RON HILL - Founder, Redemption Plus
Working in computer training left Ron Hill feeling a little disconnected, so he left Seattle and returned home to Kansas City to find a better way to contribute. He started meeting people, and wound up talking computers with entrepreneurs in the family entertainment center industry. Ron matched his skills with the distribution of inexpensive prize toys. That’s how Redemption Plus was born.
“At the very beginning in 1996, we just compiled prize toys. We stocked what our clients needed, and we helped them through a simplified inventory management.”
But keeping the prize pipeline stocked required a money game that Ron found himself losing.
“The margins weren’t working. The numbers didn’t work. Our board of directors at the time recommended that we close our doors and just move on. I remember sitting in my office and wondering, ‘What am I going to do?’”
What Ron did back then was a lot of thinking. He examined everything, with an eye toward repositioning Redemption Plus. Then he asked his board of directors for six more months to prove the company could win. They agreed to roll the dice, and it paid off.
“Before Redemption Plus, family fun spots, like a miniature golf course, would order prize toys from 20 different companies, each specializing in a different kind of toy. Redemption Plus became a single supplier of many kinds of toys and developed Digital Packing List, a one-of-a-kind inventory management system that disrupted the industry.”
Ron continued to follow his instincts for innovation and broadened Redemption Plus to specialize in enhancing the guest experience for its customers through insight, design, technology and expert training. The result is greater guest loyalty for some of the biggest family entertainment centers in the country, which makes Redemption Plus an industry prize.
“I feel like we’re in a good place but this industry is always changing, so it’s hard to allow myself to think that we’ve ‘made it.’”
For Ron, success is about more than toys and inventory management.
“What we do is important, but why we do it is far more significant.”
The “why” for Redemption Plus is the enrichment of everyone the company touches inside its own walls and throughout the community.
“Twenty years ago we were selling toys. Now we’re about something much bigger. Our purpose – enriching lives through insights that empower – is about changing people’s lives. It begins with the people who work at Redemption Plus. We consider them our ‘empower rangers.’”
Ron maintains an extraordinary devotion to work-life balance for his staff of 75 “empower rangers.” Employees are supported with everything from convenient exercise opportunities and meditation to chef-prepared, nutritious meals.
“I’ve learned that success can allow you to do more than donate more money. You can also give more to your employees, who will then work better, live better, grow and pay it forward as a way of life.”
What we do is important, but why we do it is far more significant
Redemption Plus continues to up its game in the community, too. Recently, Ron pledged to devote one percent of profits, products and time to giving back. He’s paying for each employee to volunteer 20 hours a year at places like the Ronald McDonald House. A foundation is also in the works featuring a program to give birthday parties to kids who’ve never had one.
“Many kids in foster care or similar circumstances have never been celebrated. So, we throw parties to deliver the simple pleasure of it all and boost a feeling of self-worth in these kids.”
Growing Redemption Plus over the past two decades has taught Ron to follow his passion. That’s at the heart of his advice for other entrepreneurs.
“Be passionate about what you’re doing before you start a company – not the other way around. Get excited about the value you’re creating, then sell it.”
When you talk with Ron, gratitude quickly bubbles up in the conversation. He says the Kansas City area has given him countless reasons to be thankful. He remembers the early days when business mentors stepped up to guide him, and associates turned over their conference rooms when he just needed some space to work on his laptop.
“Kansas City welcomes entrepreneurs with open arms. The resources are just amazing. If you devote yourself to your business, the community’s got your back.”
And he delights in how the community is now evolving. It’s a source of pride, especially knowing he’s doing his part to grow home.
“I moved away hoping to settle in a ‘cool’ city. Now, I’m back and watching Kansas City turn into one of those cool cities. I’m so happy to be part of it.”