ends meet, but sometimes barely, so where I think we’re doing better than everyone else.

Charlie:

You’re talking about supply chains?

Frank:

Supply chain. Yeah. And I know that’s nothing you can really control, but you can try to tweak it when you can. And I’ve seen it. You guys have done it. 

One other thing is obviously our deliveries. I know because of the pandemic and all that, I know how difficult it is to get people and all that. So but I know ones once it strains out. Yeah, you could do a little bit. You guys know how to install fireplaces and stuff like that because, I’ve had issues  we’ve I’m sure every has, where the guys have left it there because they didn’t know how to install it.

Charlie:

We want every delivery to go 100%. Well, and it’s a battle for talent with help from home delivery to home furnishing experts, you know and appreciate that. It gives us something to work on. 

Let’s say that I’m done dealing with supply chain, and home deliveries and now I’m ready to retire. And I’m going to give you the keys to the company. You’re the new president and CEO of Broad River Retail.

Frank:

Wow.

Charlie:

Yeah, yeah. So, today’s your first day in the new role. Congratulations. What would be your first order of business? 

Frank:

Okay. Well, I would bring you back on as my assistant, and I would keep that promotion, and with a slight increase of pay, and then it’d be business as usual.

Charlie:

Oh, I wasn’t expecting that. All right. Okay. And you guys, this is Frank kind of sense of humor, here you go. 

As you know, Frank, companies word of the year for 2022 is THRIIVE. You know, we believe in these words of the year, and having one focus per year is a thematic word. You certainly thrived in 2021, in spite of a global pandemic. What does it mean for you to thrive?

Frank:

Well, you know, I believe in giving back. So, we have some new consultants that came on board in our store and our location.

I’m going to and we help guide them to, not I don’t know, that may be even better than me, but I’m going to show them the ropes the way somebody else taught me, so I think that’s important.

Charlie:

That’s really great. I’ve heard that metaphor. You send the elevator back down once you’ve reached a certain level of height or success.

What advice would you offer up to one of these new hires, these new fellow Memory Makers to help him or her thrive this year? 

Frank:

Again, take it to heart and follow the steps, the process, and just learn from everybody else.

Things that are working. Keep your eyes open, and stay off the phone. Keep your eyes open to what somebody is doing, and then put it into your playbook.

Charlie:

What I love, I try to ask these questions a bunch of different ways, and you’re so consistent: be patient, follow the process. Give yourself that long runway and it will happen for you. And focus. Don’t don’t play games on your phone. I’ve heard that a few times. 

Okay, Frank, you mentioned that goal setting is something that’s really important to you earlier in our conversation. All right. 

So along those lines, what do you do for an encore? What are your goals? I’m sure everyone wants to know what are your goals for 2022 now that you’ve hit 2.13 and you’re driving around that brand new Jeep Cherokee?

Frank:

Well, you know that, that Jeep Wagoneer sounds and looks really good, when I see a pass on the street, you see very few of them, but Manny mentioned, if I reach a certain point, I might be able to get that. Of course, the key word might. So, I, you know, we’ll will see. 

Charlie:

So 2.2 and 22 is that it? I’m not trying to put words in your mouth. Is that it? 

Frank:

Oh yeah. But I think he said it had to be 3 million and you know, hey, it’s a little bit of a stretch. 

Charlie:

Well, yeah, I can see Manny saying something like that. You know, he’s one to go after the stretch goals. Okay. 

So when you’re not chasing $3 million, and you’ve got some time. We’ve talked about work life balance and mental health. When you stop working for the day, or you have a day off and you have some time for yourself or for your family, what do you like to do for fun, and just to relax? 

Frank:

I have a studio in my house, so when I can, I do some drawing and stuff, but it’s mostly family time. I go home, I do stuff with my family. 

You know, one of my boys moved out already, so I still have the 18 year old at home, and he’s, he’s ready to fly the coop, but I told him to hold on, you know, just don’t ever, just take your time. 

Charlie:

Love it. Okay. We are in the furniture business. What’s your favorite piece of furniture that you have gotten from the Ashley Homestore? 

Frank:

You know, my wife and I purchased the Brashland, the bedroom set. And it looks phenomenal in our room. And the fact that I, you know, she wanted a different set, and I said, god, Grace, this will look beautiful, and she followed my suit, and then now she’s very happy. It looks nice, and we’re happy with it. 

Charlie:

That’s great. Okay, you sell a lot, a lot, a lot of stuff. Of everything that you sell, what’s your favorite thing to sell and why? 

Frank:

Well, because of it, I feel that people buy the furniture, and it’s a big investment and I feel when I sell the dynamic, that’s why I really enjoy selling.

First of all, it pays well, but it also protects the customer, you know, and it’ll make for a repeat business. 

Charlie:

Wonderful. Wonderful. I’ve asked you for advice in a lot of different ways. 

And so to someone who is not a Memory Maker and they’re thinking about coming to the River, about joining Broad River retail, what advice would you offer to that person?

Frank:

Well, first of all, come to the River in a speedboat, because it’s worth it. You can do so well, and  it’s more, it’s a family, you know, we there. Yeah. It’s competitive, but that makes it fun. 

But at the end of the day, everybody helps each other, you know, and you’ll, everybody will help you learn. And I’m tapping again. So I won’t do that. But, yeah, everybody will help you learn and help you propel you to the next level.

Charlie:

Well, you are right to 2.1 , you can do all the taps that you want. You will learn as we go. We’ll try not to tap more, when we have you back. This has been fine.

Thank you so much for coming on. I love the speedboat analogy. Bring your speedboat when you’re coming to the River. And you know, you mentioned competition. 

Yeah, I think competition gets a bad rap. I like to say, it comes from the Latin word competere, which means to strive together and as you know, this year we’re going to thrive together.

So you’re going to help us thrive in 2022. Frank. And thank you for all that you’ve done. Thank you for taking some time out of your busy day, and your off day, or if you’re working today, you’re off day. Are you working today?

Frank:

Yeah. I am.

Charlie:

Well, thank you for taking time to come speak with us.

And I know this will mean a lot, to a lot of people.

Frank:

Well, thank you for having me, and I look forward to meeting everybody out there and helping them as any way I can.

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