All for a Buck

By: Kenzie Gulley

“I saw your pantry, and all you have pancake mix. Do you need help?” Jill Bishop replied calmly. “Brent always pulls through, and we love pancakes.”

One of Bishop’s mottos in life is to take the opportunity when it comes. There are opportunities all around us to make a buck, and Bishop’s life is a prime example of what principles to live by to create the most success.

With ten children, providing for the Bishop family was the main priority for Brent Bishop. He wanted to put food on the table for his children, but he also wanted to teach them self-reliance and hard work. These were some of the principles Bishop learned when he was young. As a child, he sought out jobs and helped his father with their family business, so he wanted to give his children the same opportunity.

And this is how Greenbacks All- A- Dollar was born. Bishop first researched a need in the market. He took a trip to the south with his son to seek inspiration, and that’s when he saw these “Only a Dollar” stores. There was nothing like this in the west, so he interviewed CEO’s of the company and tried to figure out how he could make this work in the West. He had a vision but he wasn’t sure quite how to get it started.

Bishop sees himself as a visionary entrepreneur. A visionary entrepreneur “sees the world as a candy store”. They see so many opportunities, but sometimes have a difficult time executing the business.  In order to put his ideas into action he has to have the right people on board to make it happen.

One of his main questions was what kind of products to supply the store with. It just so happened that a national buyer in the Salt Lake area was about to move to California but wanted to stay in the Salt Lake area if he could. He knew exactly what the store needed.

Another key person he needed was the manager. One of Bishop’s friend’s neighbors had been working in a department store like Kohls. He knew exactly how to manage everything Bishop needed him to. This man was perfect for the job and became their first manager.

There were many things that fell into place for Bishop as he built the business, but he says that nothing really happens smoothly. One of their main problems was that they were growing too fast. When a business has the right infrastructure to grow this is no problem, but they were not set up right for that kind of growth.

At one point, they had to move warehouses three times in fourteen months. They even had to work out of four smaller warehouses. This made it difficult to keep inventory and deliver products to the stores.

He also had to learn when certain people were not benefiting the company. Letting them go was one of the hardest things he had to do. He knew he would be affecting their lives, but keeping them wore down the business. Being able to grow Greenbacks would provide jobs for many other people.

Over twelve years he worked through these problems and eventually spread Greenbacks to one-hundred convenient stores in the West. In 2003, The Dollar Tree bought Greenbacks for one-hundred million dollars.

Bishop contributes his success to the principles he’s learned through his lifetime. Get on your knees. Get the best answer you can then get on your feet and go to work. Be open to course correction, and take opportunities when they come. So, when it was time to sell the company he was being open to course correction, and he saw more opportunities ahead of him.

His children were able to learn these lessons through their work at the store. Many of them worked through their teenage years, so they were able to pay for their own clothes. Brent and Jill were not in the position to buy clothes for all their children. But they were grateful they could provide jobs for their children so they could still have the things they need.

His children still have memories that they made in the store. They all tell a story of when they had to work on Christmas Eve, and they came home exhausted. The store was extremely busy that day, and they all had to help out. Bishop’s son, David, explained, “Working every Christmas Eve and coming home to mom’s Christmas Eve dinner is one of my more memorable experiences.”  Greenbacks brought the family together in a different way than usual.

His daughter, Betsy, is still scared of balloons because they would always pop in the store when she was working. She said, “The balloon counter and one specific heart mylar balloon would explode every time you try to blow it up. I despised when people ordered that balloon because the seams weren’t strong enough to add enough helium to get it to float without exploding.”

Greenbacks is not Bishop’s only large accomplishment. He earned the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the year award in 2001. He also created Franklin and Covey with colleagues, started 3 foundations, helped struggling businesses, participated on multiple boards, and is currently building a cosmetic business in Lebanon.

Now he gives advice to students and upcoming entrepreneurs in presentations throughout different colleges. The first question he asks is, “Why are you pursuing what you are pursuing?” If the answer is money, don’t do it. Satisfaction is more important than money.

You should enjoy what you are doing seventy-five to eighty percent of the time because you won’t like what you do all the time. Make your career work for you and go somewhere that you will enjoy. Along the process seek the direction of heaven and try to feel what your mission is in life.

Bishop still keeps his family in mind when working with different projects and businesses. He and his family now run a foundation to help other people in need. The Bishop family learned the principles their father hopes to teach them through his business endeavors.