What does the future hold in store for us? Success and failure await us, both anxious to take the full measure of all that we do. Every year is a new challenge loaded with risk and opportunity. The past is a foundation, but by no means is it a guarantee. You have to earn your place and your success every year. That’s why I love being a merchant.
In the beginning of this year we launched the new Stereo Advantage Business Center. Tony and I have been looking forward to this for several years. Our flexibility is one of our biggest assets. While chains like Best Buy and Sears are burdened with enormous footprints that are both an anachronism and an albatross, we are able to adroitly move to the next generation of consumer electronics footprints – an environment that we are developing as the state-of-the-art standard for the entire industry. Just as our Home Theaters previewed the potential of the mall for the current Apple store phenomenon, so too will our Stereo Advantage Business Center [with its unique blend of retail, commercial, wholesale, and ecommerce] prove to be the inspiration for the next generation of consumer electronics merchants.
The Stereo Advantage Business Center is a new and innovative approach to selling and servicing consumer electronics [a category that is no longer defined by entertainment product, but rather by a seamless integration of product, media, software architecture, installation, programming, online access, and service].
Our evolution can be marked by the 3 decades that have passed since I joined Tony in our business in 1979. Our third decade together, which we just recently concluded, was one of revival. From 2000 to 2010, we engineered a revival of not only our business, but of our spirit as well. It enriched us and laid the foundation for all that the next generation can accomplish. And now I leave the Stereo Advantage to the next generation, and it is their company to define and build.
There are two worlds: the one we are given and the one we build.
I have been working with Tony to get the Stereo Advantage properly positioned for a remarkable future. The necessary changes, as well as a substantial investment, has been made. Now, it’s delivery time. It’s time for a new leadership group to bend the future to their will.
The Stereo Advantage has relentlessly innovated over the past 34 years to provide our customers with a state-of-the-art resource for all of their technology needs. The new Stereo Advantage Business Center is the latest iteration of this commitment and legacy.
The Stereo Advantage Business Center is not your old Stereo Advantage. The old shop belonged to a world full of turntables, tape decks, and TV’s. Since 2004, Tony and I have been aggressively restructuring and retooling the Stereo Advantage for life after the commoditizing of the consumer electronics business. We’ve left the carcass of that world for Best Buy, WalMart, Costco, and the internet to fight over. While they’re busy compromising each other, we have been hard at work creating a more desirable and sustainable identity to build our future on. We no longer have retail, wholesale, and commercial sales – we have the Advantage Experience. All of our customers, employees, families, suppliers, associates, and community are part of this unique and magical experience.
The Stereo Advantage Business Center is being equipped to facilitate the Advantage Experience for everyone we come in contact with. Eventually this enabling will go beyond the salespeople at the Stereo Advantage to include every Advantage employee and every jumpsite associate. It won’t happen overnight, but the transition has begun. We are currently caught between two worlds, and there will certainly be a generation of chaos and disorder, but Tony wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Stereo Advantage has been the root of so many incredible experiences, moments, lives, businesses, successes, and failures. It has been home to both incredible joy and heartache. All the good you can imagine has coursed through its veins. It’s been one hell of a ride, but now it’s time to move on.
For those of you that are building the Stereo Advantage bridge to the future – I am proud of the opportunity and legacy I am leaving behind. You are the future. From System Architecture to Technology Integration to Profitlink to StereoAdvantage.com to Never Lose a Sale to Lifetime Service – you are the vanguard of our industry. The revolution in our industry is just getting started, and you have the opportunity to lead the way. My role in this adventure was to provide the vision, resources, and confidence necessary to enable those willing to take the full measure of the challenge. Your role is to turn this challenge into your success. There is certainly an incredible opportunity at the SABC for those of you that understand, believe, and sell this new vision with energy and purpose.
The old Stereo Advantage provided our retail customers access to entertainment through a well-developed and easily understood matrix of products; while our Commercial Division provided a concierge approach to selling the same entertainment product awkwardly positioned for business use. Audio/Video provided a recognizable banner for product choices, and it led to a revolution in retail. Big Box retailers effectively combined disparate categories into an effective sales environment: blending home appliances with audio/video, car audio, computers, and software. Today, technology has rendered the old matrix unrecognizable, as it has blurred the lines that conveniently separated the categories that we once sold with simplicity. Additionally, the mass merchants and internet have compromised the old, easily definable categories, by commoditizing them and eliminating their profitability [rendering retailers such as Circuit City and Best Buy insignificant... and we all know what happened to Circuit City].
Just as we ushered in a new era in consumer electronics retail with the Home Theater and SmartLink mall concepts, we are now embarking on yet another game-changing venture. The Stereo Advantage Business Center will provide our retail and commercial customers with the resources necessary for effective technology integration by developing system architecture specific to their needs. We will provide the components, installation, programming, ongoing support, and service required to maximize the potential and effectiveness of their fully integrated system.
Over the past 30 years, I have nurtured valuable relationships in the consumer electronics industry based on our ability to be of value to our suppliers. Although we have never been a volume resource for vendors, we have time and again come up with innovative approaches to the marketing, distributing, and selling of their product. Today, vendors are increasingly focused on mass merchants, dominant internet accounts, and their own websites. This focus has further undermined the already precarious viability of their small dealer network. Once again, we have been able to deliver a unique solution to our suppliers. Our Never Lose a Sale program enables the sustainability of their tertiary distribution channel, while enhancing their brand’s grass root market penetration [which is often compromised by their smaller accounts’ inadequate inventories and limited access to their brand].
Additionally, our iFul division has positioned us for retail and wholesale access to markets worldwide. Our warehousing, order fulfillment, and shipping prowess allow us to facilitate sales internationally. This provides the foundation for our StereoAdvantage.com solution and provides our suppliers with yet another remarkable resource.
The great thing about being in business is that you either deliver or you don’t. We measure our performance not by our good intentions or tireless effort, but by our results. I am confident that the next generation of leadership will deliver on the promise of the future.
As for me, my retirement follows closely on the heels of Tony’s recent retirement from the day to day operations of the Advantage Co in order to focus on new ventures. I am fortunate to be in a position to also seamlessly transition into a new role in the Advantage Co.
Today, our foray into internet technologies has become the fastest growing division of the Advantage Co. This provides a new challenge for our company, and I am anxious to meet this challenge with the vigor and enthusiasm I had for the development of the Stereo Advantage 30 years ago. Starting August 1, 2012, I will be the new Director of Business Development for Advantage Global Management.
Not only does my new role provide me with a fresh challenge, it also provides Carol and I with the opportunity to relocate to Naples, Florida in 4 years when Sara graduates from high school.
And, finally, the best part about it is that I will have the opportunity to team up with Tony to once again build a creative and groundbreaking business. We have not worked together day to day since he retired from the Stereo Advantage in 1991. And, although I have enjoyed my 20 years at the helm, it will be good to get the band back together. Butch has already begun to put his mark on Advantage Global Management, and the opportunity to work with Tony and Butch has me as excited as a college grad.
I am also appreciative for the opportunity that Tony’s founding Advantage Global Management partners Joe Kreuz and Tom Thomson have provided me. I am excited to join the remarkable company they have built with Tony. The future’s so bright, I have to wear shades.
To all of you that have been with me on this incredible journey, thank you for your friendship. When I pack up to leave the Stereo Advantage next week, the only thing I’ll be taking with me are the friendships, because, in the end, that’s all that matters.