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View MsDebbieP's profile

Business Tips

by MsDebbieP
posted 04-06-2009 01:01 PM

20 replies so far

View Kindlingmaker's profile


2656 posts in 3525 days

#1 posted 04-06-2009 02:03 PM

Sorry, I have to give this piece of advise even though its that time of year: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket !

Really, in this type of economy there is very little stability, so be able to do or produce or have other back burner skills that can be shifted to quickly. If one makes buggy whips then maybe a night computer class would be good or if you are behind that computer all day then keep your lawn mover tuned up and your garden business sign handy.

-- Never board, always knotty, lots of growth rings

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4159 days

#2 posted 04-06-2009 02:32 PM

that’s a great tip!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 3873 days

#3 posted 04-06-2009 07:10 PM

Don’t be afraid to branch out or take on projects that will be learning experiences. However, do not take on projects that aren’t in line with what you want your business to be doing.

-- -- --

View cabinetmaster's profile


10874 posts in 3557 days

#4 posted 04-07-2009 12:37 AM

Satisfy and take care of the customer. Word of mouth advertising is the best advertisement. Don’t overextend yourself.

And I have to agree with the comments made above by the others. All great tips.

-- Jerry--A man can never have enough tools or clamps

View Rustic's profile


3253 posts in 3595 days

#5 posted 04-07-2009 12:50 AM

Check with the IRS about taxes and make sure to pay them. Make business cards and have them with you at all times. Figure out if you want to do craft shows or sell retail or wholesale.

--, Rick Kruse, Grand Rapids, MI

View Al Killian's profile

Al Killian

273 posts in 3752 days

#6 posted 04-09-2009 10:56 PM

Advertise in several newspapers for better coverage.

-- Owner of custom millwork shop

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4313 days

#7 posted 04-09-2009 11:46 PM

Place severe limits on computer use…especially sites such as Lumberjocks. It is just too inspiring and distracting.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18271 posts in 3674 days

#8 posted 04-10-2009 11:43 AM

Being an electrical contractor for 25 years, my policy has always been to never leave an unsatisfied customer behind. If they are too unreasonably demanding, I won’t work for them again, but I leave them happy with any job i put my name on.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 4126 days

#9 posted 04-10-2009 06:23 PM

My best business advice is, ”Just Don’t Do it!

Don’t compete with BiggieMart.
The big box stores are a great place to shop for low priced commodities. They are also great places to see what you should not be doing. You can’t compete with them and they can’t compete with you. You have the freedom of making things that can’t be found at the big box stores. Sell quality and great crafting.

Don’t buy materials from home improvement centers.
Home improvement stores sell convenience not value. Most artisans buy outstanding materials from vendors that cater to quality and exceptional workmanship, like local saw mills, artisan suppliers, other crafters and self-collected and processed wood.

Don’t set your prices too low.
Do you want to just cover your costs of materials and tools, or do you want to stay in business? Don’t be ashamed at setting your prices at a level that assures success. If you must make price comparisons, then look at the work of those that are successful. Internet price evaluations can be confusing. Avoid vague comparisons.

Don’t listen to hobbyists.
There is nothing wrong with being a hobbyist, but if you want to succeed in business then choose to turn your passion in to a profession. If your goal is to make a profit, don’t listen to the hoards of weekend wood warriors that don’t place a value on their time. There is a huge difference between pursuing a pastime and making a profit.

Don’t run with the herd.
Sell yourself. Sell uniqueness. Sell quality. Sell craftsmanship. Step out of the herd and let them run together in their predictable direction. You can’t stand out unless you are willing to stand alone.

-- 温故知新

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 3727 days

#10 posted 04-10-2009 07:29 PM

that is all great advice DRG

View SonnyB's profile


19 posts in 3330 days

#11 posted 04-16-2009 12:13 PM

I personally think it’s a combination of the right products, the right prices, and the right marketing. And by marketing I mean primarily a good web site with great photos. These days nearly everyone goes to the web first to see if they can find what they want. If they see products that are at least close to what they are looking for and they see prices that are reasonable you will have a good shot at getting the business; even more so if you are within a reasonable driving distance. I get as much custom business from my web site as I do selling directly from it.

-- Always busy.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18271 posts in 3674 days

#12 posted 04-16-2009 04:49 PM

How do you get your web site high enough on the search list to get some hits?

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View SonnyB's profile


19 posts in 3330 days

#13 posted 04-16-2009 11:11 PM

Its all in the way its designed, from the metadata to the landing pages. Fortunately SEO is one of my areas of expertise and experience so that helps alot.

-- Always busy.

View rhett's profile


742 posts in 3666 days

#14 posted 04-17-2009 09:56 PM

Underpromise and overdeliver.

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

View Don Butler's profile

Don Butler

1092 posts in 3394 days

#15 posted 05-07-2009 03:36 PM

My wife and I have been in one business or another for a very long time.
Establishing your own business is a trial and error thing. No school can teach you what you need to know and you will likely have to learn as you go. The trial part is especially operative when you do something you shouldn’t do and find out the hard way.

Expect setbacks. Perhaps a few will experience no difficulties and life is wonderful, but for most of us, hard times will happen. Even if its not your business itself that causes problems, a million personal matters can cause you grief. Be strong.

Others on this thread have stressed flexibility. I can’t emphasize that too much. If you’re doing something for a client and they ask if you can do something else, don’t reject the idea out of hand. Think about it and consider how it might expand your services.
For example, I’m focussed primarily on fine woodworking and cabinetry. But someone might ask if I can provide a computer service or photography or even electrical or plumbing, I may take it on. Its important to know your limitations, though. If there are local laws requiring licencing, for example, be careful not to step over that line unless you can meet the requirements.
Knowing your physical limitations is important, too. I’m a septuagenarian and can do far less than I used to. Perhaps someone else has a disability that will limit them. Maybe its cash, keeping you from having the tools and other equipment.
Advertising? HMMMMMmmmmmmmmmm.
Although I’ve been involved in that pursuit when working for other companies, and it was important for them, my experience as a small business person and the condition of the present business environment tells me other things. I do almost no advertising, but I maintain availability. Huh? That means that I allow people to find me, but I don’t go after them.
So, I have a website for my wife’s business, but we don’t engage in selling over the Internet. Customers looking for her services or merchandise can find us. On the other hand we have had far greater success with word of mouth connections.
Some also think that a store front or building prominently in the places where there is great traffic is important. Beware. I can think of few things that have caused small businesses to fail than trying to keep up that sort of presentment. In these days, the old idea that your visibility is essential to success is having less and less importance. There are many small businesses doing well that you can’t see from the street and in many cases they aren’t in a business area. You can have a small business in a bedroom.

Don’t hire outside services or employees you don’t absolutely need.
In our business, considered by some to be the best in our locality, we have no employees and never have.
I do everything.
No, really, everything.
I build the showroom displays and furniture. I do all the electrical work (a word of caution, there, we own the building and local law permits it). I set up and maintain our four station computer network. I installed the video surveillance system. I built and maintain the sign outside the building. I fix the plumbing. I installed our digital business phone system. In other words, I hire nobody for anything unless I just HAVE TO. One exception was the roof. I hired a contractor to put on a new roof system because it was just to much for me to do.

So this long harangue has an important message: Be careful. Watch expenses. Stay within your abilities but don’t limit yourself too much. Don’t try to make a big splash when going into business, just do the best you can and depend on your clientelle to bring others to you.

Just a few of the lessons I’ve learned in many years on this planet.

Best regards and wishes for your success,

-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

View WIwoodworker's profile


65 posts in 3696 days

#16 posted 05-08-2009 02:26 PM

There are a couple schools of thought on this tip but I believe in being a shameless self promoter. Always carry business cards and never underestimate where a lead or a client will come from.

I was standing in line waiting to vote in the last Presidential election and struck up a conversation with a lady in front of me. Somehow the conversation got around to her remodeling projects at home and I asked if she was doing it herself. She said her brother was doing it because he was a woodworker. Wouldn’t you know it…I put a business card in her hands and started talking about wood. Her brother called because he wanted to see some wood but the remodeling project was all borg cabinets.

Rented a truck the other day to move a large amount of wood and the rental guy asked what I was moving. “I sell hardwood lumber and am on my way to pick up a load of difficult to find wood.” He thought that was cool but the guy waiting behind me asked what kind of wood? “Are you a woodworker?” I asked. “Yeah, when I have the time.” “Today I’m picking up 12/4 Curly Maple but I have a lot of figured woods in addition to the usual stuff.” Business card gets put in hand. “Do you have an email address? I’ll put you on my mailing list and send you a list of what I have and keep you posted on what I get in that way you know about the best stock first.” (hand guy a pen and a card to write it on). Happy guy, another wood junkie on my mailing list, and hopefully a new customer.

You’ll hand out a lot of cards but it’s about the cheapest and easiest way to find new leads and new customers. I never leave home without them.

-- Allen, Milwaukee, WI

View a1Jim's profile


117091 posts in 3576 days

#17 posted 05-08-2009 06:50 PM

Hey Debbie
There is a ton of good advise. I’ve been in business for myself close to 40 years and I think #1 don’t quit your day Job, If you don’t have one make sure you have resources that will sustain you for 6-8 months . If you can get your local newspaper to do an article about your and your business, some time it’s as easy as calling them an seeing if they need a story. #2 Keep your overhead as low as possible. Don’t make big purchases in anticipation of business pouring in your door unless you have a big deposit on a job and need equipment to compete the job. Remember woodworking’s are in every other garage and basement in most areas and they all want to do it for a living if they could.#3 Dazzle your customers with your product and service and always do what you say your going to do. This means your price even if you loose money and regarding Time always tell the customer much much longer than you think it will take. People are happy when it’s early and upset when its late, they remember both.#4 Remember you usually don’t attain success over night It takes years.
There’s an award winning woodworker who does some off the best museum quality work in the country and in spite of all that his business has not zoomed to the top with millions of orders for furniture. Because it takes time. #5 Be true to yourself, If what you want to do is make chairs then stick with that If you just want to make money and have your own business make anything that pays the bills. I have a friend that is a fantastic woodworker who has made some very high end furniture but when things got slow he started making wood stakes for construction and now he is making a good living making wood stakes. That’s going with the flow. But it’s not what his dream was. Each one of us have to determine what route we will take in life and business.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Boardman's profile


157 posts in 3760 days

#18 posted 05-08-2009 09:26 PM

Determine your niche and identify the market before you do anything. I’ve used remodeling work to pay the bills while my pure woodworking job percentage increases. Concentrate on a localized market wherein word of mouth is more likely to happen. Get something in a gallery – it’s a waste of time in terms of trying to actually sell things, but it’s great on your woodworking resume. Have patience.

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3743 days

#19 posted 05-09-2009 02:41 AM

Like Don said, if you have other services you can offer, to fill in the dead time, do it. I did a lot of chair cane repair for several years, until my business got to the point I wanted it. When I relocated from Maine to Texas, I had to do it again. It buys you good will in the process, since people will remember the work you did on Grandma’s old rocker, etc. I also think someone else said it, don’t go into debt to buy equipment, if you can buy it as you go. I’ve made do with a lot of garage sale equipment, until I could buy good stuff. Boardman said it, be patient. If you have a good product or service, people will find out about you.

View Pete_Jud's profile


424 posts in 3751 days

#20 posted 05-09-2009 03:54 AM

After more than 30 years as a network engineer the company was sold to a big international company and we were downsized. Being in the 50 + year bracket I started my own network consulting biz, but have been building my wood working biz via word of mouth and a green teck product on the web. I live in an area that is being hit hard by the building slowdown, but I have to turn down work all the time. I agree that you can never leave a customer unsatisfied, keep them happy and they will steer more customers to you. I do some woodworking consulting as well to a local mill that Is great at cutting wood but does not have people to design and complete custom orders, or build jigs. I also consult on wood shop safety. I use a local Fraternal Club to make most of my contacts, and a few of the patrons after learning that I am doing the “wood thing” are calling me up with free wood, work, and free machines.

Good luck

-- Life is to short to own an ugly boat.

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