Customer Portrait: Tyrone Mayer of Guitar Excellence

February 27, 2012


Ever wonder how other FreshBooks customers run a business and do what they love? Customer portraits connect you with your fellow FreshBooks peers to share guidance and inspiration.

Tyrone Mayer has been on the vanguard of a new format for music education. He’s the owner of a small but rapidly expanding music teaching company called Guitar Excellence which has its HQ in Johannesburg, South Africa. They offer one-on-one guitar and bass lessons in your very own home to the major metropolitan areas in South Africa and have recently launched online Skype guitar lessons. Their mission is to educate and unleash the musical spirit of mankind, and combined with world-class service that’s exactly what they deliver:

What inspired you to start a business?

I have never worked in an office in my life. Music is all I’ve known as I went to music school straight out of high school, won a bursary in my final year and graduated in the top three. I joined the music scene right away, performing locally and abroad and started Guitar Excellent in 2004 after seeing huge demand for private home teaching. I got so much fulfillment from teaching students and seeing pupils successfully get record deals, going on tour, even getting albums produced with a Grammy award winning producer.

What do you love about your job?

The freedom to work when I want, doing what I love (play the guitar). And meeting new people through the business is awesome; some of our customers have gone on to become my best friends and this year even a godparent. I think it’s so exciting that this business will be run entirely online or at least 70% of it in about 5-10 years time. The online guitar lesson offering is huge and will only get better across all industries – not only music. We will also be running everything using the Cloud, as we have teachers across the country that need instant access to lessons. The fact that I can access our whole entire music teaching database via DropBox, and our whole finance department via FreshBooks, is simply amazing!

Were there big surprises in running a solo biz? 

The administrative side of things for sure. The growth of the business and how to put the right systems in place is also challenging, also dealing with difficult people. I’ve also learned about the right training of teachers and making sure they are satisfied as well as giving the customers the best value for money. The distractions away from the business like girlfriends and partying. The networking side of things which in the music industry has a huge toll on your body. Doctors and lawyers go to the golf course on the weekends and network but as a musician you have to be at the gigs/industry events and that means late nights and of course drinking. I also find people to be fascinating creatures after being in this business. Optimistic by nature, I found that 85% of people have good intentions, even if a mistake was made. The other 10% don’t listen or read and the other 5% are just being idiots.

What is something you’re really proud of developing?

We were the first company of its kind in SA to give private lesson in your own home. We have also just launched the first ever “green” guitar lessons, which we call Platinum lessons. These lessons are done via tablets with videos, apps and access our database via DropBox. The lessons are designed to eliminate 80% of paper usage and make the learning experience incomparable to other teachers that offer the same service. We consider ourselves pioneers and hope this will eventually be the standard way of teaching guitar by everyone in the near future, but by the time everyone catches up we will already be onto the next innovation in guitar teaching.

What the positives and negatives of being your own boss?

The negatives are the usual things in every business and so are the positives but if I had to pick one of each I would say the best thing is I can grow this baby into an international corporation or keep it as small as I want. To a certain extent I have control as opposed to a job. The worst thing for me is the admin side of a business and the constant steps it takes to implement systems and making sure they are running smoothly.

What is the one thing you’d love to do or happen with your business?

I would love for it to become the Coca-Cola of guitar lessons in each country and online. When you think of guitar lessons you will immediately think of Guitar Excellence just like you think of “Coke” as the first thing when a waiter asks what you would like to drink. We are even looking at franchising down the line in new territories outside of South Africa as a possibility. We also see the sub-continent as a huge demographic yearning for good guitar instruction.

What advice do you have for small biz owners just starting out? 

The 5 things I would say to concentrate on are:

·         Find a mentor. Whether it be books or an actual person but keep learning from others that have been down the road before you. A wise man learns from other peoples mistakes.

·         Keep your eye on the prize and stay focused. Just keep your head down and stay on your path. It will be harder at the start and then get gradually easier depending on your goals.

·         Add value and keep innovating. In this fast changing Internet driven world, you need to keep updated with new developments that are in line with your value proposition.

·         Keep it simple. Try and find a few amazing offerings rather than a lot of mediocre ones. A great example of this is Apple.

·         Stay true to your mission statement and if you don’t have one get one! A business that just makes money is just that. A business that makes a difference not only makes even more money than most people can imagine, but also leaves a legacy long after the founder is gone. Branson and Jobs are great examples.


about the author

FreshBooks is the #1 accounting software in the cloud designed to make billing painless for small businesses and their teams. Today, over 10 million small businesses use FreshBooks to effortlessly send professional looking invoices, organize expenses and track their billable time.