The sultan of storage.

Position:Excerpt of interview with California Closets president and CEO Anthony Vidergauz - Interview

Anthony Vidergauz, president of CEO of California Closets (#25), reveals his strategy to make his company synonymous with closet and home-office design.

SUCCESS: What initially attracted you to California Closets? Vidergauz: I'm from South Africa. In 1986, my wife and I were in Los Angeles visiting her mother. Two days before we were due to leave, California Closets did her closets. In 24 hours, they turned a messy closet into a beautiful place. I was so impressed, I went to see the president of this fledgling company. I went to ask whether they would sell franchises in South Africa. Instead, I ended up taking a job in the legal department. I'm a Lawyer by profession. SUCCESS: How did you move from the legal deportment to CEO? Vidergauz: In 1990, Williams Sonoma bought California Closets. They thought there was a synergy with their retail company, Hold Everything. But it didn't work, because their timing was terrible. The Gulf War had just started, and the bottom fell out of the economy. We were just a branch of a very big public company. They hired someone to run California Closets, and things didn't click. I felt that they may be willing to talk about a sale. One day on the golf course, I asked my mentor, Bill LeVine of PIP Printing, to help me buy the company. He agreed, and I contacted the chairman of Williams Sonoma; and within three months, we had a deal. SUCCESS: How do people make money selling closets? Vidergauz: One of the hottest industries around is the storage industry. Ten years ago, custom-designed systems were done for people with disposable income. Fortunately, today it's a tot more mainstream. People are very busy. People want to be organized.

We've sold franchises from Helena, Mont., to New York City. Volume varies. A mini franchise may be doing $15,000 per month. New York City is doing $300,000 per month. Our average franchise is doing $75,000 per month in sales.

The average sates call is 90 minutes. The customer, usually a woman, invites us into the most embarrassing part of her home - her messy closets. That's a hot Lead. A good salesperson closes nearly 80 percent of his appointments. SUCCESS: You're expanding your original...

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