For the most part, I've rarely hesitated to ask for help when I need it. I guess the only time I've held back is when I've perceived that someone would think me stupid for asking. Even then, I bite the bullet and ask. Better to ask and get the correct answer than to guess and make all kinds of mistakes, based on that guess.

Today it's even harder for people to ask for help. It seems like everything anyone could possibly need to know is available via the Internet. But the Web can give you the wrong information, because what you get depends on your question. Ask the wrong question and you could be sent to a maze of sites that really has nothing to do with what you need to know.

Find it

How do you find what you need? The first step in your information hunt should be your local distributor. No longer is the distributor just a half-way point from the supplier to the cabinet shop. Most distributors are working very hard to keep on top of the hottest trends, like the green movement, and are trying to find fast and easy ways to get the information to you.

In this issue and on CabinetMaker's Web site,  www.cabinetmakeronline.com, you'll find a number of stories about CIDA, an organization that is part of the NBMDA and is composed of a number of distributor and suppliers. It's a lot of initials that may put folks off, but the association is a group that's there to help woodworkers of all kinds with information about products and trends in the industry.

For most distributors it's not just about selling you something. Instead, it's about coming up with solutions for the problems you're having getting a job done or finding out how to use a new product that you think is exactly what you've been looking for.

Hands-on or face-to-face

If you're anything like my husband and many woodworkers, you're a hands-on kind of person. You're very tactile and learn best by experimenting with products, seeing how they're attached, how they move.

Greg Rewers, vice president of marketing for Louis and Company, a distributor in California, says that they took that hands-on learning into consideration when trying to decide how best to help their customers. The result is a showroom, located in Colorado for hardware and other items that can help add value to any shop's projects. It's a place where woodworkers can go and open drawers and doors and see a number of product options out there and learn exactly how they work. The company also recently opened a technology showroom where cabinet shops on the West Coast can try software and machines to see if it fits what they're looking for.

Another way distributors and suppliers have found to help you is with seminars and workshops, opportunities for you to see a demonstration of a product, learn how to handle it and ask lots of questions. These seminars/workshops are sometimes held at trade shows and sometimes at the distributors' facilities.

Finally, you need to ask your sales reps for help. Rewers says that most sales reps love it when customers ask for help. It gives them a chance to show what they know or to dig deeper to find exactly what you need. So give them a chance. What have you got to lose? You may in fact find an answer that will save you time and money.

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