Woodworking business programs?

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Forum topic by Dan Corbin posted 01-05-2013 01:27 AM 1331 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Dan Corbin

57 posts in 2125 days

01-05-2013 01:27 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Part of my New Year’s Resolution is to track all of my expenses, incomes, customers, orders, etc in a much more manageable fashion. I want to take the hours spent calculating up material costs, and turn it into hours spent making saw dust.

What I would like to do is to track each customer, what I make for them, how much I charged them, how much their materials cost, and maybe even some pictures of what I made them.

If you have a paper system that works for you, I would love to hear about it! If you have a computer program that you use that works well, I’ve been considering buying a Mac. If you know of an iPad app that works well for you, that would be ideal, because my iPad is my primary “computer”.

Thanks in Advance!

-- ~ Dan, North Carolina,

4 replies so far

View Dan Krager's profile

Dan Krager

3955 posts in 2197 days

#1 posted 01-05-2013 04:46 PM

Hello Dan.
A noble resolution for sure, and one I believe all woodworkers struggle with. The tracking tools of choice are as personal as anything can be and from what I’ve seen, no two are alike. Ill be happy to freely share what I use, but you might find it too cumbersome to start with. Here’s why. I use an “action based cost” (ABC) accounting method that I developed for myself primarily on spreadsheet. It can get very detailed, but what I’ve found is that the more discipline I apply to recording the detail, the better my estimates become. I’ve experienced accuracy of a $50 difference between estimate and actual on a $10,000 order, which is kinda rare. It’s at least predictable.
Here, in a nutshell, is how it works. Over time I have recorded the time it takes to do a process, like make a tenon joint. In a spreadsheet table I list all the processes with a production time and a setup time for each. This includes OH processes and each process is assigned an hourly value based on skill level. So shop clean up is rated as slave labor while estimating and design time are highly valued. In another table I list all the lumber prices by species. Anther table lists sheet good prices. I then use a multipage spreadsheet with sheets where I list all the processes to be used (some are automatic), all the lumber in finished sizes yielding BF to purchase including waste, number of sheets, etc. The result is summarized automatically on a cover sheet which presents the labor, material, and OH costs with a markup and a selling price. The detail sheets become cutting lists.
Like I said, the greatest weakness of this system is the discipline to keep recording the time detail. I use a shop log where I try to fill the detail at least twice a day before I forget what I did and how long it took. The motivation is greater accuracy, and the structure helps not to forget to charge for something that isn’t a direct cost. I then average in the new time factors quarterly, so as the system matures new ways of doing things updates the processes.
This could be adapted any way you have the skill and motivation to do so. There are lots of threads, here and on LinkedIn discussing this very question with opinions all over the place. I get a kick out of the loose style some admit to, as in sighting down the arm with thumb up and thumb to left…bingo! I have your price! I’m thinking the thumb sight is directed at the size of the buyers wallet! :)

-- Dan Krager, Olney IL One should always prefer the probable impossible to the improbable possible.

View Don W's profile

Don W

18685 posts in 2531 days

#2 posted 01-05-2013 05:22 PM

A good move Dan. The information you didn’t add was how much paperwork are we talking about? Is it 12 customers a year or 12,000.

A smaller operation could be handled with a spreadsheet. There are lots of templates on the net. If its more involved there are lots of apps available for almost any price range.

Also if you use an outside accountant get their opinions to. Something you can just turn over to them will save you time and money on that end.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View SalvageCraft's profile


274 posts in 2489 days

#3 posted 01-05-2013 07:06 PM

I use a spreadsheet to track expenses and job types so that I have a rough idea how much money goes where. When I do an estimate I just kind of add things up loosely between materials costs and estimate labor on things like how many trips to estimate, design, close the deal, build (broken down into number of actions like mortises, rips, glue ups…), finish and install… I pretty much have an idea of how long things will take and I add on 20% or so to everything for error or defective stock, etc.
That said, I really like the sound of Dan Krager’s system. There’s definitely times when my loose estimating bites me right in the butt!

-- Jesse --

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18244 posts in 3639 days

#4 posted 01-06-2013 01:51 AM

I have never like canned programs by others. I just use Excel spreadsheets to do it all for my business. Once you now ow to use it, you can sort all the data any way you need to.

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

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