As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 20 – Summer 2022
Barbara Wight is the CFO for Taylor Guitars in El Cajon, CA, and brings a level of excellence to the company. Wight’s love for her position shows in her passion and dedication to the projects she is involved in.
Wight serves on the Board of Directors for the Regional Economic Development Corporation for San Diego, is a member of the World Trade Center San Diego Global Competitiveness Council, and a member of the District Export Council Department of Commerce. She was the winner of “San Diego Women Who Mean Business” in 2014 was awarded CFO of the Year for San Diego last year. Wight earned a Bachelor of Science in accounting and a Master of Business Administration from San Diego State University (magna cum laude).
You had retired and got pulled back into work — and with Taylor Guitars of all companies. How did this transition happen?
Taylor Guitars had reached the size where they needed their first CFO and had hired a recruiter to help them find the right person. I was not interested in re-joining the workforce for a while as I had just wrapped up the sale of a multinational company to another multinational company and thought some time off would be great. However, when I learned that the company was Taylor Guitars, I was intrigued. Just the year before, I had purchased a baby Taylor for a friend who was going through a divorce, and I knew how much her new Taylor guitar meant to her. I thought it might be interesting to work with a company that inspired such passion and brought so much joy to others with their products. Plus, I have always loved music. I began playing accordion when I was ten years old and later learned piano and a bit of guitar. From the outside, it seemed like a really special industry — and it is!
How did it feel to be awarded CFO of the Year in San Diego last year?
It was a wonderful feeling. I have been working since I was a teenager, and it was great to see all those years of experience acknowledged by my peers in my hometown. It also inspired me even more to mentor other young women in their careers.
What does Taylor as a company mean to you?
Taylor has really gotten into my soul in a way that no other company before this ever did. I was honored to lead the project to bring 100% employee ownership to Taylor Guitars in 2020, and I am so proud of everything we do. Not just what we do, but, more importantly, how and why we do it. Our founders and former shareholders understand the importance of giving back and working toward sustainability in every aspect of our lives, and it makes me want to re-commit my energy and focus to this whole group every day.
What has your experience been like as a woman in the music industry?
Prior to the music industry, I had worked in agriculture for 20 years, so I am used to often being the only woman, or one of the only women, in the room at high-level business meetings. What I really love is seeing this changing during my lifetime. The women before me paved the way for my generation, and we are paving the way for the next generations of women. One of the things that I love about the music industry is the mutual respect that everyone in the industry has and shows for each other. That isn’t the case in every industry. Although there are fewer women in some places in the music industry, I have never felt disrespected or felt that my opinions were ignored. Maybe it’s because we are all so passionate about the business.
You sit on many boards, including the Board of Directors for the Regional Economic Development Corporation for San Diego, the World Trade Center San Diego Global Competitiveness Council, and the District Export Council Department of Commerce, and was a former board member of the San Diego County Water Authority — how do you keep it all together and how do you continue to make strides in these endeavors?
I discovered early in my career that I love working with other people to solve big problems. Participating in local government and trade associations (like NAMM) provides opportunities to do that. The best way for me to keep it all together and keep these things moving forward is to focus on the most important priorities, ignore the noise, and really appreciate the different roles that everyone involved can play. Teamwork really makes the difference.
What advice would you give to any young person in business in general, and more specifically, the music business?
My advice would be to think about how you enjoy spending your day and what sort of difference you want to make in the world. Then, actively talk to everyone you can about the kinds of jobs that would allow you to make the difference you want to make while doing tasks that you enjoy. The music business is great because we get to follow our passion while making a difference in the world. I truly believe that music is an international language that can bring people from all over the world together to see our commonalities rather than our differences.
You helped in Taylor’s acquisition of the Crelicam ebony mill in Cameroon, Africa, which launched the Ebony Project. Can you tell us about your time working on that project?
Buying our ebony mill in Cameroon and then learning how to operate it has been one of the best projects of my life. I am still very involved and hope to always be. It helped me to realize just what is involved in responsibly using all the different woods from all over the world that make up our guitars. For example, when we first started working in Cameroon, one of our ebony suppliers lived so deep in the jungle that the only way to reach her was with messages pounded out on drums from village to village until the message reached her village. Then, she would respond the same way. When I pick up a Taylor guitar and look at the ebony on it, I can’t help but think about all the people in Cameroon who make their living providing ebony to make guitars. It’s a really good feeling to know we are making a positive difference in so many lives.
Is there a specific Taylor guitar that is your favorite?
I love our GS Mini. I have traveled all over the US and France with my GS Mini on my back, and it still sounds great! It’s easy for my old fingers, and it’s very forgiving to me as I am still a beginner having started playing again recently after several decades of not playing!