Hi All, I haven't got an hour to explain every detail of my career
in player piano restoration, but here are a few of the key points.
1. Get all of the reference materials available. Even back in the '70s
there was a fair amount of data available, and I purchased everything
I found. As we now know, some of it was wrong, but that's life.
2. Go to a piano store that has a shop and ask for a job. Even if
all you do is sweep floors, you get your foot in the door and start
learning by watching and asking questions. I went from piano salesman
to shop foreman in 1-1/2 years.
3. Get the names and phone numbers (back in the 1970s there was no
Internet) of people who are already in the trade and call them when
you're having a problem. I found that those in the trade were always
willing to spend a few minutes to help me out. That still holds true
4. Once I had more work than I could handle by myself, I started hiring
high school kids (heck, I was still a kid then -- just 25) and I taught
them various aspects of the restoration process. At the height of that
endeavor I had six people working for me, but lacking the business
management skills required to run a successful business, profits went
down, and I started letting people go. I ended up with just two workers
(apprentices). One moved, and ended up working for Craig Brougher for
some years. The other found a better paying job in the construction
industry in New York City.
Closing note: Being in the player piano restoration business requires
an extreme amount of patience, a constant willingness to keep working
even if that means tearing everything apart and starting over, an
ability to communicate with people in terms they can readily understand,
a strong will to succeed, and a desire to never stop learning. However,
even more important than all of the above must be a love for the
instrument itself. The fact is that anyone who possesses the skills
necessary to successfully rebuild a player piano can make a lot more
money in other fields. Those of us who do love the instrument, and
the joy it brings to others, don't consider money to be the motivating
factor in life. Personally speaking, I don't know any rich rebuilders,
but I do know lots of very content and happy technicians. Do we learn
from our mistakes? Only a fool doesn't!
John A Tuttle
Brick, New Jersey, USA
P.S.: I just finished talking to Durrell Armstrong, who called me for
some information. After conveying the information we talked for some
20 minutes about business and I read him my 'closing note' above.
He agreed 100 percent.