Where’s Dick Schulze?

Best Buy Renew Blue

At the buzzing scene that is MinneDemo 8, hundreds of Minnesota’s best and brightest gather at Best Buy’s corporate campus for what is the largest tech unconference ever held in the state.

It exemplifies a talented community of makers, doers and creators.   It involves aspirants and admirers, entrepreneurs and opportunists. It spans the wealthy, the wise, and the weak.

Forget the textbook definitions and political platitudes that have diluted innovation to death — this is it right here.

Before there can be innovations in the material world, there must first become innovations of the mind.  Minnebar is that time and Best Buy is the place.  Events like this don’t come around often, but when they do, magic happens.

Absent is homegrown St. Paul native, Central High School dropout and Best Buy founder Richard (Dick) Schulze. The man who started it all in ’66 then lost it all 40 years later, only to step back into the lime light. He financed the very foundation we’re gathered on, thanks to a relationship laid by (what was) one of the retailer’s most dazzling minds, a man who was destined for more.

So where is Dick Schulze today? Hubert Joly? Scott Durschlag? Bueller? 

Robert Stephens would have been here, proudly preaching it.

Best Buy’s newly minted CEO Joly appears to be about respect, hustle and humility, a man who isn’t afraid to take the reigns and get cracking.  While watching legacy media companies and stock market players swallow the PR spin is entertaining, the emotional hype and corporate slogans aren’t going to last without substance that extends beyond cost cutting.  Core earnings and same store sales declined again in Q4. The actual depth of Best Buy’s malaise isn’t exactly clear to anyone on the outside and the company is far from the calm of the storm. When it comes to a .com “overhaul”, the company still struggles.

Closing the convoluted VC arm, pulling out of Target, and introducing new point schemes isn’t addressing the fundamental need for new models that extend beyond brick and mortar retail.  For the company to be relevant in the next 5 – 10 – 20 years will involve a complete examination and overhaul of everything it thought it knew, from minds it does not yet know.

If Best Buy is going to regain a foothold, it’s going to inevitably involve tapping Minnesota roots. A truly sustainable reinvention is not likely to occur without identifying, energizing and engaging the wealth talent in their own backyard.  As the tech community in Minnesota continues to gain speed and momentum, it would behoove Best Buy to participate in that to the greatest extent possible.


  • Toby Cryns

    Daaaamn! Sticking’ it to the man! I love it!

    Great piece of work here, Jeff!

  • http://www.marketingshow.com Clay Collins

    Thanks for this editorial piece and for taking the time to craft your thoughts on this.

  • http://wiresandtubes.com/ JoshuaKahn

    I think you hit the nail on the head. Robert would’ve been there. The irony of this conference being held at Best Buy is too delicious to ignore. I’m not surprised no leaders were present; they haven’t been ‘present’ to any sort of innovation for a long time.

    As someone who was just packaged out and occupied a spot on arguably the most innovative group at Best Buy (the Bistro) I can tell you Best Buy doesn’t have an interest in true innovation right now.

    Rightly so, Joly needs to clean up the house. By most accounts he’s doing a decent job. However your point is well made that cost-cutting and management won’t be enough in the long run.

    It may be sour grapes of a kind on my part, but they failed to recognize and properly utilize an incredibly talented group of developers, designers and product developers that were in the building for 6 years. Now that most are gone I have my doubts about their ability to figure it out now.

  • Robert Stephens

    I wish I could have been there. But I’m glad to see that it still happened and is growing better than ever. I also think you properly highlight the importance of CURIOSITY in all leaders – that’s the only way to stay ahead of the curve.