Fitting Into A Custom-made Entrepreneur Suit with Chris Hammond

Jul 05, 2022

Running a family business can be a blessing or a curse. It'll depend entirely on our decisions around responsibilities, duties, and the tasks we decide to take over. Our guest, Chris Hammond, manager for the last 12 years and soon-to-be owner of The Kater Shop, joins us to share his thoughts on how to effectively and successfully run a family business. 

Chris is a father of three kids; he has been managing The Kater Shop since 2010 and is about to make the leap of faith and buy the family business. 

In this episode, we dive into Chris' journey from his early experience in retail and swearing he'd never return to it to managing and owning a manswear shop. We discuss culture at the workplace, how to create an appealing work environment, and how Chris does that at his shop. Chris also shares how he and his father assigned roles matching their skills to ensure the proper functioning of the company and staying out of each other's way, and how they established boundaries to avoid talking 24/7 about the business. 

Chris also emphasized the need for having systems in place and shared his thoughts on including our kids in the family business. 

Some Questions I Ask:

  • Tell us a little bit about yourself and your story over the years (2:49)
  • What have you learned during that time of hating working in retail? (6:07)

In This Episode, You Will Learn:

  • Chris talks about how to create a culture where people feel excited to work (6:24)
  • Chris describes his feelings about taking over the family business he managed for so many years (8:25)
  • Chris talks about the importance of assigning roles according to each person's skills and personal characteristics (12:21)
  • Chris talks about why creating an unforgettable customers experience leads each one of his decisions in the business (19:27)


Connect with Chris:

Let's Connect!


Clint Hoopes: Sometimes we get so focused on the how, on “Look, if I can just do all of these things, then I can save X number of dollars.” Forgetting that sometimes getting the right “who” in place to do those things really can make such a big difference in your world, in being able to actually free you up and free your mind up.

Clint Hoopes: Welcome to the Unrivaled Man podcast. So grateful to have you here today. Excited to introduce my guest, Chris Hammond, today. Chris is the father of three wonderful children. Chris also grew up in Vancouver, Washington, and now lives in Providence, Utah. He'd been managing The Kater Shop menswear store in Logan, Utah since 2010, and will soon be purchasing that business. Chris loves to ride side by side, loves traveling, loves watching history documentaries, and is also a Seattle Seahawks super fan. Chris, welcome to the Unrivaled Man podcast.

Chris Hammond: Thanks, Clint. It’s glad to be here, man. 

Clint Hoopes: Chris and I have known each other for… how many years. I don't know.

Chris Hammond: Before some of our kids existed, actually, yeah. 2010. 

Clint Hoopes: Yeah, 2009 or 2010, that sounds about right. I think at that time I had one or two kids at the time. One probably. And then we had one during that time. Oh, my goodness. Crazy how quickly time goes. I called up Chris the other day because I've been looking at all the wonderful thing he's been doing with The Kater Shop and other businesses he's been involved in, and with his wonderful family, and I just said, “Man, we’ve just got to have him on the show.” So, I'm so grateful that he agreed to come on the show today.

Chris Hammond: I was stoked when I got the call, I looked at my phone and said, “Oh, my gosh, Clint’s calling me. We haven’t talked in forever.” And man, it was just so natural talk. Gosh, we probably talked for almost an hour. And then just talked about the podcast. It was perfect to connect again. And I’m glad to be here and talk a little bit about what's going on in our lives.

Clint Hoopes: Well, Chris, once we get started, I'd love to hear a little bit about just kind of your story. Once again, I know some of your story but our listeners don't. Just tell us a little bit about yourself and your story over the years.

Chris Hammond: Absolutely. So, I grew up mainly in Vancouver, Washington. After I graduated high school, my parents had the idea to move back to Logan, Utah. My lived here through college at Utah State University and plan on becoming a lawyer and then worked at the store called The Kater Shop menswear store; a small little menswear shop downtown Logan, where everyone goes to get their suits, wedding atire, church missions for the Latter Day Saint church. And he worked there and loved it, but he went on to become a lawyer, that didn't work out and became a field director for most of my life. But in 2004, when I graduated high school, they said, “Well, we're going to move back to Logan, Utah, and I'm going to buy that menswear store where I worked at when I was in my 20s.” Literally, the day after I graduated high school, moved to Logan, Utah. My dad worked for the original owners, good friends of ours for about five years. The original plan was to buy it as soon as he moved there, but that didn't happen. 

Chris Hammond: So, he worked there for five years. And I went on a serve-a-church mission for our church. I got married. And as my dad was running the shop, he said, “Well, I need a manager.” And at that time, I was living down in Orem, Utah. My wife and I had only been married for about a year. And he said, “Would you come back and manage the store for me and then go to school?” And I was going to school for athletic training. I wanted to become a physical therapist. So, I decided, “You know, I can do that for about two years. We'll see when things go.” And I actually found out that during those two years, that I was not cut out to do physical therapy at all. And I was really into marketing and business, that's really what caught my interest, those were my passions. So, after I graduated college, I said, “Well, I'll stay on keep working. I really enjoy this. Let's just keep this thing going.” That's what got me here. And I had sworn that I would never go back into retail because when I was in high school, I worked at a clothing store in Portland, Oregon, just right across the river from Vancouver, Washington, and I actually hated it. As a high school kid, I was like, “Whatever I could do to make money.” But after about six months to a year of working at that retail store, I was like, “Oh, I will never go into retail again.” And what's funny enough is our store location is actually right next door to that original retail chain. And now I'm buying a retail business. So, come full circle. So, here we are, at my parents-owned store. I've managed it for 12 years. And now I'm actually taking over it. And I think there's a big difference between owning a business and working in a business. So, I've learned a lot. So, that's kind of my journey to get to where I'm at today with what I do as a manager of a menswear store. And I've got three kids and a wife that totally support me and amazing. So, that's how I got here, that's how we're here. Sitting in this chair with the office behind me, this is a pretty raw footage of what a men's wear store manager's office looks like during peak season, during wedding season. 

Clint Hoopes: I love it. So, for anybody listening, if you're watching on YouTube, you can go to the YouTube channel, you can check it out and just see that's just right where we're at right in the thick of it. Like you said, wedding season, that is a busy time, I'm sure. I mean, you just have people this left and right, just in and out constantly, right? 

Chris Hammond: Absolutely, yeah. 

Clint Hoopes: Well, I’ve got to go back to your what you're saying with your story, this is something that piqued my interest. So, you said that you were in retail during high school working, hated it and said, “Will never do this.” And yet, here you are. So, I got a question for you: What things did you learn during that time of hating working in retail that have changed how you manage and what you do now in your business? Is there anything that you do now because of that?

Chris Hammond: Yeah, well, I often go back to that and think about those times there. And there are a couple of things; one, I have about 10 employees here, and I always think, “Do they feel how I felt back then?” And I don't want them to ever feel that way. So, as a manager, just trying to put myself in my employees’ shoes and be like, “Am I acting or am I treating my employees the same way that I did not like to be treated or enjoy when I was a high school kid.” So, I mean, maturity level, obviously, has changed. So, that's something you have to keep in mind when you're taking care of your employees is, are they in a good environment and a situation that they're enjoying? Are they excited when they wake up in the morning and come to work? So, that's a big thing, I think about that often.

Clint Hoopes: I'm big on culture. Making sure that the culture in your company, culture in your business is strong, and that it feels good. And having been clear on mission statement or values or whatever is important in the business. But when it comes down to it, the measures that I like to use are, just like you said, are people excited to come in the morning? And the second one is, would they refer a friend to work there? Those are the things I always think about. It’s the same kind of thing just like, “Look, if they enjoy coming each day, of course, they're going to refer a friend because it's a great place to work.” And I think, in the end, those are some simple measures you can find out if you have a healthy business. It sounds like you're in a similar way; do people enjoy working here?

Chris Hammond: And I take pride in that because I do quarterly reviews with my employees, I say, “Well, what do you like about your job?” And if they feel comfortable – which most of them do, we’re like family here – they’d say, “I love the atmosphere.” Because right now in the world, you can pretty much go and work anywhere and probably get paid for asking price at most places just because businesses are short on staff. So, creating a culture where people want and feel belonged and feel valued, sometimes overwrites the dollar – not everyone's love language is money. So, making my employees feel valued and appreciated, and feel like what they're doing matters, helps retain those employees.

Clint Hoopes: What's getting you most excited right now in your business or life?

Chris Hammond: Running this business for 12 years, my hands are all over this business: the processes procedures, the buying, the marketing. We’re a small brick-and-mortar store – one location. So really, I mean, this is a flavor of love, it's a family-owned business. Now buying it, it puts a little bit more pressure. It's exciting because it's my name and my money on the line, and I'm not spending someone else's money. So, that excites me, and there are things that probably will change so it feels more like who I am and my personality. So, that is really exciting me and that's going to be over the next six months. So, that, in a business sense, preparing to buy a business is a lot different than working in a business, until you've gone from manager to owner; there's a step there; there’s a sense of pride and ownership that you take over, even more so over the last 12 years. So, for me, that's something I'm really looking forward to. Everything is a challenge here, our business is booming. A lot of menswear stores are booming right now. Larger brick and mortars are closing and people are going back to the brick-and-mortar, mom-and-pop shop locations because they want an experience when they shop. So, for us, that's exciting. We're flourishing, we're excited about that, that COVID didn't take us out and that we're still relevant, and not only relevant but growing. So, every day is a challenge, every day has been fun because you're meeting people with weddings, and LDS church missions, and the guy that's doing his first interview at a new job or just need to update his wardrobe, that kind of stuff. So, that stuff keeps me on my toes. And being able to order and keep our store stocked during a time when the supply chain, obviously, is broken – a lot of people know that – in all industries. And then we're going to Hawaii next week with my family. So, on the personal side, I'm looking forward to just maybe take a little bit of a break and enjoy some time with family. We love to travel. It's something that's important to us is getting out and experiencing the world. So, next week is Hawaii for the family.

Clint Hoopes: It's so good. Those times with the family make all the difference, and just help you get grounded again, just remember what's important in life. And then you come back, and it's amazing how much easier it is to come back and work hard after having a little time off. We just came from the mountains, just a week or so ago. We go up every year with my family. My dad's from Wyoming, and just such a beautiful part of the world. And we went up camping, and it's one of the few places where you have no cell phone coverage at all. No cellphone coverage for days. And it's amazing how it just rejuvenates you. So, it's a good thing.

Chris Hammond: Yeah, looking forward to it. 

Clint Hoopes: Well, I’ve got a question for you. There are others listening, I'm sure, that have either work in family businesses, or have bought family businesses, or are going to buy family businesses in the future or hope to; are there anything that you've learned or that you're working on doing right now that you would recommend to somebody? As you've been working in the family business for years, and now culminating in this change of you buying the store, is anything that comes to your mind and recommendations? I imagine it hasn't all been just rainbows and sunshine, because sometimes that's a hard thing. Is there anything you'd recommend?

Chris Hammond: Yeah, a family-owned business isn't always easy. I'm pretty blessed and fortunate enough that my parents, who own this business right now, have let me really just run with it, which for me has been a blessing because I'm a personality that I kind of want it my way. So, I'm fortunate enough that they've given me the reins and said, “Just run with it.” As a younger growth mindset, that's been a very positive thing as I've been able to take in my ideas and be able to run the business. So, that has been very helpful. For my father and I, the situation we have in our stores, I really take over a lot of the managing and running of the business on the back end, and he is face-to-face with customers more. So, we've been able to define roles to stay out of each other's way. So, we still eat dinner on Sundays as a family. We live about 15 minutes away from each other, we still have dinners together as a family and we can enjoy those times together. And we don't always have to talk business either, which is nice. I would say just having defined roles and responsibilities, because if you're around the same people 24/7, you grew up with them, they raised you or maybe it's a brother or a sister that you're involved with, or maybe your actual parents, in my case, you know what can tip them off, you know their triggers after all those years of living in the same house. So, for us, knowing what our responsibilities and expectations are, helps us both be able to use our talents and interest to grow the business, but also stay out of each other's way so that we don't offend or create drama in the workplace. I don't know if my family would make a very good reality TV show like The Kardashians or the Pawn Stars right. There's always drama, there's going to be drama, that's what sells. But to avoid drama, I think, is one thing I've been fortunate enough to avoid for the most part. So, defined roles would be key. They're still family. So, at the end of the day, tell them that you love them still.

Clint Hoopes: Even if the business fails, you don't ever want your relationship to fail as family. And so there's no cost that’s worth it.

Chris Hammond: Absolutely. And it's been fun in this industry and the business that I'm in. Even our vendors, I talk to them, one of our Thai vendors, an awesome Jewish family from Brooklyn. There are like five or six brothers in their ‘60s still doing this, and then they've got a couple of guys my age, and the rising generation coming in. And it's fun to see. I asked them, I said, “Do you ever get mad at each other?” “Oh, of course, we do, but we're family, so we still gotta eat together.” It's cool to see other families, other generations business partners that we have that have been to our stores as well. I mean, a lot of us are still a little bit old school. This is a multi-generational type of a business a lot of times. And if you don't pass it down to a son or a daughter or someone in the family, usually a lot of these smaller businesses go out of business because there's no one that wants to buy an owner-operator type of business a lot of time. So, keeping it in the family and stuff is kind of important.

Clint Hoopes: Sometimes on the show, we'll talk about how important conflict is in business, the right kind of conflict, not the drama part of conflict but the fact that you have to speak up. If you see something, you have to speak up. And that's one of the best ways communication happens is disagreement is a form of communication, and it has to happen. We're not always going to agree. Like you said, you don't always see things the same way as your dad, but that doesn't mean that you can't operate within your role. So, I love what you said about making sure that your roles are clearly defined, and then you can operate clearly within that. You do things that he wouldn't do but it's within your role and the business is being successful, so you keep going. I think that's great advice. Also, what you said is making sure that over the dinner table, you're not always talking business. And I think that's an important one, too, I imagine, for many that have family businesses because you have to have a break from it a little bit of separation, I would think, or it can get overwhelming because it's already such a big part of your life, right?

Chris Hammond: Right. When you have a small business, it intertwines into everything, and it bleeds into your personal life, and that's not easy. And I'm still working on that one is how do I avoid too much of the business bleeding into personal life. And for me, it's been about processes, it's been about developing systems, it's about having the right staff. A lot of times when you're an owner-operator type of business, you cut payroll, you clean the toilets, you turn on the lights in the morning, everything. And I think that's where a lot of small businesses fail is because they can't learn to delegate responsibility out, and it just consumes them. Actually, we have plenty of friends that run small businesses here in our town, where we've seen them put in the 14 to 16 hours per day, and they just never learned to delegate responsibility and be able to let someone else take some of those roles on, so it consumes them. You do 14-hour days for 30 years, you're going to hit burnout at some point. 

Clint Hoopes: Yeah, it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when.

Chris Hammond: Yeah, exactly. It starts resenting the whole reason you got into business. You thought it'd be great to be a business owner until you start doing it and it consumes you, and then you lose the passion and the reason of why you even started the business to begin with.

Clint Hoopes: I love that. Earlier, we were talking a little bit just kind of before the show about a few different things. And there was a book that came to mind. I may have mentioned it on the show before, but it's Who Not How it's by a man by the name of Dr. Benjamin Hardy, we've mentioned on the show, and Dan Sullivan. I love that book. We were talking about that because it portrays exactly what you're saying here. Just saying that sometimes we get so focused on the how, on “Look, if I can just do all of these things, then I can save X number of dollars.” Forgetting that sometimes getting the right “who” in place to do those things really can make such a big difference in your world, in being able to actually free you up and free your mind up.

Chris Hammond: Yeah, there is a dollar of value associated with that, a time and a dollar value. So, as a business owner, you're trying to save the money. And sometimes your sanity and your mental capacity is more important than the dollar saved, or putting a value or a dollar amount on what your value is as an owner. Sometimes I think we forget that. We think, “Well, I'll just get this done because I know how to do it. And it's gonna take longer to train someone.” But what is your time really worth? For me, that's really important. We've gone from having three to five part-time employees, we're up to seven to 10 right now. And I was always the guy doing the shipping, the receiving in our store, and the tagging, and all that. And I've just realized that my time is probably better spent working on the business instead of working in the business. So, being able to hire and train for a while the right people, take over and it does cost me money, obviously. But my mental sanity and being home at a decent time with my wife and kids and having dinner and being able to take off some Saturdays is really important for me. My time is important to me. Being able to delegate properly is one of the key takeaways for me as an owner-manager.

Clint Hoopes: It is difficult, often, to look at that expense as an investment versus an expense, because when we see it on the financial reports, it is there as an expense. If that expense is gone, that much money go straight to the bottom line, but it doesn't tell the whole story like you're saying: the mind, the ability to think, and do those things, and expand the business in new ways; you would never be able to do without that little bit of that help and that time. So, we can't take things to great places without some help.

Chris Hammond: And in the business that we're in too, I mean, as a menswear store, we're a customer service business, we are here to help and serve. You can always go to a grocery store and go to the back aisle and grab milk and you don't really need assistance with that. But when a gentleman comes in and needs to be fitted properly for a suit, a dress shirt, it's his daughter's wedding, it's his wedding; it really requires expertise and somebody with some knowledge to help outfit you properly. So, being able to have enough staff on a busy Saturday when 10 customers walk in and it's not just you running the show, you want to give every customer a positive good customer service experience. And that's only going to happen by having the right staff or systems. Maybe not even the right step, maybe having a calendaring system by appointment only. But having a system set in place so that you're providing the best customer service experience possible for our customers, for us, that's kind of determines how we have to hire or how we run our businesses. What is providing the best customer service experience? Because I don't want that customer just once in a lifetime, I want that cost or come back 3, 4, 5, 6 times during their lifetime. So, being able to provide a good quality customer service experience for us. And for us, that's in the form of having knowledgeable staff, we'll have them keep coming back over and over again.

Clint Hoopes: I hear all that you have going on, and like you're saying, it sounds like you try to be open to provide good customer service. You're open when your people have time. It sounds like you're open on Saturdays and things as well. My question for you is, how have you, over the years, been able to manage having children, a wife, family, doing the fun things you want to do and being with your family and also having the business? How does that happen? We talked about the people that are working 14-plus hour days, it sounds like you've done that before.

Chris Hammond: Yeah, absolutely, we've done that. And I've said it over and over again during this podcast, but when you see growth in your business, you start realizing maybe what you were doing a year or two ago doesn't work anymore. It worked then, but the systems in place then aren't working out because of the growth. Right now, for us, it's having knowledgeable staff. And sometimes there are bumps and bruises along the way to make sure they know what they're doing correctly. But proper training, frequent training, frequent follow-up. There's money in the follow-up. That's something I've learned is there's money in follow-up. So, being able to train properly and follow up with customers and employees is where you're going to see your growth. So, when you get systems in place – for us, a proper work schedule with qualified staff to be here – that's when the machine is running really well, and it allows you to take the time off. There are a lot of people that take their time off because of their single-owner-operator situation. But I guess you determine what you enjoy. I know, for me, I value time and travel. How can I run a business that's open six days a week, 9-10 hours a day, and still be able to fulfill the things that are important to me? And it's just having the proper systems in place to failsafe systems. Making myself duplicatable and replaceable is really important for me because I can't be the only person that knows how to do the things that we do in our business, because if I get hit by a bus tomorrow, then that business will fail. So, setting systems in place that allow the business to continue to run even up from here is important to me. 

Clint Hoopes: That's a huge takeaway, I think, is for everyone listening to do the same thing. Whether you own the business, or whether you are a manager of a department, whatever it is; making sure that everyone is in their right place, doing the things they're best at. And like you're saying, if you get hit by a bus, you hope that doesn't happen, but if you do, everything doesn't fall apart because you, as the leader, have it together. I love that. Such good words of wisdom. I love it. One other thing I just wanted to ask is, you have your kids growing up, are any of them interested in the store? Do they ever come by and visit you and get excited about things?

Chris Hammond: Totally. Six-year-olds, they love working. I have a six-year-old, a three-year-old, and a one-year-old. So, we are in a season of life that keeps us busy as parents. Yeah, they stop by the store weekly. Even at this young age, we have a shoeshine chair. So, dad will get up on the shoeshine chair, and the kids will attempt to shine my shoes, and I'll give them a tip. But I think, for me, it's important to instill in my kids the ability to work. And who knows, if they want to work here when they're older, great. If it's something they're not into, that's fine. But they'll have their chance to clean and put away tuxedo rental shoes at some point, I'm sure, as they get older. But having kids involved in a business, at least for me, is important. And that's something that I learned from my dad as he gave me an opportunity to take his business and try to grow it.

Clint Hoopes: Well, Chris, as we come to a close on the podcast, I just want to say thank you so much for coming on and for sharing so much of your story, and let us get a glimpse into your life and your business. I'm sure there are others that are in a similar situation where they're either taking over a business or looking at buying a business, a family business, and so many of the things that you shared can make such a big difference to them and to anyone that runs a team. So, thank you for being on today.

Chris Hammond: No, it's been a lot of fun, Clint. I'm glad that you reached out to me. I love talking shop man, so anytime we can talk about the business, I love it, something I really enjoy.

Clint Hoopes: This is fun stuff. Well, like I said, I need to come back up and get some more suits. It's been a few years since I've been up there and got some suits from you guys, so I’ve got to come back on up and check it out. So, this would be fun. So, where can people connect with you, Chris. If people want to connect with you, and they want to learn more about you or The Kater Shop or any of those things, where should they track you down?

Chris Hammond: Yeah, absolutely. I'm an open book. So, I’d probably say the best place would be to just go to and just click on “Contact Us,” that goes straight to me. If people want to reach out talk shop or have questions, I’d love to talk with people and help them in their mindset or growth experience or whatever.

Clint Hoopes: Well, thank you, Chris. So, to find Chris. I'm going to go ahead and put that link in the show notes if you want to track him down, or if you need a great suit. Well, Chris, thank you so much once again, and hope to have you on the show again someday.

Chris Hammond: Yeah, thanks, Clint. It's great to be here. 

Clint Hoopes: Take care. Thank you for all of you who have listened today to the Unrivaled Man podcast. Now is your time to go and be the Unrivaled Man in your life.