Top of the Rocks - ActionCOACH Warwick

Top of the Rocks

Striking the chord of success

For nearly a decade, Kris Farrell, a professional musician, managed a dual life as a waiter and a part-time drum instructor. Throughout this period, he became increasingly disillusioned with the outdated, monotonous methods of teaching music. Recognising a clear gap in the market, Kris took the leap and launched Top of the Rock Tuition in March 2020.

Every business endeavour comes with a fair share of complexities, but having to confront a global pandemic in just the second week of opening his business exacerbated the journey Kris needed to make from musician to business owner.


A rocky start

Top of the Rock was born out of Kris’ desire to deliver a high-quality music tuition service. Initially, he employed one part-time member of staff and had 40 students. Kris had to learn on the job when it came to business ownership.

“When I started Top of the Rock, even the idea of running my own business was pretty new to me. Looking back now I can laugh but I was doing all the finances on the notes app of my phone! I was really thrown in at the deep end, especially with the pandemic in the background, so meeting our local Action Coach Hana Smiddy was one of the best things that could’ve happened.”

Kris stumbling across ActionCOACH Warwick was merely coincidental. Hana Smiddy, an Action Coach had enrolled her son in lessons at Top of the Rock. Once they got to know each other and Kris spoke about the challenges he was facing, Hana offered her expertise and took Kris on as a client.

“I knew that what I had created could be a viable business. I just needed a little help to make that next step. Hana took us on and with all that COVID brought, some may have thought it to be a gamble. However, she never doubted me and I was very appreciative of how keen Hana was to get stuck in.”


Mindset control

Hana’s primary goal was to shift Kris towards a more business-oriented mindset. Previously, Kris’ drum teaching had only been a supplementary income, but instilling in him the sense of being a business owner became crucial.

“Hana encouraged me to go to loads of different networking events, so that I could meet and connect with other business owners. At first, I was a little apprehensive but after engaging in a few conversations I could see why she had wanted me to go.

“Meeting people experiencing the same issues I was facing in my day-to-day work life made me feel at home. I know that may sound odd, but it really helped me to start seeing that I was a business owner.”

Being brand new to the business world meant Top of the Rock needed to implement all the integral elements for smooth business operations. Hana pointed Kris in the right direction for the processes and systems Kris would need.

“There was things Hana mentioned that seemed so simple but really helped me develop the business. Introducing me to thinking about how HR, accounts and the hiring process would be carried out was another step in transforming my viewpoint on business ownership.”


Working to a new rhythm

Top of the Rock has gone from strength-to-strength since launching in 2020. Kris’ decision to keep running through the pandemic, with online music tuition, meant that for around six months he had the market largely to himself. This decision meant that Kris accumulated a solid clientele base, ready for him to expand when the impact of COVID receeded.

“Today we have around 500 students and 15 members of staff. The company has more than quadrupled in all aspects – turnover, profit, students, and staff – since bringing Hana on board, it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!”

Kris’ fiancée, Becky, who was previously involved part-time in the business, seized the opportunity to leave her former employment and start as the Business Development Director in 2023. Her role encompasses studio design, social media, as well as spearheading Top of the Rock’s latest strategic initiative: integrating their music lessons into local schools.

“One of the parents of our students came to us stating their frustration with the copy and paste nature of the local council’s music lessons. It was a light bulb moment! Since then, we have expanded into 20 schools and the feedback we’ve received has been really positive. It’s validation for the quality of our product,” said Becky.

Within an ever-changing business landscape, where it seems the goalposts are constantly moving, the one constant for Top of the Rock is their weekly meetings with Action Coach Hana.

“Come what may, no matter how busy we are, we always make time for our meetings with Hana. Every Wednesday at 12:30, Becky and I will sit down with Hana, there is still a lot for us to learn.”


Into the horizon

The horizon is bright for Top of the Rock. The immediate and mid-term focus is expanding the business.

“We are in the process of establishing area managers as we look to increase our reach. We have recently employed a Northern Area Manager to open a new studio in Leeds and introduce our lessons into schools in that area.”

The amplification of Top of the Rock doesn’t stop there though. The demand for piano tuition has caught Kris’ attention and he is preparing to introduce new lessons for piano, vocals and the ukulele, adding to their mainstay lessons in drums and guitar.

“Opening the new studio is key. From there we can begin to implement our plans and really concentrate on growing the business. Our longer-term vision centres around franchising. What we’ve built here, I think, would be suited to franchising. I feel there is a business model here that someone can invest in and achieve a solid return on their investment. We’ve started writing up all our business processes so there would be a structure in place to support potential franchisees.

“Hana encourages us to set personal goals, looking at the reasons why we put all this work in. For me, my mission has always been to bring the joy of music and musical education to people across the community, in a fun, creative and safe environment that nurtures and inspires the next generation of artists. I think that a deep-rooted intention to make a difference in our students’ lives, where we consider their wellbeing as well as musical achievements is why the business has been so popular.

“But one big thing that has been at the top of our goals list is the planning for Becky and I to get married next year! We’ve got a ceremony planned for Mykonos and, in true rock’n’roll style, for our reception we’ve booked a tattoo artist where we’ve be sharing a few small designs for our guests!

“All in all, I’m really looking forward to what’s around the corner and so grateful for Hana’s role in helping me transform from musician to business owner.”


The coach’s perspective

“When I met Kris, I could see the potential. It was clear to me that he only needed a push in the right direction and his business would flourish. You can see from their successes over the past few years how far they’ve come. Kris makes himself accountable for the actions he takes between our coaching sessions each week – his focus on this has been instrumental in the progress the business has made.

“I’m glad to now call Kris and Becky close friends. I’m so proud of what they’ve achieved and super excited to see what the future holds.”


Business coach Hana Smiddy with Top of the Rocks owners; Kris Farrell and Becky Knight.


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