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Keep Up with Me if You Can

Jaimie Blackman • September 2020The Sound of Money • September 8, 2020

Photo by fauxels from Pexels

“I believe I was 8 when I sold that Hohner Panther cherry-red accordion. I spoke a little Spanish, a fella walked in and wanted to play it. This was sitting front and center in the display case as soon as you walked in. I asked for the keys and told him the price; the instrument did the rest.”

Today, at 30, Joseph Fox, vice president of Fox Music House, still has the energy of an 8-year-old. Hearing him talk about Fox Music feels like listening to a preacher or rabbi speak about their house of worship. He’s that passionate! His liturgical vibe is not surprising, as Joseph majored in religion upon entering college, where his heart was set on becoming a rabbi. That all changed in his sophomore year when his dad had other plans for young Joseph.

After Joseph bought his dad’s turbo diesel car, Charles, the elder Fox, suggested that he spend the summer visiting 30 music stores, all people Charles knew personally. Joseph said it was basically like visiting the NAMM board. They were all very successful music retailers. After driving 8,000 miles up and down the East Coast, and spending time with the best MI ambassadors his dad could come up with, Joseph finally caught the music bug. When he returned to college, he quickly changed his major from religion, and graduated with a degree in business. Joseph Fox is a fourth generation retailer, and is scheduled to receive the title of president, when the elder Fox passes the baton in 2021.

When the subject of competitors came up, Joseph gave me a smile saying that his grandfather grew the business to plus locations plus a service center in Charleston and from that tutelage, nearly every music store and production team in the area of Charleston once worked for Fox Music. He said, “I don’t treat them like competitors. Once you worked for Fox Music, you’re always part of our fabric.”

Perhaps that caring mentality is part of the family’s success. For example, the impact of Charles Fox’s contributions, like founding the Charleston Marathon as a sustainable funding source for arts programs in Charleston Public Schools, can be felt throughout the state to this day.

By nature, and nurture, caring is the central theme for Joseph. He tells his team, “When you become an employee of Fox Music, you are part of our family, and I’ve got your back.” He tells of the time he brought generators and help cut down trees for his employees during a recent storm.

The Fox Music story had a modest beginning. The year was 1928, with the Great Depression right around the corner. Otto Fox, an accomplished violin player and luthier, decided to open a business which repaired string instruments. There were no sales. His repair skills were so superior that before too long, he was repairing stringed instruments for other music stores. And nearly 100 years later, service is still at the heart of their business.

Today Fox Music operates a magnificent new 22,000 square foot building, which includes a 200-seat recital hall. Fox Music was also recently awarded Yamaha South Eastern dealer of the year. A dedicated music education center is located at a second location in Columbia, South Carolina directed by the dynamic teaching couple, Mack and Keri Bayne.

When I asked Joseph how the COVID pandemic has impacted his business, he said, “COVID turned on my ‘hustle button.’” He is working harder than ever, and so is his team. For example, he talks with reverence about Victor Quarterman, his oldest employee who has been with the organization for 45 years.

“Victor is our guiding light. Before I even get into the store, he has already called 13 customers looking for referrals.” One must speak to Joseph and look into his eyes to understand that these are not just words. Joseph is one of the rare leaders that insists on leading by example.

After Joseph graduated college, Charles didn’t make it easy to enter the family business. Ironically, he actually was trying to dissuade him. He insisted that Joseph first gain experience outside of music retail before joining Fox Music as his profession.

And so, he did. Joseph managed two retail stores for the paint giant Sherwin Williams. In less than two years, he realized that people never remember what color they painted a room, but they always remembered the musical instruments they played. The die was cast. His heart belonged to Fox Music and there he went.

Joseph personally makes several dozen calls a day to past customers and asks them one question, “Can you refer someone who likes to make music?” And when he gets frustrated, he will call another music store, far away from his, and ask the salesman, “What’s your favorite piano?” As he explained, that conversation would recharge his batteries, and he would get right back on the phone.

If you lead by example, you better keep up with Joseph, who is the chief tempo setter. As Joseph says, “Keep up with me if you can.” Please click on to view my conversation with Joseph on “The Sound of Money Live.”

Jaimie Blackman – a former music educator & retailer – Is co-founder of BH Wealth Management. The organization offers financial advice, insurance, and succession planning services. Jaimie hosts The Sound of Money Live presented by MMR. Discover how much risk is in your portfolio. Visit Registered Representative, First Allied Securities, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC

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