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In this week’s Q&A, I talk about why fountain pens are called fountain pens, how pen materials affect the pricing of a pen, and what a typical day at Goulet looks like for me.
New/Upcoming Products – (3:05)
1) Donovan P.- Facebook – (4:55)
Never have I heard it asked or answered, why is a fountain pen called a fountain pen? Why not a controlled leak pen?
- fountain pens really are just controlled leaks!
- before fountain pens you had dip pens, with ink WELLs
- fountain pens really started to come into their own around the 1890’s
- fountain pens became popular because they eliminated the need to dip your pen, the ink carried with it
- the ink flows out of the pen naturally, like a FOUNTAIN (as opposed to a well)
2) Marcelo Duarte Ferrari- YouTube – (8:34)
I see Goulet Pens not carrying some pens with B nibs, apparently in the more expensive lines. I love broads myself, but that’s probably because I’m a lefty. If they don’t sell that much, does Brian know why? Or is it out of another completely different reason? Was Brian traumatized by a B nib in his childhood?
- i think it has a lot to do with paper
- US paper is really absorbent, and it makes most broads write like Sharpies
- I love broads, Rachel really loves broads, but no one buys them (hardly) so we couldn’t justify most of them
- no trauma, I actually like them but I like being smart about my inventory, too
- some manufacturers are cutting out broads altogether, like Conklin
3) Brian Jones- YouTube – (12:25)
Acrylic is a very popular material to make fountain pens. As a raw material, as far as I can tell, it is not that expensive. Just what goes into making an acrylic pen with a steel nib and plastic feed that makes them so pricey? I’m also ignorant to what “resin” means, or “macrolon,” or anything else that the industry seems to advertise as anything other than “plastic”. Any insight into the material science and/or manufacturing complexities that makes these things worth it to aficionados would be great.
- It’s not the raw material cost that’s expensive, usually, it’s the labor and equipment
- cheap pens are injection-molded, which can cost $100k-250k or so for the mold, so you have to make millions of those pens to distribute the cost
- acrylic acetate is a cast resin, not injection molded, which is amplitudes more expensive than injection-molded plastic
- cast resin needs to be turned one-at-a-time on a lathe and shaped with tooling, it takes way, way, way more time than injection molding
- the end result is a richer, more pearlescent appearance and more scratch resistance
- other materials are more for various reasons:
- Makrolon- Lamy 2000 material that is a fiberglass/resin blend
- Acryloid- Visconti blend of celluloid and acrylic
- Cotton Resin- Omas’s version of celluloid and resin
- Celluloid- Delta Dolce Vita, older material with some pros and cons, but takes 2 years to prepare for usage in a pen
- Metal- can be really cheap or really expensive, varies a lot based on the rarity and type
- Carbon Fiber- difficult and messy to work with, looks sweet though!
- Wood- really hard to work with, expensive
4) Brigido R.- Facebook – (25:04)
You have mentioned before how you don’t believe lending your pen to somebody else for a moment “changes” the nib in any significant way; pens don’t adapt that quickly. However, what are your thoughts on lending it to your other hand? I’m talking about ambidexterity, of course! While left hand dominant, I often let my right hand do the talking, so to speak. Do you think this will negatively impact my nibs in the long run? Should I have specific pens to use with each of my hands?
- I don’t think it’ll negatively affect your pens at all
- writing lefty will put your pen in more of a ‘push’ motion than righty
- will be a challenge with flex nibs or softer nibs, but you can work around that
- Check out Fountain Pen 101 for Lefties
Business – (28:08)
5) Mary D.- Facebook – (28:35)
As your company grew, you had to develop specialized roles and eventually departments and reporting structures. What was/is your biggest challenge in managing that aspect of growth?
- hands down, the biggest challenge has an continues to be clarity
- managing expectations, clear communication, training, goals…all comes under clarity
- Masters Degree from the school of hard knocks and my colors are Black and Blue
- I’ve learned how to do things right but running out of wrong things to try!
- hired too fast, hired too late, rushed things, didn’t set clear vision, didn’t address issues soon enough, you name it
- there can never be too much communication in a company regarding people’s roles and expectations
- we have job descriptions and key result areas
- semi-annual development reviews with goal setting
- regular 1-on-1 meetings
- weekly company meeting
- this challenge never goes away, and only gets tougher as we grow
6) @simonraulandrei- Twitter – (36:33)
Brian, how do you keep your employees motivated to work so hard? How can you gain their respect while being friendly?
- the best way to motivate your people is to hire motivated people in the first place
- we look for people with “batteries included”, not always easy to find
- motivation often doesn’t look like the carrot-and-stick
- we focus a ton on strong culture, good communication
- I try to stay approachable, as much as I can be
- Trust Is Our Currency, we work really hard to build trust, which requires vulnerability
- Respect is often given to leaders to first show respect for their teams
7) Kevin L.- Facebook – (47:11)
During last week”s Q&A section of the FP Master Class we discussed The Race to the Bottom and how it affects both retailers and consumers. Does the race to the top have similar effects on both parties?
- check out the Pilot Pricing Puzzle blog post on Pen Economics that I referenced last week
- people tend to think that products are just around, and that pricing is really arbitrary and that’s why it varies so much
- target pricing is determined extremely intentionally by manufacturers and distributors
- high volume/low margin or low volume/high margin, a lot which has to do with capacity
- “race to the top” would be innovative and entrepreneurial ventures
- you see this with bespoke products, limited editions, new designs, new filling mechanisms
- RTTP products are a ton of work for retailers like us, but it’s exciting work that we love
- RTTP products often don’t pull the financial wagon at most companies, as the cost of developing the products is high, and unless it’s a huge success over many years, it’ll just pay for itself and then a bit
- what it really does is create marketing, brand loyalty, and recognition
- example: Visconti Homo Sapiens
- I’m a huge fan of RTTP products, because I want to see this industry grow and thrive
Personal – (57:18)
8) Andrew M.- email – (57:19)
What skill would you learn if it could be downloaded into you “Matrix” style?
- practical answer: nib tuning
- slightly less practical answer: woodworking (master craftsmanship) or playing piano
9) Jodi M.- Email/Periscope – (01:00:30)
Besides filming videos, what do you do on a typical Goulet day?
- wake up between 5:45-6:30am (depending if I work out)
- shower, get kids ready and take to school
- 8:30am at work
- 8:45am morning check-in with leadership team
- 9:00am emails and planning
- 9:30am meetings meetings meetings! all day long
- 1-on-1’s with managers
- 1-2 lunches a week with various business folks in the community
- team lunches
- strategic planning
- video prep
- answering comments/tweets/emails/etc
- inspecting quality issues
- sales reviews
- brainstorming meetings for blogs
- I really touch a lot of areas, especially from a vision/strategic front
- It’s seldom that I don’t have my entire day planned out, with flex time of course
- after work get kids
- have dinner/play time
- bedtime routine
- most nights it’s second-shift starting at 9pm
- might Periscope, answer emails, prep Q&A, talk strategy with Rachel
- go to bed around midnight, which is too late
Troubleshooting – (01:07:33)
10) Ellen H.- Facebook – (01:07:34)
I have an Edison Collier silver marble, which I like a lot. Problem is that when I fill it, ink collects beneath the grip, and since the much of the grip is translucent white, it looks pretty unattractive. Why does that happen and whay can I do to stop it?
- ink is likely getting in there when you’re filling the pen from the bottle
- You can remove the nib unit from the grip easily
- may want to refill the converter directly into the bottle
- use silicone grease on threads and grip
QOTW: What skill would you “download” Matrix-style into your brain if you could? – (01:08:45)
Thanks so much for joining me this week! You can catch up on any old Q&A videos you missed here.