In his new autobiography, Bob Taylor, founder of the iconic Taylor Guitars brand, offers valuable lessons for entrepreneurs from his company's history.
As a child, Bob Taylor took things apart and put them back together just to see how they were made. In the fourth grade, he bought his first guitar from a friend for $3, and from these two passions a career was born. In Guitar Lessons: A Life's Journey Turning Passion into Business, Taylor recounts how, after years in wood and metal shop classes in high school, he taught himself how to build guitars, finally landing a job in a tiny guitar studio near his Southern California home. A year later, at the age of 19, he and two partners owned it.
In homey, straightforward prose, Taylor describes how, as a young, unschooled entrepreneur, he learned the basics of business management by making mistakes along the way. A period of industrious production but slim sales became a lesson in maintaining working capital. A company barbecue taught him the important distinction between owner and employee. He learned about lean manufacturing when a fellow guitar maker showed him why it made more sense to build one guitar at a time rather than in batches.
Through it all, Taylor never lost his passion for building guitars. His zeal helped him endure the lean years and ultimately drove him to innovate in ways that revolutionized his industry. In fact, that passion became a touchstone when seemingly easier and more lucrative opportunities tempted him away from the business, and it kept him focused on the future.
Taylor ends his book with this hypothesis: it's the founder of a business and the subsequent owner who build a company's invisible equity, but it's really the third owner who reaps the rewards and can therefore take chances from a position of stability. Based on this theory, Taylor approached the growth of his business as if he were the third owner, not the first. The result is Taylor Guitars' longstanding reputation for leading edge technology and high-quality craftsmanship. It's a story that will stir the soul of anyone who's pursued an entrepreneurial passion or listened to a guitar riff in the last 35 years.
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