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How I’m Crushing It

Brian Wampler, Wampler Pedals

Twitter: @WamplerPedals

Brian Wampler’s parents, both commissioned sales reps, were more entrepreneurial than the average mom and dad, but they raised Brian to follow the money and do the job that paid, “regardless of whether you are passionate about it or not.” So after Brian graduated high school (by the skin of his teeth) he went to work in construction. A few years later, at the age of twenty-two, he went out on his own as a remodeling subcontractor. It wasn’t his passion, but it was better than working for someone else, better being a relative term—he hated what he was doing.

His real passion was guitar, in particular trying to make the guitar sound the way it did in popular songs. That sound is created through guitar pedals, small electronic boxes guitarists manipulate to create various sound effects and tones. When a friend introduced Brian to an online forum for people interested in customizing existing guitar pedals, Brian dove in.

For the next few years, I would work all day, getting home about five p.m., eat dinner and spend some time with the family, then spend the rest of the evening learning all about electronics through reading and experimentation. I did this every night, not stopping until three or four a.m. . . . sometimes staying up all night and then going into work and doing it all over again.

In many of these forums, many of the questions are asked by laypersons who have no experience in electronics. Most of the people answering were either engineers or talked way over the head of the person asking the questions. When this person asked for the answer to be simplified, they were scoffed at. . . . Basically, there were artist types of people asking a question and heady engineering types refusing to dumb down the answer. I was once one of those “artist types” of people in the very beginning. So, once I figured everything out on my own, I simply made sure to explain things in a very easy-to-understand-and-digest manner so others could learn more easily.

(Which, incidentally, is exactly what I did for wine.)

He also started selling his own modified guitar pedals online. That led to questions from customers, which added to the number of hours Brian spent replying to comments and answering e-mails and even phone calls. He finally published a series of e-books to consolidate all the information he was disseminating. Then he started selling DIY kits with parts and instructions for modifying particular pedals. When customers and retailers started asking him to build and sell them custom pedals, he created his own line, which is how Wampler Pedals was born. He quit the construction industry and made his living selling all these products. Demand kept rising.

Brian realized that he wasn’t going to be able to keep this pace up and invest the same amount of time in all of his products. Something was going to have to take priority. It was while trying to decide which direction to pursue, in early 2010, that he came across Crush It! The lessons he took away radically changed the way he ran his business and helped it grow.

  1. Embrace Your DNA: “I probably owe my marriage to this idea. Before reading the book, my wife and I were trying to do everything at once—design new products, build them, market them, find new retailers domestically and internationally, keep up with customer service, ship everything in a timely manner . . . manage employees, etc. This created a lot of friction because I really sucked at everything except designing new products, creating content, and talking to new and potential customers. After reading the book, she and I decided to outsource everything to outside contractors or hire people that brought in the qualities that I did not have.” His epiphany also helped him figure out which side of the business he should concentrate on.

“I realized that I wasn’t an engineer—the books I was writing were fairly complex electrical engineering ideas that I was simplifying to bring them to an audience that wanted them, but my heart wasn’t in it as much as it was with creating something new, something that inspires other artists to use it as a tool to make their art, and creating something with my name on it—something that my great-grandkids will be able to look back on one day and say, ‘That was my great-grandpa.’ So, I stopped selling all of the DIY products and focused on just that.” 2. Storytell: “At the time, many of the other companies were faceless. I simply started being myself in an authentic way and became the first president of a musical instrument company who did his own product demos. This was very odd at the time to many other companies. However, our customers loved it! They realized that I was an actual guitar player who happened to make pedals, rather than an engineer who happened to dabble in a little bit of guitar. This difference, though it may seem minor, was huge for us, and a key to our success.” 3. Go Deep, Not Wide: “Analytics don’t tell the whole story. In a nutshell, I decided to stop chasing numbers and focus more on creating content that brought more value to our customers. A thousand views and a hundred comments are much better than ten thousand views and one comment.”

  1. Everyone Needs to Become a Brand: “I insisted that everyone who worked for me become a face of the company alongside me. They had to understand that everything they posted online reflected the brand. Equally important to me, by understanding the fact that everyone is basically a brand, they would have an advantage over others should they decide to pursue something else outside of my company.” 5. You Got to Be You: “I jumped in with both feet, convinced that, if I followed my passion with extreme vigor, something, somewhere would happen. . . . I just had to be patient and work harder than anyone else in my niche.”

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