During my 39 years in the musical instrument and professional audio business, I have experienced firsthand the good, the bad, and the downright ugly when it comes to leadership qualities. I’ve been fortunate to have learned from some outstanding leaders and observed some of the worst to determine “what not to do”. The key from my perspective is to lead by example and be willing to jump in feet first with the team members that you are managing. I’ve often told my charges that I will never ask them to do something that I wouldn’t do or hadn’t done myself – and that I was ready to join them to demonstrate the concept of “side-by-side management”.
Early days in the musical instrument retail scene
I cut my teeth in retail at Medley Music in the early 1980s. It was Gerson Rosenbloom who took a wide-eyed keyboard player to the Yamaha DX7 show in Atlantic City, where a dynamic speaker named Danny Brown crystalized why becoming a professional salesman was my destiny. Gerson and his father Harry always led by example, putting in the long hours and teaching me the ropes concerning sales. Moog representative John Bezjian offered to take a young salesman through the product line, with explanations about analog synthesis, oscillators, VCAs and LFOs that I remember to this day.
Learning from the best as a district sales manager
Part of my role as a Korg USA district sales manager starting in 1999 was to provide training on Marshall and VOX products at the retail locations in my territory. Many times, the store owner or chain store manager would leave me alone with the staff, but not Keith McGee. Keith knew far more about amplifiers than I did and would actively participate in the Marshall and VOX sessions, clearly demonstrating to his staff that he was a leader. One could also spot leadership skills by the way a store looked, and I took great joy in helping staff members merchandise our gear, instilling a sense of “pride in ownership”.
Demonstrating leadership from the management, executive and ownership level
When invited to become Director of Sales at Korg USA in 2007, I made the effort to work in tandem with the 17 DSMs at the time. I traveled with each rep, demonstrating that I was there to help in any situation. Since that time, I have been fortunate enough to hold senior management and executive positions with some great companies and continued to apply the core principals I learned from those that influenced me in earlier days. It’s wasn’t always easy, navigating through a major financial crisis, company restructurings and wrenching cultural changes within an organization. Now, as the owner of Reflex Marketing LLC, a manufacturer’s rep firm, I’ll put everything I’ve learned to the test and show my team that they should be “leading by example” in their personal interactions with our dealers, vendors, and industry colleagues.
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