In the woodworking business it is very necessary to be goal oriented. From completing the bid, processing the handoff and preparing shop drawings and submittals, all the way through production, installation and project close-out, it is all about getting the next task complete. Usually there is a tight deadline and more tasks to do than there are hours to do them in, so we move forward quickly, rushing to the next project.

It is easy to be so focused on working hard to get the next thing off the to-do list that days and even years fly by before we know it. And we tell ourselves - once I get this task, phase of work, project or number of projects done, then I am going to spend more time with my family or finally take that promised vacation. But somehow the urgency hardly ever goes away in this business, the schedule must be met.

We need to realize that in life, it's not about when we arrive, but it's about enjoying the route. It is about taking a personal interest in those you work with and by really getting to know your customers-- learning what makes them tick and where their personal interests lie. People notice when you are enjoying what you do and when you genuinely enjoy interacting with them. They are attracted to people and companies who really do care about them as people, not just a notch on their list of accomplishments.

It is so easy to stay focused on getting the next thing done that we can miss the enjoyable things that surround us. We can also miss job opportunities that may be right in front of us because in our focus on hunting for the next job we forget to ask where our current customer is going next.

We need to learn to play a little - play with the kids, take your customers to the ball game, arrange a cookout and invite architects and general contractors. Celebrate milestones with your employees. Take the weekend off. You will differentiate your company and make it a place that people will want to do business with and where people will want to work because you make it more enjoyable and even make it fun to do business with you.

Will this principle actually work in the hard nose world of business? Just think of companies like Southwest Airlines who have applied the idea of injecting fun into customer interaction and have seen the result of nothing but annual profits - you bet it works!

The old adage that we need to learn to smell the roses is much more than an old cliche. To differentiate ourselves and our businesses we need to start paying close attention to our surroundings. Today is here and tomorrow will always remain a day away. Life should be about the experiences we are blessed with on a day-to-day basis.

We should learn to enjoy what is set before us to accomplish each and every one of these days. Let your inner artist come out and return to the appreciation for woodworking that got you into this industry in the first place. Be creative, even with the pressures life affords and as one of our industry friend posts at the end of each of his e-mails, "Life is short, eat your desert first." That sounds good to me - how about you?


Michael Bell is a 38-year veteran of the woodworking industry. He was deeply involved in the two-year project of melding the AWI/AWMAC Quality Standards Illustrated with the WI Manual of Millwork which resulted in the new Architectural Woodwork Standards. In addition to his work for AWI, he serves as a Woodwork Inspector for the American Arbitration Association. Bell studied Design at Southern Illinois University in the early 1970s under the noted futurist R. Buckminster Fuller. He has conducted numerous seminars for national and regional CSI and AIA meetings on the subject of specifying architectural woodwork and on the Architectural Woodwork Standards. He is also a member of the AWI Speakers Bureau and presents AWI Advanced Estimating Seminars. Bell is Director of Estimating with Allegheny Millwork & Lumber of Lawrence, Pa.

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