I owned a 50-person millwork firm in Chicago, Final Finish, for 28 years until the downturn closed us down in 2010. Here's what I learned, and how it can help your woodworking business.

Like many of us in that time period, we were struggling to get paid and get work just to keep alive. This is still happening today. Drawing on my experiences, including the loss of my business, I want to help other architectural woodworking companies out there.

My focus has always been on the estimating side of the woodworking business. As the vice president of the Architectural Woodwork Institute's Chicago Chapter, I helped start the AWI estimating seminars.

Over the course of the past 20-plus years, I wrote a software program, one that we used for estimating. It worked so well in estimating, that I expanded it to help with other issues of the business, including project management, accounting and scheduling.

Now I want to help other woodworkers with their future. So I started the business, ST-Mate, and offer ST-Mate as part of our Project Pakage software. I believe it is the most complete and easy to use estimating software package, for any size firm, from small 2-3 man shops to medium 50-man and larger size shops.

St-Mate saved us 20% of the time in preparing estimates. A complete system for estimators, it includes an overhead calculator, a proposal numbering and filing system and a current client list. It allows for print proposals and their descriptions to be produced with one-click printing.

Project Pakage is a system for the management of an entire project. It keeps all documents related to a project in a single file: Transmittals, changes - approved and declined; Project Scheduling with automated label printing so you can view and forecast workflow, job by job, department by department; Accounting, made simple with invoicing sheets G702 & G703 included; Production Scheduling sheets including individual ones for each project; Creating a Project Sample Booklet and a project manual for each job. Every step is made simple for you to follow.

With the times changing and companies scrambling for other ways to make money, or dealing with the increased volume of work coming through, this program also creates a profile of your operations, allowing you to assess where you stand, and to look at patterns that show where your business's strengths and weakness lie, and to fully develop its potential.

I look forward to talking directly to architectural woodworking and millwork business managers about ST-Mate and how it came from a dream into reality. I will be in Booth #8021 at the International Woodworking Fair, August 20-23 in Atlanta. Or go right to www.st-mate.com and see what it is and how it can help your woodworking business.

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