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Anderson Looks At CE’s Future

Beside looking at the past, Brad Anderson took time to comment on the many challenges the CE industry and Best Buy faces in the near future.

And he also addressed what his post-retirement plans are and his feelings about this new phase of his life. 

What is the current state of the CE industry? What are the biggest challenges it is facing today?

I think Warren Buffett said that if capitalists had been around, they would have shot Wilbur and Orville [Wright] because even though the benefits to society were wonderful nobody has ever really made a dime off of the airline business … or let’s just say the [airline] industry as a whole hasn’t figured out how to make significant profits for the people who have invested in it.

I think we have a little bit of that problem in some areas of [the CE industry]. The amount of benefit this industry delivers to society is enormous. We have some systemic things in the way we operate that allows us to deliver a lot of benefits to society but allow us to keep a very small return on that benefit. What I’m most worried about currently is that gets us in the way of the R&D which allows us to present the benefits we are delivering.

That being said, I can’t even imagine another business I’d want to be in besides this one. 

How will this recession change Best Buy and the industry?

I think it will make it easier [for Best Buy] to bring customer centricity across the line, for a couple of reasons. This company has a culture with a passion about winning. When pressed it will adapt and I think it will push us to adapt a lot farther than we are.

I also think that one of the huge opportunities for industry is that what the whole world has done is that it has written checks for future generations that it can’t cash. Unless we figure how to do things more effectively as a whole we will have to reduce people’s standards of living.

I think the CE industry can deliver that promise. I think with CE you can do health care, transportation, virtually anything you can look at, the [potential] savings … [using CE technology] are enormous. 

How long will you be on Best Buy’s board and what are your retirement plans?

I think I will be on the board until June 2010. After that I’ve thought that the right thing to do would be to be completely separated.

I’m completely sure that Joe Clayton would agree with me that he has never really been completely separated from RCA, and I don’t think I’ll ever be completely psychologically separated from Best Buy.

But I’m also sensitive to having the old CEO sticking around. Some governance boards discourage it. It should be clear that I will no longer be CEO and that it will be Brian’s job to run the organization.

As for my retirement, the heart of my passion over the years has been creating engaged work places. How do you create successful, engaged work places and how do you do it from a leadership standpoint? That’s what I’d like to pursue.

I hope I wake up on June 25 [after retiring] and I don’t feel guilty. I always feel that there is always more that I should have done, that I feel that I didn’t live up to certain responsibilities, or taken advantage of the opportunities that I’ve had. I’m hoping that I have that weight come off at that time.