CWB August 2002

'What Do You Want?'

Success is fully dependent on your answer to this question and your willingness do what you must to create the life you want.

By Anthony Noel

When I last checked in on Fedi Geczy, owner of DesignCraft Inc., he was enjoying the fruits of efforts related to a bold experiment: reducing his workforce to nothing and taking complete charge of every operational aspect of his custom shop. That was discussed in the April 2000 issue of CWB, and we coined the phrase "pulling back" to describe the practice.

Prior to that article's appearance, Fedi had called me, complaining of the wasted time and inefficiencies which seemed part-and-parcel with having employees. When he had finished talking and I learned a little more about the work he does and the market he serves, I asked him a question: "Do you need employees?"

As the conversation moved on and we considered that question, Fedi began to see that he had options beyond dealing with immature, unskilled, uncaring workers. He has never looked back, and just a few days ago he dropped me an e-mail with an update:

"[We have] finished building a house on 11 acres, 50 miles from work. Now I work four days a week, never on Fridays or Saturdays. Very seldom, I will take a call or check on something on a Friday. I get in very early (5:30 a.m.), work all day with very few breaks, if any, and I leave at 4 p.m. On Thursdays I sometimes stay later, just to finish the week and start or develop next week's precise schedule.

"My gross sales at the end of June (for half a year) is at $135,000, suggesting a yearly total of about $270,000," he added. "I still turn away a lot of work, but work in [the] five- to eight-mile radius [of my shop] appears to be sufficient to reach my goal of making around $100,000 [salary] a year. Outsourcing doors and drawers, large deliveries, demolition work, etc., [and] staying away from builders and remodelers helps a great deal."

As we said in that April 2000 column, the solitary approach is not for everyone. But it sure seems right for Fedi, and his numbers prove it. Some may see pulling back as admitting failure or defeat; as giving up on one's own management capabilities and "settling" for perhaps less than what others expect of them. But the more one matures, the more they tend to see that it is not what others expect of us that matters. It is knowing oneself that holds the key to real satisfaction.

One key to success for any shop - be it a one-man show or a huge business with many employees - is scheduling. As I converse with shop owners across the country, I am constantly dumbfounded at how many do little if any scheduling, yet wonder why their operations don't run efficiently.

Fedi mentioned that he puts together a precise weekly schedule, and I'd be willing to wager that, even more than any of the actual woodworking operations he performs in any given week, developing and adhering strictly to that schedule makes all the difference.

Another question I asked Fedi early in our conversation is one I ask everyone who calls or writes: "What do you want?" And, as with scheduling, I am amazed at how few shop owners seem to have an exact answer, let alone know what a crucial question it is.

We humans are all too susceptible to falling prey to the whims and expectations of others. We can get so caught up with trying to please others that we forget about being true to ourselves. No one practice points this out more readily than consistently asking ourselves, "Is this what I want?"

Of course, just as important as knowing what we want is being realistic about what is attainable. We have all heard people say, "You can achieve anything if you want it badly enough." Sadly, the second half of that truism is too often ignored.

People do things in life, from entering into relationships, to taking certain jobs, to starting businesses, because they believe doing so will move them toward certain goals. But when they find out that work, often difficult work, is required to reach those goals, well, that is where the wheat and chaff are separated.

Whether you have a one-man shop or a multi-million-dollar operation, you won't find contentment until your goals are in line with the degree to which you are willing to work toward them.

For Fedi Geczy, that meant pulling back, putting himself on a rigorous schedule and finding reliable suppliers to help with everything from custom doors to installations. The result is a lifestyle that enables him to enjoy his family, live in the country, work a four-day week and make plenty of money.

Many of us hire employees thinking they will make our lives easier. And often, they do. Others find the opposite to be true, but worry that pulling back might somehow "mark" them in a negative way, might lead to negative perceptions or cause others to laugh.

But if you know who you are, what you want and what you are willing to do in order to get it, you just may find yourself laughing - all the way to the bank.

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