Our new Spotlight series highlights members of our TEC community, sharing stories and looking ahead to our next opportunities to gather and celebrate.
We recently sat down with EveAnna Manley. EveAnna has been referred to by some as “The Manley Tube Queen," and even “America’s Goddess of Thermionic Emissions”—although she more humbly prefers the title of “Tube Chick."
EveAnna discussed the importance of mentorship, how Manley approaches supply chain issues during these unprecedented times, and the value of personal relationships built over years through industry events and trade shows.
What would you recommend to someone starting in this industry?
Looking back on my own story, when I was 19 or 20 years old, I literally had all the time in the world in front of me. So, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to take a semester out of school and drive across the country.
I was initially going to try to go find the Bill Graham Presents people and try to figure out a job over there. That was my target. But I wasn't afraid of looking for opportunities at every moment, all around me.
For instance, when I stopped in LA, I connected with my old high school band director, who had a sheet music company. During summers, I had worked with him conducting a physical inventory of our entire school campus. And he needed an inventory taken of his sheet music.
So literally, I was just counting every copy in his inventory and entering it into a computer. I earned a couple of dollars for a few weeks.
But, while I was there in LA, I took another opportunity to network. My dad gave me three names from AMPEG guys that had worked for him about 20 years before.
And so I'm like, well, I'm in LA, and these guys are in LA, so I might as well call them and see what's going on here. The first guy didn't pick up the phone. The second guy, Roger Cox at Fender, picked up. And I was like, well, are there any jobs at Fender I could apply for? I could build stuff on my hands. I'd been working as a picture framer for the last couple of years. And he connected me with David and Luke Manley.
So my advice for young people—for anybody really—is keep your eyes open, and take an opportunity. Maybe you'll do it for a couple of weeks. Maybe you'll do it for a few months. Maybe you'll find a lifelong career at it. And just go after it.
How would you recommend someone approach an employer?
We've got to remember what all our roles are, right? My role is not to give you a job. My role is to build audio equipment. So, when you're coming at, say, an audio manufacturer or really anybody at The NAMM Show, they're busy doing what they're doing. You need to be telling your future employer what you can do for them because all they're obligated to do is give you your paycheck.
So when you're applying for that job, study the company you were applying to, maybe mold your resume, or target your resume to that company.
Alright, let's talk about resumes for a minute. I've gotten resumes where, you know, they list a million live sound gigs that they have done. I don't have anything to do with that except I built gear. Right? It's like just condense it down and just list one line item “live sound mixer”, and in parenthesis, famous person one, two, three.
It's cool that you mix live sound, but I don't really have a use for a live sound mixer at my factory. Right? So, tell me what you can do for me. I appreciate you understand some signal flow or something, but still, I'm not running a recording studio either.
So you gotta tell me what is relevant to my operation: Do you know your resistor color code? Have you built stuff? You know, show me what you've done and what skills you have that pertain to what my company needs. Demonstrate that you have the skills that an employer wants to pay you for.
How do you feel about the rise of DIY gear building on YouTube? Has that positively contributed to your hiring pool?
I do it too! We all can learn from the internet for sure. It's a great opportunity: When you're trying to get a job doing XYZ, go bone up on XYZ on the internet.
Though I have to say, if you've got some DIY experience, you would definitely be able to do many of the jobs that are soldering-based. Now, the real cut, though, is, are you going to want to be doing that 40 hours a week? Now that takes a special kind of person.
And I'm fortunate to have a bunch of awesome workers that have been, that are good doing that kind of repetitive work. I wasn't. My brain just kind of wired where I'd do the first 30 units, and then after that, I'm like, oh, "LA LA LA."
So DIY and manufacturing are different stories, for sure. It's easy for someone to build one of something. Now, I'm trying to go build 500 of them.
But there's more to this business than just manufacturing. The gap is how do you design your production line in an efficient way, in a profitable way to build tons of units? And it's not just the production line; it's really the whole company. How do you service those 500 units after they've gone out? How do you distribute them? How do you monetize them? How do you even create the demand that people want to buy them?
You know, there's a lot of other elements that manufacturers need help with. But, at the end of the day, we all still get to hang out with all the cool musician people.
So, on that point, I'm curious, I feel like a lot of NAMM members are facing issues with supply chain. How have you tried to mitigate some of that risk, and what are some of the stresses you're feeling now as a manufacturer?
Well, coming into this year, we anticipated more supply chain delays getting increasingly worse. There was a terrible fire at the AKM plant, and while we don't use AKM products, so many of our peers do. So that definitely put the fear of God into us. Anything could happen tomorrow.
And the shortages are not just coming from the supply chain—our sales have doubled in the last two years. That's crazy. But our cash flow is really stressed right now because we're purchasing in greater volume. We're purchasing way further ahead from when we need it to guarantee that we don't run out. If we run out of this [pointing to Manley's propriety power supply], we're totally screwed.
Like half our production couldn't ship because we would have to wait on this power supply. So we have to be really proactive. We have to be as vigilant as we can be.
Sometimes, it's just money and schedules. But sometimes, it's real personal relationships with your vendors that can help you with that.
An interesting point that I'd like to dig into a little bit more on that personal end. I know that you have long tenure with your employees, low turnover, and personal vendor relationships. Can you talk about a little bit more about those intangible benefits, especially in a time of crisis?
Last year, we had to close the physical factory because of COVID. But we knew that there were certain family units at all live together, you know, husbands and wives. And so on. So we would kind of assign them teams in a way. So eventually, we would allow one team in per day. So usually, that was the inventory and kitting parts team. And then, each day, another team of workers would come and grab the parts and then take them home and build them at home and then bring them back a week later. So, we were able to continue production!
So, we stagger days and hours. And luckily, our factory is a big enough space, so when people were able to come back into work, we were able to keep people very separated, with temporal staging and physical staging as well.
Are you looking forward to an event like The 2022 NAMM Show? Will it be nice to pull together again and hash out issues and opportunities, be it with retailers or suppliers?
Absolutely. I mean, I look pretty much at all my peers as friends, all my fellow manufacturers. And so many of my customers I've been able to meet them at NAMM.
For me, NAMM is that the opportunity to, you know, meet face-to-face with customers. Maybe they have performance issues they want to talk about. We need to hear about their problems face-to-face. Maybe they've got product ideas. We've definitely received so many ideas from people coming up to show like, "Hey, you guys should build a blah, blah, blah." And it's like, "well, maybe not that… but actually that aspect of what you just said, that's a great idea." You know what I mean? Getting product development ideas straight from the people that are actually using the gear.
I'm not using the gear. I'm building the gear. So I have to be talking with the people using the gear, right?
And then all my peers as well. So many of my close friends I've met at trade shows over the years. My best friends, you know what I mean? Manley's relationship with Universal Audio that started at a trade show. A fuse blew. And I'm looking for other analog manufacturers like, oh, do you have a one amp slo-blow fuse? And then I go see this new company, Universal Audio, oh, you're building like LA-2As and stuff.
Do y'all have a fuse, and this little redhead girl, she's like, “I think we might.” And then she and I become best friends, and we're still best friends today. You know, that started just at a trade show! That’s Erica McDaniel, by the way.
So, it's super important to keep that community going. NAMM is invaluable to me for those reasons. Really, the audio community, we're the best community there is. We're a wonderful group of creative and geeky businesspeople running these companies. And we have to be able to hang out. So, thank you!