Is your bucket ready for when it rains gold?
September 10, 2020 | 10:24 am CDT
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It’s not easy to be a “glass-half-full” type of person in the best of times, and it’s even more challenging when the economy and our businesses are suffering. A lot of us are trying to focus on the silver lining in this pandemic so that we don’t succumb to the mounting stress of it. Spending more time with your loved ones (whether that’s in-person or over the phone) is definitely a benefit of having to slow down and focus on life’s essentials, but is it possible to find a silver lining for your shop right now too?
 
My shop is trying to use our extra time to our advantage. We’re actively looking for ways to competitively position our shop to take advantage of the surge of work we’re expecting once the economy cranks back up. Warren Buffet says that when it’s raining gold, you should reach for a bucket, not a thimble. This week, I’m sharing the things my shop is doing to get our bucket ready. 
 
REDUCE WASTE
 
Your customer pays you for a finished product, not for the waste you create along the way. I’ve long been a proponent of Lean manufacturing, so we’ve actually decided to hire a new employee to go through our entire shop with a fine-toothed comb to root out wasted motion. We’re starting at the panel storage area and working through the entire shop one station at a time.
 
Sounds crazy to be hiring now, right? But here’s the thing: many people have lost their jobs recently, which means that there’s a pool of super talented people who are suddenly available. It’s easy to see all of the challenges and get wrapped up in the stress and anxiety of the uncertainty created by the pandemic. However, we’re really trying to look at this as an opportunity.  
 
It’s tough to make decisions like this coming into what has the potential to be a huge slowdown because of the pandemic, but we’re aiming to position ourselves ahead of our competitors once things go back to a relative state of normal. We’re taking the time now, while we have it, to define more processes and improve our efficiency. These things are essential to a strong business, but they often get pushed to the bottom of the to-do list when we have a full queue of projects to get out the door.
 
We intend to spend our extra time improving our business because we suspect that our competitors are not doing so right now. I’m predicting an incredibly busy season around the corner once all of the pent up demand is released. My team and I are building a bucket to capture all of the impending business, while our competitors will only be setting out a thimble.
 
HIRE GREAT PEOPLE
 
As I said, great people are sitting at home right now with no job, so the time is right to analyze your crew and “trim the weeds.” Our industry has complained for years about how difficult it is to find great talent. What better time than now to reassess your shop’s needs and define the candidate who would best fill those voids? If you start looking now, I’m sure you’ll be able to find great people.
 
You know that awesome new employee who’s helping with the Lean projects that I talked about earlier? That person wasn’t available before the pandemic.
 
Sean Glessing with Sean’s Cabinetry in Minnesota, said that this is the best hiring environment he’s ever witnessed, so they’re taking advantage. My shop is doing the same, and yours should be too.
 
ARE YOU CREATING A BUCKET, OR SETTLING FOR A THIMBLE?
 
What steps is your shop taking to get your bucket ready? Leave me a comment below.

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About the author
Jeff Finney

Jeff Finney is the founder of Ultimate Cabinet Components, based in Collinsville, Oklahoma; 918-371-7171. For more shop insights from Jeff, check out his articles at UltCab.com or listen to his podcasts at thepushthru.com. Jeff is also a 2018 Wood Industry 40 Under 40 honoree.