Musical Matchmaker: Paul Heumiller of Dream Guitars (Part Three)

Continued from Part Two

Life and Livelihood Entwined
With success, the demands of running Dream Guitars grew over the years; Heumiller loved the work but found that his life/work balance wasn’t what it should have been. A few years after relocating to North Carolina, he attended a real estate buying seminar (“a momentary dabble of mine,” he says with a chuckle) and found himself struck by a point the presenter made. “There were about a hundred people in the room,” he recalls. “The guy said, ‘If you work for yourself, raise your hand.’ We all did. Then he asked, ‘If you walked away from your business for two years, would it grow?’ Everybody’s hands went down. He told us, ‘None of you owns a business. You own a job.’” Heumiller pauses, savoring the memory. “He was completely right. And that made me reevaluate everything.”

If he needed further encouragement along that path, he soon received it. Heumiller recalls a discussion with a yoga instructor during private sessions focused not only on physical movement but on way-of-life issues. “I was complaining about running Dream Guitars,” he says. “Honestly, I was getting burnt out on the business because I was fighting it. And he stopped me in my tracks: ‘What about your business is not yoga? What about your business is not pure joy?’ And that really made me reflect on everything I do.” By focusing on the idea that his work is service, Heumiller achieved a different perspective. “Before I would answer a phone call, I would breathe and think, ‘How do I serve this person?’ It completely changed my interaction with everybody. And ever since then, I’ve had so much joy.”

Heumiller also set about developing a very small yet highly skilled staff to help him with the business. Today the “Dream Team” includes eight people, handling everything from marketing to video production to routine business matters. And their enthusiasm absolutely radiates. Scott Bresnick works in both marketing and operations at Dream Guitars. He views his work as an opportunity to be “right in the middle of what I consider the Golden Age of Lutherie.” That kind of passion means that even when Heumiller’s not in the shop, Dream Guitars is well looked after. “So now, I’ll go for builder training for a week, or a ten-day meditation, or whatever,” Paul says. And the business is in good hands. “We don’t miss a beat.”

For his guitar business, Heumiller draws much wisdom from yoga. An experienced practitioner himself, with extensive experience teaching yoga and meditation, Heumiller brings the lessons of yoga to his work matching people and instruments. “It’s about service,” he explains. “Everybody I deal with—whether it’s a builder or a client—I ask myself, ‘How do I serve them best?’ That’s how I try to approach everything. And if you’re coming at it from that angle, the rest kind of works itself out.”

Today, the Weaverville house is primarily used for Dream Guitars; the showroom, photo booth, audiovisual recording studio and shipping/receiving areas take up much of the available space. Heumiller lives nearby, in a small, remote mountain cabin 4500 feet above sea level. “I’m a morning person,” he says. “Every day for me is total joy; I’m happy to get up every day to experience life, interact with people, and be a part of this wonderful world.” Having achieved a balance, he doesn’t feel the need to draw a line between his life and work. “Because I enjoy my work so much, it’s no different than me sitting at home with friends, being with my son, reading a book, or playing guitar,” he says. “My whole day is full of joyous stuff.”

Several times each year, Paul takes week-long classes in yoga; he’s currently in the middle of a 1,000-hour program. “That’s just for my own growth,” he says. “I don’t need to have any certification in that regard, but I just enjoy it.” He also launched a yoga program for inmates at the Buncombe County, N.C. jail a few years ago. And he rides his Triumph motorcycle whenever he gets the chance; the mountains of Western North Carolina are ideal for such a pursuit, but he sometimes ventures farther afield. “I like to travel, and often I’ll combine it with business. I’ve motorcycled in about ten countries,” he says.

Heumiller is motivated in all things by what he describes as oneness. “I’m really of the mindset that we’re all one, and this whole world is one big thing that we’re all part of. I’ve learned to try to be my best self and my highest self; that’s where the service part comes from.” That philosophy informs his day-to-day life. “If we’re each true to ourselves, then the whole thing will work perfectly well,” he says. “It took me a long time to learn that, but that’s where I’m at.”

That sort of measured approach to life—one that places focus on the things deemed important, and away from stress-inducing activities—characterizes Heumiller’s daily existence. “I can do my part of the business anywhere I am,” he explains. “Other than shipping or touching the guitars, we can do everything else that the business needs remotely. And that’s very much by design.” Paul’s an early bird: his day usually starts by 6:30 a.m. “My clients will tell you that by seven, they’re already getting emails from me. I tend to work long hours, but it will be at my own pace. I might take an hour off and exercise; I might go take guitar lessons.”

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