While most of the readers of CabinetMakerFDM don’t make guitars, they will surely identify with the story Bob Taylor tells of how he co-founded and built a struggling woodworking operation into an industry leader in quality, market share, production, and technology. Taylor’s story resonates so well because at heart he is just like so many people that start woodworking businesses: he just likes to make stuff.
“Guitar Lessons: A Life’s Journey Turning Passion into Business” is an honest and straightforward telling of the Taylor guitar story as if you were sitting in Taylor’s shop talking and maybe taking time out to pick a few tunes. Taylor is quick to point out the wrong turns on his road to success as well as to remark about both the lucky opportunities and the hard work and sacrifice that contributed to his success. From cover to cover, Taylor does not hesitate to point out how much help he had, especially from his co-founder and business partner Kurt Listug.
Taylor’s production ingenuity was matched by Listug’s business acumen, and both of them deserve high marks for perseverance. Taylor recounts the day they decided that maybe they should be paying themselves a salary since they were paying their employees. They decided it would be $85 a week, a small sum even for the 1970s. Then Taylor quickly adds that there were a number of weeks where they wrote the checks to themselves but didn’t cash them.
As an early adopter of CNC technology, Taylor has insights to share with woodworking businesses that are considering or have recently embarked on the road to automation. He also has good advice about managing creative employees and growing a company in good times and bad. And he freely admits how many of his early business choices were made because he and Listug just didn’t know any better. Today, his company is considered by many to be the leading acoustic guitar manufacturer in the world, producing some 500 guitars a day from two factories. Not bad for a guy who built his first guitar in high school woodshop because he couldn’t afford to buy one like he wanted.
Give the book a read. Even if you aren’t musically inclined, it will have you singing.
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