Writings of Branko's Blog

All around Central Europe

Behind the Music [blog]

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I visited a guitar shop today. When you come to Helsinki, Finland, and take a train to Hyvinkää city 45 minutes north from the capital, and then get to the old wool factory area, there is a workshop owned and run by the world renowned Juha Ruokangas, a master artisan of guitar making. Courtesy of TWR’s Finnish national and ministry global Partner sansa.fi who organized this small visit for several of us, as a form of refreshing and inspiring break from long and tedious meetings.

Juha opened his guitar repair shop 15 years ago as 23 years old-young enthusiast, but soon discovered the power of Internet and custom tailored global ordering. He is now running the www.ruokangas.fi ‘boutique’ business. No, of course, he makes excellent electric guitars: “Best in the world,” he says, while Internet made it possible for him to get to various interested people. Small, cozy, pleasant shop, filled with the smell of thermally treated (personally selected and then handpicked) birch wood from the north of Finland, maple wood, etc., and number of guitars hanging from the walls in various stages of making. Fascinating.

What is more fascinating is Juha’s personal understanding and philosophy of his calling. He considers wood and treat it with respect, he ‘waits’ for it, loves what he does, and he enjoys the company of his co-workers. “Today is all in relationships,” Juha said. It is better to have happy guitar makers – and subsequently happy guitars, than larger production and a loss of the ‘ownership’ on every single unit. While some factories in the Far East make one guitar every 5 minutes, his whole shop (5 people) does 100-120 guitars per year.

I learned, and smelled, and listened and observed today a master craftsman who is using the art of management, intuitive marketing (his words) and excellent leadership philosophy to make this world filled with better music, and convey some of his understanding of it to the interested people.

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