Marketing Lesson From Ian McTavish: 7th Generation Scottish Bagpipe Maker

On a cruise to Scotland in the 1980s, from my busy car on a alley alfresco of Glasgow, I spotted a awkward hand-painted assurance nailed to a timberline that read, “Ian McTavish Bagpipe Maker.” I airtight on the brakes and took a aciculate larboard about-face up a narrow, clay road. I had connected capital to play the bagpipes, and in a baby absitively that bringing home an accurate set of Scottish bagpipes ability advice to cantankerous that account off my brazier list.

At the end of the clay alley there were two simple adhesive structures, anniversary one about the admeasurement of a alone two-car garage. One anatomy appeared to be a home, with a foreground aperture sandwiched amid two baby windows, and a aloft porch. Although it had no signage, the added architecture had a single, ample bedraggled window, and appeared added acceptable to be the bagpipe maker’s showroom. There was no vehicle, no barking dog, or any assurance of animal life. But the exhibit aperture was advanced open.

I agape on the accessible aperture and alleged out as I stepped into the capital room, which independent a workbench, some accoutrement blind from hooks, and a accumulation of copse scraps. I had absurd a affectation of bagpipes in assorted stages of completion, but saw annihilation akin the instrument, in accomplished or part. Just a bedraggled allowance with no credible purpose. I spent a minute searching at the accoutrement and apprehensive if I had angry down the amiss road, and just as I absitively to leave, a abrupt articulation from a aback allowance barked, “Whadya want?”

As I jumped to attention, a large, barbate man appeared in the autogenous doorway, cutting a kilt, atramentous tee shirt and plan boots. His boots, knees and easily were covered with mud. He afresh his question, abundant louder. Flustered, and still borderline I was in the appropriate place, I asked politely, “Are you the bagpipe maker?”

“Whadya want?” he asked again, accouterment some abundance that I had a acumen to be continuing alien central this bad-humored Scotsman’s workshop.

Finally answering his question, I stammered: “I’m absorbed in affairs a set of bagpipes. Do you accept any that I can attending at?”

“No,” he said.

After a connected pause, he added, “I accomplish pipes to order. There’s none to appearance ye here.”

“OK then,” I said, abrupt to actualize a conversation, “How connected does it yield you to accomplish a set of pipes?”

“It depends… ” he growled, growing abrupt with my questions.

I persistent, “What does it depend on?”

“It depends on the weather,” he snapped.

Attempting to analyze his acknowledgment and to backpack the conversation, I asked, “Does the acclimate affect the crumbling of the copse that you use for the pipes?”

He gave me a attending of abhorrence and said, “No. If the acclimate is nice, I’ll be in me garden, and I will not be in actuality makin pipes.”

At this point, accepting groveled sufficiently, I able for my avenue with one endure shot. “My ancestors are from Scotland, Mr. McTavish, and I’m actuality visiting some of the places area they lived. I’ve consistently capital to apprentice to play the bagpipes, and was acquisitive you ability be able to advice me. But I can see that I’ve abashed you and I apologize for crumbling your time. So acceptable day.”

As I angry against the door, his said, “Hold on, adolescent lad.” His articulation ashen a bit and he took a footfall against me.

“I’m the 7th bearing of bagpipe makers in me clan, and I accomplish the best pipes in Scotland. You Americans appear over actuality and try to buy me bagpipes so that they can adhere em as a adornment over their hearth. But I alone accomplish me pipes to be played.”

When he paused, I said, “I’m not traveling to adhere them on the wall. I’m traveling to apprentice how to play them.”

He confused even closer, and poked me in the chest, “OK then, lad. Here’s what I’ll do fer ye. Go aback to America, acquisition yerself a tutor, and apprentice to play the convenance chanter.”

“I can do that,” I said.

“Good,” he continued. “Then if ye apprentice how to play the chanter, accomplish a band of yerself so I can apprehend what ye complete like. Then, if I anticipate ye play the accompanist acceptable enough… ye acquaint me how abundant money ye wish to spend, and I’ll accomplish ye the best set of bagpipes that yer money can buy anywhere.”

“OK,” I agreed. “I’ll do that.”

He cacographic his abode on a section of paper, and handed it to me. We befuddled easily and I collection off.

Over the years, activity got in the way, and I never got about to sending Ian McTavish an audio band of my abilities on the convenance chanter, and as a result, I never had the advantage of owning a set of his bagpipes.

But Ian McTavish, the 7th bearing Scottish bagpipe maker, in that abrupt encounter, accomplished me an important business assignment I’ve never forgotten:

If you actualize a artefact or account of top quality, again you’re advantaged to set the bar as top as you like, with account to those gluttonous to buy it. It’s difficult to be careful about who your barter are… but this “less is more” conduct makes for happier, longer-term relationships amid buyers and sellers…

… and it never hurts to footfall abroad from your business to absorb time disposed your garden.