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Column - posted 7/18/2000
Need a piano moved?

"Need a piano moved? That's what I do." At the door stood Brian Tilford of Tilford Piano Movers. And in fact, he was at the right house.

He was a short heavy man. Probably about 5'7" and looked like he weighed a stocky, but not obese, 225 pounds. Dressed in a dirty green tee shirt, orange shorts and work boots. He had more than a few days of red stubble beard with a couple of puffs of fu-man-chu sideburns sprouting from either side of his chin. The piéce de resistance was his company name and logo tattooed on the side of his right calf.

After surveying the layout of the house, he was getting his equipment from the truck, when I commented on the tattoo. "I guess you'll not be getting into another line of work anytime soon."

"No," he said with obvious pride, "this is what I do. I move 5-7 pianos a day, every day of my life." He proceeded to tell me that he'd moved 70 pianos the day before - for a sale given by a large piano show room at an upscale university nearby. He was proud of the fact that he never had to advertise, something I could corroborate by the lack of signage on his truck. And that he didn't even have a listing in the Yellow Pages - not to mention an ad. I had heard of him through a referral. In 4 days and 6 messages, I'd only connected with him because I called his house at 6:30 am. In spite of the hour, and his refusal to return my previous calls, he seemed happy to talk with me and schedule my job.

"This was my Dad's company," he told me. "Ever since I was 8, when school got out, my summers were spent going with Daddy. My first job was just to carry this hammer," he said, holding up a rubber mallet - one of only 2 tools he would use to disassemble the baby grand I was having moved.

I could tell by the way he directed his helper, that he knew all the tricks of the trade. The stories that he told of jobs he could do, when others had given up, were obvious sources of satisfaction. "How far do you go?" I asked, "Just local?"

"I'm moving two to Florida next week," he replied (we were talking in Connecticut). "And bringing one back. In between, I'm going to visit my brother and go fishing."

"Nice when your business can provide a little vacation," I remarked, this being one of my favorite themes.

"If you ask my wife, every job I do provides vacation." I wasn't sure what he meant by that, but I'd be willing to bet he's right. Everything else about his story seemed to fit. The only part I'd quibble with was when he said, "That's what I do." Piano moving was more than what he did. It was who he was. I don't know if it was pride, lack of advertising, or overall efficiency, but his was the cheapest price I'd gotten, and the easiest to schedule. I loved watching him work (a vicarious pleasure coaches get lots of exposure to) and had no anxiety for the fate of my piano. When I wrote him the check, I even felt the satisfaction that comes from paying a good price for a job well done. All that passion and pride and unpretentiousness seemed the key to Brian's obvious success. It's also why his will always be a small company. It's who he is. No more, no less. Could it be that here, with a beer belly, a tattoo, and a red fu-man-chu, was the consummate small business accomplishment?

Contact Brian Tilford at (203) 300-9143

Contact John Seiffer through one of his companies: The Small Business Coach or Decipher Publications LLC, at: 777 Federal Rd., Brookfield, CT 06804   Phone: 203-775-6676   Fax: 203-775-6671   email:

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