Lately, I've been discussing a little bit about the history of J. Alexandar Fine Woodworking. Last week I talked about managing the business through the ebbs and flows of the market. After making it through the challenging summer of 2011, which really began to define the business, that following winter, my brother also joined the crew, since the retail business he purchased the prior year is a seasonal one, and I was able to keep all three of us busy and paid. This showed me that we were cresting yet another volume milestone.
I was still making cold calls pulled from building permits, and it was around this time, February of 2012 to be exact, that I made contact with a small remodeling company, whom just happened to be looking for a new cabinet company. We worked together on a job that spring, and they quickly rose to be my top account, both in terms of dollars and volume of work.
Due to that new account, and what seemed like an explosion in the demand for furniture and cabinetry from all corners, we were, once again, drowning in work. It also didn’t help that my brother left to open up his business for the season, so all of a sudden we were down one man. I held out replacing him for a while, wanting to make sure that we were not just experiencing a small surge of activity that would all of a sudden die out. That turned out not to be the case, and in the summer of last year, 2012, I hired my second employee. I decided to hire an experienced woodworker with installation experience because I needed a guy that could hit the ground running, and I was quickly developing a distaste for installs because they took me out of the shop for a day or two at a time, which did no good for my workload in the office.
The end of last year was another one of those seasons of learning things the hard way. It seemed like, no matter what, we could never get ahead. Sales continued to increase, not just from one or two accounts, but from everywhere! I was also becoming my own worst enemy. Due to my optimistic nature and crazy work ethic, I was over promising what we could deliver. This lead to me working 12 hour days, 7 days a week, from October through December of last year. I was revisiting the summer of 2011, but this time the volume of work had increased, and so had my stress levels!
I was re-learning the same lesson from 2011, which was that I was responsible for creating the business life that I wanted. As a result, I have done a much better job realistically scheduling jobs, as well as charging extra for a rushed job. Just because you can complete a job in half the time, doesn’t mean you should for the same price.
My brother was once again with us for the winter of 2012/2013, and I was able to keep him employed full-time, which raised our head count to 4 personnel for J. Alexander. That brings us to the present, which is to say my brother went back to open his business for the season, and I am contemplating hiring my third full-time employee.