Heid Music has been an integral part of Wisconsin’s music community for three generations, having been owned and operated by the Heid family since 1948. The store that Peter Heid first opened back then—it focused on pianos, as well as band and orchestra school rentals—has grown into a full-service music store with five locations: Green Bay WI, Madison WI, Oshkosh WI, Wisconsin Rapids WI and its headquarters in Appleton WI.
Although Todd Heid had been working at the store since he was in high school, even managing the Green Bay store from 1996 to 2004, he learned his biggest lessons upon becoming President of Heid Music in 2008, when he was thrust head first into the growing economic crisis.
“We overcame a lot of economic challenges, and we were able to make difficult, but correct, decisions,” he explained. “We started budgeting early for the loss of some of our regular sales, and we found ways to make money with fewer sales.” He continued, “That was my first lesson in controlling bottom-line expenses, because we hadn’t had to worry about that for a long time. We were just able to run the business day to day.”
Heid and his staff were able to weather the storm. Some sales growth came from lost competition, as other stores in the area weren’t as fortunate. “By 2011,” Heid said, “we stepped on the gas pedal and we were proactive in getting sales back up by doing more e-blasting, marketing and direct-mail campaigns. We invested back into our people, our facilities, our lessons program and our inventory.”
Helping to move things forward was DeDe Heid, who joined the company in 2011 and who came armed with a background and expertise in marketing, sales and brand development. With her guidance, Heid Music has implemented a structured approach to customer service, making sure that goals are met and experiences are consistent across all five of its locations, allowing the business to continue its nearly 70-year legacy, while also strengthening operations to meet the challenges of the year ahead.
“We want to respect our family-owned business roots, but we also want to grow,” she remarked. “So, we need to incorporate standards and sales processes.” She continued, “Change can be tough for people, so we want to get our employees to buy into the idea of being stronger as one brand and one identity.”
The Heids work hard not only to set and maintain their high standards, but also to foster community between staff members at all five locations. There are weekly managerial meetings and quarterly sales club meetings. Then, there’s something known as the “Heid Huddle,” which has been going for two years. It’s a monthly conference call in which all team members are encouraged to “huddle” at the location closest to them. (They can call in from home, as well.)
“Our staff has to read the trade magazines and know what’s going on in the music business,” Todd emphasized. “They have to report on it to the group, which gives all of them ideas.” He explained, “For example, they had to come up with non-business ice breakers. We made a game out of it.” Todd explained that the business routinely has manufacturers come in to do training sessions. “We make it like a classroom setting,” he elaborated, “and we do a deeper dive into their products to get our staff up on the new gear. No matter how much they know, they will always pick up something new.”
Heid Music’s staff is a mix of new hires and long-term employees who are celebrating anything from 10 to 38 years (or more) with the company. No matter the length of their tenure, though, all staff members are encouraged to know what’s going on at their store and to feel invested in the result. When the staff feels like a part of the company and enjoys what they do, the fun will rub off on the customers.
“We make sure the entire family is embraced and acknowledged when they come in,” Todd stated. “If we are working with a kid, it’s important not to talk just to the parent.” He continued, “When you see the staff challenge kids to do push-ups and it makes them laugh and smile, or when people in the community tell me how good someone was, it’s more important than saying they saw our ad. It means they had a good experience. We want to create a good relationship with our customers…to make them feel wanted. It’s not just about having the best price.”
DeDe has helped to make the business more event-driven, with approximately six to 12 different activities happening every quarter; they include free programming in the stores as well as community events. “We sponsor numerous music-education initiatives throughout our communities with a mix of financial, product and people,” she explained. Those range from instrument petting zoos, to street music events, to local youth symphony programs, to sponsoring donation buckets for Feeding America. In short, anything to let the community know that Heid Music is there for their musical needs.
“One of our core values is to educate and entertain, which means we go beyond a ‘sales’ relationship,” DeDe stressed. “We want an engaged relationship; we want to help musicians connect with each other…connect with their instrument and their music-making community.” She added, “These grassroots community music efforts help make it feel like this is not a museum. We help musicians feel like a part of that.”
Looking to the future, Todd and DeDe plan to continue strengthening the bonds among Heid Music’s employees, as well as between the store and the local music community. “Some of our goals are to continue to earn business with a ‘Bravo’ customer experience, as well as to connect with our customers and grow the music-maker base,” Todd stated. “It’s important not just to say it, but also to live it.” He continued, “We need to be relevant, strengthen our team, have fun, work on the business as much as we work in it, and never take a customer for granted.”
To close, DeDe added, “We’re blessed to have a strong foundation and a staff that is a team. We are like a family, and we have a great community that really appreciates music. Each day is a unique opportunity, and we push ourselves every day to be better. There is a world of opportunity in front of us. We’re very fortunate.”