Native Admission Statement:
A blend of left and right brain, inherently creative but analytical from finance training. I’m able to go from high concept strategy to tactical detail. The former’s exciting, but tactical execution creates results. Every good business idea I’ve had (e.g. Disney Princess) was a paradigm shift that got me close to being fired. I fight for good business ideas, whomever generates them and no matter how impolitic that can sometimes be. It’s been a high risk, high reward strategy for me personally.
How did you get into the industry?:
I’ve played guitar for 50 years and collected guitars for 30. I owned 40 guitars before becoming CEO of Fender. This is my dream job in every way.
Emerging industry trends?:
I joined the Fender 4 years ago, as did CMO Evan Jones. We were hungry for data. Evan conducted the most significant piece of consumer research ever done in the industry.From this, we learned that 45% of the guitars Fender sold every year were bought by first time players and 50% of new players were women. We also learned that 90% of first–time players abandon the instrument in the first year but the 10% who stick with it, tend to commit for life with a lifetime value of $10,000. These insights have shaped everything we’ve done over the last 4 years. In October 2018, we released a second round of research and found that the guitar players of today are more diverse than ever before. Women continue to define the emerging guitar market, accounting for 50% of all beginner and aspirational players. Both African-American and Hispanic consumersrepresent a growing share of new players too with African-Americans accounting for 19% of aspirational players. Latin players make up 25% of beginners. The motivation behind playing has shifted, as well, with 72% of players saying they picked up guitar for the first time to gain a life skill or to better themselves.
Industry opportunities and challenges?:
There are many new opportunities and challenges. On the positive side, demand for recorded and live music is at an all-time high and growing and Fender is innovating in product and marketing. This combination of external and internal factors is driving industry growth. On the negative side, our industry is being disrupted by e-commerce,as are all retail industries. Fortunately, our dealers, both pure play and omni-channel are rapidly adjusting. They’ve managed the transition well, and we’re doing everything we can to support them.
Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?:
Successful business ideas often come from simple observation of human behavior. Limited Edition footwear at Nike came from someone pulling up beside me in my used black Porsche 924 in a shiny new yellow Sebring Edition 924 Porsche and me wondering if the concept of Limited Edition would work in athletic footwear. It worked. The Disney Princess idea came from waiting in line at a Disney on Ice show and seeing mothers and daughters decked out in princess regalia they’d made at home.
What's next for the Business in the near future?:
Fender launched the American Acoustasonic Telecaster in January 2019 after 3 years of intense R&D. This is the first time in Fender history we’ve seen artists embrace our acoustic guitars on stage and in the studio. We’ve upped our factory capacity threetimes to keep pace with demand, but are still sold out for the entire year.
Your key initiatives for the success of the Business? Greatest Accomplishment?:
In order to build high market share in sports or music, it’s key to have high athlete or artist adoption. Nike and Fender have this. It’s also key to offer dealers the opportunity to enhance their profitability as you grow share by offering them differentiated and segmented product. Nike does this really well and Fender is doing the same.
Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?):
I was fired at Quiksilver as I disagreed with the board on the best approach to turnaround the company. It was the right decision for Quiksilver’s board, and I have no regrets. I became CEO of Fender within a matter of weeks.
Ideal experience for a customer/client?:
Our dealers should expect us to help them grow their top and bottom line every year.
How do you motivate others?:
I want to enable everyone at Fender, particularly direct reports, to reach their full potential. That requires them to clearly articulate their personal goals and for me to coach them in the process of reaching them.
Career advice to those in your industry?:
To the dealer network I’d say open your arms to first time players, in general, and females in particular. Music stores can be very intimidating to first time players. Make first-time players feel welcomed. Your business will benefit as a result. To everyone else in the industry who entered it based on passion, it’s still a business after all. Focus on how to make your company more successful and good things will come your way.
What do you do best?:
I hire really good people and I edit well.
What makes you the best version of yourself?:
I do not fear failure although I’ve failed multiple times. I always do what I believe is in the best interests of the company, not my personal self–interest.
What are your aspirations? (Personal and Business):
My father was a coal miner in Scotland and a man of few words. He had two pieces of career advice for me. The first was to be the first person in our family to work with his head and not his hands. I did that. The second was to leave everything I touched in better shape than when I found it. I did that at Nike, Disney and hope to do it at Fender. The latter piece of career advice was a maxim from the mines he lived by. It kept him and those around him alive. Others in our family were not so lucky. He taught me everything I know in the form of parables from mining.
My biggest success is being a good father to my daughter Rose who’s now 12. Nothing else compares.
Most Challenging Moment?:
It’s never easy downsizing, particularly when it entails letting go of friends you’ve worked with for years. In over 40 years in business and multiple boom and bust cycles, I’ve had to do this more times than I would’ve liked.
Two years ago, I met Phyllis Fender, Leo Fender’s widow. Late in Leo’s life, in one of his more philosophical moments, he told Phyllis that ‘All artists were angles and his job on Earth was to give them wings to fly’. This has now become Fender’s vision statement and the job description of everyone in the company.
Favorite People/Role Models?:
My role models have been my father and mother, first and foremost. Some of my favorite people, include Phil Knight, Tom Clarke and Mark Parker at Nike, as well as Michael Eisner, Bob Iger and Steve Jobs at Disney. I’m a big fan of Winston Churchill.
I love Japan and estimate I’ve traveled there 100 times over the nearly 40 years I’ve spent in business. For relaxation, I love Kona and the Hamptons. I can bike for miles in both locations and totally unwind.
I love every Fender I own, all 75 of them. I also love my 2019 Porsche 911 Targa. The Stratocaster and the 911 are designs that have withstood the test of time. Form followed function and the evolution of the original design retained its DNA. We call it coloring within the lines at Fender. Enzo Ferrari said the 1961 Jaguar E-Type was the sexiest car ever designed. I happen to agree. Somewhere along the line, Jaguar lost the E-Type’s DNA, otherwise I’d be driving a Jaguar E-Type and not a Porsche 911. Fender and Porsche have retained their DNA for multiple decades, and I hope they always will.
Every quarter at Fender we have a band jam in LA, London, Corona and Ensenada. Multiple employee–based bands play all night long, mostly covers. My own band is going into the studio this fall to record original material for the first time. I can’t tell you how excited I am about how this.
A Day in My Life:
What do you love most about Your City?
I love running on the trails in the Hollywood Hills.
Favorite breakfast meal & restaurant?
My favorite breakfast is Huevos Rancheros at the Griddle Café on Sunset.
What are you doing at:
6:00 AM – Sleeping
10:00 AM – Emails or Meetings
12:00 PM – Favorite Lunch spot/meal?
7:00 PM – Learning/practicing guitar
11:00 PM – Listening to live music or sleeping.
What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end?
Clase Azul Tequila (Just 1 or maybe 2) is enough.
Most used App/Favorite Instagram Account?
The Dexcom app. My daughter Rose is Type 1 diabetic. I don’t know how I lived without it. I’m not on Instagram.
What should everyone try at least once?
George Harrison would’ve said LSD. I’d say run Hood to Coast. I’ve never done LSD, butfinishing the Hood to Coast run is an unbelievable high.
Where do you enjoy getting lost?
The endless trails in Forest Park Portland; the city of Tokyo, which I still don’t understand; and the bars in Glasgow, where everyone is your friend.
My Pic of the Day: