Tom Moriarty, owner of Euro Tech Designs in Plainfield, Ill., wanted to make his shop more manageable and more profitable. Tired of doing it all alone, he wanted to reduce the financial headaches that owning a business entail, but he didn't want to work for someone else. The answer partner up with another shop.

Moriarty had lots of options to consider, from downsizing to bringing in financial investors. What he decided was to join forces with two individuals, Mike Sramek and Jim Bator. The three were already partners in a company called Doors and Drawers Inc. that had been developed to deal with door and drawer outsourcing delays that ETD was experiencing.

Despite the door shop startup, ETD continued to grow, needing more space, employees and machinery. ETD builds high-end cabinetry, specializing in kitchens, and sells primarily to the retail market.

Taking it to the next level

"We were limited in the capacity to how much our bank was going to loan us and how far we were going to take the company to the next level," says Moriarty. The best option was to combine the businesses a move that would benefit all the principals.

"Having a partner is like having a wife," says Moriarty. It involves hard work, compromise and trust.

At the time the partnership began Jim Bator was a contractor building new homes. He now runs Euro Tech Installations and handles all the renovation and installation work for ETD, but he does it as a separate entity. Bator acts as a silent partner in ETD. Cabinets and countertops are done as one contract, and installation and remodeling are done as another.

Division of duties

Although the partnership is working well, it took time for everyone to become comfortable with the changes.

"That was a tough decision up front and the first year was extremely difficult making the adjustment, knowing that I'm not the only decisionmaker anymore," says Moriarty. "After the adjustment period, it became a blessing."

Sramek also saw the advantages to the move, although there were some down sides to it as well. Before combining forces, Sramek had run the door shop by himself and says he didn't have the aggravation of dealing with the finished product that he now has. There's also a lot more responsibility required in his new role as production head for the entire operation.

Moriarty concentrates on design and sales and works in the shop only as a problem solver. When he started in the cabinet business he says that he was passionate about woodworking and loved that end of it. "If somebody had told me I'd be sitting behind the computer doing the business end of this, that this was my final destination, then I would have never gotten into it," says Moriarty.

Everything starts with the design. A job begins with a visit to the homeowners' house to discuss their ideas, cabinet style and the extent of the remodeling project. Digital photos are taken and everything is brought back to the design team to evaluate. The design team discusses the layout, the cost of the countertop materials and cabinetry and the scope of the remodeling project.

A call is made to the customer with a price range, and if the job is within their budget, a design retainer of between $1,500 and $3,000 is required. If the customers decide to go with the plan, that money is applied to the job. If the customers opt out, the designs are theirs.

The job starts with a conceptual design done in KCDw software. The customer gets multiple photo-realistic views of the design. "They're incredible," says Moriarty. "We couldn't do it without our design software. This goes a thousand times faster. Where it's really faster is changes."

Building cabinets

After final measurements are made, the job is turned into production. Computer drawings as well as cut lists are given to seven departments: face-frames, doors, parts cutting, assemblers, sanders, sprayers and hardware.

Cabinet interiors are constructed with 3/4-inch UV-coated maple plywood. Face frames are constructed with pocket-holes, glue and screws. Drawer boxes are solid maple with full-extension Blumotion glides. Doors, which are built by ETD, are attached with Blum 125+ hinges.

All the legs are outsourced from Timberwolf, while feet and decorative elements are outsourced from either Outwater or Enkebol. The shop has used Timberwolf legs for years and is very happy with the product. "We've ordered thousands of legs and I don't believe we've ever had a problem," says Sramek.

"Timberwolf is an awesome company," says Moriarty. "Their service is outstanding."

Cabinet parts are cut on one of two Delta saws, while edgebanding is done with a Holz-Her edgebander. Doors are built using a Unique door machine, an Omga miter saw with digital fence and a JLT door clamp machine.

Finishing is done in a Binks spray booth. The shop has a Sherwin-Williams mixing station to precisely match paint and stain color. "Mixing up stain and creating colors is an art, not a science," says Moriarty.

Eliminating error

Every department gets a separate set of prints and, to help eliminate errors, it's everybody's responsibility to check that the prior department's work was done correctly and completely. Everybody has to sign off on the documents that go through the shop.

"Accountability is key," says Moriarty.

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