Simon Godin, CEO, Godin Guitars

January 09, 2020 I From the Top, Q&A

From The Top: Simon Godin I Godin Guitars

By Kasia White

HQ: Baie D’Urfé (Montreal), Quebec, Canada

Founded: 1972

Best selling product: Seagull S6 Original, Seagull Entourage, Seagull Performer, Godin Multiacs, Godin A-Series, Godin 5th Avenue Series

Fun Fact: Godin loves to shop and enjoys the process of making a good deal. He also loves to play practical jokes.

How do you start your day?
I usually start my day with a nice coffee to get me going. Then I check social media and look at what’s happening in our online community and browse the ‘net to read up on current events in the industry. I also review my emails and schedule to see what awaits me for the day. On my commute, which takes about 40 minutes, I listen to some good music to help stimulate [my mind] and prepare me for the day ahead.

How is your day structured?
Every day is different. I can be in meetings at the head office or travel to one of our factories. It could also involve production meetings or prototype planning with the sales and marketing team, as well as strategizing product launches or making purchasing decisions.

In January 2019, you stepped in as CEO. What’s the toughest part of being in charge?
Finding solutions to the various challenges that go with running a manufacturing company is definitely a challenge that I must face each day. It varies on the area of the company, but those are usually non-linear decisions that are deep and diverse. I began working at the company 15 years ago and touched upon various aspects of the company, which helped me grow into my role as CEO, so it wasn’t a sudden on switch. It gradually happened over time.

“I get excited when innovation and modern technology come together.”

Before you were promoted, you handled sales and marketing at Godin for 15 years. How has your role changed?
I have worked at the company for over 15 years, but not just in sales and marketing. I started in production and have moved through the various departments, learning about each individual area of the business as I grew. It has been a long process.

What was your first job in the family business and what did it teach you?
I started out by working at the factory. I had to move out to one of the small villages where we manufacture guitars. I worked hand in hand on the production line with the employees. I learned to develop relationships with the team this way and worked together with my brother, Patrick.

What are some of the challenges of running a company with nearly a 50-year legacy?
Actually, one of those challenges is balancing between the heritage we’ve built and the new vision that I have developed through my own ideas, all the while respecting my father’s legacy.

What were some of the best business and/or life lessons you learned from your father Robert, the founder of Godin Guitars?
He taught me to listen to others around me, stay humble and make sure to be patient in order to allow the natural evolution of ideas and decision-making. I also learned to be conservative but bold at the same time.

How many employees does Godin have and what are your best-selling products?
With six factories and a large team at the head office, we are a big machine that is constantly evolving and growing. We are known for innovation in our products like our Godin Multiac lineup, as well as the 5th Avenue series and several world instruments that guitar players around the globe seek out from us.

You recently launched the Fairmount CH LTD Rosewood HG EQ acoustic guitar. Can you tell me about its most important features?
First off, it’s entirely made in Canada. We also utilize our new compound-tapered bracing paired with select pressure-tested tops to optimize deflection and provide increased resonance and tone. It also features solid rosewood back and sides and an OM body shape.

What’s been the reaction to it?
We have had a great reaction from our retailers and players alike. The Godin Acoustics were in development for a long time and were well received when we launched the line last year at Winter NAMM. With the addition of the Concert Hall with solid rosewood back and sides, we offer a wide range of options at great price points.

What sort of guidance do you provide when it comes to product development?
I love the product design phase and working with the team on all aspects of each guitar. From selecting tonewoods to choosing electronics, colors and shapes, I enjoy the process of discovery and fusing the various elements together to bring out the best possible guitars to the market. It’s great that our factories are close to the head office, as it allows me to interact with the production team on these details. Aesthetics are very important, but we have always believed that sound comes first.

Do you think about how a guitar’s look will attract certain types of players and personalities? Is that relevant to your product development?
Yes, it is relevant as the guitar is an extension of the artist, so we do think about the aesthetics as a part of the whole package. The various woods and finishing materials that we choose work together in balance from a visual perspective, as well as for sound consideration.

How do you stay on top of what’s current and what the market wants?
First, I always listen to my heart and follow my intuition. Then, I focus on trying to bring something I think musicians want and need and marry tradition with precision. The ultimate goal is to continue bringing innovation and quality instruments to the market—instruments that are made right here in North America at a great price point.

What makes your products stand out from your competitors?
Quality, being able to truly say that we are made in North America and excellent dealer margins alongside solid distribution and marketing support. We also strive to develop optimal tone and projection in all our guitars.

What products or projects are you most excited about for Godin going forward?
Launching the Godin acoustic line this year was a very exciting step. This was a new chapter for the company and one we had been working on for quite some time. There was a lot of innovation, research and development that went into the new line-up, so it was very exciting to bring these new acoustics to the market and we want to continue on that route for other future models to come across our brands.

Are there any big innovations at Godin that you’re able to talk about?
Well, the pressure-tested tops and new compound tapered bracing on the Godin acoustics have been 10 years in the making. We also use this technology on our other higher-end acoustics, so those brands have been benefiting from the research that went into that innovative technology. We also have some amazing new robots at the factory that allow us to constantly improve the quality and precision of our guitars. The new tech innovations are a great compliment to the luthiers and craftsmen who work so hard to make a consistent instrument.

What are your plans for Godin five or 10 years down the line?
We are still a young company and we strive to learn every day, so there is always room for us to grow our product lines and find new ways to innovate and inspire musicians around the globe.

What are some examples of musicians your guitars have inspired? Do any particular famous players come to mind?
We love the feedback from our artists and have had the opportunity to work with some great players over the years. We have been privileged to work with John McLaughlin, Roger Waters, Alex Skolnick, Daryl Stuermer, Rik Emmett, Gino Vannelli, the late Leonard Cohen, Al Di Meola, Steve Stevens, Lionel Loueke, James Blunt and Robert Trujillo to name a few.

What is the company culture like at Godin?
We are all hard-working and driven individuals, but it’s a very relaxed family atmosphere at the same time. Our staff is very open with communication.

What’s your musical background?
I took guitar lessons from an early age. Actually, it was before I worked at the company. My guitar teacher was Mario Biferali, who has been working at the company now for 22 years. I learned at an early age that I was more intrigued by guitar design rather than being a musician.

Does that background inspire your daily work?
Yes, of course. I still love to play, and picking up a prototype, especially an acoustic, helps me in the design process and development of the product. I can really feel the vibe and get excited when innovation and modern technology come together.

What do you do for fun?
I enjoy the diverse culture which we are lucky to have in Montreal. I love good food and wine and I’m very social. I like to go cycling and hiking and spend time outdoors when I can. I also have a huge passion for cars.

If not music, what would you be doing?
I am a perfectionist and love architecture. When I was young, I used to love drawing house plans and detailed layouts. I guess that explains a lot about my love for guitar design!

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