“If you want music to be your livelihood, then play, play, play, and play! And eventually you’ll get to where you want to be.”
Eddie Van Halen’s legendary nugget of advice may have been intended for aspiring professional rockers, but it can be applied to anyone who’s ever picked up an instrument and felt that inimitable rush of excitement. For the past six decades, music fans have looked to Guitar Center – headquartered in Westlake Village, California – to get them where they want to be.
Since launching in 1959 as The Organ Store, the company has undergone a series of transformations, moving from strictly selling keyboard instruments to bringing in guitars, amplifiers, drums, and much more.
By the 1990s, Guitar Center had expanded out of California and proudly billed itself “the largest musical instrument retailer in the world.” It’s on track to continue opening between eight and 10 new stores annually, with the goal of penetrating every market in the United States.
To foster that broader base, Guitar Center has shifted, over the past several years, from focusing mainly on gigging musicians. “Right now, our target customer is a young musician,” says Alex Khamudis, Senior Manager of Store Labor and Retail Analytics. “It’s the 12-year-old girl who wants to learn how to play guitar. We want them to bring their parents in, to take lessons, to keep coming back. Our goal is to build a lifetime customer.”
When a client enters any one of the 290 Guitar Center locations currently positioned throughout the U.S., they can expect a consultation with an expert. The personal experience that each associate brings to their job sets the company apart from transaction-based competitors focused on making the sale. And with a workforce of 9,000 in-store employees and growing, that’s a lot of know-how.
Khamudis is responsible for managing Guitar Center’s workforce – more specifically, salaries, schedules and incentives.
“What attracted me to the company is the continuous innovation and drive for improvement,” he says. One of the upshots of that push? Guitar Center’s switch, in 2010, from manual, Excel-based scheduling to Dayforce. Until then, managers had been spending days building schedules and verifying punches – the payroll and time and attendance systems were bordering on archaic.
Adopting a modern, automated system allowed the company to give time back to the field. Freeing up space to focus on the bigger picture is essential when you’re dealing with 5,000 full-time employees and 4,000 part-time employees spread between the front and back of house – not to mention another 3,000 staffers working in other parts of the business, including the distribution center, call center, and at the corporate office.
“Dayforce makes my life easier. It’s a well-oiled machine that runs in the background and does exactly what it needs to do,” says Khamudis. “As we open new stores, there’s no additional work on my part, which is always a pleasure. That allows me to focus on other tasks.”
Rather than putting out fires, the Guitar Center team now has the breathing room to be proactive. Implementing strategic initiatives and hitting expansion targets is that much more likely when you’re managing with an eye on what’s ahead rather than what’s directly in front of you.
One of the biggest challenges when it comes to payroll involves getting associates to follow through, accurately and consistently, on what needs to be done – from verifying their punches to submitting information on time. No manager looks forward to receiving an email from an employee a week after payday claiming missing funds. Using Dayforce for time and attendance, Guitar Center employees can see, at a glance, how many hours they’ve worked and what they’re going to be paid.
But payroll isn’t the only area where the company saw improvements. When Dayforce Task Management was deployed in late 2011, it was to help ensure compliance with corporate’s store-level directives without sacrificing customer service.
In actuality, the benefits have been far greater and more precise: the company has been able to improve productivity and repurpose labor costs by putting the right employee in the right job at the right time. The scheduling tool can drill down on a granular level using a salesperson’s margin, their sales per hour, their average basket size, and more. Feeding that information into Task Management allows Guitar Center to staff its stores with the employees who are the best fit for a given time period and task.
In 2014, Guitar Center participated in a study to gauge the impact of having implemented Workforce Management with Dayforce. The results: the return on investment came in at more than 1,000%. In short, rolling out Dayforce was, as Khamudis succinctly puts it, “very profitable for the organization.”
But good business isn’t just a numbers game. If excellent customer service is a pillar for Guitar Center, the company expects the same in return. And they are getting it from Ceridian.
“The technical support we receive through the ticket system is great,” says Khamudis. On the executive level, it’s the personal relationships he values most. “I could walk up to anyone I’ve interacted with at Ceridian and I know I’ll come away feeling appreciated as a customer. And that means the world.”