STG 060: Time Management For Guitar Teachers – Interview With Kevin Toller


The Start Teaching Guitar Podcast

Are you so busy teaching guitar lessons that you don’t feel like you have time for the things that really matter? Or maybe you work a full-time day job and teach guitar on the side and it feels like you don’t have time for a real life. I’ve been there, too, and I learned that the secret to regaining control of your schedule and your sanity is to work on your time management skills.

In this episode, I’ll be interviewing Kevin Toller, the author of a handy little time management book called “The Time of Your Life”. Kevin is a guitar teacher, a Group Guitar Launch Formula owner and a time management expert from Somerset in the UK and he was kind enough to share some of his best time management tips for guitar teachers. Make sure to listen all the way to the end of this episode to hear about a special deal exclusively for STG podcast listeners!

To call in with a question, a comment or to leave feedback for the show, call the Listener Feedback Hotline at (719) 428-5480 and leave a message! I just might include your recorded message in a future episode.

Items Mentioned In This Episode:

Link – Group Guitar Launch Formula
Book – “The Time of Your Life” by Kevin Toller

Podcast Transcript

Okay, I have a special guest on the Start Teaching Guitar Podcast today. His name is Kevin Toller, and he’s a guitar teacher and also a Group Guitar Launch Formula owner, and he just happens to be a time management expert as well from Somerset, in the United Kingdom. And Kevin has a background of 30 years in the public sector as a Director, eventually managing several hundred employees and an annual budget of over a million pounds. Kevin is also a painter and he plays both classical and rock guitar, and has been teaching guitar lessons for over 16 years.

He developed his time management skills as a way to participate in all of these interests effectively, and he recently wrote a book on the subject of time management called The Time of Your Life. Kevin has graciously agreed to spend some time talking about time management for guitar teachers on the podcast today.

Donnie: So, I just want to say Hi Kevin, and welcome to the Start Teaching Guitar Podcast.

Kevin: Hi Donnie, thanks for having me here. It’s a real pleasure.

Donnie: Yeah, it’s great to be able to talk to you about this stuff. So, can you start out, just kind of give us a little bit of background and tell us about yourself? What’s your background and how you got started playing the guitar?

Kevin: Yeah, sure. Well, I live and work, like you say, in Somerset, in the UK. I’m married, I’ve got a daughter who’s just finished University, and I’m the wrong side of 50, I guess. I’ve been, all of my life, working in the public sector and I had quite a lot of responsibility there. In terms of guitar, I got my first guitar when I was 12. My dad bought me a secondhand, nylon-strung, Spanish, classical guitar, I guess. At the age of 12, it was not what I wanted. I wanted a rock guitar, and I spent quite a long time over the next few years trying to work out if there was any way of amplifying this nylon-strung guitar so that I could get the distorted sound I wanted. Not very successfully, but I tried.

Eventually I bought myself a rather cheaper, nasty electric guitar, which made a lot of noise and was good fun. As I started progressing in my career at work, I earned a bit of money and decided I wanted to get a better guitar, and it’s kind of gone on from there really. And I was always self-taught right from the beginning. And after quite some years of being self-taught, I was kind of losing the enthusiasm a bit for the guitar, and I thought: “I could do with making some lessons perhaps.” Give me some enthusiasm and move me forward a bit.

So, I took my nice, new, shiny electric guitar along to the local guitar teacher in town and he very quickly convinced me that I didn’t really want to learn to play rock guitar anyway and that it would be well worth my while learning to play classical guitar. I’m really glad he did because, over the years, it’s become my main instrument, and that would’ve been – what – 25 years ago now. Something like that. So, now I play classical guitar. I’ve got a little classical guitar quartet going, but I still love playing the rock guitar and I’ll play acoustic as well. So, that kind of got me all the way through to where I am with guitar at the moment.

Donnie: Yeah, that’s really interesting. It almost seems like a dichotomy, being able to play rock guitar and classical guitar, and be able to do both pretty well.

Kevin: To be honest, what I’ve found is that the classical guitar and the techniques you learn in playing the classical guitar really help the electrical guitar and the rock guitar, particularly the dexterity of your fingers. It’s been a great help, and thing that the rock guitar has brought to the classical guitar is typically, when we play classical guitar, we don’t move around the guitar that much. You know, that’s not the way you’re taught, whereas with a rock guitar, you know, you’re up at the 12th fret and the 15th fret, and soloing away, and actually having that kind of experience really transfers well to the classical guitar for some of the trickier pieces.

So, I think they work really well together.

Donnie: That’s really interesting. Yeah. So, let’s shift gears a little bit and talk about teaching guitar. As we’ve mentioned before, you’ve teaching for probably about 16 years.

Kevin: Yeah.

Donnie: So, how did you get started teaching guitar lessons and what can you tell us about your current students and the program that you’re running today.

Kevin: Yeah. Well, starting around about 16 years ago, it was purely for fun and I started actually by teaching my daughter to play. And after a while, one of her friends said, “Could you teach me too?” I was like: “Why not?” And so, I taught them and then somebody else said, “Could you teach me?” And I had a bunch of a handful of students, mostly built from my daughter’s friends to begin with that I was teaching, and all this was in my spare time because I still had the day job. I was doing that, but I found I really loved doing it and the students seemed to really enjoy it as well. And this went on for years. And you know, I’m just quite enjoying doing this as a bit of a hobby in my spare time.

Then, last year, I got made redundant and that put the day job right out of the window, so to speak.

Donnie: Yeah, that’s such an elegant way to put that. You were made redundant.

Kevin: Yeah. Well, to be honest, there was a bit about the position. The organization I worked for – there were four of us who were Directors, and they needed to reduce down to three, so one of us had to go. And although initially none of us wanted to, to be fair, it kind of occurred to me that I really enjoy guitar teaching, so maybe this was my opportunity to, if you like, live the dream I’d never been able to, and start a business and try and make it a go as a guitar teacher. And luckily, plug for you, I found your website. The Start Teaching Guitar website, and as I was going through the process of being made redundant, I was starting to grow a couple of business plans and get my ideas together on how I was actually going to run the business.

I was able to get the website up and running. Thanks for the good advice on that as well. That was really useful. So, I was able to use loads and loads of the guides that you were giving to get my business together so that when the fateful day came and I walked out of the office door, the following day I was able to press the go button on the website and we were away. So, I started the business just about 12 months ago now. Fortunately, and I think it’s a message I wouldn’t want to give to anybody who’s thinking of starting teaching. I was in a very fortunate position where I’d done a bit, so I knew I could do it, I knew I enjoyed it, and I had a bit of a financial cushion in that the redundancy compensation gave me time to build the business without having to worry too much about getting a decent income right on day one. So, that was really helpful as well.

Currently, I’ve got around about 24/25 students. Most of them are private, one-to-one lessons, but following the Group Lesson stuff that you’ve been producing, I’ve launched into some group classes and I now run an acoustic, what I call, Strummers Group, and we’ve just entered our second term, so that’s going really well. And I’ve launched a Beginners Rock Class last week, which looks like it should go quite well also. So, you know, expanding out into group work, and I think it’s a fantastic way to go and I really enjoy that.

Also, my students range in age from – I think the youngest is about seven and the oldest is definitely over 75, so there’s a huge range, but I certainly don’t specialize in just kids or just teenagers. And I can’t because I live in a very rural area in Somerset. The village I live in has a population of about – I don’t know – 12 or 15 hundred. You know, it’s tiny. There’s a town about eight miles away with a population of about 77 thousand, but at the moment, I’m actually only drawing one student from that far away. But I’m doing quite happily with the students I’m getting locally at the moment, but that also means though, of course, I can’t specialize. You know, if I wanted to specialize as a classical guitar teacher or rock guitar teacher, I’d immediately be significantly cutting the number of students that I could possibly get.

So, you know, specialization is really not an option, so I teach classical. I teach acoustic. I teach rock guitar, because I need to be able to do all that to get the students in. One of the things I’ve found is that most of my students come to me as beginners, but having put the website together, the website seems to be attracting what I call returners. You know, mostly the sort of people who played guitar in their teens for a few years, packed it away, stuffed it under the bed, and now, twenty years later on, want to get it out and relive the days when they were able to play Stairway to Heaven and Smoke on the Water, and all those sorts of things. So, I get to teach all that wonderful music as well, which is fantastic.

Donnie: That’s great. Well, there are a couple of key things that you just mentioned that I wanted to touch on again. The first one was how you got started with teaching your daughter.

Kevin: Yeah.

Donnie: It’s kind of interesting that you started first with teaching your own child, and then kind of word started to spread, and then this referral network kind of built up and then all of her friends and other people started to come in through that one thing.

Kevin: Yeah. The key to that initially was I’d been teaching her for a while, and the local primary school. She had been seven or eight at the time, I guess, and they had what they call a music assembly, where anybody who wants to go in, as one of pupils there, and play an instrument in front of the rest of the school can do so. And she decided one day she was going to take her guitar in and play something, and that was absolutely fantastic. I mean it was great, as a dad, to see it, but it was after that that her friend said, “Well, I really liked that. I’d like to be able to do that. Can you show me?”

Donnie: Right.

Kevin: And it kind of started from there, but I’d also say, in terms of advertising, despite the fact that the website does produce interest and I put flyers out and stuff like that, and they do produce interest, by far and away, most of the interest comes from word of mouth. It’s existing students saying to people they know – their friends, their neighbors -, “This is somebody who can teach you how to play guitar.” That’s where they come from.

Donnie: Yeah, there’s a lot of power in a word-of-mouth referral like that. I mean not only are people spreading the word about your business, but they’re walking proof that you can do what you say you can do.

Kevin: Yeah, absolutely. One of the students I’ve had for some time now came to me as a complete and utter beginner and wanted to learn to play classical guitar, and he stayed with me for some time, but I could tell after a while that he was actually getting really bored and I couldn’t work out what it was. But he wasn’t practicing. Didn’t really seem to be enjoying it. So, we sat down, we had a chat, and we talked about what did he actually want to achieve now on the guitar, and he actually didn’t have a clue.

He really didn’t know what he wanted to do, but I knew that he liked listening to indie rock music and it just occurred to me that whilst he sat here, trying to learn the classical guitar, perhaps he might be interested in playing the sort of stuff that he was listening to. So, I asked him whether he’d like to play. He never thought about playing electric guitar. He hadn’t done so, so I took one off the wall and said, “Have a go,” and I don’t think he’s really put a guitar down since then and he’s got his own band. They’re out, gigging, and I am absolutely convinced that we were days away from him quitting playing guitar for life.

So, it was just that little extra step that made all the difference, I think.

Donnie: Yeah, well done, Kevin.

Kevin: Yeah.

Donnie: That’s great. And then the other thing that I was going to mention that you brought up was the fact that Somerset is a small village of 12 hundred to 15 hundred people.

Kevin: Yeah.

Donnie: I think a lot of the guitar teachers who are listening to this episode of the podcast are probably in a similar situation. Obviously if you live in a large population center, it’s a numbers game, right? You have a lot more potential students that you could attract. You can afford to specialize a little more, like you mentioned. But I think it should be really encouraging to people that even in a place like semi-rural England that you could have a successful teaching business in a small village of that size.

Kevin: Yeah, I think so. And to be honest, one of the things that really encouraged me is that I use, or I still have lessons myself, because there’s always somebody better than you and you can learn for them. So, I still take lessons myself, and I take lessons from a guy locally who’s even more isolated than I am, and he’s got a thriving guitar teaching business going. So, on that basis, you know, we don’t actually compete with each other. We’re far enough apart, but I think the village he lives in probably only has a few hundred people. So, you know, he’s making a good business out of it. My business is early days, but I’m happy with the way it’s going, and it is doing well. I expected it and hoped it would be by now, so it can definitely be done.

And I think also, it was a point you made as well. You’ve got to think about your specializations, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s far better in this kind of environment not to specialize, and that really means specializing for any particular type of industry or any particular style, but also not restricting yourself to just teaching kids or just teaching teenagers or adults, or whatever. You’ve got to be prepared to take in almost anybody who’s likely to come through the door and make the best of what you can. I’m also expanding now into teaching banjo and ukulele just because there are people around here who like to do that sort of thing.

So, you’ve got to keep your ear to the ground, so to speak, and try and deliver what the punters out there want, if you’re going to survive in a rural environment.

Donnie: Yeah, that’s great advice. You have more options, like I mentioned, to specialize if you live in an urban area with a larger population. But if you’re the only fish in the pond in a smaller town like that, then you can pretty much do a little bit of everything, and that’s actually a really good strategy to be successful.

Kevin: Yeah.

Donnie: Cool. So, the theme of this episode is time management and we’re going to get into that in just a second, but I’m just having such a great time talking with you about teaching guitar. I just have a couple more questions for you about that.

Kevin: Yeah, fire away.

Donnie: Yeah. What do you think has been your biggest key to success with your guitar lessons so far?

Kevin: Oh, that’s an easy one. There are two actually, Donnie. The first one is focusing on what the student wants. That’s really important. So, I don’t use particular methods or approaches. I’ve got a long list of stuff that I think guitarists ought to know, but I focus really on teaching the students what they want and fill in sort of the tools and the techniques as necessary along the way. But in that way, the students stay well motivated because they’re learning the songs or the pieces they want to be able to play, and I’m just making sure that they get to learn the right techniques and things along the way. And I can throw in the theory so that they can see the theory of how their particular favorite song comes together, and so on.

So, that’s one. Really doing what the student wants. The other one was one I learned from you actually, which was to over-deliver. And I really try and over-deliver in any way I possibly can for a student, and it doesn’t take big things. I’ve got one student at the moment who loves to make recordings of the stuff that he plays, and it’s dead easy to do that here. Record them, email him back an MP3 of it, and he’s as pleased as pie. But for a few extra minutes, I can actually produce him a CD with a nice printed face to it with some nice imagery and his name printed on it. Do him a little cover for the CD, pop it in a case, and he thinks it’s absolutely magic. It’s cost me next to nothing, but in terms of the way he goes away feeling, he’s got something that’s worth far more than it cost me to do. And it’s just doing the little things like that, that, for me, make a real difference to the success of the business.

Donnie: Yeah, that’s great advice. I think every guitar teacher should definitely do those two things. They’re definitely some keys to success that’ll work for just about everyone.

Kevin: Yeah, I think so. And that over-deliver. I always have high expectations, both of myself and of my students, but I never promise anything that I’m not going to deliver, and then I always try and over-deliver anyway. And you know, it seems to be doing the business really well.

Donnie: Yeah, I think most people – customers of any business, not just the guitar teacher – are just used to kind of getting what they pay for. Right?

Kevin: Yes. Yes.

Donnie: Their expectations aren’t very high to begin with. So, if you can come in and just exceed those expectations and just kind of blow them away, then a lot of times you have a customer for life.

Kevin: Yeah, absolutely. And you know, I’m very aware that some of the students I had in that little handful before I decided to go full-time, I’ve still got now and I’ve had them for a very long time. And you know, those are fantastic students because you don’t have to put all the effort into getting new students if you’ve got students who are going to hang around for a long time.

Donnie: Yeah, absolutely. It saves you a lot of time, a lot of work, and a lot of money.

Kevin: Surely does.

Donnie: Yeah. So, okay, one last question about teaching guitar, and then we’ll get into time management. But what advice would you have for someone who would like to get started with teaching guitar lessons for the first time?

Kevin: Okay. Firstly, believe that you can do it, because I think that was one of the issues for me. Actually getting to the point of believing I could actually do this, and it’s definitely possible. I think then what you need to do is you’ve got to work out what you need to do to get started, and then get started. There’s nothing like getting into the deep end. By all means, start small. That’s what I did. And hone your skills. Hone your teaching abilities. Hone your playing. Do all those sorts of things. Use the resources that you put out, Donnie, because they’re absolutely fantastic, and take it step by step. You’re not going to do it all on day one, but plan ahead and just get in there and do it.

Donnie: Yeah, it couldn’t be any simpler than that.

Kevin: No.

Donnie: Yeah. Well, I appreciate the kind word and the plug there for Start Teaching Guitar, Kevin.

Kevin: It’s been a great resource, Donnie. It really has.

Donnie: Yeah, I’m glad to hear that. But let’s go ahead and shift gears and so that we can deliver as advertised, and let’s talk about time management a little bit. So, you wrote a book about this subject a while back. Right? So, why don’t you tell us a little bit about that?

Kevin: Yeah, sure. Well, I wrote the book. Got it published a couple of years ago now. It took me about four years to write, because I had the full-time job and I was teaching in my spare time, and all the other stuff. And it came about because, as part of the business I was in, I read loads of books on time management. I’d been on loads of courses, loads of seminars, getting lots of good stuff, but to be honest, when it gets back to the real world, most of it just got forgotten about or there we just so many good ideas, good ticks, good techniques that you just didn’t know where to start.

And over the years, I’d really got interested in time management and I was helping. I was coaching other people in time management as well as part of what I was doing as my job. And I kind of felt that there was nothing out there that I could give to these people that said, “In a concise way, here’s what it all about. Here are some fundamental tools and techniques. Not loads of them. Just enough to get you really sorted.” But there wasn’t a book or a course or a seminar that I read or been on that did that, and it kind of occurred me one day. If there wasn’t one out there, perhaps somebody ought to write it, and maybe that somebody was me.

So, I sat down and wrote. As I said, it took me about four years to do, but that’s what I did. I wrote it.

Donnie: Yeah, and actually I got a copy of the book from you and I’ve really enjoyed reading it. I’m kind of a bit of a time management nut myself, and I’m always trying to read more information and try to improve the way that I do things. And one of the things I loved about the book was that it wasn’t just information. It’s actually very action oriented.

Kevin: Yeah, that was really important for me because I’d found during the all the coaching I was doing with other people that if you just gave information, whilst it was useful, the real world just took over and they’d go back into the rest of their life and time management would just disappear completely. And so much of time management is actually about getting the right habits together. And in order to do that, you’ve got to do stuff, so I really wanted to focus this on being very action oriented. Otherwise, it was just going to be another book that sat on everybody’s shelves and got covered in dust.

Donnie: Right. So, I can just picture some of the guitar teaches and aspiring guitar teachers are listening to this right now. They probably have really, really busy lives. I’m sure some of them still have day jobs or are getting started with teaching on the side. They have family commitments and other things that they’re involved with. So, why is working on your time management skills something that’s worth learning about investing? Why should guitar teachers bother with it and what can it do for them?

Kevin: Yeah, that’s a really good question. For me, it comes down to two straightforward facts. Firstly, every single one of us has only got 24 hours a day. There’s not a lot we can do about that. And secondly, I’ve not yet come across anybody that doesn’t fit into this category. There’s always far more that needs to be done than we’ve got time to do. So, you put those two things together. If you want to achieve anything, you’ve got to get good at your time management skills. It’s what makes the difference.

Particularly in this day and age, when we all have so much to do and we’re juggling so many things, it’s a really good way of helping, if you like, the stress reduction of achieving the business things you want to do and of looking after yourself at the same time. So, for me, it’s really, really important. Getting good at time management means essentially getting good at making choices on what you spend your valuable time doing. The better your choices, the more likely you are to achieve what you want to. It sounds really simple in theory, but if it was that simple we’d all be doing it. The hard bit is actually doing it.

From a guitar teacher’s perspective, it’s really about being able to make the most effective use of your day so that your business goes where you want it to go. So, just for argument’s sake, if improving your time management skills could mean that you’ve got the equivalent of an extra couple of hours a day perhaps, you know, you just start thinking about what you could do with that extra couple of hours, whether it be developing the business, honing your chops, spending more time with the family. Whatever it is, that’s really valuable. So, you know, for me, it’s all about helping to juggle all those things that we have to do just as you said. It’s your business. It’s your family life. It’s the other things that you do in your life, and the day job if you’re still working on the day job as well as getting the guitar business together.

It’s also about finding the opportunities to develop your own guitar skills, business skills, teaching skills, and even just playing for fun, and fitting all of those things in together. So, yeah, hopefully there’s something in there, which says yeah, it’s worth doing.

Donnie: Yeah, absolutely. And I would actually take it a step further and I would say that having good time management skills can actually end up meaning success or failure for you as a guitar teacher too, if it’s something that you want to do long-term, because if you get too busy, you could start this business up and get students and start doing pretty well, but if the time pressures and the stress just start to squeeze on you, you can get burned out and then end up quitting.

Kevin: Yeah, absolutely. Totally agree with that. I think the other element of that is that, by the very nature of what we do, we call ourselves guitar teachers. It’s very easy to get focused on, if you like, the end product. The delivery of lessons to students, which is great. That’s probably why we do it, but that can be really, really time-consuming. You spend all of your time doing lessons, preparing for lessons, and forget about the other important parts of the business. You know, the business doesn’t run itself. It won’t expand on its own. It only does those things if you’re prepared to commit time to do so.

So I think you’re absolutely right. You know, unless you manage your time well so that you can do not just the teaching, but all the other stuff that has to be done to make the business run well and be successful, the teaching on its won’t give you a successful business. It’s the other stuff that helps.

Donnie: Yeah, that’s right. That reminds me of the book The E Myth Revisited, by Michael Gerber, where he talks about the difference between working in your business and working on your business. And you really have to do both.

Kevin: Absolutely. Yeah, it’s crucial to do both.

Donnie: Yeah. Okay, I’m convinced. This is important stuff. So, how should a guitar teacher go about improving their time management skills? What approach should they take?

Kevin: Well, I think it’s all about developing new and better habits, and that really means doing something different until it becomes second nature. We all know about that as guitarists because let’s face it; we spend a lot of our time playing guitar in focused repetition. Don’t we? We just go over stuff and over stuff until it syncs in and becomes second nature. Time management has got to be like that. And therefore, the approach I’ve always advocated is you take one area that needs improving, create a new habit, and just work on that for a few weeks. It takes a few weeks to create a new habit, and then move on and improve something else.

You can’t do it all at once, and that’s where a lot of people go wrong. And probably not just with time management, but with even setting up a guitar business. You want to be there. You want to be successful. You want to do it all in one go. It doesn’t really work that way. You’ve got to do it in smaller steps that are actually achievable, and that’s where, when I wrote the book, I decided to set out a kind of logical path that somebody could follow in just a few easy steps to get their time management really sorted.

And I guess it came down to just a few very fundamental things. The first thing ultimately is you’ve got to understand what it is you want to achieve and what needs to be done. And for me, that all comes together in what I call an action plan. That’s the crucial thing because everything hinges on there. Simply after that, you decide what the most important thing is and get on and do it. And then, when you’ve done that, you decide what the next most important thing is and you do that, and so on and so on. And if you keep doing that, then you’ll achieve practically anything that you want to. And you know, in theory anyway, it’s as simple as that. It’s flipping hard, because I don’t know about you, but if there was a degree going in procrastination, I think I’d certainly have one, because it’s often easier not to do something than to actually get on and do it.

So, there are lots of ways of controlling things like that and helping, and you don’t beat yourself up too much about it, but really it is that simple. You know, get yourself sorted with an action plan, work out what’s the most important thing to do, and then get on and do it.

Donnie: That’s it. So, you just make a list of what you need to do, kind of prioritize that, and then just break it up into smaller pieces and do one thing at a time.

Kevin: Yeah. And as part of that, certainly what I’ve found when coaching people in the past is that when you actually write that list out the first time, it is really scary because there is so much on it and, you know, often we know that we’re overwhelmed or feeling snowed under, but we just don’t realize how over-committed we’ve gotten ourselves. So, the first task, having put that list together and gotten over the fright of how much is on it, is to actually make it manageable, and that needs some fairly harsh decision about things that you’re just not going to do and things that you’re going to get other people to do for you so that you’ve actually got the time left to do the things that you need to and only you can do.

Donnie: Yeah, that’s great advice.

Kevin: Yeah, if only it was easy though.

Donnie: Yeah. Yeah. Sticking with it and just doing that one simple thing every day would make all of us so much more successful, but it’s not always easy, is it?

Kevin: No, it definitely isn’t, but it’s the key to it. And the more of it you do, even if you don’t manage to do it every day or all the time, even if you manage to do it only occasional, you’ll still be achieving things and making real progress.

Donnie: Yeah, and I don’t know. Maybe your experience is different, but I’ve also found that the more action you take consistently like that, you start to build a momentum and it seems to get a little easier over time.

Kevin: Yeah, I definitely agree with that. And also, people around you start seeing you as somebody who actually gets things done, and that kind of seems to help build the momentum as well.

Donnie: Yeah, I think it does. So, we’re kind of getting towards the end of the interview here. I was just wondering; maybe if we could take a few minutes and talk about some specific time management advice that you may have for guitar teachers.

Kevin: Yeah.

Donnie: That they can apply to their businesses today.

Kevin: Yeah, absolutely. I think there are a couple things I’d want to say. First is: recognize that there’s already far more for you to do than you’ll ever have time to do it in, and just accept that. You know, don’t put pressure on yourself. Just accept that and then really start to focus, as we were just talking about, on the things that really need doing. In terms of time management for your business, I think that the main thing there is be very clear on what it is you want your business to achieve. And it’s worth spending some time really thinking that through, thinking about where you want the business to be in 12 months’ time, say five years’ time, and then try to ensure that, as far as you can every day, you do something that’s going to have an impact on your business in terms of where you see being.

It comes down to things like if you want to expand the business into group classes, for example, as your training has been really useful with, Donnie, the only way that actually happens is if you start work on it to make it happen. And that can be just from the very smallest step of recognizing: “I want to run group classes. Now, where could I do it,” and finding a venue. Once you’ve found a venue, that’s a piece of action taken and, from there, you’ll start thinking about: “Well, when am I going to run this? How am I going to advertise it? Who am I aiming for? What sort of things do I want to teach on the course? What’s the syllabus going to be like?” You take each small step.

But if you start by saying, “I’m going to run a group class and I’m going to run it next week, and it’s going to,” and you’re trying to do everything at once, it’s just so overwhelming. It just won’t happen. So, you’ve really got to chunk things down into things that you can do and achieve that lead to the end result that you want. And ultimately, I think that’s the best possible bit of advice you can get. Chunk it down into bits you can do and then do them, one by one. They always say every mile starts with one step. Same thing here. You know, you pick off things in the size of chunk that you can handle, deal with one, move on to the next one, deal with that, move on to the next one, and eventually you get there.

Donnie: Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s exactly, I think, what a lot of people need to hear. And hopefully a lot of the listeners can get some encouragement from this, because whenever you start to sit down and look at all of the details of growing your teaching business to another level, of attracting new students, of improving your student retention, of starting group classes, and doing all of these things, that once you do them, you know, will put money in your pocket and will make your business more successful, but you have to sift through all of those details of planning and executing those different strategies, like you mentioned.

Kevin: Yeah.

Donnie: And maybe some people might be listening to this today and they’re just overwhelmed and discouraged by all this stuff. So, it’s kind of my hope and intention that this episode could be encouragement for them to just do like you said. To break it down into smaller pieces and then just take some action one step at a time.

Kevin: Yeah, absolutely. That’s the real center of it. Certainly at the point when I decided to setup the business, a year or so ago, it seemed overwhelming. You know, I have no doubts about that. There was just so much to do, and I only did it by planning it out, working out what was going to need to be done over the first 12 months or so, and just breaking it down into bits I could get my head around and manage, and it was then just picking them off one at a time and doing them. So, you know, you get your business cards printed is one item, and then that’s done. You put the website together, but the website doesn’t have to be perfect. You know, you just do what you can and then, over a period of time, you add to it. You improve it. You make it better. But you start by doing the bits you can do and worry about the rest later.

And that, again, was something I learned from your Start Teaching Guitar Podcast and training on setting up the website, and that was really helpful. And I was able to build the website, get a few pages up there, and then gradually it’s built and built and built, and keeps building and hopefully will continue to for a long time.

Donnie: Yeah, that’s great. That’s exactly how it works.

Kevin: Yeah.

Donnie: Yeah, no worries at all. So, to wrap things up, can you tell us where people can purchase a copy of the book? I just really want to recommend it; if you need an action plan for your time management, to check out Kevin’s book, The Time of Your Life. But go ahead and tell us where we can find it.

Kevin: Yeah. Well, thanks for that, Donnie. It’s much appreciated. Whilst you can get it on Amazon, if you go to my website,, go to the Links page and you’ll see at the bottom I’ve created a link for STG listeners where you can get it and you’ll get it at one-third off, so I’ll give you a discount.

Donnie: Oh, great, we appreciate that, Kevin.

Kevin: That’s all right. It’s been a real pleasure.

Donnie: Yeah, I’ll go ahead and put a link to that in the show notes as well so that people can find it easily.

Kevin: All right, that’d be great. Thank you, Donnie.

Donnie: Yeah. So, do you have any words of parting wisdom or advice for us today as we wrap up the episode?

Kevin: I think I’d go back to something I said earlier, Donnie. For those out there who are thinking about starting a guitar-teaching business, it’s definitely doable. Just get started on it. Don’t look back. Yeah, and that will be it.

Donnie: Great. I couldn’t put it better myself.

Kevin: All right.

Donnie: Okay. Well, hey Kevin, thank you so much for taking the time to be on the Start Teaching Guitar Podcast today. I really appreciate it.

Kevin: Oh, I appreciate it. This has been a real honor. Thanks, Donnie.

Donnie: You bet.

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STG 060: Time Management For Guitar Teachers – Interview With Kevin Toller was last modified: May 12th, 2014 by Donnie Schexnayder