A Love Letter To My Woodshop Employees
Jared Patchin at work at J. Alexander Fine Woodworking, Boise, ID.

 I just hired my fourth employee a month ago. When I made the decision over four years ago to cease being a single-man operation and enter the world of being an employer and boss, I would not have guessed that my business could ever grow to the size that it is today.

Every once in a while, in the quiet of the morning before the day’s excitement has begun, or once the dust has settled after a busy day, I will stop and think about how much has changed over the past 7 years…how many amazing projects have been created…how many stressful moments have been shared…how many mistakes have been fixed…how many bowed walls and crooked floors have been cried over! I am constantly reminded of the fact that I have such a great group of guys working for me, and how much of our success is directly attributable to their hard work and dedication!

The sentiment of many employers is to lament the fact that they need employees, and that they are some kind of necessary evil

I feel like the sentiment of many employers is to lament the fact that they need employees, and that they are some kind of necessary evil when it comes to owning and running a business. That they would, if it was possible, completely automate their production line in order to circumvent the need for employees altogether.

I understand this view point entirely, but I see it a bit differently. Employees are human, and as such, bring with them all the messiness that makes them human…mistakes, attitudes, personal lives, etc. Yet, they also bring with them things that only humans can bring…conversation, attitudes, jokes, comradery. Machines are great. They make our jobs simpler, quicker, and easier, but employees add meaning and joy to our professional lives.

We joke and tease each other constantly (puns are a never ending fact of life at the shop), go to lunch together on a regular basis, get together for a BBQ and a movie as often as possible, and otherwise see each other as friends and companions, even outside of work. Try doing that with a CNC machine.

Don’t get me wrong:  this camaraderie at work has to be tempered by the fact that our main reason for all inhabiting the same space is to build a quality product, and often there are difficult times and difficult conversations. But, since we all share a common goal, and respect each others skills and talents, the quality issues that undoubtedly arise are not issues for contention, but rather, an opportunity to work together to be better in the future. (That really sounded all happy-feely didn’t it?)

It is a huge responsibility and blessing to support a persons livelihood, especially when a good chunk of those guys have young families to provide for. The task of bringing in business week after week, so that there is work every day and money every payday, can be a huge burden at times, but it can also be a huge blessing. The decision to transition from single-person shop to multi-person shop should not be taken lightly, but, ever since I made my first hire about four years ago, I have never regretted my decision.



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About the author
Jared Patchin

Jared Patchin started woodworking professionally in 2008 when he set-up J. Alexander Fine Woodworking in Boise, ID, where he builds custom crafted furniture and cabinetry. He started building furniture at the age of seven when his father bought Shutter Crafts. He has developed his craft since then, moving from making wooden swords for himself and his friends to building some of the finest furniture and cabinetry available. He lives in Boise, Idaho with his wife and two young sons, who have taken over the sword making side of things.