|By DENNE GOLDSTEIN|
When Texas-bred Brandon Stephens, 38, signed on with The Décor Group in 2003, little did he realize that he would one day end up as president of the company. Stephens is not one to dwell on accolades; he likes to move quickly and time’s a wastin’....
Almost from the time he was a toddler, he was being taught about business; how to be a good businessman and what it takes to make a business successful. As a young man, he partnered with his grandfather and began to build storage units. They were no strangers to the business, since Stephens’ dad was in a family-owned construction and concrete business.
They eventually built about 400 storage units. These units were built in blocks, and as each block would open, Stephens would rent and manage them. He got into the real estate business, and also had a heavy equipment and trailer dealership, among other things. He continued to jump in and out of various businesses, all the time managing the storage units.
Raised in San Angelo, Texas, Stephens attended and graduated from Angelo State University, sticking close to home. Somehow, in addition to operating all the businesses, he still found time for a social life. He met a girl and they began dating. The problem was that she was from Lubbock, and that’s 180 miles from San Angelo—a three-hour-and-forty-five minute drive. The chemistry between Amy and Stephens seemed to be working, and he pursued the relationship to the altar.
After operating his businesses for 11 years, he sold the storage units and moved to Lubbock. He was ready for a change. Stephens said, “I found that my real passion was marketing and business development.
Through networking, I was introduced to Blake Smith and his partners.” Smith had started a company called Christmas Décor in 1986, a business that hung holiday lights for residential and commercial properties.
Hanging holiday lights for customers turned out to be quite lucrative and Smith soon found that, if done properly, he could franchise it. In 1996, Smith and his partners began franchising. Almost from the get-go, they realized that selling franchises required many skills; marketing being a primary one.
As the company grew, Smith and his partners realized that one person couldn’t handle that whole area and do it well. They needed to develop a support team, and they became that team. By 2003, as Christmas Décor continued its growth, Stephens was brought in as their director of marketing. Because marketing is a key area for the company, Stephens also joined the support team. In addition, he went back to school, graduating from Texas Tech University, where he majored in communications and received his degree in 2009.
Along the way, Stephens was thrown into various situations—developing programs for the franchisees, teaching franchisees different business concepts, bringing in education and recruiting. He was involved in many aspects of the business.
As the company continued to expand, Smith knew he had to restructure the management team. “The company is structured so that Smith and I oversee different areas of the firm,” said Stephens. “Although I still work in a marketing capacity, I really serve more of the operations. I oversee legal, finance, oversight, etc. Smith oversees distribution and product, among others. We think this will work well.”
In 1998, before Stephens was brought in, Smith began to franchise another company called Nite Time Décor, a full-service professional landscape lighting company. They spent a lot of time getting Nite Time Décor up to speed, but after 12 years, Smith and Stephens both realized that franchising landscape lighting seemed to be a limited niche. There could be a better way than franchising.
Nite Time Décor is changing its approach; they are in the process of converting their franchisees to a new program. ”We want to appeal to that landscape design firm, or landscape contractor,” said Stephens. “We don’t want to sell them a franchise; what we’re setting up now is a special group—call it a buying group if you will—and we want them to join that group. We’ve put a lot of effort and energy into this program, and we have the manuals that will help make landscape lighting a profitable part of their business.”
In the meantime, Smith bought out his partners in 2008. The support team was now spearheaded by Smith and Stephens. And recently, Stephens was promoted to president of The Décor Group.
With all the travelling he does, Stephens still manages to get home to spend time with his family. He and Amy have three children, Branson, 16, Madeline, 10, and Landon, 6. With strong family values, Stevens has made it a tradition that as the children get older, he tries to have alone time with each of them once a week.
They are an active family: Branson is in his high school’s band; Madeline is very active in softball, basketball, volleyball and dance. Landon is involved in football and baseball. Stevens said, “I to try to coach their teams at every opportunity.”
Brandon Stephens has had various business ventures, and learned many lessons along the way. I think he’s really found his passion in his current career choice.