Bill Dawson: Carolina In My Mind

Over half of all NPA pawnbroker members are part of a multi-store operation. To get a closer look into all the decisions that are made on how, when, or if you should expand your pawn business, we are featuring a series of articles on pawnbrokers who own more than one store.


Bill Dawson wasn’t planning a career in the pawn business. In fact, he already had a job as operations manager for EF Hutton. He was recruited by a friend to help out in a pawn store on the which led to filling in over the holidays which led to learning the business and growing the company. Eventually, he became partners with his friend, Scott, and Scott’s sister, Cathy, to form LDPM, the parent company of Picasso Pawn.

Together, Bill, Scott, and Cathy operate 10 stores in Raleigh, Durham, and Wilmington, NC, with the help of 70 employees. Jewelry, electronics, firearms, tools, and musical instruments are the top five items pawned at their locations.

Bill is the CEO/President of LDPM and his leadership has helped shape the infrastructure of the company. He’s been in the pawn industry for over 25 years, and in that time, he’s watched the industry undergo tremendous change. “Pawn stores should be beacons in their respective communities, giving people greater access to immediate cash,” he says. He’s worked tirelessly to legitimize the industry and to remove the negative stereotype.

One of the questions many pawnbrokers ask is how to know when and where to open a new store. While he doesn’t have a formula for when, he does have an opinion on where. According to Bill, it’s that age-old adage: location, location, location. “You must have high traffic, high visibility, and close proximity to customers that fit your demographic. To make expansion less of a challenge, prepare your team by involving them in the process well in advance so they can be prepared for their part.”

A graduate of East Carolina University, Bill has a degree in marketing and he’s used that in a variety of ways to promote the business. LDPM’s promotional avenues include television, print media, radio, and sports venue promotions. He is currently focusing on social media, specifically Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. He says the biggest bang for the buck is “location and branding. By that, I mean we make great effort to keep our store fronts, signage, and image inviting. We ask new customers how they found us and, by far, the biggest response is they saw us when driving by.”
One of the biggest obstacles in owning a multi-store operation is keeping up with staffing. “The optimal candidate can be successful by learning the techniques through our training.” Bill shares. “We are always looking for better ways to attract good employees and encourage our managers to actively seek out potential candidates wherever they go. It seems better to go out and find them rather than waiting for them to come to us.” The company also gives incentives to current employees when they recommend candidates.

Bill’s best advice for someone thinking about expanding: Make sure you have reserves. “When I say reserves, I mean two things: money and resources. If you think it’s going to cost $xx, plan on it costing more.” As for resources, plan extra time, attention, personnel, and merchandise.

The long-term goal for LDPM is to maximize the stakeholder’s value, including both owners and employees. With Bill’s leadership, we expect he’ll be doing just that.

Bill Dawson is a member of NPA’s Board of Directors. For more information on operating a multi-store business, contact him at [email protected]