Tilben's employees stay on top of what's going on in the industry by constantly talking to people and joining relevant organizations. "Becoming a member of IPI was one of the best things I ever did," says Sedlik. "Joining organizations like that gives you the competitive edge, especially pricing when you're buying in a group. And I've gotten back more than half my dues already in money they give you back for buying from certain vendors. It really doesn't cost me much; it's really so minimal compared to what you're getting."
Hoff hits the internet often to stay abreast of technology trends and news. "I check in on the technology sites," he says. "I go to Yahoo! Tech a lot, Geeks.com, TigerDirect.com. I love technology; if I didn't like what I did, I wouldn't have done it as long as I have."
Though word of mouth is Tilben's biggest draw, Sedlik markets the business in newspaper ads, local shopper's guides, and the Pennysaver. "Another thing we do is local competitive bidding on different products, which you can find in reader ads in local newspapers," he explains. "Doing those reader ads and those bid sheets is extra work, but it pays off, and not just for those bidsóthey may call you for other work down the road."
As for a website, that's not a medium they've decided to embrace yet. "Using a website in this industry to try and sell goods is hard to do because of the competitive nature of the industry," he says. "And I wouldn't use a website to educate my customers, because we educate from within."
In the end, it's Tilben's roots in the community and their customer service that makes the store profitable. "I worked with my father in the business since I was 18 years old; he died six years ago," Sedlik says. "He always said to me: 'Push the services.' So I've always remembered that. My customers always get that one-on-one, the square deal, the smiling face, and the friendly greeting."
Customer Mary Mendoza sums it all up for us as we're preparing to head out. "They have the right equipment, they treat me very nicely, and they give me help when I need help!"