When I travel to visit woodworking companies, I’m often asked, “How do we compare with other companies you’ve seen?”

That’s often a difficult judgment to make. Here are some of my own general observations from visiting many successful companies. Keep in mind that over the past 12 years I’ve visited mostly medium-sized and larger companies, while Will Sampson has visited many smaller shops.

Some of these observations have to be modified in the current recession. It’s harder to say no to work and some companies have had to be more flexible.

Successful companies…

1. Stay focused and know what they do well

2. Say no to some jobs if they don’t fit.

3. Get by with fewer employees.

4. Treat employees well, offering good pay and benefits

5. Emphasize training, both in new technology and employee development.

6. Have a core group of key people that have been with the company a long time

7. Use lean manufacturing techniques if possible. Companies are not afraid to redo the shop layout or manufacturing flow if efficiency can be increased.

8. Identify a need and match software to that need before purchasing.

9. Recognize when new technology can pay off, and are not afraid to make the jump to an advanced but unfamiliar technology.

10. Have upgraded their finishing capability.

11. Have little or no inventory. (Although recently we’ve seen more inventory creep back into some shops.)

12. Have some knowledge of competitors, as well as their strengths and weaknesses.

Comments anyone? What are some of the habits of successful companies that you’ve seen?

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.