Having gone toe-to-toe with countless retail Goliaths in his 32 years of business, Sudbury’s own Peter Dal Bianco has not only survived, but thrived on duking it out with big-name competition in the electronics and video markets.
In fact, rather than being driven beneath the waves of the treacherous ocean of retail business at his self-titled Bianco’s Audiotronic has doubled following the introduction of big box stores.
With his chain of Bianco’s Movie Super Centres, he’s also successfully squared off against the likes of Blockbuster Video. With six video outlets in the Greater Sudbury area, Bianco’s has become one of the oldest video operators in Canada. This has helped earn Peter Dal Bianco the 2007 Northern Ontario Business Awards Entrepreneur of the Year.
With one eye on the industry and the other on constantly adapting to an ever-changing market, Dal Bianco spends much of his time staying ahead of the curve. Whether it’s researching new and emerging technologies, attending electronics-related conferences or renovating his store five times in seven years, he’s committed to keeping things fresh and on the cutting edge.
It’s this refusal to sit still that’s helped to carry him through the “difficult years,” when the big boxes first rolled into Sudbury, he says. After recognizing how the larger operators change the playing field for smaller, independent companies, he sought to emulate them while still retaining the kind of uniqueness necessary for an independent company. Among other things, he restructured some of the company’s practices to allow for lower prices and thus lower profit margins – a risky move, but a necessary one, he says.
“If we don’t do that, we’re not going to be able to compete against them,” Dal Bianco says.
“No matter how much people like you, if you’re offering a television and it’s $100 more expensive than down the road, they’ll say, ‘Peter, you’re a nice guy, but guess what, I’ll save money and go down the road.’ You can’t have that, so you have to rework your business so that you can remain pretty competitive.”
In order to maintain the high level of enthusiasm and energy which has become a trademark, Dal Bianco makes a point of working out each and every day.
Every day, he descends into his basement gym to engage in a strenuous cardiovascular workout.
It’s this energy which has helped to carry him through his business career, through good and bad times..
Having immigrated from Pordenone, Italy in 1952 at the age of six, Dal Bianco grew up in Sudbury. After studying at Northern College’s Kirkland Lake campus, he became a hydrographic surveyor with the federal government in Ottawa. The work all too often pulled him away from his young family, leading Dal Bianco to instead cultivate his entrepreneurial spirit in his hometown. In 1975, he pounced on the opportunity to open a Kelly’s Video Mart franchise in Sudbury, and leveraged his charisma to convince the owners of the City Centre to extend store space onto the sidewalk.
After four successful years, he re-established the business under his own name, and soon opened stores in Elliot Lake, North Bay and Montreal.
Following a chance meeting with the international founder of National Video, with whom he became fast friends, he soon became the president of National Video Canada. By 1985, he had moved to Toronto as a member of the company’s board of directors, overseeing more than 650 franchises across North America. Within three years, however, he noted his own businesses were seeing some challenges, and by 1988, sold all the non-Sudbury locations and moved back home to focus on his company and his family.
As a self-professed “tech geek”, Dal Bianco says he is fortunate enough to link his day-to-day work with his passion for all things electronic. He credits this drive with helping to spur his current success, as he doggedly follows the twists and turns of the market as much out of a strong head for business as it is out of personal interest.
“I love what I do, and I love the industry. I think you have to, if you’re going to succeed, and I’m definitely lucky enough to be able to make a career out of it.”
He also attributes much of the company’s longevity to the positive work environment and the tight-knit closeness of the 65 full and part-time employees, many of which have been around since the mid-1980s.