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Volume 2, Number 2, March 2004
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Dealer Focus: Sweetwater, Fort Wayne, Indiana
An Interview with Jeff Radke VP of Sales

Sweetwater’s New Demo Room
How and when did Sweetwater get its start?
The company really got its start back in 1979 when Chuck Surack, founder and owner, opened a commercial recording studio and turned his passion into his profession. The studio was the original Sweetwater, and still does business today. As a result of this venture and future studio purchases, he became deeply involved in “soundware” design, which was our first real “retail” endeavor.

What were some of the early product lines that Chuck and Co. (Sweetwater Sound) sold?
Our very first product line was Kurzweil, which was a result of Chuck falling in love with the K250 as an end user. Initially, we were designing sounds for the K250, which then grew into selling the instrument itself, due to Chuck’s intimate knowledge of it’s capabilities and enthusiasm for how it was changing the way he worked as a musician, engineer and arranger. We’ve always been totally immersed in the role that technology plays in composing and recording music, and so we soon expanded our retail division, taking on other cutting edge music technology lines like MOTU, E-mu, and Tascam.

How many people does Sweetwater currently employ?
170 and growing.

Outline the sales training required for new sales employees.
It's pretty intense. Every new sales hire goes through 13 weeks of training (and must pass all the course work) before rolling out as a Sales Engineer. This includes tons of technical training; but also, and maybe even more importantly includes extensive business, professional and customer service training. In other words, it's expected that they know about the latest technologies and products, but it's also absolutely critical that they provide the highest level of customer service. This is the difference between teaching "secret Ninja sales tricks" and an honest to God long-term perspective when thinking of customer relationships.

Back at the Shop
How much ongoing product and sales training is required for your sales staff?
It never really stops. We have two "standard" sales meetings a week, which generally feature different manufacturers doing product training. We have a Monday morning "Sales Lab" which is required for newer folks and features lots and lots of real world sales training. Since we are focused on the "tweaky" part of the market, we are basically always in a learning mode.

What makes Sweetwater unique in the Musical Instrument and Pro Audio retail world?
The consistently high quality of the employees and level of service we provide. I've been around the industry for a long time and I'm here because I've never seen a company work as hard as this one does to take care of customers from the consultative stage, all the way through to delivering a system that works - and supporting it after the fact. There is just nobody else that can do what we do.

Why is Universal Audio important to Sweetwater's business?
Universal Audio offers great products that reach a broad spectrum of our customers. For the dyed-in-the-wool traditionalists, there’s the analog line of products, including spot-on reproductions of products like the 1176 and LA2A. For the computer-based recordist, the UAD-1 series of DSP products offer an incredible array of world class algorithms, and the power to run them on virtually any current native system.

Who is your most famous Universal Audio client?
No comment. We protect all of our customers’ privacy very closely, and don't share customer information with anybody, not even you!

-Terry Hardin

5335 Bass Road
Ft. Wayne, IN 46808
Owner: Chuck Surack

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