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My new job...

PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:58 pm
by Ryan Mazzocco
Well, things have been very slow in the construction field in our area, and work has been nearly non-existent so far this year. My guitar building business hasn't exactly taken off like I had hoped quite yet. Things have been quite scary so far this year, so I decided to try to find a way to supplement my income. A local music store was hiring for a part-time position, so I applied. After a nearly 4 week long application/interviewing process (they are quite thorough) I was offered the position. But there is a caveat: In the mean time a full time position had opened up which they were now offering me. Yada yada yada... I accepted the full time position. Now, this puts me in quite a position of responsibility as opposed to the part time, which was a lot of clean bathrooms, sweep floors, take out the trash, break down boxes, etc etc, and occasionally tune guitars and help customers. Now I will be responsible for all opening and closing duties, inspecting and setting up every fretted instrument in the store, sales, walk-in set ups and minor repairs, and pretty much running things on the Combo* side of the store, including all ordering and managing inventory.
I'm very excited about this new adventure but am also a little nervous since I've not really worked in a retail environment before. I would like to hear from some of the others who work or have worked in a music store and have done some of the things I will be doing. I'd be interested in hearing some tips that some may have, whether it be dealing with customers, products, vendors, or just whatever.
Also, Since I'll be setting up all the guitars is there anything I should know going into it about specific brands? We carry Gibson, Fender, Martin, PRS, Yamaha & Mazzocco (I don't have it all committed to memory, there are others I'm forgetting.) Are there common problems or other details to keep in mind with any of these specific brands since I'm going to be working on all of them regularly?
And yes I said "Mazzocco." I have a couple of my own guitars in there on consignment, probably a big part of how I won the job since they've already seen my work and know what I am capable of. But I was talking with the manager today and we got into a conversation about conflict of interests. (I brought it up because I want to show her that I plan to do everything on the up and up.) She was also a little concerned since we're in kind of uncharted waters for us at this point. She was going to discuss it with her superiors as well, but I thought I would pick the collective mind of the MIMF, I know some of you that work in guitar stores also show your instruments in said stores with the permission of the owners. Do you have any advice on how you make it work and don't create a conflict of interest?
I know that was a lot, and if you've made it this far, a most sincere thank you for taking the time and indulging me. I readily look forward to your comments and words of wisdom.

I learned that "Combo" means the side of the store dealing with guitars and other fretted instruments, amps, drums, audio, pedals, etc etc, and the "Band" side refers to more of the instruments for school and marching band, brass, woodwinds, etc etc....

Re: My new job...

PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2018 12:15 pm
by Clay Schaeffer
As a person who has dodged responsibility as much as possible I will offer one tip - be as agreeable with people as you can be without making any promises or commitments. Promises and commitments are trouble. People want to hold you to them. As a person in the "middle" you will find situations where what the customer wants you to do is not what your boss wants you to do.
As to the conflict of interest thing - if the store is giving you the same deal as they are giving any other consignment deal I don't see any conflict of interest.

Re: My new job...

PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2018 12:39 pm
by Bob Gramann
The conflict of interest is in the position of sales person. One of the stores that sells my instruments makes more on factory instruments than on consignments. It would not be in the best interest of the store for me to be there and steer customers to my instruments. I exhibit at this store for other reasons than immediate sales. I don’t have an easy answer on how to solve this conflict for you. It will be between you and the owner.

Re: My new job...

PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2018 2:56 pm
by Randolph Rhett
I am surprised that a store would make more on a factory guitar than a consignment guitar. It seems unlikely they would ever sell any of your guitars if that were true. Why would they, unless your guitars don't compete with any factory guitars they carry? Not doubting you, just find it an odd situation.

To the OP, my assumption would be that selling one of your guitars would be an "upsell" for the store. Someone walks in looking for a $2,500 Martin and walks out with a $3,500 Manzzoco YAY! Who better to move it than someone with both pecuniary interest and ego motivating the sale? I can't see any conflict --unless they make less on the consignment than a factory guitar. If your enthusiasm and a sense of being connected to the builder moves more of your guitars, everyone wins.

Re: My new job...

PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:20 pm
by Ryan Mazzocco
they absolutely make more on factory than my consignment and also have more invested in the factory guitars and only two wall hangers invested in mine.

Re: My new job...

PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:54 pm
by Gordon Bellerose
Having been in a supervision / sales position for over 20 years, I can tell you that promises made, MUST be kept.
Be very careful in how you talk to people. Your reputation, and that of the store hangs on it. As my mentor told me, NEVER tell a lie.

The rest of the things you mention like inventory and such, are things that can be learned.

As to the consignment end of things; I have checked on consignment deals here in our local music stores, and they want a 35 percent margin.
That is what they say they have with factory gear.

Re: My new job...

PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2018 4:17 pm
by Bob Francis
I completely agree with Gord's comments.

Re: My new job...

PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2018 4:58 pm
by Ryan Mazzocco
i ageee with gordon as well. though I would never intentionally lie to a customer, but it's a good reminder that even if we are well intentioned we better be able to deliver on what we say.
as for the consignment vs. factory brand; 35% seems high to me. I've shown mine in 3 different stores and never at more than 25%. this store is taking 20%. I'm not officially on the system yet so I haven't actually seen what the markup is, but from some casual conversations I've had with the other employees it can be anywhere from 35 to 50% or more depending on the brand. I understand why they would rather push the factory merch rather than consignment. I believe that's even explained quite clearly in this forum's FAQ.

Re: My new job...

PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 11:21 am
by Clay Schaeffer
If they are giving up wall space they want it to sell. The beauty of consignment for them is they don't have a nickle in the bit*h. As long as you don't cost them a sale they probably won't care.
I agree with Gordon's comments - keep any promises you make (but don't make any) and never lie to the customer (this is different than telling them the truth or disabusing them of their own faulty misconceptions). Sales work is something a few people excel at, but is a bit anathema to me. My father was a used car dealer.

Re: My new job...

PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 7:07 pm
by Steve Sawyer
This is not specific to this business, Ryan, as I have no experience there. However, retail can be a challenge. As to the whole issue of ethics with customers, obviously you don't tell a customer anything that is not true. I don't think most of us have any problem with that. On the other hand, as Clay mentions above, your employer could place some pressure on you may feel may make you feel might compromise your integrity. What may actually be happening though is simply a different way of presenting information. Remember that customers (as most of us) hear things they want to hear, so it's always important that when you and the customer part (they will leave the store at some point, with our without making a purchase) the customer leaves with a clear understanding of what you and your store are offering.

A great story in "What They Don't Teach You In Harvard Business School" describes a sales situation in which a junior executive is excited to tell a potential client that "we have been working on a promotion just like what you have described" - something the company had been working on "on spec". The older, wiser exec gives the kid a dope-slap after the meeting, and explains that they should instead have taken careful notes, collecting all of the customers thoughts and desires, then come back a month later after "putting in a ton of work" to present them with a promotion that was custom-tailored to their needs.

Same product, same result, but it was presented in a much more effective way, and allowed the client to properly value all the work the company had put into developing the product.

My point is that the owners might have this kind of subtle understanding of product presentation, marketing and closing a sale. Be prepared to detect the distinction between something unethical and untrue vs. something that is simply presented in a way more favorable to the company. To put yourself in the customer's shoes, compare the experience of going into some kind of shop where the proprietor sits behind the counter reading a magazine while you peruse his wares, vs the proprietor who takes the time to tell you the differences between the good/better/best products, or the story behind and the unique features of the products they offer. We all like and appreciate good sales people. Just endeavor to be one of them.

As to the conflict-of-interest issue, that is entirely up to the owner. The only potential conflict is if you were to actively "push" your instruments over the instruments in inventory and in which the owners have made an investment. The fact that you have expressed concern on this score indicates that the owner should not have cause to worry. Also, my guess is that the combination of the price-point for your instruments and the uniqueness of a hand-made instrument really won't present much of a conflict. Some customers will NOT be interested in a hand-made instrument (they want a Fender, PRS, Martin or Gibson because the brand-name means something to them) or they may not be willing to invest in a high-end factory or hand-made guitar. If the owner is smart, they'll recognize that having a "line" of hand-made instruments may add to their cachet, but I'm getting off into the inner working of an industry I know nothing about. The bottom line is that the conflict is whatever the owner sees it to be. If you want them to continue to devote shelf-space to your instruments, and the owner is at all concerned, then discussing the issue and setting some rules as to how you present your own instruments vs the in-stock factory instruments between the two of you should resolve it.

Oh, one other thing - by having a luthier managing their store the company gains some credibility, even if the customer is only walking out with a $300 Squier, so the relationship has benefits that may more than outweigh any concerns re conflict-of-interest.

Re: My new job...

PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2018 10:26 am
by Ryan Mazzocco
hey guys, thanks for all your input. I sat back and just let this thread rest for a little while so I could see how things were shaking out with the new job. After a full week I've learned a lot and realized that I was really over thinking things. There's still a lot of things I have to learn on the computers but I can handle myself pretty well with the most common daily operations. And I've finally figured out how to balance the drawer at the end of the day. :geek:
I've also learned that the markup on gear is not nearly what I thought it was. True, it is more than my 20% consignment, but not that much really. And conflict of interest is hardly an issue. In fact they like the fact that we have something unique that sets us apart and someone on the floor that knows ALL about it. I've also found it very interesting to pitch my guitars without telling them that I built them. Puts a little separation between the customer and me personally and I can better gauge their true reaction.
Overall, it seems to be working out okay. I'd still rather be building guitars full time, but I'm going to learn some very valuable lessons while I'm here.

Re: My new job...

PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2018 10:39 am
by Bryan Bear
I'm glad it is working out for you Ryan!

Re: My new job...

PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2018 11:37 am
by Steve Sawyer
I've changed careers a dozen times in my life, Ryan, and it never ceases to amaze me how much there is to learn about each new industry or discipline. There's always much of value to learn if you're open to it.

Sounds like you're in a pretty good situation.

Good luck with it!!

PS - one of the greatest pleasures I've enjoyed in business is the opportunity to use my expertise to help someone to feel confident making a difficult or important decision. The important thing is to always remember that it is THEIR decision.

Re: My new job...

PostPosted: Sat Jul 28, 2018 1:44 pm
by Matthew Lau
Hey Ryan,

I hope your new job is treating you well.

Personally, I've found my success to do much better when I listen to my clients and inform them about things.
I'm not much of a salesman and not much of a businessman either.
However, we seen to draw a pretty solid crowd by just being honest, and working in their best interests.


Re: My new job...

PostPosted: Sun Jul 29, 2018 11:13 am
by Steve Sawyer
Matthew Lau wrote:However, we seen to draw a pretty solid crowd by just being honest, and working in their best interests.


Re: My new job...

PostPosted: Sun Jul 29, 2018 2:38 pm
by Chris Reed
I'm an academic lawyer who has also done practice work through number of law firms, so conflict of interest has been something we thought about a lot. The trick is to agree how to prevent conflicts arising.

I see two possible conflicts here:

1. You push your own guitar and persuade a customer not to buy one from the shop's own inventory. Obviously you don't plan to do this, and the shop trusts you not to. But if they need reassurance, you could agree only to talk about one of your own guitars if the customer is the first to express interest in it, and to disclose that you have an interest in selling it. Then the shop is reassured, and the customer can make an informed decision.

2. It is quite possible that a customer who sees and likes your guitar might decide to come direct to you and ask to buy one of your guitars from your workshop inventory (if you have some for sale). Such a customer would expect to pay less than in the shop, because they know the shop takes a markup. This one would be tough for you to deal with - suppose the customer says "I liked the guitar in the shop, but I like this one better." Do you turn the customer away? Do you price it the same as the one in the shop, even though your direct selling price is normally cheaper? There are no easy answers here.

One way to deal with (2) is to raise it now, before it happens. I think there are several solutions, including the shop agreeing this is no problem. But if it concerns them you might agree that if this happens within X months of the customer looking at your guitar in the shop (with X at something like 2 or 3 months) then the shop gets an introduction fee (maybe a percentage, but not the full shop markup because the customer might genuinely prefer the one in your workshop and not have been willing to buy the one in the shop). And if the customer commissions a guitar to be built for them, then either no fee or a much reduced introduction fee.

I think I'd raise the problem as a faint possibility and ask the shop owners what they think about it. They might say (a) don't worry about it, (b) tell us when it happens, and if it happens regularly then we need to find a solution, in which case you can discuss introduction fees, or (c) they say, hmm, we wouldn't like that, in which case you're straight into the discussion.

I'm not saying this is the ethical way to behave, because I'm not sure that selling direct to such a customer would be unethical. But it could definitely upset your employment relationship, so it's worth thinking about before it happens and finding a pragmatic solution.

Re: My new job...

PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2018 5:43 pm
by David King
I had a very brief stint working in a local store as the in-house repair person. The conflict that arose continually for me was potential customers asking me for my professional opinion of guitar x or y and me not wanting to risk the sale by saying anything negative when in fact said guitars were invariably overpriced pieces of crap that the customer was going to come to regret. I learned to maintain a poker face and say as little as possible about the stock on hand. Since all the salespeople worked on commission I asked them to do their best to keep me out of the deliberations and not use me to seal a (bad) deal. I got out of there as quickly as I could and the store eventually closed when the building became too valuable to merit a music store.

Re: My new job...

PostPosted: Tue Sep 25, 2018 3:38 pm
by Mark Wybierala
Congratulations on getting your foot in the door. Integrity and dependability is everything and there is nothing said in the above posts that I would disagree with. There are however a few things that I'd mention to you from what I'd call the dirty underbelly of guitar repair. You need to understand that the majority of people don't actually understand the investment of time and effort it takes to become good at this. It is also never your fault that their guitar is broken with few exceptions. As an example of what I mean to convey, replacing a plastic nut on a guitar looks rather simple to the customer when in fact it is a critical task that requires a fair amount of time and your learned expertise and tools. Done properly, it can make a night and day change to the playability of the guitar. Take your time when compiling an estimate. Self monitor your labor expenditures vs your sincere attempts to meet the customer's expectations and adjust the way you deal with customers who bring you repairs so you get paid what you are worth. That said, give a little up now and then when it is safe to do so without setting a precedent. It can be difficult but always keep in mind that you are not operating a charity. What people want does not always line up with what the want to spend. You gotta pay if you wanna play is something that I'll refer to but never speak out loud. A lot of people feel that when they buy a guitar at Walmart or from eBay, they are getting something that should operate properly. It is not your fault that they made this mistake and there are some customers that will attempt to make you feel like it is. Learn to address this issue constructively and with tact.
I do not offer flat rates for guitar setups and thankfully, the owner of my shop does not force me to. If you can take this position and make it work, you'll be better off. It also becomes a matter of training all of the other staff to write up repairs and customer work effectively and accurately. ...A guitar comes in for a setup and you discover a defective input jack... Establish how to deal with this as a matter of routine or you'll lose money -- one customer will complain that you performed work that wasn't authorized and another will complain that you didn't inspect the guitar adequately. Find a balance that works.
I also sell my guitars in the shop. My purpose when doing this is to instill confidence in the clients that I know what I'm doing. I do not build instruments for profit. I have examples that show my fretwork ability and attention to detail.
Conflicts of interest... I do work at home also. I build guitars by commission. If I speak to a potential client at work, on the shop telephone, or even in the shop parking lot, the shop owns a piece of the transactions. If the initial request for my service is via my personal email, my personal text or my personal telephone, I clearly explain to the client my loyalty to the shop owner and that they may not communicate with me during my working hours at the store. It is a rule that I do not break and if my client breaks the rule, I have no choice but to include the shop in a share of the transaction and I am totally honest with the shop owner about this.
Hey, good luck man. For myself, I wouldn't be doing anything else.