There’s nothing wrong with asking for help
November 9, 2023 | 4:48 pm CST
Matt Buell working in shop

Matt Buell of M. Buell Studio is the host of the #YoungWoodPro contest and lead coach for the people who make up the YoungWoodPro audience. 

No matter how good you are at woodworking or how good you are at running a business, it is inevitable that you will come across a time where you need help.

Running a business, especially a woodworking business, can be full of surprises and unexpected turns both good and bad. I’ve never met anybody who had all the answers and was able to fix every problem by themselves. Knowing when and why to ask for help is a skill as well. As a young woodworker, it is a skill you need. This month that is what we’re going to talk about.

Physical help
What kind of help do you need? What does that look like? There are many scenarios that can come up running a woodworking business that can require seeking assistance from someone else. The most obvious is the physical labor aspect. 

Physical bodies age, some jobs require finding an extra hand for handling the workpiece, and close deadlines on multiple work pieces can often leave you with not enough hands to get everything done on time (this one happens to me often).

This area of needing help is the most common initial thought for people with this conversation. It’s obvious if you’ve ever run a wood shop and at some point, most professionals experience this. I have experienced all these situations of needing physical help and could not have gotten it done without it. 

Connecting with help
I would suggest having a line to potential help even when things are slower and use that time for training I typically have at least one apprentice coming to the to the shop on a regular basis. At this moment, I don’t, and it is definitely making work getting out on time harder, and I’m not getting younger. 

I will be taking on a new one after I am currently caught up. For you young wood pros, I suggest getting out and about in the places you live, meeting people. Use the opportunity for recruiting apprentices for the future or someone you enjoy working with. Invite them to be around the shop and learn how to do some simple stuff so they can help you in a bind. Paying them for their time is also recommended or trading lessons for help.

Another great method for getting help is subcontracting. There will be times during jobs where you are trying to learn a method on the fly or quickly recognize the specific tasks in your process where you might lack mastery. 

That is OK and a normal experience for a growing young professional. Don’t let pride get the best of you, you can subcontract aspects of your work out to other trades people for certain tasks until you obtain mastery of it. You can subcontract shipping and delivery (I highly recommend this). 

Early in my career I subcontracted out finishing work several times. One of the main reasons was because in my early shops, I didn’t have the capabilities of a standalone finish room. I knew the product and its quality were compromised trying to finish it in my set up at the time, so I subcontracted several times to professional finishers. 

Eventually, I was able to solve that problem when building my current space by designing a standalone finish room, but I didn’t get to that place overnight. Subcontracting is a great way to make sure your product is getting out on time and of exceptional quality.

Do what you do best
As we discussed in many of my previous articles, there is a lot more to running a woodworking business than just the woodwork. If only it were that easy, my stress levels would be much lower. This brings me to my last area of asking for help when running a woodworking business.

It has been my experience that it’s hard to be great at many things. As an old friend of mine used to say “Shoemaker stick to thy last,” meaning focus on being great at one thing instead of being mediocre at many. I for one know that woodworking is the area I prefer to focus on trying to be great. 

That does not leave me a lot of time for media/marketing. However, it is important to have those facets of a business to gain clients and make money. This is a fantastic place to ask for help. There are plenty of marketing firms out there that you can seek consultation with and come to your own conclusions. 

There are also internships available from universities and all of us have an aspiring social media marketing friend who’s probably willing to help out with little stuff. Recently, I have decided to turn that area of my business over completely to my wife. It’s extremely difficult for me to keep improving at my craft and honor deadlines to clients if I’m playing around making videos for social media all day long. I make better profits when my hands are busy with tools and machines. 

That’s what works for me. What I’m suggesting to you is to look at the areas of your business where you know you do not excel, and if you can find help with those aspects, it will allow you to focus better on the work you are good at.

Talk with other professionals
Also, don’t forget you can always get perspective on what asking for help in a business looks like by talking with other professionals. They don’t have to be woodworkers, reading the biographies of other successful business people is a wonderful way to gain perspective on how to handle your own business.

Ask other professionals for suggestions with specific problems. Let their experience help you not suffer some of the things they did. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. As a matter of fact, you might be better for it, and your business definitely will be. 

Editor's note: #YoungWoodPro is a contest and an educational program sponsored by Grizzly Industrial to help novice professionals improve their skills in business and woodworking.

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About the author
Matt Buell | President/Owner/C-Level

Matt Buell of M. Buell Studio the host of the 2023 #YoungWoodPro contest and lead coach for the people who make up the YoungWoodPro audience. Buell has achieved national acclaim for his custom furniture and was honored as a member of the Woodworking Network 40 Under 40 Class of 2018.