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Building, leading, and sustaining a cultural enterprise: Martin Guitar in 2019

Roland J. Kushner (Department of Accounting, Business, Economics, and Finance, Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pennsylvania, USA)

Publication date: 10 September 2019

Issue publication date: 10 September 2019


Theoretical basis

The case includes theoretical references to family business, organizational culture, resource-based value and leadership.

Research methodology

The case combines primary and secondary data. There is ample public information about Martin Guitar including histories of the company and its instruments. These were used for background. Primary data were provided by the company in the form of customized data and interviews.. The case writer has served Martin Guitar as a consultant and also plays Martin instruments. The case writer had numerous opportunities to interview Chris and his key lieutenants.

Case overview/synopsis

In 2019, C.F. Martin IV (Chris) was in his fourth decade leading one of the America’s oldest family-owned companies, C.F. Martin & Co., Inc. Martin Guitar is a globally known maker of fine guitars that are prized by collectors, working musicians and amateur musicians. Chris was raised in the family business and took on the CEO’s position at the age of 30. The case describes the company’s management practices and the culture that has emerged from them. In 2019, at age 64, Chris confronted issues faced by his predecessors over multiple generations: how to prepare the company for succession, and maintain its strong performance as a family-owned company in a dynamic industry environment.

Complexity academic level

The case is designed for a management course for upper-level undergraduates.



Many thanks to all the informants at Martin Guitar and elsewhere who are named in the case, as well as Mariclare Groller, Executive Assistant to C.F. Martin, Jane Dailey, Senior Director of Human Resources, John Messer, retired CFO and Foundation Board member, and Sherri Hoff, Guest Relations Manager. Special thanks to Dr Michael B. London and Samuel M. Thompson ’18 of Muhlenberg College. An earlier version of this case, co-authored with Sam Thompson, was presented at the 2018 Eastern Academy of Management meetings in Providence, RI.

Disclaimer. This case is written solely for educational purposes and is not intended to represent successful or unsuccessful managerial decision making. The authors may have disguised names; financial, and other recognizable information to protect confidentiality.


Kushner, R.J. (2019), "Building, leading, and sustaining a cultural enterprise: Martin Guitar in 2019", , Vol. 15 No. 4, pp. 306-336.



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