Always Something New
Precision Cabinets grows by constantly seeking new markets.
By Anthony Noel
Edward Annelli talks a lot about goals. Short-term goals, long-term goals, project goals, marketing goals, you name it. For example:
“We hope to double our gross revenue in the next two to three years.”
Sounds pretty ambitious, and it is — but not pie-in-the-sky, especially when you consider that Annelli’s company, Precision Cabinets in Worcester, PA, has increased revenues by 40 percent in each of the last two years.
There is a confident tone in the 34-year-old’s voice, and if that isn’t enough to convince you that Annelli can meet his goal, his determination to find unique, lucrative niche markets should be.
When CWB visited Precision’s 8,000-square-foot facility, Annelli talked enthusiastically about untapped markets ranging from yacht interiors to custom closets, from children’s furniture to Murphy beds — and his perspective on each was unique.
“We recently did a $38,000 project for master bedroom closets in a multi-million-dollar house. I think with the custom builders around here, with the lower-price range homes, the $1- to $2-million-dollar range, they might not want to spend $38,000 on a master-walk-in closet. But then again, they don’t want to put junk stuff in there, either,” Annelli explains.
“I am trying now to come up with a mid-range of closet items that can be built effectively [in the shop] and then brought out and installed. Maybe it will be modular stuff, maybe it will be some kind of knock-down stuff,” says Annelli, still deciding.
If you are wondering where $1- to $2-million homes are considered “lower-price range,” it is important to remember that Annelli is talking about the custom market in his area. Precision serves a three-county area which comprises the northern and western Pennsylvania suburbs of Philadelphia.
Annelli started his woodworking career in the same area right out of high school, framing houses for a custom building firm. His company still does work for that builder today.
“As I progressed through the ranks, I picked up on things very quickly. They became so easy to me that I got bored with them, and I kept trying to go into areas that would challenge me,” Annelli says.
Eventually, he was running the building firm’s carpentry operation. But, he says, “[I felt like] I turned a bunch of stuff around for their benefit, but didn’t see much for me. So I said, ‘Why not do it myself?’”
He let his many contacts know his intentions, and Edward J. Annelli Construction was born. He worked primarily as a trim subcontractor in “production” houses and soon won contracts for finish work in custom homes.
“Then it went into, ‘Hey, can you build this cabinet? We can’t get it done in time from this other guy,’ and that is really how the ball started rolling [for Precision Cabinets,]” he says.
Millwork-Cabinet Combo a Winner
As for the shop itself, “We started out with the usual equipment — table saws, planer, jointer,” Annelli says, “and added larger machines as our needs demanded.”
One of Precision’s first production pieces was a Gannomat 42 line-boring machine, which Annelli says was a key purchase. It was soon followed by a used Holz-Her 1403 edgebander. More recent additions have included a Holz-Her Sprint 1310-1 CNC bander with buffing, scraping and profiling stations; a Robland 2-320 sliding table saw, and a Holz-Her 1265 Super-Cut vertical panel saw.
Precision Cabinets uses on Cabinet Vision software for project drawings and cutlists, and Annelli admits he has begun thinking about a CNC router.
Foreman Jim Dimpter keeps things running smoothly in the shop, and Annelli says that having a reliable leader has made a world of difference, while also presenting challenges. For example, when he is on the shop floor, Annelli says, employees sometimes approach him with questions Dimpter is the more appropriate person to answer.
“I really prefer to leave the decision-making to Jim when it comes to project details,” Annelli says. “When Jim has a question about a specific detail, I’ll get involved. But other than that, I have enough to do.”
“Enough to do” includes sales, project management, invoicing, estimating and related duties. Annelli seems to be the ideal salesman, or at least to have the ideal attitude when it comes to sales.
“I like to take a lot of pictures of my work to appointments, and I always try to meet with the wife [for residential projects],” he admits. “That way, I can get her excited about all our abilities, and that usually leads to more than just the project they originally called about.”
Annelli says he is also careful to pre-qualify potential customers on the phone, thereby minimizing time wasted on in-person meetings which don’t lead to contracts.
Another key to the company’s success came one year ago, Annelli says, when Ellace Conner signed on as office manager to handle personnel, payroll and insurance issues. Though much of Connor’s experience was with a much larger firm (300 people larger), his expertise has proved invaluable in areas in which Annelli is neither experienced nor inclined to participate.
“We never really needed an employee handbook, for example, until recently” Annelli says, “and having Ed around allows me to focus on what I need to, knowing he’s taking care of that.”
Five-Year Plan Includes More Diversification
“That is the next area we are moving into, and that is going to start in about a month’s time,” Annelli says, citing contacts with two nearby companies and two “mega-yacht builders” in Florida.
He is also thinking about offering mantles and fireplace surrounds online, direct to consumers, as well as offering a line of children’s furniture through a local design center.
But perhaps the best illustration of Annelli’s wide-ranging approach to marketing is his thinking on Murphy beds, those fold-down units which have always been such a staple of slapstick comedy routines.
“There is a really big market for them in South Carolina,” he says, especially in resort areas. He is very interested in increasing the relatively small market that presently exists closer to home.
No matter how successful any one of his marketing pursuits may become, it’s clear that Annelli and Precision Cabinets has what may be the most important quality for achieving long-term success: The willingness and determination to find and develop new markets while continuing to serve those which have already proved profitable.
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