If you live near La Crosse, Wisc., chances are you know Miles Wilkins. First off, Wilkins’ main billboard is a profile of him pointing customers to his store with his trademark bald noggin sticking above the top. But what makes the billboard—and Wilkins—so memorable are the different “hats” he puts on his head, depending on the season. For example, for the store’s annual anniversary sale, Wilkins’ billboard persona wears a birthday hat. “I’ll be out in public and people will say, ‘When are you going to change your hat?’” says the marketing-savvy 71-year-old. “It’s garnered a lot of attention.”

Even if you miss the billboard, you’re likely to spot Wilkins on one of his long-running TV spots, which have been filmed right in the store he’s owned since 1991. “That’s part of our brand. Plus, I’m cheap talent,” he jokes.

If you’re a cord cutter, you can see Wilkins in the local newspaper, where he pays to write a regular advertorial educating customers about new products or trends. “I’ve had people come in and say, ‘I read your column,’ all the time, rather than thinking it’s an ad,” Wilkins says. “It just gives us an identity in the community. It’s all about trust.”

In Wilkins case, it’s also all about business. Since taking over the store in 1991, he’s grown from $450,000 in annual sales to about $5 million today.


-- To better control customer experience, Wilkins uses all internal employees rather than relying on subs. “It’s allowed much more control over the schedule and quality of work,” he says. “Employees are accountable to us, and that’s worked very well.”

-- Wilkins gains customers’ trust with a 10-year workmanship warranty on everything the company does—even if the manufacturer’s warranty doesn’t cover it. He also keeps his extensive store and showroom, which includes nine separate sunrooms, open Monday through Saturday.

-- All Board Store salespeople show up with iPads equipped with manufacturer’s apps to show customers door and bath products. Those same tablets then can be used to prequalify clients for financing, a new offering which accounted for 10% of the company’s business in 2015.