Vicki Workman is the Manager of G4 Guitar School in Croydon. Vicki talks to The Industry Leaders about how her business aims to buck statistical industry trends and why it's important not to spread yourself too thin.
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
I've always loved music and started playing the guitar at the age of 8. I've formed life-long friendships, toured and recorded with various bands as a teen and young adult. But career-wise, I was listless. I'd always seen playing music as something I would have to do as a hobby, alongside a "proper" job. After trying a few things out, a friend suggested I start teaching guitar.
That was 15 years ago, and I've gone from teaching 20+ students privately every week to running a dedicated guitar school with a team of teachers. We currently work with over 140 students every week.
What kind of work does your role involve?
Guiding our students through the tricky process of learning guitar, especially over the first 12 months. Sadly, research shows that 90% of beginner guitarists quit within the first year, but we exist to buck that trend!
For us, playing music is all about creating meaningful connections. Through our structured method, weekly group lessons, community support and amazing performance opportunities, we ensure our students are continually inspired and motivated to explore all the exciting possibilities playing music has to offer. If we can get them through that first year, they will be much more likely to become successful, long-term guitar players.
What gets you excited about your industry?
The music education sector constantly innovates to move away from the standard "one-hour private lesson" model. The past year's disruption has caused many teachers to move outside of their comfort zones, creating awesome new services for a worldwide market. This can only be a good thing, as many of us have actually seen an improvement in our students' motivation and progress due to combining technology with more traditional teaching models.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Focus on one thing and be the best at that thing!
We only work with guitar players and specialise in working with kids and beginners. If we started offering other instruments, we wouldn't have the same level of knowledge to pass on and would ultimately be spreading ourselves too thin.
How do you support aspiring leaders in your field?
We train guitar teachers to either work with us or set up on their own. I also love chatting to other music school owners and helping them with their challenges.
How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in your industry?
Our school is part of the G4 Guitar Network - which has over 60 locations throughout the world - and through this, we get access to the G4 Guitar Method, a structured, fun and easy-to-follow programme designed specifically for beginners of all ages. The method is constantly being tested and revised to ensure students get the best learning experience possible. Our teachers get trained in the most effective ways to help them enjoy the process of learning guitar.
Besides that, I am a member of numerous music teaching groups on Facebook and LinkedIn and regularly explore new ideas with other music teachers and school owners.
What was the most challenging project or situation you've overcome?
2019 was a tough year! I moved our school to new premises, which came with a hefty rent increase, and I took on a second location, which turned out to be nowhere near as fun or profitable as I had first thought. I spent most of the year feeling anxious and exhausted, worried about how I would keep paying my team (including myself!).
The first Covid lockdown actually gave me some much-needed time to think and pivot my business in a way that has provided much more value to our students. We ditched the expensive premises and second location and concentrated on making sure our existing students were getting the help they needed. I'm now much happier and more focused than ever, with a very clear vision of how I want to grow the business.
You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
Ah man, what I would do with $10 million! Yes, I would continue working, but I would use the money to invest in top team members and better systems. I would buy premises and set up a network of youth-themed music centres where kids can hang out, take lessons, jam with friends, and perform - basically all the fun stuff that comes from playing a musical instrument.
More broadly, I believe that developing a sense of purpose helps kids become happier and more productive members of society. Every child should have the opportunity to discover their passion, and I would want to work with any organisation that helps them find it by encouraging curiosity, creativity and resilience.
How do you switch off after a day at work?
I listen to music, walk my dog, or binge-watch Netflix. I'm looking forward to seeing live music again, though!
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
That the quality and innovation within the sector improves across the board so that more people throughout the world can experience the joy of playing and performing music.
What book or podcast should everyone know about?
Mindset by Carol Dweck. The difference between a "fixed" or "growth" mindset greatly impacts what people think they can achieve. I certainly took a long, hard look at my life through this lens and realised I could have achieved a whole lot more if I'd just tried harder!
Thankfully, I now try and live in a growth mindset as much as possible and encourage my teachers and students to do the same.
How should people connect with you?
*Ever wondered what kind of leader you are? Take our free quiz to find out.
**Looking to level-up your leadership skills? Check out our article on the best self-help books for business leaders and entrepreneurs.