From the Source: Adam Lee

Adam Lee--3

We took our inspiration from street musicians in Johannesburg, South Africa. We started to build our own instruments. Fast forward a few years, we’re now taking reclaimed materials to make electric guitars that look better, sound better, and are more affordable.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that you should trust very few people. You have to vet absolutely everyone you work with, and don’t take any relationship for granted. Everyone needs checks and balances.

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If you’re starting a business because you’re passionate about something, that’s one thing. But if you’re starting a business because you want to be your own boss, or you think it’s cool, then you’re likely going to fail, and it’s going to be a miserable experience for you.

Every minute of the day, there could be work. I’ve got my phone on me. The best thing that I do for myself is go for really long walks without any electronics, maybe just music playing. But I end up thinking about work the whole time. I think I’ve been working nonstop for four years. I’ve maybe taken one vacation.

I was an IT project manager for a corporate travel management company managing a team of 30 engineers and architects. We were tasked with building virtual data centers to house and store credit card information securely.

There’s a lot of parallels between that world and this one in that I’m still managing tasks and deliverables and timelines and budgets. But if a timeline or something wasn’t met in that role, the repercussions were a heck of a lot less, whereas with the business, even the smallest errors could cost us a lot of time or money or relationships. So just the accountability level. I was playing with someone else’s money at my previous job. Now it’s my own.

The best partnership I think we’ve got to date is G. Love, a classic american blues and jazz musician. He’s been around for a long time, and we’ve built a very good relationship with him. Also our string partner, D’Addario. We’ve made some great progress with them. They’ve been big supporters of us.

The music industry is interesting. People come and go. Someone’s always being managed by someone new every time you speak to them. A lot of people want something before they’ll give you something.

I think I listen to Phantogram every single time, on those walks. When in doubt, Phantogram. I think that says it all.

In high school and college I was really big into dirty south rap. Before I had any understanding of the guitar, or the guitar industry, or any interest in it, I would listen to Young Jeezy and Outkast all the time.

I think it’s ironic that I don’t play the guitar. I can, but not very well. It gives me a unique perspective into the final product and watching musicians and their tendencies, what they gravitate toward and not. I can spot the differences between musicians pretty easily, and that helps me figure out where the trends are.

You could have Eric Clapton tune a guitar, five minutes give it to 20 different guitarists, and 17 out of those 20 will tell you it’s out of tune. Everyone listens differently. In tune for one person may be out of tune for another. Guitarists are very particular, very nit-picky. It has to be perfect to their liking.

Guitarists are also notorious collectors. The average guitar owner in the U.S. has four. It’s like a cocaine addiction, but more musical.

Adam Lee, Co-founder and CEO of Bohemian Guitars. You can find him on LinkedIn .

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