Brad Anderson
1949–

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Chief executive officer and vice chairman, Best Buy Company

Nationality: American.

Born: 1949, in Sheridan, Wyoming.

Education: Waldorf College, AA, 1969; University of Denver, BA, 1971.

Family: Married Janet (maiden name unknown); children: two.

Career: Sound of Music (became Best Buy Company in 1983), 1973–1981, audio-components salesperson, then store manager; 1981–1986, vice president; 1986–1991, executive vice president; 1991–2001, president; 2001–2002, president and COO; 2002–, CEO and vice chairman.

Awards: Retail Executive of the Year, Retail Merchandiser , 2002; Alumni Distinguished Service Award, Waldorf College, 1997.

Address: Best Buy Co., Inc., 7601 Penn Avenue South, Richfield, Minnesota 55423; http://www.bestbuy.com.

■ Brad Anderson rose from salesperson to CEO at Best Buy Company by focusing on the customer. In 2004 Best Buy was the largest consumer electronics retailer in the United States and had over 750 locations in all of North America. The chain was named Company of the Year in the January 12, 2004, issue of Forbes magazine.

POOR STUDENT WHO FINDS STRENGTHS

A below-average high school student, Anderson was advised by his guidance counselor to forgo higher education; yet he found a love for learning at Waldorf College, then a junior college. He later studied sociology at the University of Denver. As quoted in the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel , Anderson reflected on his struggle to find his strengths in a keynote speech at the Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne Business Management Seminar: "I'm not the only guy out there who could deliver more than I and other people thought was possible" (April 1, 2004).

Brad Anderson. AP/Wide World Photos.
Brad Anderson.
AP/Wide World Photos
.

STARTS IN SALES

Anderson joined Sound of Music, which later became Best Buy, as a sales associate in a Minneapolis store in 1973. He was described in Training magazine as "knowing what it's like to be the new person on the sales floor, simultaneously struggling to understand the products, customers, cash register, and the company. It's where he started" (November 2002).

Anderson next became a store manager, then joined the corporate office as vice president in 1981 when the Best Buy chain comprised only seven stores. The company opened its first supercenter in 1984 and quickly entered a period of rapid growth. Anderson's career advanced steadily as he was named executive vice president and a company director in 1986 and then president in 1991.

WEATHERS DIFFICULTIES

Despite rapid growth, Best Buy had become barely profitable in 1997 when the stock price bottomed out. Anderson sought out consultants to address the company's merchandise/inventory and marketing systems. Management implemented changes throughout the retail stores that returned the chain to a position as a market leader. Anderson would continue to emphasize the importance of hiring outside advisors when necessary. Best Buy later ran into difficulties stemming from the 2001 acquisition of the Musicland chain. Through the Musicland acquisition, Best Buy was attempting to reach new customers and to increase sales of consumer electronics at Musicland stores. However, there were overall declines in mall traffic and in CD sales, partially due to music piracy, and Musicland customers did not purchase more electronics. Anderson developed a new company strategy focusing on existing Best Buy customers and sold the money-losing Musicland group in 2003.

"CUSTOMER CENTRICITY" INITIATIVE

Anderson led an initiative that he termed "customer centricity" at Best Buy, the idea behind which was to create new stores that reflected the shopping patterns of local communities. Customer centricity was described in Forbes as involving "a massive effort to identify and serve the company's most profitable shoppers by rebuilding stores, adding to staff, and upgrading wares"; Best Buy management reviewed products "to see what sold and what didn't in order to adjust merchandise according to the income level and buying habits of shoppers at every location." Further, in naming Best Buy the company of the year, Forbes described Best Buy as boldly "reinventing itself while at the top of its game" (January 12, 2004).

MANAGEMENT STYLE

Anderson believed successful management required a commitment to developing and facilitating the expression of employee capabilities. He found leaders at Best Buy who could develop the strengths of those under their charge. Training found Anderson to be "a passionate reader of biographies and the leadership lessons they conveyed" (November 2002).

Anderson was named Retail Executive of the Year by Retail Merchandiser magazine because he was "an executive of a $17 billion company who had never forgotten his roots as a humble sales associate" (February 2002). Anderson was considered by his industry colleagues to be "the nicest man in the business" and "a humble, caring person whose word was his bond"; Anderson was quoted as saying, "We all work together. It's a family type of thing. We are all committed to giving the customer the best experience we can" (February 2002).

SERVICE TO THE COMMUNITY

An extension of Anderson's leadership was his service to the community; he was a director of the Best Buy Children's Foundation and the national Junior Achievement organization, a trustee of the American Film Institute and Minnesota Public Radio, and a member of the board of regents at Waldorf College. In the retail industry he served as a leader of the International Mass Retail Association.

See also entry on Best Buy Company in International Directory of Company Histories .

sources for further information

"CEOs Who Get It: Training Celebrates 11 CEOs Whose Commitment to Workforce Development Remains in Stellar and Lackluster Economic Times," Training , November 2002, pp. 24–35.

Frazier, Lynne McKenna, "Looking Differently at Jobs," Fort Wayne News-Sentinel , April 1, 2004.

——, "Unlocking the Potential," Fort Wayne News-Sentinel , April 2, 2004.

Gibson, Elizabeth, and Andrew Billings, Big Change at Best Buy , Palo Alto, Calif.: Davies-Black Publishing, 2003.

Hisey, Pete, "Conquering the Digital Divide at Best Buy: RM 's Retail Executive of the Year, Brad Anderson, Says Best Buy Will Be a $100 Billion International Retailer by 2010," Retail Merchandiser , February 2002, pp. 19–21.

Pieper, Mary, "Waldorf Gift: $5.5 Million," Mason City (IA) Globe-Gazette , November 18, 2003.

Tatge, Mark, "Fun & Games," Forbes , January 12, 2004, pp. 138–144.

—Jean Kieling

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