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: Tracking daily activity (for sole operators only)  ( 3654 )
Rich
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« : August 14, 2012, 07:53:54 PM »

I operate my business mostly myself. Of course, I couldn't do it without the help of my wife who keeps the office in order (and a million other tasks) part time. But, all of the productive work, you know, the stuff customers will actually pay for, is done by me. I don't get off the hook for much of the related stuff, however, since I still have to make phone calls, write up quotes on the more intricate jobs, talk to customers both in person and over the phone, reply to emails etc. So, recently, I decided to do something I hadn't done in many years, which is to keep a log on everything I do during each business day. Last time I did it, I found that for a 50 hour week, I was running a bit less than 50% in actual productive work. Let me explain that term. I define productive work as those hours which are directly billable to my customer. That means time I spend talking to a prospective customer is not productive. Time spent writing up a quote for that customer is not productive and time spent placing an order for materials for his job is not productive. Only the time spent actually doing the job is productive and it is what he gets billed for. Of course, the billed time has to take all the other time into consideration, but that's another discussion. 
This time, I find I'm actually spending a little more time doing the unproductive stuff, but what amazes me is that I find it difficult to get more productive hours in since the related administrative time multiplies right along with it. There seems to be a limit to how much of my day I can actually call "productive".
Has anyone who does most or all of the work had a similar experience? Of course you just about have to record your time for a few weeks to see how it all pans out and that's not the most fun job I can think of, but fortunately, after a month I can stop. In the meantime, what an eye opener!
Rich

Everything's getting so expensive these days, doesn't anything ever stay at the same price? Well the price for reupholstery hasn't changed much in years!
byhammerandhand
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« #1 : August 14, 2012, 08:30:39 PM »

Never logged the time, but yes, I figure 5 hours of billable time a day is a good day.   I made my last phone call at 9 pm, answered a couple of e-mails after that.   I did have dinner (during which I reconciled my EFTs for the last month).  Worked on and sent an estimate out after dinner  Then went for a short walk (no business time there). 

I get a little P.O.d with my whiny niece (an elementary school teacher) when she breaks into her usual complaints.  Now she hates August because in a few weeks, she'll be back in the classroom.  Of course, she has to work a few days to prep for the new year and decorate her room.   Dig out the syllabus she's used for the last 8 years and get ready to teach from 9 to 3:45 each day.  And she'll have to wait until she's 52 to retire!  A short stretch to Labor Day.  Then Columbus Day, in-service day, 3 days at Thanksgiving and two weeks at Christmas, MLK day, Presidnets' day, need I go on?  And pay neatly calculated by number of years in the chair and number of credits at college.

Keith

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." Thomas A. Edison
sofadoc
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« #2 : August 14, 2012, 08:32:24 PM »

So you're saying that about 50% of your time is actually billable? I'm not so sure that's a bad number. Might even be the norm for our type of work.

The only thing that I've done to raise my productivity, is use a helper more to do the stripping, and other menial tasks, so I can spend more time sitting behind my sewing machine. That way, I can be productive and rest at the same time.
In a perfect world, I would have a qualified "tacker".

"Perfection is the greatest enemy of profitability" - Mark Cuban
kodydog
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« #3 : August 15, 2012, 07:46:58 AM »

Like Rich, I work with my wife. Couldn't do it without her. She does all the bookkeeping, estimates, and most of the sewing. To say your wife works for free is a matter of bookkeeping. My wife likes to pay me a little more than herself. A feel good thing. But in the end it all goes into the same pot.

About a year ago we started keeping time sheets on the labor part of the work. And we discovered some jobs, like wing chairs, were under bid by a couple hours. I like your idea of tracking the "non-productive" work to help figure your overhead. We currently charge about $5 and hour for overhead but that doesn't include bookkeeping and i can see changing that after implementing your system.

Like Sofa we hired a young man to help in the shop. After six months he is making us money. We recently billed two days for him to strip a roomful of furniture. He did it in one day. Hes good and this week we gave him a $.50 raise. I don't mind paying someone who works hard and makes me money.

I now work 36 hours a week for a guy in Gainesville. He owns a big building with a fabric showroom in the front and a workroom in the back. He has 4 people working up front and 4 working in the back. Does this 50/50 mix sound about right? Very busy business. His wife works with him, I guess for "free".
« : August 15, 2012, 07:49:32 AM kodydog »

There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.
http://northfloridachair.com/index.html
Mojo
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« #4 : August 24, 2012, 10:28:25 AM »

I am like a lot of you. I am a one man shop. I pretty much do everything but I do get help from my wife when I have large canvas jobs. She also helps me with the finances.

I have never calculated or kept track of my production/non production time. To be honest it would probably depress me to find out and cause me alot of sleepless nights trying to figure out how to bill more hours. :)

Because most of you guys and gals have such large variables with your work I am sure your charges are all over the map. Fabric, furniture designs, buttons, etc, etc. all play a part in your work. With me I am sewing a flat piece of canvas and that is it. No buttons tufting, no zippers, no windows, etc. The only variables I ever get is when I am doing a certain type of slide topper/awning called an Omega. Those are very involved and require a lot more work but I have my costs and time nailed down on those.

I still know exactly how much each product I make costs, right down to the dollar. I have kept a very close handle on my costs ( materials and labor ) and I have a prescribed profit margin I work from.

Chris
Rich
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« #5 : August 24, 2012, 08:45:24 PM »

So Chris, do you know how many of those you can do in a week?
Rich

Everything's getting so expensive these days, doesn't anything ever stay at the same price? Well the price for reupholstery hasn't changed much in years!
baileyuph
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« #6 : August 26, 2012, 07:57:31 AM »

Yes, it takes time to do the sales, the phone, and what other conversation comes up with the market.

While we are on this subject, a related factor is:

Is COM a favor or a loss for the small custom furniture shop?

So, the specific issue here is, if a shop sells the fabric they use, are the profits in fabric sales sufficient to justify the time required?

I am both sides of this issue; let me explain, on smaller jobs it adds efficiency, no time lost in selling (usually).

Then, some of the COM materials are poor quality and even drapery fabrics to be used for upholstering and they do slow the process down.

Any how, Rich;  yes, a lot of time goes to miscellaneous activities (not billable).

My experience is, when that gets close to 50%, something has to change.  There literally isn't enough markup in our industry to support that kind of inefficiency.

Doyle
Rich
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« #7 : August 26, 2012, 08:03:00 PM »

Quote
My experience is, when that gets close to 50%, something has to change.  There literally isn't enough markup in our industry to support that kind of inefficiency.

Doyle, I think you are probably right about that. I think in my case a lot has to do with my state of mind. For example, some days, I am out doing installations and I have no distractions. Now that is certainly a help, but the state of mind factor comes into play when I realize that I am able to crank out sometimes 6 or more hours per day when doing those on-site jobs versus maybe only 3 hours when in my shop. I think the reason for that is that my main goal is to get THAT job completed, clean up and leave so I don't have to travel back there. Back at the shop, I don't have the pressure. If it doesn't get done today, there really isn't a problem to finish it the next day. Except there is a problem, b/c I can't start another job first thing the next day.
I just don't have nearly as much of a deadline so if I remember to make a phone call or check my emails etc, I can do it.
I think I may have to resort to some sort of  mental trickery!
Rich


Everything's getting so expensive these days, doesn't anything ever stay at the same price? Well the price for reupholstery hasn't changed much in years!
sofadoc
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« #8 : August 26, 2012, 08:25:14 PM »

[I think the reason for that is that my main goal is to get THAT job completed, clean up and leave so I don't have to travel back there. Back at the shop, I don't have the pressure. If it doesn't get done today, there really isn't a problem to finish it the next day.
There's no doubt that we work much more efficiently on-site than we do in-shop. Some of the best money I've made is doing churches and restaurants, simply because I don't mess around. If I could keep the same work ethic in the shop as I do on an on-site job, I'd already be retired by now! :)

"Perfection is the greatest enemy of profitability" - Mark Cuban
Mojo
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« #9 : August 27, 2012, 07:19:02 AM »

Rich:

I can knock out 2 full orders a day if I really bust my butt. Otherwise I typically do one full order which is four slide toppers in a day. This is especially true when I am on chemo. I do not have the stamina to do much more then that.

With my rates and the time it takes me to complete a full order ( after materials ) I am around 100 - 135 per hour. If you want to take into account administrative work ( answering/making phone calls, answering e-mails, billing through Paypal and taking the order to UPS and shipping it, etc. ) then I am probably down to around 80 - 90 per hour. That would be my Net profit.

I am billing approximately $ 800 per day gross. Last winter I was swamped and was billing
$ 1,600 per day about 6 days a week. I do not know what I am currently billing for the week but things are somewhat slow so if averaged out it would be less then $ 800 per day. I expect things to get busy again this fall and I will be back to 5 and 6 days a week of constant sewing.

If I am sewing I am making money and if I am making money I am a happy camper. :)

Chris

JuneC
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« #10 : August 27, 2012, 10:51:17 AM »

Chris, I think many of us would trade bottom lines with you any day of the week  ;D  I think your investment into building your business and reputation is paying off, but I also think your business model is absolutely key to your profitability.  In marine canvas and upholstery, I've also worked at building a reputation, but I could only very seldom match your profitability on any given day.  There are just too many hours selling, analyzing, patterning, sewing, fitting, etc.  You've found a product you can produce without on-site work, and without having to explain every nuance to the on-looking owner as you install.  The ability to create something that is consistently high-quality for sale via the Internet is far more profitable than anything I do.  The sameness of what you produce would bore me to death but those trips to the bank would be a LOT more fun. 

As for the subject of this thread, I don't track because it would be too depressing  ???

June

"Horse sense is the thing a horse has which keeps it from betting on people."

     W. C. Fields
Mojo
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« #11 : August 27, 2012, 11:56:16 AM »

I used to hate doing solar screen installs. It drove me bat sh** crazy and was so stressful. Nothing like having the owner of a 1/2 million dollar coach staring down your backside while you drilled holes into his " baby". I do very few solar screens anymore and no longer do installs.

Yes the product I put out is perfect for my situation. Very quick to produce and easy to make. I get the orders via e-mail, make them, bill my customers via Paypal and then ship them out via UPS. I send them out all over the USA so I never get to meet my customers. Some of them I never even talk to on the phone as all communication is via e-mail. It works out perfect for my situation.

If I was out in this heat climbing all over boats like you and Mike they would have planted me a long time ago. :) I have a ton of respect for you marine fabricators.

Chris
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« #12 : September 12, 2012, 04:29:32 AM »

There is absolutely no doubt that people work additional efficiently on-site when compared with we complete in-shop. The best money We have made is performing churches as well as restaurants, for the reason that I don't mess around. If I could truthfully keep the same work ethic inside the shop when i do when using on-site task, I'd previously be retired nowadays!

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