Operating a Small Business in the ‘New Normal’: Musicians Headquarters

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• 4 minute read
Henry Lee

While small businesses across the U.S. are reopening and adapting to the new normal, we’ll be highlighting stories of OnDeck customers who are facing these challenges head on. They share ways they changed their business operations to deal with new realities and how they used financing from OnDeck to help along the way.

We recently spoke with OnDeck customer Henry Lee, who owns Musicians Headquarters in Balch Springs, TX. He has used his OnDeck financing to stock up on inventory and manage cash flow through slow sales periods.

Tell us about your business. How did it come about?

We opened our music store in 1980 after my wife and I finished touring with a music group called Fantasia (I played guitar and she was the lead singer). We got off the road to start a family as well, and I needed to work to support us. Since we knew a lot about music and the music business itself, we thought a music store made the most sense. We started small, but soon grew into a full-fledged business with lots of customers and eventually built our own building to house Musicians Headquarters.

We offer a range of musical instruments, PA systems, amplifiers, band equipment, microphones, and accessories. Our customers also come to us for instrument lessons, repairs, rentals.

What have been some of your biggest challenges as a small business owner?

The internet. Online and chain stores compete with us on price, so one way we use the web is by selling merchandise on sites like Ebay and Reverb. We also specialize in good, used musical equipment and vintage instruments, which helps set us apart from the competition. We also carry new merchandise and go that extra mile to keep our loyal customers coming back to shop with us.

We have made lots of loyal customers by treating them like family – not only with continuous discounts, but also by giving them good service after the sale. For example, if their gear is being repaired, we’ll either loan or rent them a substitute item to use until their gear is fixed.

Why did you choose OnDeck and what’s been your most memorable experience working with us?

We chose OnDeck because they are very easy to work with and the interest rates are very fair. OnDeck funds us quickly when we need it without too much fuss, and it can be done all online very easily. The customer service is great, and all of our questions are easily answered. We have used OnDeck for years now and are very happy to have them on our side. They have always worked well with us and been professional at every stage of the process.

guitars and amps

An assortment of guitars and amps for sale at Musicians Headquarters.

How have you used the money?

We use the money to buy inventory locally and at trade shows. It has also come in handy during slow periods, like the one we are going through now due to COVID-19. It gives us peace of mind that we can continue operating our business during these times knowing that we can space out our operating costs with time to pay if needed.

How has the coronavirus impacted your business?

COVID-19 has affected the entire music industry; musicians aren’t playing live gigs, lots of venues are closed down and instrument sales have slowed down. Now, musicians are now starting to buy again – some are taking the time to learn new instruments or have started recording at home. Due to the virus, we are adapting to some new selling strategies like having more rentals, better in-stock products, and offering lessons. Everyone that comes in the store must wear a mask and social distance. Even during our lessons – which are only one-on-one – everyone stays at least six feet apart.

Between our 40 years of loyal customers and our online sales, we have managed to survive this pandemic for the most part. The music business will always thrive even in hard times as people have to have music in their lives.

What do you love about being a small business owner?

We love this industry because we are in the business of selling people things that make them happy and that they can be creative with. Being small business owners has been the best thing that could have happened to us: it has allowed us to make a decent living while enjoying what we do.

The future looks bright for our business as people will always want to play music to enjoy themselves, and there will always be a need for our industry to supply those people with good equipment. This pandemic may have slowed us down a bit, but we’ll come out stronger at the other end. Thanks to companies like OnDeck, dealers can continue to operate efficiently with a little extra help during these hard times.