Brad Anderson of Best Buy is set to retire on June 24 after 36 years in the industry. It is fascinating to me that this pillar of the consumer electronics industry never intended to enter this line of work. In fact, Brad actually set out to be a minister. But after training for the ministry, he took a job with a small retailer, Sound of Music, and proved, in a different way, that nice guys rise to the top.
Sound of Music, the precursor to Best Buy, was a small chain of stereo stores in St. Paul, Minn., where Brad started out as a salesperson in 1973. By his own account, he wasn't the best salesman - it took him two weeks to make his first sale. Owner Richard Schulze once asked him for some time early on, and Brad thought he would be fired! Instead he was shifted to management.
As a manager and then vice president in the early 1980s, Brad stood out for his easy laugh, human touch and willingness to experiment. He innovated and saw possibilities that others had overlooked. Music and video games were a hit for this retailer. Today Best Buy sells consumer electronics, home-office products, entertainment software, appliances and related services and offers in-home computer service through the Geek Squad, a genius idea that others are now emulating.