Mitch Fadel, President & COO of Rent-a-Center, stays true to his first love: Business Operations.
By Christine Gatuiria
Mitch Fadel is people person. As the President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Rent-A-Center Inc. (RAC), he must be able to interact effectively with customers, store co-workers, management personnel, franchise owners and C-Suite executives.
“We’re in the people business—the whole RAC transaction is a relationship transaction,” Fadel said. It is clear that Fadel is true to his word : He has proven he can focus on the people and the numbers, produce positive results for the business and all the while stay at the top of his game.
Fadel joined RAC in 1983, starting out in a store management training program, followed by a promotion to District Manager after just six months. He
continued to climb quickly up the corporate ladder, and by 1992 was President and CEO of RAC subsidiary ColorTyme Inc., a leading franchise business of rent-to-own stores. Fadel spent a lot of time consulting with franchisees, sharing his marketing and operations expertise and helping them run their stores.
“It was a great experience learning how to influence people,” Fadel said, “and be persuasive without being overly demanding.”
Out in the Field
After a successful run at ColorTyme, Fadel returned to RAC in 2000 as President and COO. Currently he is responsible for managing more than 3,000 stores in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. Additionally, he is heading up RAC’s expansion into Mexico and overseeing the RAC Acceptance Kiosk business.
“It’s a pretty diverse day between marketing and advertising, merchandising and operations,” said Fadel, who also carves out time to meet with his staff and to make monthly visits to different stores. “I’m not just a guy who sits behind a desk reading reports. I like to be out where the rubber meets the road.”
Business Operations is his first love, so Fadel values getting out and talking with customers and co-workers to monitor the pulse of the organization. He and RAC CEO Mark Speese also conduct what have been dubbed town hall meetings each quarter, during which they provide company updates and entertain questions from employees and managers. It is obvious in speaking with Fadel—and in his work—that he enjoys this part of the job and truly embodies the RAC mission: “To improve the quality of life for our co-workers and our customers.”
Striving to Inspire
The key to strong leadership, Fadel emphasizes, is to be inspirational. He knows how easy it is to fall into the trap of constantly telling people what to do, so his management philosophy revolves around inspiration, motivation and collaboration. He is honest and seeks out opportunities to give positive feedback—sending a handwritten note, for instance, to thank employees who have gone above and beyond the call of duty.
Per Joel Mussat, Executive Vice President of Emerging Business at RAC, “No one will outwork Fadel. He emphasizes hard work, unshakable ethics and solid judgment. The best words to summarize my relationship with him are trust, respect and motivation.”
Fadel’s story affirms that hard work and getting out from behind the desk to talk to people can have a positive effect on one’s career. It also helps to listen and give back whenever you can.
“The fun part,” Fadel said, “is helping other people succeed with their goals and watching people grow and move up.”
Chrsitine Gatuiria is a freelance writer based in St. Louis, MO