When I started ThreeTom in early 2019, it wasn’t really clear how all of this would pan out. For that reason I didn’t really lay down a strict philosophy behind my little venture. My main focus was born out of the following things:
- Running ThreeTom should always remain fun, because I’m convinced that this will reflect in good quality products and service rendered.
- I want to be in close contact with my customers as this is something that makes me happy.
Now that some time has passed, my business philosophy has become clearer and so I wanted to take the time to elaborate a bit more on this. I hope by doing so people will better understand my way of working and who I am as a person :).
I aim to be a small boutique shop that offers eurorack synthesizer modules (for electronic music production) with unique selling points. ThreeTom is my “hobby that got out of hand” and I fully intend to keep it that way.
I consciously run ThreeTom in parallel with my full-time engineering job. There’s two reasons for doing so:
- First of all, I find that people and projects at my fulltime job offer a lot of teachings and inspiration that are useful for ThreeTom. Vice versa, some of the things I learn whilst running ThreeTom tend to turn out useful for my full-time job
- Secondly, if I were to run ThreeTom fulltime, I would “have” to be creative in coming up with new designs every few months to sustain a living. I’m sure this would burn out my creativity in the long run. Thus, running ThreeTom as a side venture, results in having more creative freedom (e.g. whenever a product should turn out to be too experimental, the impact on my livelihood will only be minimal).
Running a business on the side does have the drawback that the amount of time I can spend on it weekly is limited. I deal with this time limitation in the following ways:
- I am constantly fine tuning my processes (both personal ones and those of the business) so I get the most out of the time I’m able to spend in the short term
- I often meditate about what direction I want to take my business. This makes sure that in the longer term my efforts contribute to focussed and sustainable business activities
To extend on the point above, I’ve decided that I am committed to developing only products with the following qualities :
- 100% analog circuits and there’s a few reasons for this
- I simply find them fascinating, I love to learn about them and they offer me that “black magic” kind of feeling :).
- Analog circuits are what they are, there’s no possibility of doing firmware updates later on. This means that at some point you just have to commit to your design. Consequentially, I tend to take my sweet time to meditate on any new product.
- My modules should have a unique selling point that’s not available with other manufacturers. For this reason, I will never develop my own basic utility modules such as mixers or attenuverters.
- The user interface should have the following properties
- Easy to understand and control
- Encouraging happy accidents
- Controls need to have large sweet spots
- Lots of modulation options, because what else is a modular system for eh?
- Versatility is important, it should be possible to use a module in many expected and unexpected ways
I try to run my business with a minimum amount of resources. That means, minimal financial investment and equipment loadout. This ensures two things:
- Despite producing boutique products, the prices of my products should not rise to extornionate levels.
- Keeping my setup simple but functional minimizes time and money spent on upkeep. My setup consists of the following things:
- My trusty Fluke 175 multimeter
- The awesome Yokogawa DLM3000 oscilloscope
- An audio interface
- An old but decent Weller soldering station
- A hot air repair station for SMD components
- A small test rack with a Joranalogue TEST3 to measure current
- A larger personal rack for play-testing
Batches & build-to-order
I work with limited batches, ordering a finite number of PCBs with preassembled SMD components per batch. As orders come in, I do the final assembly on a per-order basis. This means that when you buy a module from me, I lovingly assemble, calibrate and test that module specially for you as I’m not selling you a finished product lying on my shelf somewhere. Also, your name goes on the back of the product, next to its serial number.
When you order a module, it will take a few weeks to complete. For quality products I feel this is okay. I’m aware that my views regarding this are not in line with the current zeitgeist in which 1-day shipping has become something of a norm. I strongly feel that the anticipation of waiting for something custom built adds a deeper sense of appreciation for the product you end up receiving (“Hunger is the best sauce”). It kind of forces you to take your time to reflect on what’s coming, something we tend to do less and less in these ever hastier times.
Sometimes I will also offer very small batches of hand-assembled pre-production units at special prices. The customers that go for these units often have a very nice experience as they basicly join me in the final leg of my product development process. This often leads to interesting discussions and long chats/e-mail chains. If this sounds like something you would be interested in, send me an e-mail to ask what I’ve currently got cooking in my lab!
I love talking to my customers.
- Whenever there’s a delay or something unexpected pops up, I will consult with you.
- I love hearing your feedback and ideas. I may not always be able to act on these instantly, but I do tend to assimilate them into products and business practices on a longer-term.
To contact me, head over here : https://www.threetom.com/getting-in-touch/
Quality products that are lovingly built will always be more expensive than mass-produced products. Although I try to keep my prices reasonable, I will never try to compete on cost. I aim to be competitive by focussing on quality, functionality and service.
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To quote Ladik : “I’m fair, be fair too.”