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2544 posts in 1941 days
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#1 posted 06-21-2013 11:19 PM
Ive always believe in the 80/20 rule of business. 80% of your work comes from 20% of your customers. If you can lock down that high end builder/remodeler that demands high end work youve gotta fill in the gaps with other, lesser, clients. Best of luck movin forward Renners.
-- "there aren’t many hand tools as awe-inspiring as the #8 jointer. I mean, it just reeks of cast iron heft and hubris" - Smitty
16380 posts in 1540 days
#2 posted 06-21-2013 11:45 PM
I’d like to hear the plan. I was were you are. I made a transition. Got a great job and can enjoy my woodworking. good luck.
-- Master hand plane hoarder. - http://timetestedtools.com
30 posts in 849 days
#3 posted 06-22-2013 12:05 AM
After reading your blot, I looked through some of the projects you have posted here. You obviously have an extraordinary talent! The reason I point this out is that although I am a new woodworker, I do have 30 years of experience as financial controller. I know that, regardless of the economy, quality products and workmanship will sell. How you promote yourself and your work is usually as important if not more so than the product itself (this is as true for you and me as well as the giant corporations. That said, I ‘m not suggesting that you need to spend a fortune on advertising, but perhaps just promoting yourself through your current customers more, or friends? Anyone who you think may be able to recommend you, maybe your lumber supplier, etc… don ‘t be afraid to let people know that you are looking for more customers, I have to believe there are plenty of people out there looking for the quality workmanship you can provide. Those businesses that appear “comfortable ” are usually quietly promoting the hell out of their products. Good luck in your business!
3038 posts in 841 days
#4 posted 06-22-2013 01:09 AM
I have a bit of a take on ths. Clearly, Renners is one of the top talents posting here. Cabinetry is a very competitive business, and requires quite a bit of salesmanship. There is custom work, and production.
Hot money built the housing boom, and hot money led to the crash. Here Stateside we are seeing a resurgence in new housing starts. I was a Framer, so I don’t have a feel for the cabinetry end of it, but I do know that many guys sold shop after 2008. Framers got by doing remodeling, and much of the labor pool went to their home countries.
There is cabinetry to be done in remodeling, but less. On the flip side, lots of kitchen and bathroom work kept the cabinet guys in groceries. (Fed, so to speak)
I believe we are seeing another bubble being inflated not by hot money per se, but by ZIRP, operation twist, and QE 1,2 &3. this resurgence will likely be followed by another bust, with increased levels of inflation. It could be that high end work will be the only game in town.
Growing food will be a very valuable skill/asset if I’m right.
-- Support woodworking hand models. Buy me a sawstop.
6966 posts in 954 days
#5 posted 06-22-2013 03:21 AM
Appreciate your openness. It does seem crazy that someone who puts out the work you do should struggle, but i believe it. Pretty much everyone in my family is self-employed but me. I definitely believe our culture/economy is stacked against self-employed people. Looks like yours is as well. It ticks me off. Not sure how long you’ve been at it, but longevity pays. The 5 year mark seems to make a difference. We’re pullin for ya. That’s my rambles on the topic.
-- "At the end of the day, try and make it beautiful....because the world is full of ugly." Konrad Sauer
17402 posts in 1310 days
#6 posted 06-22-2013 12:09 PM
Economy is certainly an issue globally. However with your Craftsmanship, if you can “stay the course” I have to believe that it will turn in your favor. At this time I work a full time job besides my woodworking. My hope is in 5 years I might be able to use it for my full time job and retire from the other. I know it won’t happen over night.
-- Mother Nature created it, I just assemble it.
#7 posted 06-22-2013 12:30 PM
Unfortunately I don’t believe it has a lot to do with the quality of the work, although having good quality work maybe makes the rest of it easier, its the business end that counts a lot more. I’m writing this as my opinion, but I was in business (remodeling and woodworking mostly) for about 15 years and I seen more guys succeed who couldn’t build a decent cabinet but had good salesmanship and marketing skills, than anything else. I watched some guys with excellent craftsmanship not last long enough to say they were in business.
Its good you have a plan, a good plan is the first important step. Next is execution.
I agree with BigRed. Both our governments and society isn’t big on small businesses. We live in a society where walking into a HD and looking at pictures and settling for what’s available is considered normal and much easier than looking for real quality. So its a vicious circle you’re combating, guy who seems to have credibility that don’t, thus ruins it for the guys who do, and the big lots who don’t have the quality but it just seems to be easiest route.
But there are still guys out there winning, so you CAN be one of them. It just takes a little perseverance and a LOT of smarts. Once again, best wishes to you.
#8 posted 06-22-2013 01:21 PM
Well said said. I suppose one more “wildcard” is cash. Some folks have enough cash backing them up even when they’re not very good at what they do. Not usually the case with craftsman;-)
708 posts in 2639 days
#9 posted 06-22-2013 08:13 PM
You need to be marketing yourself to designers, architects and contractors. Once you reach a certain level of affluence, meaning people who can truly afford custom woodwork, you will find they don’t actively search out craftsmen. They call an architect, a designer or a construction company to have work done.
There is no rule that says you can’t work directly for a client, after someone else has introduced your work and got you in the door. You may have to give up a bit of “artistic liberty” and build others ideas, but the whole point is to make money, if your in it for business reasons.
This song lyric sums things up quite well…..
“Get ta politickin so we can finally move it along,
success aint never had nothin ta do with no song”
Keep your head up. There WILL BE a return to craftsmenship in the country, after the smoke clears.
-- It's only wood.
#10 posted 06-24-2013 10:02 AM
I get the meaning of your thought James, thanks for taking the time to offer such an insightful comment.
You are right on a lot of levels and your experience is not unique. The industry here has been decimated since 2008. One kitchen shop close to me is like the Marie Celeste every time I go in, down from 15 employees to 3. I know other guys who’ve had their machinery repossessed. There’s no sign of it picking up either just yet. I’ve obviously given a great deal of thought to what I should do, including just getting a brain dead job doing anything and woodworking as a hobby, but being a one man shop – not doing great – has worked out better than the alternative considering there would be no childcare costs and other factors.
It’s been a grind at times, an existence more than a living, but I also take into account that there are years in a lot of peoples’ lives where the same thing happens and I’m thankful for what I have got. What’s prompting me to think about the future is the fact my youngest will be off to secondary (High) school in September, freeing me up a bit, and I’m really viewing the next few years as a make or break time as a woodworker.
By my reckoning I have another 25-30 years before retiring, health permitting, and I’m not going waste those years chasing an unattainable dream. If I’m to carry on making furniture as a living I need to see more of a return out of it. It’s as simple as that, and so far in this blog there’s been lots of good advice on how to make things better.
#11 posted 06-24-2013 12:14 PM
Just a thought Renners, but there are jobs out there other than “just brain dead jobs”. When I was in business computers was my hobby, (I always have had numerous hobbies) and I just reversed. Think of what else you like to do, and find something that isn’t so hard to make a living, that you still love to do.
Its really not a suggestion, just a thought. You need to make yourself happy, and if woodworking is the only way to do that, then you’ll need to find a way.
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