by Br. Dominic Smith, O.S.A.
Students from John Paul the Great Catholic University traveled to Taylor Guitar’s 145,000 square foot manufacturing facility in El Cajon last Thursday for a lesson in business planning. After studying various business models in the classroom, Professor Culbertson and his students visited one of the top manufacturers of acoustic guitars in the United States.
Students were given safety glasses and headphones as they began their tour through the noisy factory floor. The guide, Ryan, who could pass for a Kurt Cobain look-alike, explained the production process through a microphone. Participants could hear with headphones as they walked through the din of the plant. Ryan instructed the group to stay within the yellow safety lines marked on the floor and he stressed, “Do not touch the wood!” Oils from hands can be transferred onto the wood and ruin the product, he explained.
Early in the tour, students were surprised to learn that Taylor Guitar was started by two twenty-one year olds in 1974: Bob Taylor and Kurt Listug. Tour participant, Michael Beal, said, “From the start, the partners understood their individual responsibilities. One created the best acoustic guitars [Bob Taylor], and the other sold them to the best of his ability [Kurt Listug].”
According to the guide, what separated Taylor Guitars from other guitars was their narrow necks, making it easier to play, superb action and great sound. Today, 44 years later, Taylor Guitar is still revolutionizing the acoustic guitar industry. Earlier this year, it released the V-class bracing system which offers more volume, longer sustain, and better intonation. With this new model of acoustic guitar, production can’t keep up with sales. Alfredo Martinez said, “I think it’s really cool that they are not only concerned with making the guitar look good, but also with making the instrument sound better. The V-blocking system was really impressive.” The current six month waiting list for purchases of the new V-class guitar are a drastic change from when the men were struggling to sell their products at the start of their career.
At the end of the tour, Ryan pulled off one of the new V-class guitars hanging on the walls and played a few melodies. The sound of the instrument, complemented by Ryan’s musical abilities, demonstrated Taylor Guitar’s continuous innovation in the quality of their product, and why they sell guitars faster than they can make them. Their success in business is a great model for any future business endeavor.