Describe your “aha” moment; when did your business idea first come to you?
I’ve been involved in music since I was three years old, so the idea to do something professionally within the music industry has always been there. I was playing a lot of gigs with my band and needed a second guitar. It probably seems funny but it was less of an “aha” moment as I never really doubted that I could build a guitar; I just started researching online and gave it a go. One surprise however was that my first one sounded great, and many friends told me they loved it. It was likely this social “proof” convinced me I could do it.
The “aha” to take the plunge and work solely in my own business came when I was working for a successful small business; despite the owners’ flaws I saw they were still able to run a highly profitable business. I realised you don’t need to be perfect to have a great business. With a very young child and insecure financial position I perhaps could have timed my escape better, but my wife was very supportive, so off I went.
Describe for me the “why” of your business:
The business provides guitar enthusiasts with an instrument and experience that they just can’t get “off-the-shelf”. It’s truly empowering to see the happiness and fulfilment that delivering such a personal creation brings to another human being. My personal why is around producing honest, enduring work that is at the cutting edge of my abilities and knowledge.
List your three biggest business goals; which of them scare you the most and why?
- Using the business to build a sustainable income and life for my family.
- To have my very own customised workshop, that is part of a residence that I own.
- To continually explore more personalised and bulletproof ways of building great guitars.
Number two is the scariest for me. The money that could have been a house deposit has been invested in the assets required to build the business. For me to own a house with an attached workshop would be a massive achievement, for both me and for the business.
Has anything surprised you about working for yourself?
I’ve been surprised at my growing resilience, enduring the ups and downs, and my resourcefulness and ability to make things work. I think running a business changes people – in most cases for the better – and I feel the changes most frequently occur in these areas.
Once you became a soloist, what about your life changed almost immediately; and what changes have been slower to come?
Instant changes were having more creative freedom and enjoying life without a commute. I love being able to listen to podcasts and audiobooks, furthering my knowledge and awareness while I work. Longer term changes have been mastering some of the difficult techniques involved in making world-class instruments and garnering more public and industry attention.
What’s the best part of soloist life?
Having the freedom to choose a more natural and supportive lifestyle for myself and my family. Time spent cooking healthy food and doing regular exercise have replaced my two hours of daily commute, and I am able to spend more time with my two year-old son and limit the time he has to spend in childcare. And if the pressure of being a soloist all becomes too much, as it does sometimes, I can always get away to a park or café with my dog to unwind, without having to ask anyone for permission.
Got a tip you’d like to share with our community about soloism?
Listen to Flying Solo podcast episode 103, “The essential business calculations for all startups” where Robert interviews David Shire. David puts the financial side of being a soloist in such plain terms – I wish I had this knowledge down before launching my business, it is truly invaluable. I’ve learnt so much from being a Flying Solo member and this great podcast is no exception.