Scott O’Farrell of Batteries Plus Discusses the Business Model That Led To Their Success

Scott O’Farrell of Batteries Plus Discusses the Business Model That Led To Their Success

Interview by Anja PaspaljAnja Paspalj
Published: November 23, 2022

Nationally recognized, yet locally owned.

Batteries Plus opened its first store over thirty years ago — a small space and team focused on offering superior knowledge of their quality technical products to customers.

Today, Batteries Plus has become a household name for customers and companies alike, with over 700 stores in the United States.

How did the Batteries Plus business strategy, centered on franchising and B2B support and education, prove to be one of the most successful in the country? And in what ways does it focus on the importance of sustainability?

Find out from Scott O’Farrell, chief commercial officer for Batteries Plus.

Spotlight: Batteries Plus has been expanding its position on the market for three decades now. Please tell us about the company’s humble beginnings and its journey to become America’s largest battery franchise?

Scott O’Farrell: The first Batteries Plus location opened its doors in Green Bay, Wisconsin in 1988. A few years later, we were approached by a couple who loved the business model, which led to the opening of our first franchise store in Fort Wayne, IN in 1992.

In the years since, we have continued to grow our franchise business, while expanding our selection of products and services. We greatly increased our selection of lighting solutions in 2010 and added device and cell phone repair to our offerings four years later. Finally, in 2017 we added key cutting and key fob replacement service to our stores.

As we have grown, we’ve also invested heavily in our commercial business partnerships. We have thousands of industrial battery and lighting solutions, but the real secret to our success is the expertise we bring to the table. Batteries Plus is actively partnered with the companies that buy from us and we consider it our responsibility to help steer them towards the best possible solutions for their needs, while providing them with the support they need to help maintain those products properly.

You now have 700+ locations throughout the U.S. What is your franchise strategy and why has it proven to be successful over the years?

One of the key priorities of our strategy is offering world class support to our franchisees. We’ve been doing this for over 30 years and, in that time, we’ve built an integrated network of franchise support. We have resources in place to assist our franchisees with every aspect of ownership, from finding an ideal store location, to training employees and beyond. Once their store is established, we supply ongoing resources to assist them with B2B sales, product questions, inventory management, IT issues and marketing concerns.

We also have our own Distribution Center and in-house supply chain at Batteries Plus. This is a huge resource for franchisees. Not only does this allow our owners to consolidate their ordering, but it also opens up enormous sales opportunities in the B2B market. The ability to ship our products nationwide in a matter of days allows franchisees to service businesses of all sizes.

Batteries Plus recently landed on Entrepreneur’s 2022 Top Franchises for Veterans List. What made you decide to partner with VetFran and what’s the process for those interested?

Franchising is a great way for veterans to become entrepreneurs because the franchise model aligns very closely with the skills that they learn in the military. Strong leadership skills, tenacity and the ability to implement key procedures are the exact traits we look for in prospective owners. To take advantage of our veteran benefits, all a prospective owner needs to do is provide a DD214 showing an honorable discharge.

What is logistics like for a franchise business of this size? How does the company ensure all stores maintain the brand and experience the company is known for?

As I mentioned earlier, Batteries Plus has its own distribution center that serves the system with product sourced both domestically and internationally. This provides franchisees with buying power and continuity of product, as well as inventory control and world class fulfillment metrics. Having our own supply chain operation has been a huge advantage for franchisees over the past two years, providing them with in-house solutions to the many supply chain challenges facing retailers today.

We offer a variety of service level options in full truck loads for volume purchases, plus LTL and Parcel for weekly replenishment orders. Plus, we offer expedited one and two-day deliveries for both our Services business and endless aisle program, as well as a Commercial Direct program. In addition, our Distribution Center can ship commercial items directly to our B2B customers.

With energy costs increasing in recent years, what trends have you noticed in consumer behavior and how did you leverage these in your marketing strategies?

While it’s true that energy costs are impacting decisions, I think it’s more than that. Decision makers are looking at price certainly, but they are also looking at the long-term viability of their partnerships in these uncertain times. In a strange way, this plays to Batteries Plus's advantages. As a company, we have enough scale to provide our customers with the prices they want, while remaining small enough to offer custom solutions in terms of inventory, shipment size, contract length or anything else that a buyer or executive deems important to get the best cost while mitigating risk to their P&L (profit and loss statement).

Certain types of alkaline batteries are more energy efficient. What are tips people need to know in order to cut down on energy costs?

Knowledge is the key to cutting down on your energy costs. By matching a particular application with its most efficient solution, you’ll get a much longer lifespan from your battery, saving you the cost of replacing it prematurely. For instance, when purchasing disposable batteries, alkaline batteries work best in low to moderate drain devices like clocks and remotes, while disposable lithium batteries are a better choice for digital cameras, keyless door locks and other high drain devices.

This same principle applies to other battery types as well. For SLA batteries, there are several different types available, each designed for different applications. A high-rate SLA (Sealed Lead Acid) battery is your best choice for UPS units and server banks, while deep cycle SLAs are the most efficient solution for wheelchairs, floor scrubbers and RV house batteries.

We understand this can be complicated. That’s why we work so hard to ensure that our B2B reps command a deep knowledge of the products we sell, in order to steer our partners to the best possible solution.

Lastly, how important is sustainability for Batteries Plus and how can people help care for the environment?

Sustainability is one of the company’s key priorities. As consumers and companies gradually step away from fossil fuels, batteries will become more and more prevalent. We’re constantly searching out the most efficient battery solutions.

In addition, we offer recycling at each of our stores. Individuals can drop off their spent batteries and bulbs at their nearest Batteries Plus. This helps keep them out of landfills and ensures that all usable materials are salvaged and repurposed.

On an industrial level, we work with our business partners to provide recycling solutions for their spent batteries and bulbs. This makes us one of the few end-to-end providers in the battery and lighting industry.

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