It's all about business
October 14, 2009 | 7:00 pm CDT

We often profile shops, telling the story of how they've grown from humble beginnings to current success. But frequently those stories seem to tell the tale of inanimate objects.

We write about new machines and tools, new buildings, more shop space, a bigger showroom, burgeoning sales, changing techniques or processes. Talking about the people, it's too often a numbers game of how many employees were added or dropped over how long.

In tracking the growth of any business, it's too easy to lose sight of the growth of the people behind the business. This month's cover story looks at a shop that way, exploring the personal growth of the owner.

When Brad Phelps started making money with woodworking, he was like so many other young men who happened to find he could make money doing something he liked to do. But he also discovered that making things and making money are not necessarily the same thing.

I've talked to hundreds perhaps thousands of woodworkers over the years who identify with this scenario. Unfortunately, too many of them never get past the starving artist stage and resign themselves to what is little more than subsistence living. A few, like Phelps, discover they can still maintain high standards of quality and craftsmanship without sacrificing livelihood. They find they can run their businesses and make time for family and a life outside of the business.

For those who are still struggling with 60-hour (or more) weeks and finances on par with minimum wage, I urge you to read Phelps' story and think about it.

Think how you can maintain high standards as an employer, a craftsman and a businessman while at the same time better managing your most valuable resource, your time.

Think about what you can do differently. Think about what maybe you shouldn't be doing yourself.

Think about what projects your business maybe shouldn't do at all.

And then think what you could do with more time off and more time with your family, let alone a higher profit margin. Learn the craft of business as well as woodworking.

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

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About the author
William Sampson

William Sampson is a lifelong woodworker, and he has been an advocate for small-scale entrepreneurs and lean manufacturing since the 1980s. He was the editor of Fine Woodworking magazine in the early 1990s and founded WoodshopBusiness magazine, which he eventually sold and merged with CabinetMaker magazine. He helped found the Cabinet Makers Association in 1998 and was its first executive director. Today, as editorial director of Woodworking Network and FDMC magazine he has more than 20 years experience covering the professional woodworking industry. His popular "In the Shop" tool reviews and videos appear monthly in FDMC.