Delivering a Wow with Every Purchase...Mike Griggs

This has been a great week for me in a number of ways. As I mentioned earlier, the week started off well when Erik Groset visited my Creativity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship class. The feedback from the students regarding his visit has been exceptional.

The week continued to pay dividends that I wasn't expecting. One of those dividends came in the form of an interview with Mike Griggs, an engineer-turned-entrepreneur. Since late 2002, Mike and his partner (i.e., father-in-law) have run two successful online retail businesses selling all things for string instruments. Their sites, and, offer a wide variety of items at attractive pricing coupled with legendary customer service.

Mike's entrepreneurship story is worth sharing with my readers. I love his story since it so clearly resonates with numerous concepts that I discuss with my students: solve a pain, make it personal, have confidence that you can do it, overdeliver to carve out a space in the market, and keep your customers.

Here's the short story of how Mike [the engineer] became Mike [the entrepreneur]. In late 2002 while Mike was an expat mechanical engineer working for a large multinational company in Switzerland, he needed to replace his guitar strings for his beloved instrument. So, after not finding what he wanted in the local Swiss marketplace, he visited Google and typed in 'guitar strings' and began the process of purchasing guitar strings from a US retailer. After a difficult transaction and disappointing customer service followup, Mike said to himself "If that guy can do it, I know I can do it better."

Thus began his entrepreneurial venture. He contacted three vendors, established accounts as an online retailer, created a site, and started selling items that solved his pain: getting guitar strings at a reasonable price with quality customer service. Their tagline in late 2002 remains to this day, "you pick 'em, we ship 'em".

In 2006, Mike decided to forgo a 30-year career as an engineer and instead strike out as a full-time entrepreneur. The business had grown rapidly and was necessitating a change as it was becoming more than a moonlight-able hobby. Many of his coworkers thought he was crazy to give up the comfort and stability of corporate life for the unknowns of entrepreneurship. But, as Mike put it, "I had the confidence. I knew I could do it." And, apparently he was right.

Mike is confident that their growth has not been due to happenstance. Instead, he would argue that they've "been blessed" as they've done their part to encourage repeat business by focusing on delivering a wow with every purchase. The wow is accomplished in a few ways, including: a simple to use and easily understandable website and shopping cart; a hand-written note of thanks at the bottom of each and every order; throwing in extra goodies with every order; and shipping the order as soon as it is received.

As a recent customer to their second site,, I can attest to the superb customer service. As I told Mike at the end of our interview, "You have a customer for life now because of your service."

I suppose it doesn't hurt that the Google search "guitar strings" plants supremely at the top of the list. Perhaps that's simply reflective of the quality of service that Mike and his team offer their customers. I wish them well. And, if you're ever in the market for anything string-related, check out their sites. You won't be disappointed.

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