Figure out what business you are in, e.g. the car business and the motorcycle business is not about transportation. These businesses are about image.
The cabinet business is not about storage.
IMO opinion the best paying work in woodworking involves image.
Some people do value craftsmanship as well.
The problem with residential work is that it involves too much emotion. I read somewhere that 80 some odd percent of a job has to do with soft skills. People buy for emotional reasons, this is where the soft skills come into play. IOW people buy from people they like.
Another problem with residential work is the cost of marketing is high considering that you only get one sale at a time from the marketing. A more workable plan is to specialize in one niche so that you can be the strategic leader in that niche. Actually that is the only viable plan.
There is no emotion in commercial work, which means they will cut your throat without getting mad about it.
The only commercial work these days is big jobs. Which are beyond your reach.
The problem with San Diego is the pricing is very competitive. Which is for people between the ages of 50 and 60 who have access to cheap money.
I would look into some sort of niche. Closets, cabinet refacing, crown installation, putting in doors.
The number one way of getting business is networking.
The best way I have found to get work is sending a post card to former customers every month.
Stay open to new ideas. I think that is one of the main reasons for failure, i.e. getting closed minded.
After you figure out your niche all the advertising is on the internet. Look up on the knowledge base or this part of the woodweb Jim Conklin's posts about the his website.
I'm in San Diego too. It's kind of a crappy business to get into. Margins are very low due to all the low cost immigrant labor. For a small shop, you will probably have to do residential which is a PIA.
As far as marketing goes - probably the best thing is to get yourself a website and do some Adwords campaigns. Then wait for the housewives to call who want you to build a piece of furniture they saw in a catalog - but cheaper than the list price.
Honestly, if I were you, I would auction the equipment you were given and go do something else where you don't risk losing your fingers, don't have to fight contractors who hold your payments for 5 months, don't have to deal with absurdly picky clients who make your life miserable and your jobs unprofitable, and on and on.
From my experience I have found networking to be the driving force in sales growth. Underpromise, overdeliver!! Our website and social presence is merely to boost our customers confidence in us. Cold leads will waste your time and have no idea what things are actually worth. I cant stress how much more value you get out of a client who COMES TO YOU rather than you reaching out to give them something!!! If they have seen what you do our heard good things about what you you have already ticked a box. Now you just have to be the right price.
I also found that generally speaking if you work for one customer and they refer you to another. You can pretty much assume that customer will be very similar. i.e if one customer is a total fusspot who wants top quality for nothing, The friend is going to do the same thing. So learn the lesson from the first one and go into the deal with the second one prepared and equipped for the issues that came up round one. This is not a hard and fast rule but it happens to me all the time.
Until you are big enough to be 3+ degrees of separation from your client, they are buying YOU and your ability to deliver what they asked for. Learn sales, it's what drives growth!!
Bernie, your advise was a bit grim but to be honest I do feel that way sometimes.
If your starting a joinery business your never going to be a tech unicorn in 5 years but you can certainly build a solid profitable business over time.
You should definitely read Paul Downs Boss Life before you kick off.
this a very tough business to be in and i would have done things differently had i known where this would take me since inception in 2008. an installation business would be a much better (no overhead and plenty of demand) gig to consider.
To me having a shop with tools is not all that great. Anyone can buy tools.
What you should do is develop a marketing / sales plan to determine where you are going to get the orders to be able to use the shop. Can you calculate a path to generate enough sales to have an income and profit? That is the question that is more important than any other.
Without marketing and sales, you just have a bunch of tools.
Hey guys!! Thank you for your quick responses, They are helpful in so many ways.
I have started the shop since the beginning of the year, I have 3 very skillful guys to do a bunch of work from some big contractors. I want to get direct clients... which I get 2 or 3 a month... nothing big or fancy, but it is easier for me to get a good relationship with the client. I definitely will deal with work for the high end market since competing with Chinese or Mexican cabinetry is nearly impossible.
I have no experience in the construction business, but have experience as manager, optimization, efficencies... I'm a Chem E. so i think I can get this going once I build a stronger network since it is something I don't have... Just 4 very good contacts....
I'll be spending some time every week just pitching my ideas to architects and designer..... NETWORKING... i soooo desperately need it!
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