Dec
16

Clarinets, Buffet, Performances & Perfection

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This week has been an eventful week. I spent Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in Jacksonville Florida; the home of Buffet Crampon, the distributor in the United States for the world’s greatest clarinets. Traveling is always a challenge. Planes these days are usually delayed and nothing ever takes the time they print on the travel itinerary to make your destination. This time it was heavy fog in Florida on the way down, resulting in hours of lost time.

Yet, about once a month I go there, right around the time Buffet gets in their shipments from France, to try the instruments they receive and searching for only as close to perfection as I can find; which I buy.

I have built a business on limiting what I sell to only the top 10% of Buffet’s product. I can have a business surprisingly selling only this one product line, because Buffet, quite unusually, has 87% market share in the professional clarinet category. While I have built in my own sales cap, as a result of buying only the top 10% of their product, Buffet’s position in the market and my talents allow for my search toward perfection to be my deliverable in my business; serving me well both emotionally and financially. Its all part of my plan, that fits me like a glove.

On this particular trip I played over 300 instruments and bought 45 beautiful instruments, that each are as different as an intricate piece of jewelry. Each one will be the right fit for someone; each with their unique characteristics that stood out above all the rest.

I know the entire staff of Buffet very well and when I go to visit them one of the perks is that those who speak French, as it is a French company, are always interested in challenging me to improve my French; a language I truly adore. I have studied French since I was four and just love the sound of it. Working alongside a French company is wonderful for me, as French has always been a passionate elusive pursuit, never enough time or the right circumstances to use it continuously and thus never quite reaching fluidity, but none the less a great way to get my fix using the language a little bit.

I have come home to a schedule of Nutcracker performances and that will occupy the week. Tis the season isn’t it! I don’t think I could be any busier at the moment… Yet one of the things I love about the choices I have made with the clarinet is the various uses it has brought me enjoyment from so many different directions while make money on my terms, in ways I love and find interesting and sustaining.

Next week, I will take a number of these instruments I bought, with specific customers in mind, to work on them with my repair tech, Rick Sayre. Together we will put the finishing touches on these instruments to make them sparkle. Without Rick I could not finish my work to reach as close to perfection as possible. The clarinets I buy are largely unfinished and play usually at first, unevenly in pitch, unevenly in resistance and have other problems with the way they sound; all which are mechanical problems. The best instruments just need to be ”tweaked” by someone who knows what to do to eliminate their temporary blemishes; after having been recently made in essentially a mass-produced environment.

With my mastery of the clarinet, a great concept of what is a beautiful clarinet sound and 21 years of experience working with a repair tech, I have developed a lot of skill and have learned all kinds of secret tricks and fixes that make my clarinets play vastly better then anything anywhere else. I did not start out with this ability, but I built it because of my love of the clarinet, my search for perfection around it, and my desire to have others pursue and develop artistically to their highest possible level, which means far more than perfecting one’s art.

Perfection can be a deadly weapon in entrepreneurship if not used as a tool, or if you do not define your scope profitably enough to justify your need to find it and require it often. Fortunately, I have been able, in this business, to do exactly that. I was not able to do that in my other businesses as they grew too quickly and became too large to accomplish that mission; so I had to learn to live with compromise instead of perfection. It was an excellent lesson for me and without it my search for perfection now would be far less able to compromise; as in any venture is needed to be profitable and to grow where your customers want you to go.

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