Playing Through, the biography of Tom Devlin, founder of Rent-A-Center, is co-authored by Randy Scholfield, an editorial writer and columnist for The Wichita Eagle. The Wichita Eagle published excerpts Playing Through.
In this excerpt, Devlin describes a 1957 business deal, when he was 10 years old, that surely gave a hint of things to come.
Elvis' "Loving You" movie had just come out. Paramount sent Dad a huge box of Elvis Presley promotional pictures that he was supposed to distribute to the theaters. Looking at the glossies, I had this great idea: if I could stand in front of the theater before a movie, I just knew I could sell these photos for 25 cents apiece. Dad said that if the theater would let me do it then it was fine with him.
It was an offer he couldn't refuse. On the opening day of the movie, I sold the entire box. I don't remember how much I made, but it seemed like I sold a thousand pictures. Not bad for my first day in business.
The next day I spoke again with Ernie (Talley). I said "I don't want to hire a new manager or assistant manager every time I turn around. I'll never be able to work less than 60 hours a week and not have to travel six days a week unless you change your business plan."
Ernie raised his eyebrows. "You don't have to give me your 30-day notice," he said. "You can leave right now."
And that was that!
The Business Heritage series began in 1980 as a way of recognizing local and regional entrepreneurs by documenting their lives as business leaders within the community. After a nine-year hiatus, the Center released its most recent book, "Building Wichita: The History of Star Lumber & Supply Co. 1939-1999," at a luncheon celebration in December 1999.
The 135-page hardcover book authored by Scott Dalrymple, Beech Professor of Business Administration and chair of the business department at Southwestern College in Winfield, documents sixty years of the family business from its origination in 1939 to present day.
Copies of the book are available for $14.95. Contact the Center at 978-3000 for more information.
In 2003 the Center introduced the Entrepreneurial Leadership Series with the release of Playing Through, An Entrepreneurial Success Story, the biography of Tom Devlin. This is the first in a series of books that will not only look into the founding of a company but will also take an in-depth look into the decisions and leadership styles inherent in growing a firm from launch to success.
Copies of the book are available for $24.95. Contact the Center at 978-3000 for more information.
Arthur W. Kincade: Banker, Philanthropist, and Civic Leader
Baseball's Barnum: Ray "Hap" Dumont & the National Baseball Congress
Building Wichita: The History of Star Lumber & Supply Co. 1939-1999
Chandlers of Kansas: A Banking Family
Cloud L. Cray: The Man Who Loved Atchison
Dane Gray Hansen: Titan of Northwest Kansas (not available)
Factory on the Plains: Lyle Yost and the Hesston Corporation
Henry A. Bubb: Capital Federal Savings (not available)
History of the Fourth National Bank and Trust Company
J.A. Mull, Jr.: Independent Oilman (not available)
L.E. Phillips: Banker, Oil Man, Civic Leader
Magic With Sand: AFG Industries, Inc. (not available)
Olive White Garvey: Uncommon Citizen (not available)