Practice Makes Perfect

Daddy's Junky Music Stores Inc. - Manchester, New Hampshire

The list of challenges that Daddy's Junky Music Stores has faced since being honored by SBANE for "creativity in marketing and excellent employee relations programs, as well as commitment to the community by fostering budding music careers and giving to charitable causes" could easily have brought down a less innovative company. The music equipment retailer has had to respond to big-box stores attempting to drive regional firms out of the music market, a severe recession in the early '90s that hit Daddy's home territory in New England particularly hard, and eBay's invasion into the used-music-equipment market.

But Daddy's met each challenge, and has grown from seven stores to 20, with revenues growing from $8 million to $31 million since the SBANE award. "I have a huge thirst to create things that didn't exist before, and I think it's healthy to be running scared so you avoid complacency," says founder and CEO Fred Bramante. "I just love the challenge of having problems that supposedly can't be solved."

When eBay arrived and people no longer had to go to Daddy's to trade in their guitars, it posed just the type of problem Bramante relishes. "EBay dried up the supply of used equipment that was always our strength and had an impact on sales of new equipment because customers selling their old equipment online don't come to our stores to be exposed to new equipment," he says. "We recently brainstormed solutions and now have a vice president focusing on used products. That person is charged with assuring this part of our business remains strong.

Sustaining Innovation: Keep your company constantly fresh by focusing on new ideas. Find them in our Business Leadership section.

"We also decided to close our mail order business because it was actually siphoning off the best used products from our stores. We've gone back to our core business of opening more stores, improving existing ones, and compensating store managers, who are the key to our success."

In another innovative turn that shows Bramante's flair for blending public service with promotion, he now hosts a weekly TV show sponsored by the New Hampshire Business Council. The show blends discussion of public affairs issues in the state with appearances by musicians and, of course, advertising from Daddy's.

Sustaining innovation to drive growth takes enormous and conscious effort. You, as the leader, must constantly watch for red flags that indicate your culture isn't supporting innovation. To make your company extraordinary, you must do what it takes to separate it from the ordinary. By making this commitment to continually drive innovation into every part of your business, your company will be equipped to be a perennial winner in the most important competition of all--the contest for market success.

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This article was originally published in the September 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Practice Makes Perfect.

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