Arkansas Money & Politics continues its new series on Arkansas entrepreneurs with Ted Herget, the owner and founder of Gearhead Outfitters, Inc.
Arkansan Ted Herget started Gearhead Outfitters in a friend’s living room. Now, his business has locations in Arkansas, Missouri and Louisiana. Gearhead offers a “relaxed environment, specialized inventory and customer service for those pursuing an active lifestyle,” according to the business’s website.
Herget says he knew he wanted to start something like this in the Natural State after a trip to Colorado.
“In my early twenties I took a couple of semesters off from college and moved to Breckenridge, Colorado, and worked in a ski shop selling equipment,” he says. “I loved the mountain lifestyle and knew I wanted to bring it back to Arkansas.”
While attending Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, he worked at an outdoor store, which closed. After he graduated with a degree in accounting, he had a job offer – but the job didn’t start for nine months, so he decided to take a risk during that time.
“I saw that Jonesboro had a demand for bikes and outdoor products, and felt the city deserved a local option instead of having to drive to Memphis or Little Rock,” he says. “With the other job offer in hand, the risk for me initially wasn’t high. I had nothing to lose, so I weighed the risk and decided to jump. I really only expected to be open for those nine months, then move to Little Rock to start the other job in accounting. Things went very differently, and we’re still here.”
He says he’s used his accounting degree “every day” since his college graduation.
“Hands down it was the best degree to have for starting a small business,” Herget says.
He’s still involved with the school – three years ago, his business endowed a full-ride scholarship through the ASU College of Business, and he accepts “regular speaking engagements on campus,” he says.
After Gearhead moved out of Herget’s friend’s residence, the first shop opened in a 700- square-foot store on Flint Street in Jonesboro. That was in 1997, Herget says.
“It took about a month for us to open,” he says “We had also been doing some business on the Internet — long before it was as big as it is now. Five years later, as the store began to grow, we moved into a space on Main Street and have been there ever since.”
Other locations opened in 2006, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016. After Jonesboro came Little Rock; Shreveport, Louisiana; Rogers; Bentonville; Fayetteville and Springfield, Missouri.
“It was never on my radar to expand, honestly,” Herget says. It was a decision that came about because of his team.
“The moment we decided to expand was when our head buyer, Heath Gammill, who’s been with us since 2006, came to me and offered to run a second store in the new Mall at Turtle Creek,” he says. “We moved in that same year and that’s how we’ve grown ever since. I’ve never had intentions of growing, but our team comes together and say we can do this, and we go for it. I know my team has the ability and drive to make it happen.”
On whether he ever thinks to himself “This is a success”:
“Run from people who say they have it all figured out,” Herget says. “For me, it’s been like running a marathon. It’s not over until you cross the line, and I don’t know where that line is yet. There’s always room to get better. Business is a lot like any sport, we may do some things right, but we can always do things better.”
Herget wants potential entrepreneurs to know that running your own business isn’t an easy task.
“You have to know your threshold of pain,” he says “How deep are you willing to dig to achieve the goal you set for yourself? I’m 20 years in and the struggles are still real. The risk and competition are high and you have to have the drive the passion and the right people with you to keep going.”
“Surround yourself with great people and great things happen,” he says. “Hire people better than you. Delegate responsibility. Have humility and be able to admit when you’ve made the wrong decision. Be willing to change and let things go. A great team will push you to constantly get better. I know that’s true of Gearhead, and I would say that to any business owner.”
Herget says his company’s success “has been having good people who work hard.”
“I have a great team who work just as hard as I do, and I trust them to lead our company well,” he says. “We plan to keep growing, and everyone plays a huge role, from the associate on the floor to our store managers to our office staff.”
AY, our sister publication, named Herget one of its Intriguing Men for 2017. Read more stories of Intriguing Men here.