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: Business advice  ( 425 )
byhammerandhand
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"By hammer and hand, all arts do stand."


« : May 02, 2017, 09:17:00 AM »

A friend of mine in town who used to be the editor of a woodworking magazine left there a few years ago, went into business for himself doing custom woodworking, publishing, writing, and teaching.    Today, he posted some advice in his blog.   I think it's appropriate for people here considering, as one other person, "telling the man to KMA" and leaving, starting your own business.  I know some of us here have done that.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    
Take My Advice, Iím Not Using It
by Lost Art Press

Three Tables
During my final year of teaching, I had three distressing encounters with teenagers in my classes and lectures. At the end of the event, the teens came up and said: ďI want to be you when I grow up.Ē And then they asked a terrifying question: ďHow do I get to where you are?Ē

I hate to give advice. But I also hate to be a jerk. And so I gave some after-school-special answer about working hard and never listening to adults.

The honest answer is: Become a hedge fund manager for five years, make more money than I will in a lifetime and ďretireĒ to building furniture for clients and writing about woodworking.

As we donít need more hedge fund managers, here is a list of things I have done right in my career (the list of things Iíve done wrong would fill a book and require multiple therapy sessions).

    Keep your day job. Donít quit your real job until you have paid off all your debts (I paid off my mortgage when I was 39) and have purchased all the equipment you need to get started. Build your business while you are working for the man. Yes, this requires multi-vitamins or amphetamines. I chose vitamins.

    Reject all overhead. Donít hire employees, buy/rent/lease a building or add any overhead until these things seem like pocket change. Even though I can afford an employee (or five), itís better to keep a business small and flexible. Plus, you didnít really quit your job to become a middle manager at your own business, did you?

    Embrace the Internet. If you arenít happy to share your struggle on Instagram, Twitter, SnapChat, blogs, forums and usenet (theyíre FREE), I think you are fighting without using your fists. These tools allow you to compete with huge businesses. All it takes is being clever and determined.

    Make friends. You cannot do this alone. Take other makers out to lunch and figure out how their businesses work. Because I have a network of woodworkers here in Northern Kentucky, I could live off referrals if I needed to (not that I really want to make 600 shutters for the county courthouse). Friends will keep you fed. And you should return that favor for other makers.

    Donít do one thing. Make sure you have multiple income sources. I make money from writing, building furniture and publishing other peopleís books. All of those hands wash each other. When one goes to pot, the other one can make up the difference.

    Live someplace cheap. This is huge. The Cincinnati area is dirt cheap but densely populated. Thatís perfect for what I do. I have the infrastructure I need (gigabit Internet, lumberyards, transportation, other makers) and access to the rest of the world, thanks to the Internet.

    Do it all yourself. Learn photography, website design, copywriting, CAD, QuickBooks and whatever else it takes to make your business work. Yes, you might hire others to do some of this stuff (someday), but you should be good enough at all these things that you can tell when you are getting cheated or are working with a slug.

    Keep your day job. If all the above points sound exhausting, then maybe your day job isnít so bad.

One more point: Iíd do exactly what I am doing even if there were no money in it. Iíd do it if no one read it. Iíd do it if no one bought it. Seriously, I canít not do it. I am obsessed and crazy (ask Lucy). And that, more than anything, is why we didnít eat ramen tonight.

-- Chris Schwarz

Keith

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." Thomas A. Edison
kodydog
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« #1 : May 02, 2017, 11:12:06 AM »

Where was this guy when I was first starting. Not that I would have listened. When I was 30 and just starting my business I thought I had it all figured out. "(the list of things Iíve done wrong would fill a book and require multiple therapy sessions)." True that, but it has been an interesting ride.

There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.
http://northfloridachair.com/index.html
SteveA
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« #2 : May 02, 2017, 12:27:53 PM »

Are you able to work for someone - I did that only long enough to feel confident enough to go on my own.
 Paid the bills and enjoyed always making my own hours -
Learned to work the business and run the business - would do it again but it's not for everyone. It's not easy at all.

Two of my Son's are civil servants - in their first year they exceeded my salary add to that their health care - 6 weeks vacation - pension - 20 year retirement - double time when they are asked to say -  or normally they are done at 4pm -  most days I'm at it until 8pm
SA



kodydog
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« #3 : May 03, 2017, 09:02:04 PM »

"Live someplace cheap" at face value this sound like a good idea, lord knows upholsterers don't make gobs of money. So I can see his point. If he has a product he can ship country wide he can live where ever he pleases.

I tried this and it didn't work. I lived in rural North Florida for 10 years and saw a steady decrease in work. People live in Suwannee county for  two reasons. Its beautiful there and its cheep. No high end furniture stores. No fancy decorators and no neighborhoods with half million dollar houses. If I wanted to upholster truck or tractor seats I could have stayed busy. But I'm a furniture guy and my product is too heavy and it costs too much to ship across the country. I can't even imagine what national type advertising would cost. I'm sure it could be done but sounds like a hassle.

My point is if you want to work for people who can afford you, you need to be close to where they are.

So we moved back to the city, well Gainesville anyway, and couldn't be happier.

Now to contradict myself. We're getting ready to ship a sofa to Wisconsin. But that's the decorators deal. We finished it 1-1/2 weeks ago and waiting for the trucking company. Sure would like to get it out of here.

 

There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.
http://northfloridachair.com/index.html
Mojo
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« #4 : May 05, 2017, 06:29:03 AM »

The business side of things was always easy for me. I was a consultant before I started this company. It was the upholstery industry that was hard for me. Learning to sew, learning fabrics, the machines, etc. etc.

I loved being a consultant in my earlier life and I will still consult to friends for free just to feed my passion. Some friends have come to me with business ideas. Some are great ideas and some are complete failures right from the start. The one thing that scares me these days about starting any business are the short cycles of products or services. Upholstery has been a constant  for centuries but other services not so much. The major problem is the ongoing advances in technology.

Lets say you discover an awesome product, build a business plan, open a company and take your niche product into the marketplace. You far exceed your sales goals and your product is flying out the door. You buy a bigger house, more expensive car and are living the good life. Then one day someone discovers a technological break through that makes your product obsolete. This happens on a daily basis all over the world. In many cases it is the advancement of machinery/technology that finds a way to make something much cheaper and with 25 % of the labor. Technology is advancing so fast that some product ideas are DOA before they get out of the conceptual stage.

My son owns an international technology company and he has a highly paid staff member who doe's nothing but study software and internet trends. This has allowed him to stay ahead of the trends and market changes and has helped his company survive for 15 years. His goal has always been to set the trends and keep his competitors scrambling.

I spend a great deal of time studying the RV Industry, looking for changes, checking out new ideas being released by the manufacturers, etc. Part of our success has been being able to stay on top of new trends and I have been blessed with being able to constantly create niches within niches. But I would be lying if I said it didn't take a a lot of work. Sometimes it is a major time suck. But finding ways to exploit your market creatively is the way to larger sales.

I love business strategy and marketing and grew up being mentored at the age of 14 by my Godfather who was a brilliant strategist and visionary business man. I admit I have a major passion for business it is all the other PITA things of dong business over the years that annoys me.

If I had to do life all over again I would have concentrated on being a start up spet. Develop the model, plan the strategies, design the marketing program, launch the business and then move on to the next project.

Chris
baileyuph
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« #5 : May 06, 2017, 08:41:15 AM »

A lot of overview here - what to do and what not to do.


Niches was mentioned and how important they can be to a small business.

Therefore, a focus on this idea could start with:

     What niche worked for you in the past but has played out?

      What niche is currently working and working pretty well?  Tell about this experience   
      as it, at a minimum would be interesting reading to most other small business people.
      For example, what is going on today with you that is working well......or just perhaps
      something else you have gotten into is working or has a potential out look?

Some examples might be; started a new kind of repair or even building a new product.
Perhaps you are doing a larger volume in a particular service?

These kinds of information are usually of interest to most business people, large or smaller.

Technology changes things and in our business we often are best to change with it.

I have seen some new products by manufactures are delivering now that are a bit differently made which is leading to new challenges for the the repair shops.  Just got a
Harley seat in that looks like it was pressed (the upholstery) into position on the foam and can't be removed.  Now, there is a request to recover the seat.  Analysis is undergoing about this, haven't concluded what would service the user with professional solution yet.  Meaning, surely don't want to make the expensive machine to look like a rat rod.

Just thought this would make interesting reading - something new in your business experience.  Hopefully we hear some interesting experiences, next?

Doyle   
Rich
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« #6 : June 13, 2017, 09:00:02 AM »

Good read on that blog.
Here's what I wish I'd known when I started in business many years ago:
Business (and all of life) is like a jigsaw puzzle and when I tried to fit the pieces by my own logic, they seemed to fit, but as time went on, I realized they really didn't make for a good picture. These days, I trust the one who has the box top with the picture.
He tells me where to put the pieces and I do it. So much better!
Oh, BTW, He made the puzzle too!
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!
Mojo
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I'm Always In Trouble


« #7 : June 14, 2017, 12:19:13 PM »

Doyle:

Being a product of the corporate world, specifically marketing, I can honestly say that in many industries things change constantly. Technology has made the changes occur much more often.
I have admitted to many here that if you brought me an automotive seat or a couch or chair I wouldn't have a clue as to where to start. I am the worlds worse pattern maker and the slowest stitcher. My entire adult life has been wrapped up in managing, working, developing and launching marketing programs, brands and products.

In our line of work we have to stay on top of new fabric and thread advancements not to mention all the various changes in our market. For instance, awning assemblies change yearly, different brands of coaches switch awning assembly manufacturers, parts become unavailable for older model assemblies, and on and on. I spend a lot of time keeping track of all the changes and then make changes to our operation to accommodate the new assemblies.

We have grown substantially in the last 5 years. Our overall market share is putting a hurt on some of our competitors. Our growth has been based on three factors - 1.) quality 2.) customer service 3.) technical assistance.

Anybody stitcher could make an awning fabric replacement but it takes years to gain the knowledge base on all the different assemblies and be proficient enough to talk customers through trouble shooting and installation over the phone. This is our niche and it is serving us well. Why ? Because the consumer is demanding more support and we make damn sure we deliver.

The niche market we serve has been a constant but the inner workings of that niche market changes all the time. This is why I devote so much time to keeping track of the changes in the RV industry and then sometimes anticipating future changes to keep the company on track.

I know nothing about furniture or the auto restoration end of our trade and I readily admit it. But I am going to guess that you and the others also have to devote time to researching new methods in your work to accommodate the changes that are here or coming from the manufacturers. I am going to assume that this is especially true with automotive work.

It is never a good idea to bury yourself so far in your current work that you lose focus of the future and opportunities that could be out there. This is why my wife and I make such an awesome team. She handles the day to day operations and I focus on tech support, marketing and exploring new markets we can penetrate.

I will leave you with this quote I recently gave to a customer of ours when he said " wow, you guys have been around a very long time ". I told him " Yup and we are just getting started ". I never rest on what we have and push for more. Constantly. Better quality, better materials, better tech support and more knowledge. Must be the Marine in me.

Speaking of which we had a motto that we used in the Corps whenever we were faced with a problem - Improvise, Adapt and Overcome. This is why the USMC has always been regarded as one of the fiercest fighting forces in the world. Enemies learn that we never die.......we just go to hell and regroup. :)

Chris

 
SteveA
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« #8 : June 14, 2017, 01:39:45 PM »

Many Thanks for your Service Chris -
SA
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