‘I’ve made money, lost money, bought houses, sold houses, now I’m 57, but the main thing is I don’t have a boss. I’m in control of my own business. And I am still tweaking it. Stopping now is not an option. It is worth it, but it could be worth even more.’
For many people, records are objects stuck in time, items that are reminiscent of the good old days and appraised as collectors’ items. Now, imagine, if you will, how does one breathe new life into something that is often associated with antiquity, the grandeur of a time gone by. This is the call that Neville Sergent heeded when he made his transition from collector to business owner many years ago. Did he succeed? Long-story-short, yes he did, and he is not even finished.
Born and raised in New Zealand, Neville developed a strong interest in music. So much so, that he became the drummer of an 80’s pop band that had their own record label and even conquered the charts for two weeks running. The creation of Record Crate along Glebe Pt. Road in Sydney was built upon his long history in retailing records, particularly thirty-five years of opening and operating nineteen record shops. At one point, he started four at the same time.
Neville has been playing the small business game since his youth. He personifies tenacity, determination and a failure-is-not-an-option mentality. But what gets him up and about is the idea of being the boss. When asked on the most meaningful aspect of owning a business, he responded, “being in charge, I don’t like to answer to anybody. I still have to answer to some people: tax collector, landlord, but it is minimal. I just like control.”
Neville developed Record Crate in the most Darwinist fashion: evolve or dissolve. He said it himself: “It started as a record shop in the beginning. It is what I have done for thirty-five years but I knew if I just set up a record shop in Glebe, it won’t work. So, to make it work, you must expand the business model.” This evolution is reflected in what Record Crate is today. Neville summarized it in three words. Food. Booze. Bands.
Record Crate is no longer just a retail shop. It has grown into a place where people can eat and drink while listening to good music, whether it is played from a turntable or by a live band. Neville is a staunch supporter of local talent. The second level of his shop is completely dedicated to live performances, a perfect launching platform for up-and-coming bands, who may (with fingers crossed and little luck) one day be the next big thing in music. Neville is often taken aback by the talent that he showcases in his very own shop. Which is why he never lost faith in local bands (or in contemporary music).
These new aspects of his business were introduced not without their risks. When asked about the struggles that he experienced in developing Record Crate, he said, “getting the menu right, getting the bands right. The difference of having the wrong band and the right band is thousands of dollars in one night.” As his business evolved, his perception of the very thing that he was passionate about changed in tandem. He now sees records as a long-term investment, a security, and ultimately, a fallback in case everything goes south. He said, ‘unfortunately, when you own a record shop, you don’t look at records the same way as a collector would look at it. I look at them as what they are worth.”
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