Many dream of making a living making music. Beau Richardson has the next best thing. He’s a guitar – playing senior sales assistant at The Rockshop in Palmerston North and, as far as he’s concerned, it’s a career with plenty of high notes.
It all started almost five years ago when Beau, then a part-time guitar teacher, would pop into his favourite shop to help his students choose an instrument and to badger the Manager for a gig in sales.
When a customer service role came up, Beau, with his helpful, cheerful attitude, knowledge and skill, got the call-up to join the Rockshop “band”; the rest, as they say, is history.
Today, the 26-year-old blues enthusiast – whose vibe echoes Stevie Ray Vaughan – has established a solid career in the vibrant retail industry.
Earning and learning on the job, Beau has scored a string of hits in the form of recognised retail qualifications – he’s gained New Zealand Certificates in Retail Level 2 and Level 3, and has just completed his last assessment to achieve his Level 4 qualification.
He also took to the stage as the regional nominee for the ServiceIQ Retail Professional New Zealand Award at the glittering 2014 Top Shop Awards in Auckland.
“One of the great things about learning on the job is that the higher you go with training programmes, the more value you can add to the business,” says Beau.
For instance, Beau explains that to succeed in Level 4, he had to gain a much greater understanding of how the business operates.
“I needed to demonstrate how the Rockshop’s business policies and procedures work. It was great because it forced me to learn about the company in much greater depth and our management team see that as a strength.”
Most recently, the young retail star who is committed to Palmerston North, was still delighted to be shoulder-tapped with offers of Manager and Assistant Manager roles at The Rockshop’s Auckland branches.
One of the most important lessons he picked up from training – and still uses today – is how to handle difficult customers with confidence. It was a bit overwhelming when he started, but thanks to a combination of training and experience, Beau says he knows how to remain calm under pressure and to manage the situation amicably.
One of the most satisfying experiences in the job is receiving an encore from a satisfied customer.
“We get a lot of online reviews, but because of the kind of product we are selling, we build a relationship with our customers in store and the proof of quality service is that they come back to you,” says Beau. “I have a customer who, for a couple of years, has been coming in every second day to browse or buy. These days we sometimes meet over coffee to chat about our shared hobby.”
The Red Hot Chili Peppers fan has also racked up a range of acoustic and electric guitars that include three Gibsons and a Fender. Not that he’s jamming during work hours, you understand!
“People say ‘it must be awesome just playing guitars all day long’…but that’s not actually the job,” says Beau. “It’s a busy role and when everything else is done, there’s always a lot of guitars to restring, tune and clean. All the instruments need to be in perfect condition and ready to play for our customers.”
A typical work day usually involves a morning spent packaging and dispatching instruments to fulfil customer’s online orders. New stock arrives in the afternoons so the process is unpacking, checking, pricing and merchandising as well as serving customers. There’s also a large amount of after-sales service when Beau and his team follow-up with customers to make sure the new gear they’ve invested in is performing as expected.
Retail is an ideal career for those who are sociable and confident, but you also need a lot of patience, says Beau: “Some customers know exactly what they want but many don’t have any idea and they need a lot of help and guidance and this takes time.”
“For instance, you might get a customer who is buying a PA system for a church hall but they don’t have any knowledge of what they need. In that kind of situation, we not only recommend the right system for the space, we’ll also advise on how to route the cables and plug all the gear in.”
Beau recommends a retail career coupled with on-job training for people who are serious about the industry and who want to get into management.
“I love my job. I enjoy helping people and, as a guitarist, it’s the ideal role. You really don’t know where the play stops and work starts.”