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Goulding & Wood Inc.: Bigger is not always better Organ maker emphasizes quality over quantity

May 8, 2006

Goulding set about learning every aspect of the business and when his father and partner Thomas Wood retired in 2003, he was ready to take over. He and longtime employee Brandon Woods bought the company.

The transition was slow, though, because the founders had a backlog of clients still waiting for their instruments. The amicable changeover was a combination of the company being handed down and bought out, with capital taken out to reimburse the original owners, Mark Goulding said.

The new owners discovered immediately that they needed to make some improvements, specifically to the estimating and financial management processes.

"Their projects were smaller and we were working on more long-term projects," explained Overall, who started with the company as a general helper in 1997 and worked his way up to president.

So he did extensive research to accommodate the new focus on large projects. Estimates are often done three years in advance-and have to take into account the fact that lumber prices change rapidly.

One measuring miscalculation taught the owners about the importance of communication and flexibility. Someone had measured a pipe chamber on site, but when Goulding arrived for the installation, the figures were off-by 11 inches.

"We made some design changes on site and relocated a few larger pipes," Goulding said. "It ended up not being a big deal." But they took steps to make sure that never happened again.

Pipe organs cost anywhere from $200,000 to $1.5 million. To find clients-mostly churches and colleges-the company advertises in professional journals and attends national conventions. Still, it relies more on marketplace buzz than media buys.

"Marketing is useless. Our product is not like beer or laundry detergent. No clever ad will convince you to spend $1 million on an organ," Overall said. "... Our instruments are our best marketing."

It seems to be working. The company is in the process of building a 64-rank pipe organ for the Sursa Performance Hall at Ball State University, to be finished this fall. Most of the work is done at Goulding & Wood's 13,000-square-foot shop.

"Everything we do is custom built-we don't have any stock parts," Overall said. And the company does not simply copy historical organs; rather, its workers take the use of the organ and the room acoustics into consideration.

That painstaking approach has won the company local fans.

Charles Manning, assistant music director at St Luke's United Methodist Church, says the 80-rank organ Goulding & Wood built in 1999 "can play any style of organ music. An acoustician worked with the organ builders-that is not always the case."

Organ service and maintenance helps the company with cash flow during these long projects, and Tom Nichols, director of music and liturgy at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, says the company is "quick to respond and their service is good."


Partners Mark Goulding, left, and Brandon Woods want Goulding & Wood Inc. to focus on making high-quality pipe organs.
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