It’s been said that good networks are the foundation of good business. Robert Kiyosaki, author of the popular book Rich Dad, Poor Dad, wrote, “The richest people in the world look for and build networks. Everyone else looks for work.” This year, as Gretsch celebrates 130 years of family-owned business, it occurs to me that long before the “social networks” of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc., which are transforming the way business is done, the principles of good social networking were alive, well and guiding our family business to success.
Visual Marketing Still Works—In 1924, Sam and Rose Ash started a small music store in Brooklyn. That same year, my grandfather, Fred Sr., was 44 and Gretsch was listed as the largest manufacturer of musical instruments in the United States. Our catalogs, which were sometimes up to 184 pages long, contained all the popular instruments of the day, including ukuleles, saxophones, banjos, drums, guitars and mandolins. We reached out to our customers and provided a visual sales tool that helped us to expand our business. Today, brands are using Pinterest and Instagram to tell their stories with compelling visuals that can be easily shared by friends either on the desktop or through their mobile devices. But the idea of using visuals to connect the customer to our products in meaningful ways isn’t really that new at all.
Networks Provide Unexpected Business Opportunities—In the 1940s, my father and Ted McCarty were good friends. In fact, we have a treasured family photo of 1947 New Year’s Eve; both families were celebrating together. As many people know, Ted gives my dad credit for his being hired at Gibson and, in 1999, Gretsch purchased the Bigsby Vibratos business from Ted: a true win-win for both companies. Today, business deals may be forged over LinkedIn or e-mail, but the core concept is the same. Get to know people and like them, and great business opportunities will always present themselves.
Personal Gifts Become Lasting Memories—While on a business trip to visit Peavey in Meridian MS, we learned that my dad had once sent Hartley Peavey’s dad a baby book to keep pictures of Hartley when he was born. These days, gift giving might be a little less personal. Ordering something online with a printed-out gift tag might lack the tangible nature of a physical gift, but, if the genuine thought behind the gift is there, that’s what will be remembered and cherished for years to come.
Sharing Creates Connection—In 2000, the year of the millennium, a shared memory for Henry Steinway, Chris Martin and me was the fact that, 100 years earlier, at the turn of the century, our grandfathers were running businesses that still bear our family names. These are the moments that cannot be duplicated and that should be treasured. Today, ideas, photos and thoughts can be shared with friends and colleagues with the click of a mouse, and that’s great because sharing things can connect us in very deep and personal ways.
Manias Can Still Drive Business—In 1964, “Beatlemania” was born on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” George Harrison’s use of a Gretsch Chet Atkins Country Gentleman guitar ignited a frenzy among aspiring guitarists. Today, the audience is much more fragmented, but “manias” still happen in the new socially networked world…and smart marketers can still capitalize. For example, the folk music mania that is currently dominating popular music—driven by artists like Mumford & Sons, Of Monsters and Men, and the Lumineers—is really creating a “what’s old is new again” mania among guitarists, with more of them seeking out vintage-sounding gear. And one thing you can be sure of is this: The next mania will be coming soon!
Partners Can Do More Together—As most people know, for more than a decade, Gretsch has enjoyed a very productive partnership with Fender and KMC to manufacture and market Gretsch guitars and drums. And the business model, although very innovative for its time in the industry, is something that more companies are discovering through social media. It’s not crazy to work with a “competitor” anymore. No one can be an expert in absolutely everything, so it just makes sense to have partners that can specialize and deliver unique value for companies and brands.
For 130 years, The Gretsch Company has enjoyed an amazing and rich history in the music products industry. From our origin as a small musical instrument maker in Brooklyn to our growth into a world-recognized brand, the tenets of good business built from good networks and relationships have always guided our family. May the next century of Gretsch family members continue this tradition and take the brand to even greater heights.
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