Working for a boutique company?

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by Brian I, Aug 1, 2013.

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  1. Adam

    Adam Well-Known Member

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    Not taking on new customers. The great customers I have are ones who I'm still finishing builds for. Customers may be the bread and butter, but they aren't always right, or just. If I post my progress on a build online I get customers asking "what about my build?" or "why aren't you working on my build?" There's only so much I can do at a time, but a lot of customers either don't care about that or don't understand it. Selfishness is what it boils down to, and why I'd like to get away from a customer-centric business model and build guitars I want to build, to the stringent standards I strive towards. The expectation that a customer owns me because they've given me some of their money is not something I want, yet it pops up again and again.
     
  2. larryguitar

    larryguitar Member

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    The only real way around that, IMHO, is to only build 'spec' guitars, which you then sell after completion. I did this with custom knives, and as a HOBBY it's an excellent model; as a living, you'd need one hell of a reputation and waiting list to pull it off, and even then you'll end up with stuff you can never sell for anything near it's value in T + M.

    Larry
     
  3. otterhound

    otterhound New Member

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    Sounds like you could use some people skills .
    Have you actually had a customer state that they own you ?
     
  4. Adam

    Adam Well-Known Member

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    That's the goal. Start it as a hobby while I work at Collings, try to build it as a living down the line.
    That or someone to handle the "people" for me. I'm not going to get into individual customer conversations on here. How much experience with customers do you have?

    The interesting thing is I've talked to Bill about exactly this topic, and the frustrations I have are why he moved towards mass production.
     
  5. BWGuitars

    BWGuitars New Member

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    I feel that I've been extremely lucky to have been able to work with some very good customers, many of whom I've become buddies with through the course of the build process. I do however know that with how stressed and busy stuff can get around my shop, if I did have a particularly naggy or bitchy customer (which I thankfully haven't had yet), I could see myself snapping at them really easily. It's a valid concern when running a shop (again, I feel extremely fortunate to have really great customers :D )
     
  6. Blue Belly Guitars

    Blue Belly Guitars New Member

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    Bruce, I've done it that way & it isn't much better. College won't yield you a great paying job without some considerable financial debt, these days(Unless mommy & daddy can bail you out). I had a house & a good job in Los Angeles. I hated myself, I was beaten down & there was no way out. All I wanted to do was to do something I actually enjoyed. Wife lost employment, we sold our house, made a tiny bit of profit & moved across the country for a complete lifestyle change. No, it hasn't been all roses. Money is tight, but we are now out of that miserable money making lifestyle. The lifestyle that drags you down because you don't like what you are doing & have to work with many people(personalities) who are going through the same thing. Building guitars is not easy. Starting a business is not easy. Knowing you are in control, for better or worse, with highs & lows, builds personality that a job you hate will never do. Nice cars, nice house, nice jeans, nice grass & toys don't make you happy. Trying to be the best "you" does.
     
  7. Adam

    Adam Well-Known Member

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    I've also learned to set expectations of communication and progress updates with my newer customers, but that's not fail proof.
     
  8. otterhound

    otterhound New Member

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    Been self employed for 25 years and lived around a family small business my entire life .
    I have some experience with customers as the person that is responsible .
     
  9. Adam

    Adam Well-Known Member

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    What kind of business, if you don't mind me asking?
     
  10. otterhound

    otterhound New Member

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    I have a feeling that I know where this is going .
    Commercial/industrial and residential fence erection .
     
  11. Adam

    Adam Well-Known Member

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    Demands of customers are definitely different, especially when it comes to professionalism! That's why I'd ultimately rather deal with dealers, that's why Bill moved to the Collings model of only dealing with dealers. When you deal with individuals (especially younger individuals) it's certainly a lot harder to handle! That's not trying to diminish any experience you have either, I'm sure there are challenges involved with the people/companies you deal with, but I bet it's a whole lot more professional.
     
  12. otterhound

    otterhound New Member

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    Yes , you are trying to diminishing my experience . I expected that .
    People are people .
    If you want to do what Mr Collings has done , I have no issues with that .
    Selling is a people business regardless of the product . If you have trouble dealing with young people , you don't stand a chance with the more experienced customer .
    You want to provide solutions and that requires being able to read the customer , have the desire to guide them at times and get tough with as required and they are all different .
    These things can be learned , but are essential to be successful .
    The last thing that you want when dealing with people is an attitude and I believe that you have one .
    If you isolate yourself from the customer with a dealer in order to not have to deal directly with the customer , you will need to learn how to deal with your dealers that must work with both ends . If you stiff your dealer/s , they will drop you like a rock because you will harm them .
    I do not know you , so there can be nothing personal here . Just calling them like I see them .
    PM me if you would like to discuss this further as I will not engage in a shouting match here .
     
  13. emoney

    emoney New Member

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    Heh, heh, heh....he said "erection"......heh, heh, heh.


    Ok, enough of the 'debate' about generalizations. The truth of the matter is, outside of a Business 101 class in every local community college, businesses are no more the "same" than people are. Every thing is and will always be 'different', because people are different. Dealers are customers too. And yes, the grass is always greener on the other side.

    I think all this energy needs to be devoted to telling me how good I am, don't you?
     
    fortwinnie likes this.
  14. otterhound

    otterhound New Member

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    I am a 3rd generation professional erectionist , my friends call me Dick and many of my grandfather's erections are still standing without little blue pills . I was also asked to be on the Olympic fencing team , but was foiled . :rofl::rofl::rofl: Just a wee bit of fence humor there .
    I had business 101 in the field .
    There sure are differences in businesses , but people are still people .
    The single biggest mistake that I see is that some get into business thinking that the days of answering to the boss are over .
    When you are self employed , your boss is the customer , and they have the money . Treat them well , just like your business depends on them , because it does .
    Another item is that you will likely have to sacrifice that comfortable 40 hour week think immediately .
    You will never be able to hire anyone that will be willing to work for you as hard as you should be willing to work for yourself .
     
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  15. Duplex Dave

    Duplex Dave Active Member

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    Otterhound you are a wise man.
    I have erected some fence around my house. It was fun (I could call it a hobby) 1/2" lap joint on over 1200 boards, 6x6 cedar, dog eared. Galvanized posts in concrete with wood hangers.
    Anyways, I worked in a small guitar repair shop for almost 5 years. Yes it started out very innocent, working for free while I was in college. Asked to sweep the floors if I the owner would let me in on what he was doing. Worked full time for a summer and never went back to college.
    I had dreams of being a full time luthier working out of my garage or something. Then I got a job with a guitar manufacturer. That was almost 16 years ago.
    Where am I going with this? Not sure. I don't know what I would have done with the degree I was pursuing. I have 5 years of college, bounced between music degree and physical therapy.
    I could still be repairing guitars in a small shop, I'd be pretty damn good at it by now.
    After 20 years of working on guitars I still have to deal with people. I have customers and I have co-workers and I have a wife and 2 kids. I'm always working on my listening and communication skills.
    I'll tell you this though. If you have the hand skills to build an acoustic guitar (which appears to be the case) then you should not deprive yourself of that gift. You never know where it may take you....
     
  16. otterhound

    otterhound New Member

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    Thanks Dave .
    I learned most of this the hard way . Took some lumps along with the knowledge .
     
  17. bruce bennett

    bruce bennett Active Member

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    Fence erection is the kind of job that can be done in a a very short time period.. unlike guitars where its possible to get into 30-60-90- days and have issues with suppliers back ordering your parts, weather slowing down or plain ruining your finish work. and worse of all having a piece go completely south on you and having to start over because the wood moved or a glue joint let go. or a weld on a truss rod broke or an inlay cracked.
    with Fence erection your product is fully finished you just need to install /erect it.. and you have multiple crews that you can delegate tasks to..

    in luthery, there is only the crew of 1. and he is responsible for every job in your company. including design the project, procure all the materials, then build the parts, finish the parts, assemble the parts, and then final tweak the whole unit until its perfect.

    I realize that no scenario is even going to be perfect.. but Still It would have been nice to have the money to get done what was needed, WHEN it was needed and not 2 years later.

    Yes. count yourself very lucky indeed. and Snapping at any customer will just never work out ever.. even when they are being complete morons you still gotta maintain some sort of self control. its maddening to say the least.


    yep. your hit the nail on the head.. Though I will say I once was "much saltier" than I am these days. I've learned to dial back on the salt.. blood pressure ya know...:D



    Adam: I hear ya loud and clear. but honestly I stayed quiet, because I knew someone like otterhound was going to go where he did. I just wanted to wait until he played his full hand...

    otterhound.. It needs to be pointed out that no matter how much people skills a person brings to the Luthiery business.
    it won't completely make up for any lack of building skills, management skills and juggling skills that this job DEMANDS of the luthier. no one can be in two places at once or do two jobs at once. and this seems to be something that guitar Customers will seem to expect of you all the time..

    luthiers are part artist,Draftsman, inventor, fabricator, historian, detective,woodworker, metal worker, painter, electronics tech, tinkerer, and guitar setup MASTER. in order to do this job just MEDIOCRE..

    getting to be known as a "world Class Luthier" is a miracle!
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2013
  18. otterhound

    otterhound New Member

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    Bruce , I would relish the opportunity to enlighten you some day and retrieve some Tennessee sourwood honey at the same time .
    You just have no concept of what my trade is like .
    There is a good chance that I will be venturing back to Tennessee very soon .
    Chattanooga is on the way to Franklin County and I would be willing to accept an invite .
    I will be visiting my smokehouse apple trees in Sewanee .
    Do you like apples ? I could see to it that you get a tree once they go dormant .
    Smokehouse is a local variety that dates back to 1837 and was discovered on the farm of a man named William Gibbons . I have always wondered if they called him Billy ?
    It looks like you do good work and I have no doubt that I could even learn something as a result of a visit .
     
  19. Sully

    Sully Well-Known Member

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    I'd add designer, communications expert, and part time therapist to that list. :)

    Sully
     
  20. otterhound

    otterhound New Member

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    Clearly superior to me .
    How many acoustic guitars have you built ?
     
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