BobSpeak

Andy in the Passing Lane

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Bob reflects on shifting into a supporting role as Andy Powers leads the company forward.

Well, here I am, a little farther from the front of the Wood&Steel cover than before. As my dear friend Jesus Jurado, who lives in Tijuana and drives his Land Cruiser exploring and camping with me in Baja, and who retired a couple years ago from Taylor Guitars, says, “We gotta pull over and let the young ones pass.” And I’m happy to do it. Andy Powers is in the passing lane, and I’m pulling over to let him go around. You’ll be hearing what he thinks not only as our Chief Guitar Designer, but as President and CEO.

I’m increasingly hearing about quality sleep, how we have to know that we’re getting the right sleep in the right quantity. Everyone wants me to see a sleep doctor, so I did. I don’t sleep a lot of hours and haven’t for decades; I’m a five- or six-hour-a-night sleeper. I think I sleep enough, but they have me all worried about it now! Well, the doctor came in and asked why I’m here. I told him what I just told you. Then I said, “I just want to know if I’m asleep when I’m sleeping!” He laughed and said that’s a good way to put it, and he has ways to find out the answer.

That little expression gave me an idea to say something I thought you’d like to know about Andy. That is, Andy is thoughtful when he thinks. Lots of people think, but are they thoughtful, do they consider all the angles, can they form an opinion that seems correct? After they’re done thinking, do they present a way forward? The evidence clearly points out that many people don’t exercise quality thinking. But Andy does and does it very well.

I can’t name another major guitar manufacturer whose President and CEO is also their Chief Guitar Designer.


Everyone here at Taylor Guitars knows that, which is why we’re all thrilled to see Andy take the position of both CEO and President, which were Kurt and my positions respectively. I don’t know anyone at Taylor who isn’t happy and confident about this change, and so I thought you might want to hear from me so you could join us in welcoming Andy to the position. I can’t name another major guitar manufacturer whose President and CEO is also their Chief Guitar Designer. What this means to Taylor Guitars and our customers is that the business of guitars and the making of guitars will remain holistically intertwined, as they have been here for 48 years. This is good. Andy won’t sacrifice one for the other. We know this, and I wanted to share that with you.

As for me, I’m still here nearly every single day. Yes, I get to take a little more time away now at the age of 67. I have lots to offer, but the best thing I can offer is to pull over to let some others pass. And I get the privilege of being an advisor or sounding board, and sometimes even heading up a project. There’s still a lot of meaningful work and fun left for me — things I can do to help Andy along his path and help our employee-owners build the company. And for the most part, Andy seems confident that I can work independently without doing too much harm! I do love to help. I also know my way around the campus and even know a few shortcuts.

Seriously, though, when I hired Andy 11 years ago, I told people that I’m living to watch him soar. I’m still doing that today and can’t think of a better thing to do for years to come.

Congratulations on your new responsibilities, Andy. You can count on my help and support!

BobSpeak

Planting a Guitar Garden

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Bob reflects on the efforts underway in Hawaii to grow guitar-grade koa for the future.

Well, here I am, a little farther from the front of the Wood&Steel cover than before. As my dear friend Jesus Jurado, who lives in Tijuana and drives his Land Cruiser exploring and camping with me in Baja, and who retired a couple years ago from Taylor Guitars, says, “We gotta pull over and let the young ones pass.” And I’m happy to do it. Andy Powers is in the passing lane, and I’m pulling over to let him go around. You’ll be hearing what he thinks not only as our Chief Guitar Designer, but as President and CEO.

Just the idea of using ebony with brown streaks has helped pave the way for living within the realities of the forest, even when it comes to other species of wood. Today is likely the easiest day there will be for ages to obtain properly sourced guitar woods, and I say that because tomorrow will be more difficult — it’s a given. And the day after that more difficult. But today’s guitar players help ease that, as they are becoming more enlightened on how these days are different than the old days and are more accepting of cosmetic differences.

A current exception to the above statement of today being the easiest day for obtaining quality wood could very well be koa. This edition of Wood&Steel will not only introduce you to our new 700 Series, made from koa, but also to Siglo Tonewoods through a great article by editor Jim Kirlin. Siglo Tonewoods was co-founded by Pacific Rim Tonewoods and Taylor Guitars about seven years ago. We’ve been busy working since then and have some things to report.

From your end, you see nice wood on guitars showing up in guitar shops, and we like that. But from our end, it’s quite a strategic operation to find wood to cut while at the same time addressing the fear of cutting it all down and then having nothing. What do you do then? Stand back in surprise and wonder how this happened? It’s happened with so many other species, but we have a very good chance to change that with koa. How?

Enter Steve McMinn. Now that will be the least favorite sentence in my column if Steve reads this, as he doesn’t like accolades, but truly, he’s the one who can put together and enable a team to work together to solve this problem. Steve isn’t just interested in planting trees, he wants to grow them. And he’s not interested in growing bad trees, he wants them to be good. The Siglo team is doing just that. Steve and I will be dead when the proof comes, but we hope for good indications along the way that the work is successful and worthy.

Imagine what it takes to make a seed that always produces the tomato you expect. Now imagine what it takes to come up with seeds to make good koa trees.

Imagine you’re planting a vegetable garden. And you choose all your seeds from a catalog that promises specific outcomes and also promises they’re right for your local conditions. If you’ve done that, and many of us have, even if just with a tomato, did you ever wonder how those seeds got into that little envelope and how they can promise what you can expect? If not, you might wonder that right now because while we take that as a given, it wasn’t always that way.

Horticulturists had to develop those seeds. Imagine what it takes to make a seed for a seedless watermelon! Or a seed that always makes the tomato you expect. Think about it. And now that your mind is working, imagine what it takes to come up with seeds to make good koa trees. At least the watermelon will tell you in four months whether you failed or succeeded. The koa will take 25 to 50 years, and so it’s quite a bit more difficult.

To make matters a little worse, for hundreds and hundreds of years, people have tended to cut the best trees first, in many cases causing the forest’s genetic health to decline as a result. For many species, the best trees, which make the best seeds, are long gone. Only the lesser trees are left.

But there are methods to address this, as well as people with knowledge and talent. And like a great band that doesn’t have trouble attracting good musicians because it would be an honor to play with that band, our team is great enough that smart people see that and want to join and help. It’s attracted great talent. I was privileged to be able to buy a wonderful piece of land with great soil for us to plant our own trees on, plus we sell koa guitars, which drives the economic engine, but don’t think I’m the one who knows how to develop quality tree characteristics and then plan, plant and tend what will become an incredible forest.

I like to give credit where credit is due. I’m thrilled that we’re able to introduce you to our Siglo Tonewoods and Siglo Forest in this issue. There’s a great video about Siglo that Steve and the team worked to produce. I’m proud of the work there, and honored to be a part of it, and would like to extend my thanks and admiration to the Siglo team, which is broad and capable. Thank you all. You know who you are.

BobSpeak

Guitar Scales

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During a time of increased demand for guitars, Bob explains why Taylor’s production capability is good for everyone.

Well, here I am, a little farther from the front of the Wood&Steel cover than before. As my dear friend Jesus Jurado, who lives in Tijuana and drives his Land Cruiser exploring and camping with me in Baja, and who retired a couple years ago from Taylor Guitars, says, “We gotta pull over and let the young ones pass.” And I’m happy to do it. Andy Powers is in the passing lane, and I’m pulling over to let him go around. You’ll be hearing what he thinks not only as our Chief Guitar Designer, but as President and CEO.

That 40,000-guitar increase over 2019 is in itself larger than the annual production of most large acoustic guitar companies. It’s not easily done. Our effort was met by gratitude from our dealers, who saw our deliveries in a year when the walls of most guitar stores were largely empty. It was also met by criticism from some customers, albeit a minority, who wondered when Taylor would get serious and deliver guitars, as they had been unable to get one even after waiting and searching.

I’ll admit that for almost all of our Tecate-made guitars, there is higher demand than we can fill. We made an overabundance of Baby models because we had wood for those. We built new resources to obtain and process wood for our larger guitars made there, but everything else was way below demand. It’s hard to keep up with the demand, especially in that price range.

Before we started our Tecate factory more than 20 years ago, that price range was always filled in the market with products from offshore countries, mostly Asian at the time. Our foray into building quality guitars in Tecate has been met with very high acceptance. We feel like we have served a lot of guitar players. I have to say that when I watch talent shows on television and see young people compete with their GS Mini, Academy, Big Baby or 100 Series guitars and they sound as good on TV as any guitar could, it’s really gratifying. I know those players don’t have the money (yet) to buy the better, costlier guitars we or others make, but they didn’t have to compromise their music in spending what they had budget for.

The good thing about a factory is we can serve more people. Not only players, but vendors, employees, dealers and local communities.

As for our production in El Cajon, we also hit many records. The most guitars made. The widest price range. New offerings. Our quality did not suffer but pushed ahead as always, with Andy Powers at the helm designing new guitars. I’m pleased to see what’s planned for the years to come. There’s a lot of exciting stuff. Our R&D continues as normal, even though, frankly, we could set it aside to just fill demand, but that’s not us. We know it’s no good to relax on improving guitars for the future or creating new types of guitars.

I’ve said before, and it bears repeating, that I’ve always believed in factories to offer great products and great value. There are many great luthiers out there who make really nice guitars. I’m not jealous of what they do, nor would I downplay what they make. You should own one of their guitars, you really should. I’ll also say that when we look at the most sought-after vintage guitars, nearly all were made in factories. And the good thing about a factory is we can serve more people. Not only players, but vendors, employees, dealers and local communities.

I love factories and factory-built guitars, especially ours! Especially when I see what goes into what we deliver and how hard it is to accomplish, even for really smart and dedicated people. Then, when I see that people are literally hurting for a guitar and how we managed to increase our production by nearly 80,000 guitars in one very difficult year, it reinforces what I love about factories. When you take into account the depletion of stock in stores around the world and then you add to it the guitars we made and delivered over the past two years, hundreds of thousands of guitar players, from beginners to experienced musicians, were served.

People often ask me or Kurt, “Could you have imagined way back then that Taylor would become this?” At this point, I have to say no, I could not have imagined this.  

BobSpeak

Investing in the Inevitable

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Adapting to change is one of the most important skills we can master, both in business and in life.

Well, here I am, a little farther from the front of the Wood&Steel cover than before. As my dear friend Jesus Jurado, who lives in Tijuana and drives his Land Cruiser exploring and camping with me in Baja, and who retired a couple years ago from Taylor Guitars, says, “We gotta pull over and let the young ones pass.” And I’m happy to do it. Andy Powers is in the passing lane, and I’m pulling over to let him go around. You’ll be hearing what he thinks not only as our Chief Guitar Designer, but as President and CEO.

In this issue, our cover story talks about pearly inlays. You know, I’ve said over the years that my guitar-building career is being lived during a big transition period when it comes to natural materials. Things are now changing from what they were forever before to what they will be for a long time to come. Living through the change is more difficult than living before or after the change. But I always say, “Invest in the inevitable.” There’s no point denying what’s inevitable.

There will certainly be less old-growth wood available to make guitars, perhaps less abalone too, and fewer chemicals that work well but are dangerous. One thing to note is that the future of mother-of-pearl is more promising than abalone since a lot of oysters are basically farmed and grow large as they’re carefully tended in pearl-producing beds. On the other hand, the abalone traditionally used for shell is collected in the wild for its meat; the shell is a byproduct used for inlay. These are mature abalone with fully calcified outer shells. The meat from farmed abalone matures far sooner than the outer shell calcifies, so those shells are not useful for inlay. The good news is that scientists are starting to take farm-raised abalone and outplant them, carefully placing juveniles into natural environments, where they can grow to maturity and hopefully help the species recover.

We’ll continue to make great guitars, even if our materials change slightly.

Bob Taylor

Fortunately, we have many ways to decorate guitars, and we love doing that, and you seem to love owning them. One day, you’ll also love guitars with four-piece spruce tops, which you may not even notice because we’ll do a good job with them, but they’re coming our way. As I write this, changes are happening where spruce grows in Western Canada and the U.S. People are finally coming to terms with the fact that you can’t cut all the available old-growth wood. Some, yes. All, no. This is actually a step forward from the days when mankind stopped cutting big trees only after the last one was cut. Now I see them hitting the brakes before it’s too late, and I say “bravo” to that. We can adjust. We’ll go with it. You’ll go with it. Like my friend Eric Warner of Pacific Rim Tonewoods likes to say, “Adapt, migrate or die.” He’s right, and we’ll adapt and continue to make great guitars, even if our materials change slightly.

I’m very involved with Scott Paul in all our environmental programs. And I’m happy to say they keep growing. Here’s a tip: If you want a guy to help you get more and more involved in developing projects like these, just hire a former Greenpeace hippie and then let them work. All I have to do is say, “You know, I’ve been thinking…” and Scott’s off and running. He’s on it! It’s his nature and profession. I hope you enjoy his updates this issue.

Finally, I’d like to wish a sincere happy 20th anniversary to my dear friends, suppliers, colleagues and partners at Madinter. As you may know, together we co-own the Crelicam sawmill in Cameroon. We’ve worked together very closely for the past ten years (our tenth anniversary is November, 2021). If you live in the U.S., you may not know about Madinter, but go to Madinter.com and check them out. They serve guitar makers across all of Europe, and especially Spain. You can’t believe how many guitar builders there are in Spain. It’s the best! I mean, everyone there knows a guitar builder, which isn’t the case here in the States. You should visit sometime. Vidal, Luisa, Jorge, it’s a pleasure for me to have had all these years working together with you. Happy Anniversary!

Bob Taylor seated on stack of mahogany wood

BobSpeak

Making Things That Last

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Bob ponders the duality of things that endure, contrasting our plastic problem with the company’s transition to employee ownership.

When I was a kid, we rode our bikes around town and drank from a canteen we took along if we thought ahead. We usually weren’t that smart, so we’d stop and drink from someone’s garden hose or a fountain at a grocery store or park. A plastic bottle filled with store-bought water wasn’t even an idea yet, let alone a desire. If we had fifteen cents, we could buy a Coke, drink it there, and get four cents back for the glass bottle. When my kids were kids, the glass bottle was phased out and replaced by cans and plastic bottles.

For each of the last 10 years, I’ve spent up to 100 days per year in Cameroon helping to get our co-owned ebony mill off the ground. When it rains, it often comes down in torrents, swelling the rivers and flooding the low points in the city of 3 million people. By the next day, the water is gone, but the plastic bottles that were washed to the low points remain and are a sight to behold. Literally mountains of plastic, representing a fraction of that which actually exists. No canteens or garden hoses exist in those mountains of trash. One cannot drive through it or around it and not feel the pain of what’s happening. This had a powerful effect on me, causing me to curtail my drinking of water from plastic bottles by probably 99 percent. It’s a problem, but where we live in developed countries, it’s collected for us and put where we cannot see it, helping us think that it’s not a problem. But it is.  

In this issue, Jim Kirlin writes about the mountain of stretch wrap we’re collecting here at Taylor Guitars, placed right where it’s a terrible inconvenience and cannot be missed by anyone working here or driving by. We just have to confront it and think of something, even if it starts by being embarrassed or hating that pile of the most durable product man has ever invented. It just doesn’t go away. It doesn’t degrade. I hope the article lends you pause as you think about what we each contribute to the degradation of our planet for the sake of minute-by-minute convenience. I’ll admit I like what plastic does when I use it; I just don’t like what it does when I’m done using it. And one more thing, don’t believe it’s all recycled, or even most of it, because just a fraction of it is.  

Now to some better news. I’d like to mention that Taylor Guitars is now 100-percent employee owned. I’m thrilled about this. You can read about it in this issue, plus watch some good video commentary about it. As I write today, I’m no longer a shareholder of Taylor Guitars. I am an employee, thankfully. I’ve heard from some friends that it’s a pretty good place to work, so I hope I can have a long run here. As a matter of fact, employee ownership has given me a renewed sense of purpose, similar to that feeling my grandkids give me. I can work for the benefit of our employee-owners in a different and more tangible way now. I feel very good about our future and the hands the company will be in. With our new ownership, I’m hoping that Taylor Guitars might be as durable as plastic without being a problem to the earth and its people. Sustainable, if you will. I’d like to offer a heartfelt thank-you to all the employees, dealers, suppliers and players who helped bring Taylor to this point. I promise you there’s no place I’d rather be, helping it all to thrive.  

BobSpeak

Better Days Ahead

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Bob reflects with bittersweet emotions on an unprecedented year.

Experiencing the upheaval of the last year has taken me and all of us on a journey the likes of which I’ve never experienced in my life. Collectively, it felt as if we were shaken to the core last year — in different ways in different parts of the world. Health, equality, fair opportunity, governmental leadership, populations’ willingness to follow, and many more ideas and conditions have been tested, evaluated, re-evaluated and discussed like no other time I can remember. This was global.

With every experience I’ve had in the past, I’ve always been able to count on people getting together to work, to put forth effort to get ourselves out of the mess. This time, however, the option of solving things by coming together physically was hampered, and in some cases, it evaporated.  

As we look into the new year, we can see we have a way to go in order to recover from the pandemic. But I’m looking forward to things getting better for all of us, and I miss all the people I’m used to seeing, both here in San Diego and around the world!  

One thing that became clear once again is that music helps people feel better. Historical data shows that during hard economic times, musical instruments have always done fairly well as a business sector because when people are forced to cut back, they seem to find that playing music helps their spirits. Never has this played out as obviously as the year 2020 for us here at Taylor. People bought guitars in numbers I’ve never experienced. I’ll admit I had a hard time reconciling the feelings I had as our livelihoods were supported with the knowledge that those of others were not. We’re happy we’re surviving and serving the needs of people, but heartbroken for those who are struggling.  

So when we reflect on our accomplishments from the past year, our feeling of good fortune is bittersweet. It’s not that we feel like the world would be better if we did worse for the sake of suffering, but you should know we all have been touched by friends and family who are not so fortunate. And I trust that on a personal level, all of us who are more fortunate during these times are helping those we know personally who are not.  

One thing that makes us proud is that when we make guitars, it really seems to help people. I love hearing how so many people have found meaning in playing music for themselves, for others, and with others. This is probably the greatest benefit and blessing I’ve known from a lifetime of making guitars. We’ve worked hard this year to make what players want. And just to be clear, when I say “we,” I really mean it. The Taylor team, represented around the world, is who I want to go through difficult times with. And that includes our dealers, and you who buy our guitars. Together, it’s a great team with a good outlook that makes beneficial deposits into the world. I couldn’t ask for anything better.  

In this issue, we’ll go on to talk about guitar models, construction techniques, guitar gear, music, sustainability efforts and other related topics because life goes on, and we want it to go on. I’m just here to say that we feel blessed that we’re okay, and truly hope that you’re okay. For those who are not, know that we’re thinking of you because we all know someone close who has suffered greatly.  

May I suggest to everyone: play music. Try to love each other. Help your neighbor. Make memorable times. You’ll never forget it or regret it.  

BobSpeak

Manufacturing Complex

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Bob shares some real-world perspective on the business ecosystem of manufacturing and creating a new guitar series during a pandemic.

You might want to pour a cup of coffee because this is a little longer than I normally write. I thought I’d use the introduction of the American Dream Series as an opportunity to talk about manufacturing.

For nearly half a century, I’ve been engaged daily in manufacturing, and I have developed some understanding on the topic. I think it’s safe to say that my experience, which started with me and a chisel and led to where Taylor is now, is probably more filled out than if I’d been a manufacturing engineer working for a firm, due to me being the one who has made the lion’s share of manufacturing decisions for us along the way and having to live with the consequences of my decisions. I know what it’s like to work nearly alone and to have well-developed operations in four countries, each with different laws, languages and cultures.

I’m pleased that our company has grown to be successful and kept everyone’s interest in mind, from customers and employees to vendors and shareholders, and to the community around us.

The Different Costs of Manufacturing

All companies sell a product while trying to make a profit through a fair balance between their costs and what they receive upon a sale to their customers. As for the individual employees of any company, we all want to earn the highest salary possible for ourselves. But what happens when we each want to pay the lowest price for the things we buy for ourselves? We all look at competitive products, and often buy products that are made in places where costs are lower, which usually means lower wages. When wages are lower in a different country, the other supportive costs can also be lower since their infrastructure carries lower costs as well, all based on the equilibrium of their local wages and economy.

A good current example of cost difference is our Urban Ash guitars, made from wood we get from here in Southern California. Some people have asked how we take a “free” street tree that was going to become firewood and make guitars that cost as much as guitars made from traditional woods.

Simply put, it’s because the costs are higher, and nearly all those costs go to people living here and doing the work to that tree. Well-paid Americans safely remove the trees 10 feet from a road or house, transport them, saw them, and transport them again, all with American wages, on domestic roads, paying taxes, complying with OSHA standards, earning health benefits, etc. In other words, it’s you or your neighbor who is being paid to convert that tree into guitar wood for us. If we wanted only the cheapest wood, we could find places where it’s the opposite of the attributes I just described, but if you want to do it here, it costs more.

Cross-Border Localism

Buying locally is an idea that interests many of us in our own home towns. But it shouldn’t end with food or independent retail shops. I admit that you can’t always get what you want locally, but we might all want to appreciate the work our neighbors do, and if it’s possible to support them, it comes back around to them supporting us.  

Even so, our guitars are made in two different countries. When I leave my house in the morning, I can turn left and be at our American factory in 20 minutes. Or I can turn right and be at our Mexican factory in 40 minutes. This is somewhat accidental that we are so well-poised to operate in two countries.

I can turn left and be at our American factory in 20 minutes, or turn right and be at our Mexican factory in 40 minutes.

Here at Taylor, we understand cross-border relations from a real-world, workaday perspective, as well as a family and friend perspective. Both factories operate as one company, even with two languages and two cultures. That’s easy from our proximity to each other. We understand and enjoy each other. It’s an advantage for us as makers and you as players that we are able to make guitars across a wide range of prices, and to provide jobs in both the United States and Mexico.

We didn’t move our U.S. production to Mexico. Rather, we started fresh there, making guitars we would not have been able to make here in El Cajon. I am content with the ethics of us expanding across our border. In fact, I’m proud of it. There are over 500 people in Tecate who have good jobs building guitars that otherwise wouldn’t exist.

There is something elusive about making a very good guitar, and many factories around the world haven’t figured out the secret sauce yet. We don’t think of ourselves as having secrets (we tend to share), but we’re dedicated to doing the things needed in order for our guitars to be good enough for players to notice the difference. Having our twin factories allows us to do that rather than outsourcing our lower-priced products to other companies across the ocean.

Adapting to Upheaval

When COVID-19 locked down people and businesses all around the world, we found ourselves with a closed El Cajon factory, then a few weeks later, a closed Tecate factory. After some time, El Cajon began to open slowly while Tecate stayed closed. We asked ourselves, “What would happen if we couldn’t deliver our Tecate-made models into the market?” We knew we wouldn’t have any hope of delivering GS Mini, Baby, Academy, or 100 Series guitars. They’re just not possible to make here. The 200 Series might be possible, but the tools and systems are there; we simply don’t make that guitar here. We make solid-wood guitars here in El Cajon.

So we began to form the idea of what became the American Dream Series, which combines some special building techniques along with using normal tonewoods that we’d set aside over the years due to some cosmetic attributes, odd sizes, or species we don’t currently use in our lineup. We like to say that we’re cooking with what’s in the refrigerator. The event thrown upon us this year caused us to think and act this way.

Tecate seemed far away during those months, but soon we realized we have a legitimate presence there and that we are part of that city, just like we are here. We quickly converted gig bag sewing into mask production to help the local health care workers. We got permission to run that small sewing line during the closure. Eventually the lights started to come back on in the other areas of the factory. We began working with governmental labor, economic and health officials to outfit our factory for an eventual safe re-opening. This was the test of a lifetime of our relationship with the city and country we are in.  

Meanwhile, the American Dream Series was born here in El Cajon. We didn’t want to wait to see what might or might not happen in Mexico. A lot of thought went into this guitar, and we moved quickly to break down mental and physical barriers so we could produce the guitar. People started trickling back to work in El Cajon. We felt optimistic and creative. This guitar was a triumph for us during this time.

Move forward to today and our employees are back to work in both places under such strict social distancing that we have to use 24 hours of every day and all 7 days of the week to get our work done. But we’re healthy and safe, and our livelihoods are restored. Our dealers are thrilled because their livelihoods are better, and customers have rediscovered the joys of homemade music. We’re shipping, dealers are selling, and you’re playing. It’s all good. And these thoughts I wanted to share are meant to relay that stuff comes from places that make stuff, from people who work in those places that make that stuff. Many of those people are you, your neighbor, your family or me. We all work to provide something that is sold, and we all buy things that others make. It’s symbiotic. You support us, we support you. This year has caused many of us to think about things — what’s good, and what’s not. I think we can all agree that music is good.

BobSpeak

A Matter of Trust

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Bob explains why Taylor’s efforts to build trust with our partners matters, especially during challenging times.

You might want to pour a cup of coffee because this is a little longer than I normally write. I thought I’d use the introduction of the American Dream Series as an opportunity to talk about manufacturing.

For nearly half a century, I’ve been engaged daily in manufacturing, and I have developed some understanding on the topic. I think it’s safe to say that my experience, which started with me and a chisel and led to where Taylor is now, is probably more filled out than if I’d been a manufacturing engineer working for a firm, due to me being the one who has made the lion’s share of manufacturing decisions for us along the way and having to live with the consequences of my decisions. I know what it’s like to work nearly alone and to have well-developed operations in four countries, each with different laws, languages and cultures.

I’m pleased that our company has grown to be successful and kept everyone’s interest in mind, from customers and employees to vendors and shareholders, and to the community around us.

Both of these ideas are true, even at the same time. Since late February, I’ve been thinking of another part of this idea that is seldom mentioned. I may know someone who might help, but what does that person know about me? In the case of Taylor Guitars, we may know people who can help during these times, but what do they think about us? Are we coming to them to solve our emergency after we have already established a relationship of trust with them? Or are we asking for something that they feel pressured to grant when they don’t want to grant it, because they feel we haven’t yet earned their trust? 

Navigating our worldwide challenges these last few months has relied heavily on the relationships we’ve formed and what those other people think about us. Our dealers trust us because of the service and quality we’ve given them, and we trust them to represent us well. So we were able to conduct one of the best sales promotions we’ve ever done, called “Taylor Days.” Dealers were astounded. When our sales team presented us with the plan, we trusted them. And so on. 

Navigating our worldwide challenges these last few months has relied heavily on the relationships we’ve formed and what those other people think about us.

When we needed a skeleton crew working here and doing essential tasks at Taylor during the stay-at-home order, we could call the city authorities and seek permission. They trusted us. They granted it. We had never squandered their trust in 45 years, and we’ve participated in city needs and ideas, so they trusted us. 

When we sought to help every Taylor employee to receive their governmental assistance, we went to California’s EDD (Employment Development Department) knowing them well. They trust us because of our positive collaborations in the past. Our Human Resources staff worked so hard to serve our employees by filling out all the forms, paving the way, and shepherding it all through the EDD, and they could call a real contact there, who was happy to help us. Our employees benefited greatly and have great trust in Taylor’s care of them. When we go to a forest in a far-off land and seek help from US Forest Service International Projects, they are eager to lend a hand because we’ve earned their trust and participated in their initiatives in the past. 

I could go on naming dozens more examples, but let these suffice. There could be people who, depending on their point of view, might see some of these examples as favoritism. While we may be the favorite of some of those I mentioned (and we are), it’s because of the trust and respect we’ve worked so hard to build, not because they are our uncle, or because we give them money. 

I say all of this because lately, more than ever, I’ve stopped to think a lot about us all needing each other. This is a sentiment that is offered up often during this time of COVID-19. Sure, we all don’t always agree, but if the relationships we’ve formed are stronger than our disagreements, we can work together toward a good outcome. 

One of my very best friends in life, well, let’s just say he and I don’t agree on many political views, especially right now. But our friendship survives quite well because we don’t rely on that alone as a basis for being friends. We have so many other more important ties between us. 

We at Taylor Guitars need all these people and relationships I’ve named, and hundreds I haven’t. But if there hasn’t been mutual trust built over the years, then we don’t deserve to pick up the phone, or send a text, or seek help from others in the ways that we’ve been able to receive it lately. The help we’ve obtained has been easy, and freely given, because we’ve cultivated strong relationships. 

I’m writing this column today to express my gratitude to the leaders, business partners, vendors, customers, dealers, employees, our executive team, our managers and our other friends for being happy to support us here at Taylor Guitars, as we support them. I’m thrilled that we can ask and hear them say, “Yes, of course!” and that they tell us that we’ve earned that from them. That has been a bright spot for me lately, more than ever before. 

A Toast to Guitar Makers
Bob reflects on why the Taylor “shop” is a special place and salutes his guitar-making peers all around the world.