Finding the Formula
How does a brick-and-mortar retailer with deep roots in high-performance audio manage to succeed and excel in the custom discipline without abandoning retail? That question looms large, in these profit-strapped times. But Leon Shaw, founder and chairman of Audio Advice, the Raleigh, N.C.-based retailer/installer marking 30 years of business life in 2008, has figured out the right answers for himself and for the market he serves. Shaw shares some of his business insights on how he thrives in a challenging environment.
CustomRetailer: Audio Advice is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. How did you choose this business? Are you an audio hobbyist?
Leon Shaw: I had an economics degree and when in college, I sold hi-fi as a campus rep for a mail order place. I was the guy in the college dorm that everyone came to get their stereos from. I just love the stuff. When I got out, I thought I could get a job with a bank, or get this out of my system and sell stereos for three months. I looked in the North Carolina Yellow Pages for all the major cities, and Raleigh had the most stereo stores of any place, so I came here and knocked on doors ’til I got a job. I went to work for Sam Goody, and within the first six months was top salesman for the whole chain. I was there a year and a half, and then I started Audio Advice.
I really got into high-end audio at Sam Goody. I always loved the gear and have always been excited about the next way to make it sound better and look better and make it easier to use and install. And that’s what’s driven me now into other areas like lighting control and home automation. Better—and more fun!