January 17, 2011 — Few people find a job during their lifetime they love so much, they’d do it for free. Bob Taylor of Taylor Guitars happens to be one of those people.
As cofounder and President of the world’s premier manufacturer of high-end acoustic, acoustic-electric and electric guitars, Bob Taylor knew from the moment he made his first guitar during his junior year of high school this was what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. He experienced that “aha!” moment that so many dream of, but few achieve.
It wasn’t easy for the young entrepreneur to turn his passion into a profitable business. For the past 37 years, Bob Taylor and business partner Kurt Listug have weathered economic storms, seen the rise, decline, and reemergence of the acoustic guitar industry, and have gone on to build the top-selling acoustic guitar brand in the United States. For two inexperienced “kids” with a dream of having their own guitar shop, the odds of success were stacked against them, and yet each obstacle was overcome.
In his new book, Guitar Lessons: A Life’s Journey Turning Passion Into Business (Wiley, January 2011, ISBN: 9780470937877, $24.95), Bob Taylor recounts the hard knock lessons that helped make Taylor Guitars an industry leader. From his earliest lessons in dismantling household appliances and bikes, to what he calls “Sweat Equity” in business, Taylor imparts his experience as a tradesman with consideration for building a business on the values of quality products and passion for perfection - values that often seem counterintuitive in today’s mass production culture.
Offering everyone from business leaders to young dreamers in today’s world a fresh perspective on how hard work and perseverance can overcome challenges in one’s profession and life, Guitar Lessons shares both the business and life experiences that nurtured the company’s growth, leading to success and personal fulfillment.
In the case of one of his earliest lessons, Taylor recounts how from a young age, his curious mindset yearned to understand the function of products. He would dismantle a clock just figure out how to put it back together. By learning how others made products, Taylor believed it would help him to create his own. “I’ve experienced as much as thirty-year gaps between learning something and applying it. Taylor imparts to the reader, “It’s not always immediate.”
Today, Taylors are the guitars of choice for serious musicians. Players as diverse in style as Dave Matthews, Zac Brown, Jason Mraz, Taylor Swift, and many more of music’s biggest names proudly strum their Taylors both onstage and in the studio – but that wasn’t always the case. Guitar Lessons relates stories of Taylor’s first exposure with mainstream artists. For example, Taylor recounts at age 24 watching Neil Young in the film “Rust Never Sleeps” playing one of his very first guitars, the Taylor 855 12 string; a guitar Taylor had built with his own hands. To many, a turning point in the company’s history was the birth of Prince’s purple guitar in the video “Raspberry Beret,” as the dyed acoustic guitar put Taylor on the map for its unique creations. While some may rest on their laurels, Taylor acknowledges the impact of these moments but also never lost sight of the work that was in front of him. “ I realized then that the night before hadn’t changed my life all that much and I that had a lot of work ahead of me if this was ever going to pan out. I strapped on my apron and started cutting wood.”
Many try to take their passion and turn it into a business. Many fail. Some sell out along the way. Bob Taylor found his love as a teenager, worked hard at it, and created a profitable, growing enterprise which he still helps run, alongside Listug. Since its inception, Taylor Guitars has continued to grow in astounding ways. From just a handful of craftsman in the early 1980s to an organization of over 550 employees today, Taylor Guitars has made it clear exactly what can happen when the person running the business truly loves the work they do. The principles that Taylor lives by, along with the values he instills in his employees, colleagues and anyone who has the good fortune to work with Taylor Guitars provides the foundation that have allowed his organization to flourish. Any professional or company who takes a cue from Taylor and recognizes the importance of these Guitar Lessons may very well achieve the kind of success that has become synonymous with Taylor Guitars.
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is the cofounder and President of Taylor Guitars, one of the world’s premier manufacturers of acoustic and electric guitars. Considered a visionary among guitar builders, Taylor has pioneered advancements in both guitar design and process, and developed many of the innovations used across the industry in acoustic and electric guitar production today. Based in California, the company employs over 500 people and builds nearly 500 guitars each day.
About Taylor Guitars:
Founded in 1974, Taylor Guitars has evolved into one of the world‘s leading manufacturers of premium acoustic and electric guitars. Renowned for blending an innovative use of modern technology with a master craftsman‘s attention to detail, Taylor guitars are widely considered the best sounding and easiest to play in the world. Many of today's leading musicians make Taylor their guitar choice, including Dave Matthews, Prince, Mick Jagger and Taylor Swift.