This past month has taught me that my main weakness, when it comes to running a company, is my inability to just say “No” to a request for work. I don’t know if I am flattered that people want my company to make them things, or if the lean times I have had to struggle through in the past are still etched in my memory, but I am unable to say no to potential jobs. Even when that little voice in the back of my head is screaming at me to do just that!
Currently, we are dealing with a huge demand for our furniture, cabinetry, and re-finishing work. Even with a workforce of 4 full-time employees, we can barely keep up. Our margins are healthy and our profits are increasing. But it doesn’t matter how much money you are making per hour, there are only so many hours in a day, and there is only so much that can be produced in a given amount of time. If you add extra work to an already full schedule, something has to give. In my case, when I accepted a huge rush job last month, and a small rush job a couple of weeks ago, the thing that gave away was my free time. I ended up having to work into the evenings and on the weekends, which is something that I lost interest in doing years ago. Weekends are much better spent hiking, camping, reading, and rock climbing with my family.
I am a natural optimist and a hard worker but, as my company grows, there is only so much I am able to single-handedly accomplish. While the effort required to complete these rush orders seems to be increasing. In order to meet both rush deadlines, I had to cannibalize labor from another one of our projects, in addition to working longer hours. Both projects were completed on time and both were profitable, but the more rush jobs we complete, the more they seem to leave a bitter taste in my mouth.
I am constantly reading articles about woodworking and business. Constantly trying to get better at running a business, managing employees, and building cabinetry and furniture. I even write my own blog for the Woodworking Network in an effort to disseminate some of what I feel I have learned. But the lesson that I took away from this recent experience is that you can read and study best practices for as long as you like, but until you internalize the information, and actually act on it, you aren’t any better off than when you started.
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