In my last blog I mentioned an article I read in Inc. Magazine about a company that does not allow its employees to work more than 40 hours per week, and discussed why it's important for wood shop owners not to fall into the trap of equating long hours worked with a person’s dedication to their job, or thinking that the more you work the more successful your company will be.
During crazy busy times, there are several things an owner can do to prevent the shop from feeling like home, and their family from becoming complete strangers. Here are a few of the strategies we're implementing to create a better work/life balance for everyone at the shop.
First, outsource some area of your production. I have found that outsourcing our doors and drawer boxes is the easiest step to free up some much needed time.
Next, require mandatory overtime for your employees, whether it is an extra hour or two per weekday, or a partial Saturday. Just remember that your labor costs will be increasing and your employees love for their job will probably decrease. Before you go down this route, make sure you have a plan, and communicate that plan with your employees, so they understand that the work schedule is only a temporary answer, and not the new normal.
Finally, don’t forget that you can always increase lead times and/or increase prices. I have routinely increased lead times during our busy times, but I always make sure to explain that the increase is only temporary. On the other hand, the issue of raising prices in order to slow down growth has always been a difficult one for me to implement. I fear that a temporary increase in prices may scare away a new remodeler or interior designer for good, and they are the very type of client that we need to survive as a business.
Another option in the shop owners bag-of-trick is to become more specialized and focused, or in the very least, become more choosy regarding the projects you bring into the shop.
Sometimes, the surge in work doesn’t ever fall off, and is a sign of the new normal for the business. This is where we were three years ago, back when I was a single-man shop. We had a huge month of sales, and as a result, I hired my first employee. We grew steadily over the next year and, about 15 months after my first hire, I decided it was time to bring on a second employee, and my third employee joined us a year after that.
Remember that it is so easy for us as entrepreneurs to think that we can single-handedly, with sheer force of our will, get twice the work completed in half the time. When, in all actuality, all we are doing is racing towards a plate full of stress and sleepless nights. Spare yourself the headaches and focus on working smarter, not just harder.