Tough times require new ideas.

We all get stuck in our routines of daily activities. We create patterns that support our attitudes about our lives, the market and our work.

When business was flowing and work was easy to find, our success reinforced our attitude of confidence. We knew we were good and our pocketbooks proved it. We bought new machinery, expanded our buildings and hired employees. Then the market crashed and we changed. We cut back on people, refinanced our buildings and sold equipment. But we often forget to change our attitude. The slower market requires new ideas and attitudes that stretch our minds and methods.

That's why I was happy to help out Beyer Cabinets in LaCrosse, WI, with its first open shop.

Owner Jerry Beyer created a very busy shop with it's own millwork, residential and now commercial cabinets. As the market changed, Jerry retrenched and began looking for new ways to attract new buyers. Using the idea of an Open House to promote his products, he went one major step further by opening his shop. He invested the time to clean the shop well, build sample cabinets of many different styles and grades, invite vendors to show new prospects attracting ideas like LED lighting from Hera, organization systems from Rev-A-Shelf, interior wood doors from Bertch, green wood products from Metro Hardwoods and closet systems.

His goal was to stretch not only his shop personnel, but his customers' ideas about what Beyer can do. By having the Open Shop, he also invited people to see how professional and well equipped Beyer is to handle any work they send his way.

Lastly, Jerry created an ambiance of a no-pressure, educational evening that drew prospects in. He offered a free BBQ pork meal to all attendees (even the vendors) and let people wander the shop at will. Key people were stationed around the plant floor to explain the machinery and show samples of finished work.

Beyer Cabinet's Open Shop was a success. More importantly, how might you use this idea? Could you create a similar event that would draw attention to your company?

Take Jerry's idea a step further, besides an Open Shop, think about exposing your company to groups of people. Could you do a seminar for the local tech school woodworking class? Yes, I realize that school kids rarely buy cabinets, but their parents do. Try raffling off a free kitchen hardware upgrade and clean up for a local charity. Strive to create not just an Open Shop, but an open mind. to new ways of doing business.

Editor's note: Rick Hill is a consultant specializing in woodworking companies that need to find new markets and more sales. He is also an independent sales rep and founder of WoodReps.Com, a national association of independent reps in the woodworking industry. He can be reached through his website OnPointSales.com.

Read more of Rick Hill's blogs.


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