What does a former cabinet shop owner do? I wore all the hats for 12+ years, from sales to CNC programmer. But I don't seem to have the formal experience to get the jobs I want. I would love to stay in the wood industry. B2B sales interests me, but I have been turned down twice for lack of experience.
Interesting idea, Sally. It's basically what I did before without the shop overhead.
What happens though when the shop screws up and they fail to fix it, seems like I would still be on the hook to make it right. Maybe the contract could hold the shop legally accountable after it's signed over, but my reputation would still be on the line for something I can't control. I tried outsourcing my installations for a little while and ran into this problem.
My old hardware rep is retiring in a year and he suggested I take a shot at his job. I would love to do that job, but the question is what to do in the mean time. I'd also really like to do machinery sales, I think I went into woodworking as much for the machines as the wood.
Ahh... the curse of the perfectionist. Most cabinet makers think they are the only ones who can do a job right.
What does your reputation matter at this point? You're moving on from your shop. Find someone else who can do the work. Inspect it before it goes out. And either do the install yourself or find someone qualified to do it. They are out there. You just need to learn to delegate and hold people to agreed upon standards.
It's not so much that I'm a perfectionist, and I will readily admit that I am not the best installer; that was the main reason I contracted that work. As long as the work goes as agreed and my customer is happy, then I'm happy. It's when the customer is unhappy, then it often falls on me to fix it, even if the customer has, let's say a shaky grasp on reality. I am ultimately responsible for the customer's satisfaction if I sold the job, and I don't make excuses.
Anyway, I have very little interest in starting another business, especially in the residential construction industry.
I was in same boat after downsizing a few years ago. Applied for Project Manager at an Architectural Millwork Company, and enrolled in a certificate program for PM. Wearing all the hats should make you capable of this position. I'm a couple years shy of 60 though and didn't get an offer. Went back to doing same thing on my own out of house. Without an employee and with low overhead, I can be more selective on what projects I take, I outsource more, and actually make more money now!
Tony, if I lived in a setting where I had the space to run small and lean out of my garage, I'd probably do it. Unfortunately my home shop is so small I have to go outside just to change my mind. I could build a bigger space in my backyard but that would surely raise the ire of a NIMBY neighbor or two.
There is an excellent book floating around called "Blue Ocean Strategy". It talks about the creation of new industry niches that didn't exist before.
If you look around you can see all kinds of examples of concierge service. Somebody is designing all these projects but very few people with actual cabinetmaking experience. It's not hard to differentiate yourself in this market.
Hang in there! I'm sure this is the last thing you feel like doing, it is scary looking for a new job especially after having worked for yourself, but buck up and go out there and pound the pavement. Call anyone and any type of company you think you may be interested in working for. Kitchen design? Salesman, you name it. Two "no's" are probably just the beginning, but that is going to be true for most all of us looking for work. List all the things you are good at- quite a few if you were in business for yourself - and memorize this so you build up your confidence. You will add great value for the right company.
I'm a little skeptical about the idea of creating a new type of job - ala customer rep - I'd assume we don't see others doing it for a reason.
I do like the idea of possibly selling yourself and outsourcing to other companies. This would probably take advantage of all of your abilities, skills, relationships, and know-how as long as you can find the right partners. And super low overhead!
Is it possible that our "particular set of skills" is peculiar to our business and not all that transferable?
It might help to just focus on promoting and selling yourself.
I have found what Tony says to be effective but you have to do the work of promoting/marketing/selling, which is easy to forget when you have a lower break even point.
I found it hard to adjust to working for someone else because of their policies. Mainly because they are poorly/not defined. e.g. I asked what is the metric for my job, the answer was the most ambiguous made up blather I had ever heard. I don't think this is an anomaly.
The other thing that I don't like is the fact that you are then dependent on one source of income. And a sketchy source at that.
The other thing that I didn't like was that your income has a lid on it. Of course it has a floor as well but that floor doesn't have the best foundation. As a commercial project manager that is around 55k in this area. As part of this job I did cad drawings. This type of job is high stress.
The other hat that appears to be in demand is as an installer which I like but is a little demanding on your body but not bad. The only reason I didn't continue with that was an illness last summer, not caused by the job.
Any way my advise to myself and yous is focus on sales and promotion as was stated in one of the recent threads.
PG I agree on the high stress nature of being a Project Manager, it depends on the shop but commercial is particularly intense. For better or worse that seems to be the direction I'm going, yes I don't love the stress but working in the field is rewarding and flexible. And, it's about the only job that can pull over $70k without being shackled to a CabinetVision workstation.
Sales is no picnic either, there's the potential to make a lot of money and less of the ceiling you mentioned. Even if you are a great salesman though, you are at the mercy of the market.
Sales is about having a list of contacts, people who have/will buy from you. If you have to start from scratch it is about filling the funnel. With construction at all time lows that could be difficult.
I recruiter found an old resume of mine from pre 2008 days (no kidding) and told me it's really difficult right now finding high level people in millwork in large cities.
I'm out of NYC and when I got a call from a good sized millwork shop to interview for what I thought was shop manager or some such (that's what I was looking for) they asked me about my estimating skills.
I knew what software they were using before I got there (OST) and boned up on it before I went for interview. Not at all difficult to grasp if you've done any kind of high level estimating.
I was shocked when they offered me the job on the spot. After about a month, I'm beginning to understand why! Estimators (freelancers) are TERRIBLE at what they do, have zero loyalty to the company and do a slap-dash job.
My 'bonus value' is being able to function as a part time asst manager (portfolio:finish department!) and buyer.
They PARTICULARLY liked that I was a business owner and when asked if I was successful I told the truth, 'yes, but I couldn't break into the big market and decided to close shop'. I even had P&L reports to back up my statements.
So far, I'm working my ass off getting the estimating RIGHT and using my contact book to save them money. I'd say we were both happy so far..
Best of luck in your search, this is the right time for it. All those high level guys in their 60's and older are finally retiring and it seems millwork companies are desperate for real world experience at all levels, but especially at the higher levels of the biz...
Unless I missed it in the thread; just where are you located Phase 2 ? I can tell you that my three top guys were former shop owners and across the industry there are companies looking for mature and knowledgable staff who are assets to their operations that can stand on their own two feet, make decisions and take an ownership attitude. Perhaps if you were to divulge your location, some more specific ideas would come from readers. (my 2 cents)
I'm in the SF Bay Area. I've talked to a few good shops who would probably hire me, unfortunately we are on opposite sides of the Bay. That may sound trivial, as the commute would be less than 20 miles, but it's easily 90 minutes each way these days.
I may have to suck it up and do the drive, but for the moment I'm hoping I can find an answer that doesn't involve 12-15 hours a week of saddle time.
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