It may seem to you that the only thing constant in life is change. How can you adapt and thrive in the midst of change, upheaval, or adversity? In this inspirational episode, Linda interviews Terry Woodward, owner of Wax Works, Inc. Terry is a...
It may seem to you that the only thing constant in life is change. How can you adapt and thrive in the midst of change, upheaval, or adversity? In this inspirational episode, Linda interviews Terry Woodward, owner of Wax Works, Inc. Terry is a successful business owner, community activist, and philanthropist. He is also the visionary leader behind the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Owensboro, KY. Hear the story of how he adapted to a constantly changing marketplace to achieve success, and how he chose to help employees understand the policies that led to profitability, which enabled him to share generous philanthropic gifts to enhance the lives of citizens in his community and around the country.
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Linda Hansen: Welcome. Thank you for tuning in to this episode of The Prosperity 101 Breakroom Economics Podcast. My name is Linda J. Hansen, your host, and the author of Prosperity 101 Job Security Through Business Prosperity: The Essential Guide to Understanding How Policy Affects Your Paycheck and the creator of the Breakroom Economics online course. The book, the course and the entire podcast library can be found on prosperity101.com. I seek to connect boardroom-to-breakroom and policy-to-paycheck by empowering and encouraging employers, to educate employees about the public policy issues that affect their jobs. My goal is to help people understand the foundations of prosperity, the policies of prosperity, and how to protect their prosperity by becoming informed, involved, and impactful. I believe this will lead to greater employee loyalty, engagement and retention, and to an increased awareness of the blessings and responsibilities of living in a free society. Listen each week to hear from exciting guests and be sure to visit prosperity101.com.
Thank you for tuning in today. My guest today is someone that I know you will find to be quite fascinating. And his story reminds us of the importance of our free enterprise system and the freedom that we have in America to grow businesses and create wealth, which in turn allows us to give back to our community and help our fellow citizens. So today I am interviewing Terry Woodward. Terry Woodward is a well known businessman from Owensboro, Kentucky. Mr. Woodward got his start in the record business, sweeping up the floors and cleaning the windows of the Wax Works Record Store opened by his father, LeRoy Woodward in 1949. Terry has navigated the business from the time of the 78 rpm record, remember those, to the virtual streaming platforms of today. One thing hasn't changed in that time, is his love of music and of the business.
I know you will enjoy hearing the story of Terry Woodward and how he has been contributing to Owensboro, Kentucky, and to our entire nation, through his work with his business and through his work as a philanthropist and his many other companies. So thank you Terry, for joining us today. It's just a pleasure to get to know you and to hear your story and I know the listeners will be really excited.
Terry Woodward: Okay. Where do you want me to start?
Linda Hansen: Well, you have a very rich career and you started in your family business.
Terry Woodward: I did.
Linda Hansen: So, yes.
Terry Woodward: My father asked me in 1968 to join him. I was keeping his books at night and he was having a tough time. My stepmother had cancer, he had made a bad business investment and he asked me to join him. And I'll be honest with you, I had doubts about joining him because I had two other brothers. Sometimes family businesses don't work, but my thought was, well, if you can't help your father, who can you help? And I was young enough that if it didn't work out, I knew I could get another job.
So I was lucky in 1968, 8-track tapes came out and that energized the record business, the music business, because for the first time you could play in your car, the music you wanted to hear and not just your radio. So my timing was great. And I asked my father. I said, "Don't put a leash on me. I'm young. I want to grow. I know you're getting close to retirement, but do I have the freedom to grow this company?" When I started the company, we had four employees and in 1968, we did $197,000 in business because I kept the books. So I know what we did. Now I'm not patting myself on the back, but many years later I was doing 396 million a year.
Linda Hansen: Oh, that's a fantastic story. And so tell the listeners what the main business was prior to the 8-track tape influx.
Terry Woodward: Well, my father just had one retail store, but we were what you call a one stop. We were a distributor to, the terminology was mom and pop stores, in surrounding communities in Owensboro and Indiana. Well, in the 70s, they started building regional malls. Well, when they started building malls, record chains, toy chains started developing to go into malls. Well, every time they built a mall in a town where I had an account, I lost my account. So in the early 70s, I said, "Who am I going to be selling to in five years? My customers going to be gone. So I better get in the retail business."
So I started a retail chain called Disc Jockey. Now here's how I came up with that name. I wanted something that knew it was music and I want something related to Kentucky.
Linda Hansen: Perfect.
Terry Woodward: Jockey, we're known for our horses and of course disc, everybody knows that's music. So that's how I came up with the name. Well I was behind because there was already record chains being developed. And quite frankly, the mall developers, there was a close relationship, if you were a retailer and they built another mall, they would go to the same retailer over and over. They had a lot of loyalty to the retailers. So when I started, I had to come up with a different marketing plan. So I took the name Disc Jockey, the front of my store looked like starting gates for a racetrack. All of my signage was I had daily doubles and I used all type of equine. I developed my own jockey silks. I had my employees in jockey silks. So usually each mall had two record stores. So I said, "Well, I'm different." I've got a different marketing strategy. Quite frankly, we sold the same product, but I had a selling point. Where there's adversity, there's opportunity.
Linda Hansen: Could you please repeat that for our listeners who may be facing adversity?
Terry Woodward: Well, when Jimmy Carter was president, most people remember we had double digit inflation. We had double digit unemployment. Interest rates were as high as 20%.
Linda Hansen: I remember.
Terry Woodward: So most companies just stopped. They stopped growing. They couldn't obviously borrow money at that rate. I had no debt at the time. I was still young and still growing. One of the mall developers came to me and said, "We're building this mall in Zanesville, Ohio. We've already started it. We can't stop. Our record store backed out. Would you go in this mall for us?" Well, I was looking for opportunities. So I said, "Yes, I'll go." Because I did that, they said "From now on when we build a mall, you're our first choice."
Linda Hansen: That's great. Like you said, where there's adversity, there's opportunity.
Terry Woodward: They end up being the second largest mall... I was in 47 of their malls eventually.
Linda Hansen: Amazing. Amazing. Well, you show a great story there, you tell a great story. Not only about how you were able to turn the business to be more profitable, but how you were able to do so by being adaptable. I mean, whether getting into the malls, or taking a risk, but being adaptable, getting into the malls. And then you mentioned when the 8-track tapes came and people could listen to them in their vehicles, I'm sure that took your business to another level and you've had to adapt every time technology changed. Can you tell us a little bit about all those adaptations?
Terry Woodward: Well, after 8-track tapes, you had cassettes, then you had mono albums, then you had stereo albums, then you had CDs. Quite frankly, when the CD came, it became a commodity. When it was albums, it was really probably our glory years because you had to have a needle and mass merchants like Walmart really couldn't service the market like they could with CDs. Because CDs, there was no servicing to them. So we were faced with competition from the mass merchants. They kind of used the music as a loss leader. Well, the record companies figured that out. So they developed what they called, MAP pricing, minimum advertise pricing. If they sold you a CD for X amount, you had to sell it. Now they couldn't make you, but they wouldn't give you any advertising money. Well, that's what Walmart and them lived on, was their advertising money. So when they did that, that leveled to playing field. So I started growing again.
Well, I became president of the National Music Association. We were sitting in a meeting in July of 1999. The vice president of Warner brothers was on our board and he said, "Terry, Sony Music and Warner Brothers just made a deal with the government." The Lord gave us two ears and one mouth. So sometimes you should listen, right? And I said, "What kind of deal?" He said, "Well, we want to buy an online music company. And we know we can't adhere to our own MAP pricing. So we're going to let the government do away with it and we're telling the consumer that's to help them, but it's really for us." Well, I knew that was going to end retailing when MAP pricing went away, that was end of retailing. So I had a company trying to buy me. So I came home, I said, "Are you still interested?" And I sold my company in October of that year. And I was the last record company that sold, everybody else went belly up.
Linda Hansen: That's amazing. Makes me think of Kenny Rogers talking about music, know when to hold up, know when to fold up. Know when to walk away and know when to run.
Terry Woodward: That was very emotional. I've been in the music business, well, Wax Works, that's 50 years. And it was very emotional, but sometimes you can't let your emotions make your business decisions. Had I not sold, because I'd got in the video business in 1980 when the VCR came out. So I had two businesses, I had Wax Works/Video Works and I had the Disc Jockey records. I had 240 retail stores in 37 different states. I had about 5,000 video accounts that I was servicing for rental video at the time. And so when I sold the Disc Jockey chain, then I was just in the video business. Well, when DVDs came out, it was kind of like when CDs came out. All at once, now instead of a rental market, it becomes a sell through market. So the rental stores started disappearing and I said, "What am I going to do?"
Linda Hansen: You have to adapt. Yes.
Terry Woodward: Well, I found a niche. I found out nobody was doing college sports. So I can't compete with Walmart. So I had to find a niche.
I hired a boy that had started a company up in Ohio that had the same vision and understood. So I hired him. I'm the luckiest guy in the world. Right after I started FOX Sports, took over the bowl games and they put out an RFP to market, and I don't know if it was a three year or a five year contract, to market and sell the bowl game DVDs. So there were 13 companies that filled out an RFP and I said, "I'm going to do it for the exercise of it. I'm just getting my feet wet in sports." Well, as it turns out, they narrowed the 13 down to three: Wax Works, Warner Brothers and there was a guy in Cincinnati that had been doing the bowl games. So they asked us to come to Las Vegas and meet with FOX Sports, the company, and make our pitch. I'll be honest with you. I didn't do very well. I mean, I know when I do well and when I don't. But anyway, I got a letter and said, "We've narrowed it down to Warner Brothers and Wax Works."
Linda Hansen: Oh, great.
Terry Woodward: And we're going to come to Owensboro and see your facilities and meet with you, make sure you're for real. They knew who Warner Brothers was. Well, they also had a speed chat. They had a TV channel called Speed. And I don't know if you know this, but Owensboro had six NASCAR drivers from Owensboro.
Linda Hansen: I did not know that.
Terry Woodward: Well, he went to Charlotte, North Carolina before he came here and he met with Michael Walter who's from Owensboro. And Michael Walter said, "Hey, tell Terry, hello, tell him to take you to Moonlight and eat while you are there."
Linda Hansen: So it's just a great relationship.
Terry Woodward: So that turned out nice. He had a good feeling when he came here, but I knew I could sell more than Warner Brothers. And I know that sounds ridiculous that the Wax Works could sell more, but we really could.
Linda Hansen: Well you knew your business.
Terry Woodward: So I laid it out to him in layman terms of why we were the best choice for that license. And they chose us over Warner Brothers.
Linda Hansen: Oh, that's fantastic.
Terry Woodward: So when they did that, that kind of opened the flood gates. I started working with Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Ohio State, all the colleges, doing their games, picking up older bowl games, started doing the final four for CBS Sports, got the rights for NASCAR races. In fact, I produced the 50 years of NASCAR DVD. I went down to the archives, got every race for 50 years, put it on video. So we just kind of built a sports empire.
Then ESPN, they had an agreement with another video company and this company wasn't paying their royalties. So they got into a lawsuit. Well, ESPN had all of these titles that were sitting in a warehouse someplace and this lawsuit going on. Well, regardless of what happened, ESPN was going to have to buy their own inventory back. So I called ESPN and said, "Look, I know you're going through this lawsuit. You need to get your product in the marketplace. I'll do that for you. I'll do it on a handshake. When you get your lawsuit and whatever, but I'm just here to help. We got a lot of sports outlets. I deal with every sporting, good store and so forth." So they took me up on it.
Well, they were coming out with this series called 30 by 30. They were at 30 years old, they were going to make 30 documentaries. They said, "Well, we're going to put out an RFP because we're coming out with these 30 by 30s." So I said, "Well, let me fill one out." They had a thing on there, what will you guarantee us? How much money will you guarantee and I wrote, I guarantee I'll sell more than anybody. That was my guarantee. Anyway, they invited me out to Aspen to the X Games. And when I was out there, they said, "We're going to give you the contract." I never will forget their words. They said, "The reason we're doing it, we like you. We trust you. And we enjoy doing business with you and you just beat out Mark Cuban."
Linda Hansen: Oh my goodness. So listeners take note, if you're listening to this, we have no idea what types of adversity you might be going through. We've all been, kind of turned upside down and flipped around through COVID and all sorts of recent things happening in our economy. But from his example, you can see how important it is to be adaptable, to not be discouraged. Don't hang your head and think it can't be done. There's always another way. And you were able to take these businesses and every time you were faced with a challenge, you were able to turn that challenge into an opportunity. And isn't that just like life? I mean we have so many challenges in life, but there's always good. Do we see the glass half full or do we see the glass half empty?
So you always thought half full and you went to get it. It's just amazing. So you built this amazing business empire really, and you're just such a humble man and unassuming in so many ways, but your office alone is a museum. As I've walked through the halls of your office, I'm just amazed and astounded at everything that you've been able to do. But your success in business has also allowed you to help the community and to really help people all around the nation. So, as I try to help, especially young people understand, that wealth is not created from government. Government can only provide the conditions that help us to create wealth, help businesses to prosper. So government doesn't have any money until individuals or businesses give them money. Many times places like museums, orphanages, homes for people struggling with substance abuse, all sorts of organizations like that, would not be in existence of it wasn't for philanthropists who are willing to share from the wealth that has been created from their healthy business.
So I know we have a time limit here, but I'd love to touch on the fact that you had the vision for the Bluegrass Museum to come to Owensboro, Kentucky. And you fought a lot of opposition and naysayers in a sense and I don't know that I'd use the word fought, you challenged. You were challenged. And you had to persuade a lot of people to believe in your vision and isn't that just like life a lot, but you were able to see that vision become a reality and through your philanthropy and through your great people skills and your business skills, you were able to bring a bluegrass museum to Owensboro, Kentucky, which has been a fantastic addition to the town. A fantastic venue, the town is a great venue for bluegrass music and other musicians. It's really put it on the map in terms of music. So I'd love for you to share that story with the listeners.
Terry Woodward: Well, it was quite a journey. I started that journey in the early 80s to form a whole bluegrass trade association. And it was formed actually, after some meetings in 1985. They came to Owensboro, we had our first award show, I think in '92. And this town just opened their arms to these musicians. This was the first time the musicians ever had a format to get together and work together and have seminars and have something that was all their own because they didn't have an award show. They didn't have a museum. All this was new.
Linda Hansen: Right for listeners, I learned about this when I came to first meet Mr. Woodward, and many times we're not familiar with the industry. We might not realize that bluegrass is not really part of say the Country Music Awards. And it's not really pop and rock and roll or anything like that. So bluegrass is a special niche, all of its own. And it really didn't have a home. It needed a home and it needed a place where these artists could be highlighted and they could share their work and become stars in their own right. Because they were very, very talented. And you saw that vision and you saw what it could bring to this town.
Terry Woodward: Well, it was a win-win situation. It was a win for Owensboro because now we've created an international tourist attraction. In fact, last year, our mayor proclaimed Owensboro as the bluegrass capital of the world. So that's our brand now. That was a long way from when I started that I couldn't get anybody on board. And the one guy that I was telling you about that had the Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. Now they gave the magazine to the museum. The museum is now publishing that magazine that told me it shouldn't be here in Owensboro. So it's ironic of how things come full circle. But it's really helped the bluegrass musicians. In fact, when we opened the museum, Sonny Osborne said, "If it wasn't for Owensboro, we would still be sitting on the back of a truck, playing music for 200 people out in a cornfield."
Linda Hansen: This is just such a great story because your business has brought so much to Owensboro. As I visit Owensboro, I can see your fingerprints all over and people speak so highly of you and you have poured back into the community and blessed the community in a way that will live way beyond you. And you have such a legacy. And I think for all of us, these are tumultuous times in our nation and hopefully we will get through them. And hopefully America will survive this time and be able to be the land of the free, the home of the brave and the land of opportunity where people can come here with a dollar in their pocket and die a millionaire, or they can start out like you in a family business where there wasn't that much revenue, but it grew because you had great business skills and great people skills.
Terry Woodward: And I surrounded myself with good people.
Linda Hansen: Right, right.
Terry Woodward: And it allowed me to get involved in the community. Because it took a lot of hours to be on the tourist commission and on the chamber of commerce and be the fundraiser for the new symphony center and so forth. So I had to have good people.
Linda Hansen: Right. And that brings me into just what I was going to ask you before we started recording, we were talking a little bit about how you would educate your employees about the issues that affect your business and affect their job. And of course that's my passion in a sense, I really believe, we have, I think it's 159 million employees employed in privately held or family businesses in the United States. So this is not the publicly held corporations, the ones who are bringing in, I hate the term, but woke ideologies. No, these are business owners, like you, they create relationships with their employees. They care about their communities. They want to help people rise. And I want those employers to be able to have tools and examples of how to talk about issues with your employees, so that they understand how this all affects their jobs, their families.
And while we can't tell them who to vote for, we can tell them and educate them about the basic rights we have as Americans and the policies that really help a business thrive, so maybe they can be the philanthropist building museums and things. So we need to help instill that. But I truly believe employers are a missing link in our country right now. If we could somehow mobilize and educate all of these employers and employees to understand these issues at a very basic level, not only we would preserve America, but we would really help America have a major turnaround.
Terry Woodward: Well, yeah, I don't have a lot of employees today, but when I did, I would always meet with my employees and I would talk about the issues. I didn't tell them how to vote, but I would just bring up the issues. And what was alarming to me, was how many wasn't registered to vote. And then the ones that did vote really, there was just a small percentage that really knew what the issues were and how it did affect them. So you're right. There needs to be some education done. Because I'm sure everybody was in the same situation as I was. They had the employees, but I think it kind of got to the point, they didn't think their vote counted. Now locally, they got more engaged in local politics and maybe even state politics more than they did national politics.
Linda Hansen: Well, local politics and state politics are important. And we often say all politics is local, right? But it is also important to help people understand how these things that come from Washington DC trickle down into the states and into the local communities. But likewise, when local citizens get engaged and active, it pushes things to Washington DC. If we let our voice be heard, we can do this. So if we could activate employees by just simply educating them, helping them understand the issues that affect their jobs, I really do believe that our country could continue to be the land of opportunity.
Terry Woodward: I hope so.
Linda Hansen: I hope so too. Well, we're almost out of time, but before we close, I want to make sure that the listeners know that you are having a special award given to you next week, is it?
Terry Woodward: Next Friday.
Linda Hansen: Yes and I'll let you tell them. It's so exciting.
Terry Woodward: Well, I graduated from the University of Kentucky and I got a call about 60 days ago and they're going to award me an honorary doctor's degree at graduation next Friday night in Lexington, Kentucky.
Linda Hansen: Oh, well, congratulations for that. It's so well deserving. It's so well deserving. That is just fantastic. And I know you've been greatly involved, we didn't even have time to cover it, but you've been involved with educational institutions and helping to support things. Scholarships and things, Kentucky Wesleyan and other places. And you've just contributed so much to your community, but also to our nation. And so thank you for doing that. It's healthy businesses and healthy communities that make for a healthy nation. And when America is strong, the world is stronger.
Terry Woodward: You try to set an example. I had an ex-employee the other day that gave the Girls Club a large donation. He's retired now. So I called him and said, "Thank you, thank you. I think that's great." And he said, "I'm just following your lead."
Linda Hansen: Oh, that's-
Terry Woodward: So that meant a lot.
Linda Hansen: Yes. That is a great example, when we can have the honor of having employees come back and they have become philanthropists, they have become someone who really gives back to the community, you know that you've created a legacy that will live long after you do so thank you. Thank you for doing that. If people want to learn more about Wax Works or your business or the bluegrass museum, how should they do so?
Terry Woodward: So you can go on there and learn everything about the museum. Its activities, its history. And as far as the Wax Works, I don't really have a website anymore that tells the history of it. So I guess you'd have to just Google.
Linda Hansen: Well, you can find out if you just search online for Wax Works Owensboro, Kentucky, you'll learn a lot about the business and the history of the business and to every family business out there, we salute you because running a family business is hard. I was involved in a family business. There's all sorts of dynamics that go on, but you small business owners that grow your companies and your families that work hard, you are the backbone of America. Small business owners are the largest employer in our nation. So please rise up, speak up, and don't forget to defend the principles that allowed you to be successful. So Terry Woodward, I thank you so much for taking time for this.
Terry Woodward: I enjoyed talking to you. I really did.
Linda Hansen: All right, well, thank you.
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