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60 seconds with EM Acoustics’ operations director and co-founder Mike Wheeler

Mike Wheeler and co-founder Ed Kinsella started EM Acoustics straight out of university, and here, Wheeler talks his career to date

What first sparked your interest in the industry?

I’d always been interested in the tech side of music and performance growing up, and as I started to gain a proper understanding of audio in my teens, that was what really drew me in. At the point I decided this was what I wanted to do, I didn’t really know anyone in the industry, but it just felt like something I could really spend my life doing.

What was your first job?

Outside of the industry, it was as a silver service waiter – and a very bad one at that! Inside the industry I spent many a university holiday as a general do-anything gopher at a well-known British loudspeaker manufacturer, and then two days after graduation we (myself and Ed Kinsella, director of R&D) had founded EM Acoustics and were busy putting paint on the walls of our first shoebox office.

What is an average day like at work for you?

No two days are ever really the same. There’s a wide range of plates to keep spinning each day. Certain bits are consistent – catching up with Ed and the rest of our team to make sure everything is going okay in each area of the factory, and then throwing myself into whatever I am working on at that time.

It’s very easy for me to get halfway through a day and feel like I haven’t achieved anything, so I do try to block out time where I can if I need to focus. It’s never easy, but it’s hugely enjoyable…when it runs smoothly!

What has been your favourite project?

Moving into our new factory in 2014. Whilst it was of course a team effort, I had the luxury of time to put into thinking about how aspects of the factory could work nicely for us and be a bit nerdy with the infrastructure. The downside is that the moment you do something, the only thing you can be sure of is that you’ll need to change it sooner or later – but each stage was a lot of fun.

What is the most ambitious project you’ve worked on?

The major product review and update we are just completing now. It’s been a massive task from start to finish, and I am somewhat nerdy and obsessive over the little details so there has been a lot to keep track of. But, between Ed and I and the team here, it’s all come together rather nicely…even if I am a little greyer than I was when we started.

How do you balance work and life?

If you asked my wife, she’d probably say “badly”… but I’m getting better. I’ve always been something of a workaholic, but I like to think I’m balancing things better now. Communication is key though – both at work and at home.

I’m quite lucky in some respects that my role is largely factory-based, meaning I am going home every night and I keep some sense of normality without having to travel all the time, and I can have my dogs with me at work. But just as it’s important to be committed to building the business, it’s also important to be committed to building your life outside of work. Times will come where you have to say, “I’m sorry, I can’t” to one or the other, and that’s okay as long as it’s a balance.

What’s the biggest challenge of the industry?

For us, it’s the brand name game – we are younger and less well known than our competitors, and that’s always a challenge. But a challenge we are rising to.

What do you like most about the industry?

It’s corny, but it’s the people. I’m pleased to say I don’t dislike anyone within the industry, and I hope that feeling is mutual. Colleagues, customers, suppliers, and of course, our competitors.

I like the fact that nobody takes this too seriously – we are all lucky enough to have a career that revolves around people’s enjoyment of music, and we should all be grateful for that.

Who/what is your inspiration?

Personally, my father. A definite old-school English gent – and if I can be half as good as he is, then I’m doing well.

There are a fair few industry figures I have always admired for various reasons – but I don’t want to butter them up too much.

What do you like to do outside of work?

Well, I like hanging round musicians so it fits that I’m a drummer (anyone who can email me a joke I haven’t heard gets a pint!) and I also volunteer with St John Ambulance and a dog rescue charity. Outside of that I like spending time with my wife, my friends and my two pugs.

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