ZIPS in the news

Executive Profile: Mr. Bechtle, it’s our turn to grill you

July 26, 2013

Washington Business Journal


Raised atop a grocery store in a lower-middle-class part of north Philadelphia — his grandfather was a butcher — Reid Bechtle worked his way to his first presidential post when he 28. He has held many leadership positions since, including at a Pennsylvania mailroom and a Texas manufacturing plant. Before joining Zips in April after the company was bought by a private equity firm, he spent 20 years as a turnaround consultant. Now he oversees 34 franchises from here to Philadelphia — when he’s not working the grill, that is.

Biggest current challenge: Biggest current challenge: Zips’ dry cleaning mantra up to this point has been: We’ll clean any garment for $1.99 and any shirt for $1.39. And if you have your clothing into us by 9 a.m., it will be out by 5 p.m. In today’s day and age, however, that model is pretty easily replicated. Our biggest task now is, what else can we do? We’re looking at things like being able to administer and sort through data better than any competitors.


Next big goal: 
Get further in Virginia, further up north into Pennsylvania, then move into New Jersey, potentially move out into Ohio. Start from our hub here and build out. 

What are you like to work for? Probably people would describe me as being very people-oriented. My folks would say I give them all the tools they need to be successful. I support them 100 percent. And then I let them go and let them show me what they can do. I’ll bet on people. Meaning, I will take people who might not initially have the credentials but they have the attitude, they have the motivation. I will have taken a chance on people that other people may not take a chance on. And that’s always come out very very well for me. I think if you asked people, they would say, “He’s extremely personable, he’s extremely fair but he’s got very, very high standards. And even though he is a hell of a nice guy, you absolutely need to get accomplished what the goals and the objectives I have set for you.” 

Best lesson from your mentor: Regardless of what the policies are, the procedures are, the conventional wisdom, at the end of the day you have to do the right thing. Even if it conflicts with policy, even if it conflicts with the profitability of the company. You have to be able to go to bed at night, put your head on the pillow and go to sleep without hesitation that you did something that wasn’t proper. 

First turning point in your career: When I was in my mid-20s, my daughter was born — this was in 1976. She was born three months premature and weighed a pound and a half. At that point in time, I was a very aggressive, hard-charging manager trainee, and my entire focus on life was on business. And that moment, as soon as that little girl was born, my entire outlook on business changed. Basically, the realization came that people have to enjoy what they did. Let me tell you, the job is not what it’s all about. Family comes first. And I, as an individual, had to find a way to be sensitive to the needs of the people that work for me. 

Best business decision: Becoming the manager of a training program at Spiegel Catalogue. The hours were terrible, the working conditions less than attractive. But basically, they taught you how to manage. You developed a real understanding of people. I was in a mailroom, supervising a mail crew of about 75 female employees. At this particular time, I was in my early 20s. I learned the fact that people live very different lives than I lived, that I had to be understanding of that, that I had to be able to relate to that. You could have all the charts, programs and analysis you want, but at the end of the day, if your people aren’t willing to do your job for you, if you didn’t have the right people, nothing was going to be accomplished. It’s all about people. 

Hardest lesson learned: Business really isn’t fair. I was working for a company that was taken over — Pitney Bowes basically realigned our company where I ended up at a different division and moved to Connecticut to run a manufacturing plant. I ran into a fairly significant personality conflict with the people I was working for up there. I quickly realize that No. 1, life wasn’t fair, people weren’t fair and basically, regardless of that, you had to make the right decision. I decided this is not going to work out. I am either going to get fired — which I eventually did — but it was the best thing for me. Anybody who goes through business and thinks it’s going to be fair and people are always out to treat you well are going to be surely, surely disappointed. 

Guilty pleasure: Barbecue. As a sideline, believe it or not, I am a certified master Kansas City Barbeque Society judge. So I spend a lot of my time on the weekends judging the regional and national competitions in the Kansas City barbecue competitions. 

Favorite movie star: I like Tommy Lee Jones. I think he is just great. 

If you had $1 million, you would: I have a really soft spot in my heart for pets. We do a lot of work and donate a lot of funds to support stray animals, dogs, cats. We tend to support no-kill shelters. If I had a million dollars that I absolutely didn’t need, I would find a way to make the lives of stray animals a lot better. 

Do you have any pets? I have two stray cats. One showed up at the back door and wouldn’t leave, and the other one we got at a no-kill shelter. Booker and Baker. Named them after bourbon, which is another guilty pleasure.

Favorite lazy activity: Sitting out back with a glass of bourbon, enjoying a cigar 

Personality in high school: Probably viewed as had a great sense of humor and was always joking around. 

Your go-to karaoke song: It’s gotta be “Hotel California” by The Eagles

Favorite book: As just a great read, “The Hunt for Red October” was just fantastic. And from a business perspective, the best book is “Getting to Yes.”

Favorite movie: “Gettysburg”

Favorite restaurant: My favorite restaurant just for fun is a place called Pho Bistro. It’s a little Thai restaurant in Clifton that is inexpensive and great food. I think it beats all the bigger guys and steak restaurants. 

What do most people not know about you? That I was a kid who grew up in a lower-middle-class part of north Philadelphia. 

What’s one thing you cannot do without each day? Contact with other human beings. I really love people. In fact, sometimes it goes to an extreme. I get bored very, very quickly. I love friends, I love business acquaintances. My wife will say, ‘Do you just talk to everybody?’ Everybody has something interesting to share with you.

Pet peeve: People that don’t take responsibility for themselves

What did you want to be when you grew up? A chemical engineer. Early in life, I got this chemistry kit, and I really enjoyed dealing with that. All though my younger years, I was geared to go to Georgia Tech and become a chemical engineer.


The basics

Reid Bechtle CEO, Zips Dry Cleaners

Age: 60

Education: Bachelor’s in management and finance, University of Pennsylvania

Residence: Clifton

Family: Wife of 39 years, Dorothy, and two daughters, Amy and Laurie

First job: A high-volume gasoline station in the Germantown area of Philadelphia when I was 15.

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