Business Start-Up Advice

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Woodworker asks about a business start-up kit, and gets an earful of wise advice.

Iím looking to quit my job and start my own furniture business. How much would you pay for this complete woodworking business startup kit? It shows you how to successfully start your own profitable woodworking business and how to make over $50 an hour.

It comes with:
- An easy to follow workbook and audio supplement that goes with the workbook
- A proven plan of success by a woodworker thatís actually doing it
- How to be profitable the day you start, and beyond
- Materials you can use to promote your business
- How to easily get customers to line up for your products (and have a great backlog of work)
- Simple, accurate fill-in-the blank business startup templates and woodworking business plan
- How to consistently get top dollar for your work
- Includes 3 hours of live phone consultation with a pro woodworking business expert
- And a 1 year - full 100% money back guarantee

You think this is worth $297?

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor P:
Leaving aside whether any of this information is worth the paper it's printed on, if you can't justify spending $297 in order to make $50/hr from here to eternity, then the first thing you need is a business course. That said, you can get way more than $297 worth for free by reading and posting to this forum. You might also get a different impression as to how easy it is to actually make money as a cabinetmaker.

From contributor D:
If it is so easy ($297.00) to make it as a cabinetmaker, why are you selling this kit and not out there leveraging this important knowledge to make $100/hr or more as a cabinetmaker?

Is this not a lot like the astrologer/broker/seller of secret formulas/fakir that wants to share their secrets for $xxx.xx for a limited time only? If someone can accurately forecast stocks or horse races or roulette, why in the world would they spend money to sell the information?

I must admit I am curious as to how many responses you would get through this forum. I'd also love to spend 3 hours on the phone with the expert to see just how deep the info runs. I'll stick with my trusted advisors, common sense, and WOODWEB.

From contributor G:
I once bought into this sort of thing. Mine was how to make 100/hr woodworking, but the part they didn't tell you was it was a kitchen cabinet refinishing business, so you weren't really woodworking, just stripping down doors and drawer fronts in your garage and respraying them.

From the original questioner:
Thanks to everyone that responded. Iíve been building fine furniture for over 20 years and have sold many pieces, especially over the past 7 years, through word of mouth to friends and acquaintances, but frankly, I donít know a lot about starting or running a successful business or how I can come up with a plan to sell my furniture and make a good living at it.

I am going to purchase the woodworking business in-a-box course. Hereís whyÖ

If an actual professional woodworker whoís already done it is going to show me a proven step-by-step way to set up and manage a real business thatís profitable from the day I start, where I can consistently make over $50 an hour (100K+ a year) working out of my home shop (and I can start part-time if I want), without any employee headaches, and is going teach me how to market my furniture so that I always have a steady backlog of customers, just like he does, and he will personally coach me over the phone, and will give me a 100% money back guarantee good for 1 year, all for under $300, then I have to go for it because from a business perspective, that has tremendous return on investment potential. Donít you agree?

Iíve spent more than that on a good router. And after I get the material and go through it, if it wonít do all that, I return it and lose nothing! Iíve never bought a woodworking tool that has that kind of guarantee. Use it for a year and if you donít like it, send it back for a full refund. If I had to hire someone to show me this stuff, it would probably cost at least 20 to 30 times that!

From contributor Y:
A "You Too Can Be A Woodworker" kit and power tools or hand tools are nothing compared to how they are used. I have some of the same pencils Picasso used to draw his quick sketches, but my sketches don't look like his. I have the same equipment as several famous woodworkers, but don't get their prices. The information (or tools or materials) come cheap - it is what you do with said info that matters, and where the sweat comes in.

All of us have access to the same info as all the others around here, but some are successful, some not, and a whole lot in between. Why? It is the way the info is used, tailored and adapted to each company. Egos, prejudices, preconceived notions and superstitions get in the way of good decision making. The challenge is to clean out all the demons to see and think clearly. The woodworker kit will tell you absolutely nothing you don't already know, you just don't know that you already know it. But you won't see that since (presumably) you are already more sold on this deal than motivational speakers are sold on black coffee. Put that blind faith to work on your business, and you'll stand a better chance of success than placing said faith in others that have no interest in you beyond the few bucks they can flush from you.

You can't really be so naive, can you?

From the original questioner:
No one has said ďHey, just follow these 10, 15, 20, 30, 50, however many steps and you can get your business started and have a good shot at being successful.Ē Iím talking making a comfortable living, not making a million dollars building furniture out of a one-man shop.

Iíve been to the SBA site and have seen all the rehashed business plan examples for Aircraft Rental Instruction and Pet Photography businesses, but with the exception of this business kit, nowhere have I found a roadmap (beyond writing the business plan) specifically for a woodworker to follow.

I wasnít born yesterday. As previously noted, Iíve been building fine furniture for over 20 years, been in the high tech industry for over 30, been surfing the internet since way before there were search engines, so I can understand everyone thinking itís a scam.

But I think having a plan that shows you what you need to know about starting, marketing, owning and running a small woodworking business, along with someone experienced to help guide you, is better than just blindly starting from scratch.

So whoís got the step by step plan Iím looking for? The one that shows you the way to at least have a chance to succeed?

From contributor P:
All right, I'll bite. The reason no one has posted a step-by-step plan is that there isn't a single template which will make any given person successful in this business. There are too many variables. For instance, you say you have been making custom furniture for the last 20 years. So have I. You apparently haven't made any money at it - I haven't made much, but I have grown my business to the point where I now employ 16 people and have a 20000sf shop. What's the difference between you and me? Not our plan - I didn't have much of one when I got started. The difference is my own particular combination of skill, talent, and luck, and the way I responded to my situation as it evolved. I am sure that the guys who are making cabinets have similar variability - every one intends to do the same thing (make money making custom cabinets), but there are such wide variables in talent and skill, local market conditions, personal situations, and employee characteristics, that no template will ever give the right answer to the day-to-day decisions that come in an endless stream. The success of the business is the sum total of the response to a million little tests that real life gives you every day. Sure, I've read business books by the bushel and here's what I found valuable from them:

- Make every day a success and your likelihood of having a successful business increases, i.e. sweat the details.

- Treat everyone you meet with integrity, good cheer, and respect. Businesses that are built on scams and exploitation of customers or employees aren't worth much, and will eventually damage everyone involved.
- Be honest, both with your business and with yourself (particularly about your own abilities).
- Learn to delegate.
- Become an expert salesman and marketer.
- If you don't have access to capital, it's going to take a long time to get the business going. There will be days when you need to suddenly put your hands on 5, 10, 20, or 50 thousand dollars - find a way to do this or you will fail.

And here are a few things that I haven't seen emphasized in books:
- Don't destroy your family by working too hard. It's not worth it. Home should be the place you can retreat to after a hard day's work, and they should be happy to see you. Stay far away from drugs, alcohol, and adultery.
- Luck plays a part in success. But as Madame Curie said, "Fortune favors the prepared mind", i.e. the more you study your situation and seek knowledge, the better able you are to take advantage of good fortune.
- A person who combines superior design talent, good management skills, and superior salesmanship is more likely to be successful than one without that combination. However, some kinds of products deemphasize design skills (kitchens are easier to design than custom furniture), so you can still be very successful even if you aren't a design genius. Management and sales skills are essential, at least to get the business off the ground.
- Embrace technology. The internet is a fantastic marketing tool if you are willing to do the work to create a compelling website. You also need to constantly upgrade your shop information technology. The market has no tolerance for businesses that operate below the prevailing standards of communications and manufacturing. You need to get used to using email and the web and planning all of your work with CAD.
- When you hire, hire the best person available for the job. The best person combines superior skills with a good attitude. Pay this person so well that they are never tempted to leave. Organize your business so that you make money from your employees' efforts, and make sure they know how much you appreciate them. Fire bad workers immediately.
- If you aren't working out there, walk around the shop several times a day to see what is happening, chat with the guys, and generally make yourself available. Buy everyone donuts now and then.
- If an employee complains about something, listen carefully. If it is possible to, fix the situation immediately.
- Keep your shop clean, and work safe. You will be able to bring in clients and show them your work and shop with pride - a great sales tool.
- Either develop superior finishing skills or find a finisher to partner with. You won't get far unless you can finish as well as you can build.
- Deliver when you say you are going to. Never mislead a customer about your ability to deliver on time.
- If something isn't right, throw it away and start over. Only deliver work that is perfect or at the very least, a lot better than you promised. If a client has a problem with your work, shut up, apologize, and fix the problem. Cheaper to eat your pride and leave them happy than to fight.
- Avoid difficult people by pricing their jobs very high. If you find out after you have already committed to do a job that someone is going to be trouble, see the advice above.
- Get 50% up front, the rest on delivery. Write as specific a contract as you think you need. If dealing with builders, see the reams of advice offered on this forum. I don't deal with them, or designers, thank God.
-It's really hard to make money if you are wholesaling. Learn to sell your product directly to the end user.

Now you owe me $297.

From contributor B:
It is human nature to be skeptical, especially if you have been scammed in the past, so keep that in mind as you read the responses to your question. The majority of posts on this forum tend to lean towards the negative (hard to make a living) side of woodworking in general. I personally do not fall into that camp, but I understand why many do.

You mention that the objective is to be successful, and unfortunately, you will get dozens of definitions of "successful" if you take a poll here. My opinion is that making an excellent return on investment is the single unit of measure that can provide the feedback needed to continue long term. Some would lead us to believe that making an excellent product is the unit of measure that we should use, but if you make the best product in the world, and are unprofitable at it, you will not make that excellent product for long (unless your wife has a great job, and does not mind funding your adventure in ďthe great product at her expenseĒ business). And making an excellent return on investment is not mutually exclusive of making an excellent product.

It seems to me that the system you are looking at is either underpriced, or not a system at all, but the only way you will be able to know for certain is to lay down your cash and see how it turns out. So to answer your original question, the price seems too low to be true, but who knows, the guy may have something, and if he does not, and follows through on the money back deal, you canít lose, and even if he does not follow through, I doubt you will miss any meals over it.

If the system is genuine, then the key to success most likely will be as others have already pointed out. Are you willing to do what the system recommends, and on a consistent basis? Do you have the organizational skills to implement it, or will you pick and choose between the parts you like, and disregard the parts you donít?

Good luck with this venture, and remember the words of a very, very wealthy man when asked what the key to wealth was. His answer? ďGratitude.Ē If you are not thankful for what you already have, then you probably wonít be thankful for what you are capable of acquiring. If we are grateful for what we have, then we more than likely can find ways to be grateful for the additional blessings we stumble across in our pursuit of success.

From contributor C:
Sometimes we look outside of ourselves for answers that are actually within us. We want the easy way - the cookbook way to solve our problems. We have been told by others - parents, teachers, friends, family, etc that we are not capable of being successful. We have been told that in real and subtle ways. It makes us doubt ourselves. So we look elsewhere for solutions. The advice to study, read, digest the material already available, think, plan, and then do, will lead the way to success. It will not come out of any one book. Whenever I look elsewhere for someone to tell me how to run my business, I always do worse than making the decisions myself. By letting someone else make decisions for me, it takes me off the hook. I can blame the book or the adviser if I fail.

If you are going to use the info to maybe gain a few nuggets to incorporate into what you already know, then it might be worth the money. But if you are going to use it as a crutch because you do not trust your own judgment, then success will be hard to come by.

From contributor L:
For less than 297.99 you can buy Bill Norlin's book "The Business of Woodwork." Good book. A lot of people go into business because they want to be a furniture maker or whatever, but you really have to be a businessman first to succeed. I'd personally save the 297 and do a lot of reading and go to work for the most successful operation that you can find that does what you want to do. That's a cheap education. Speaking of cheap education, have you attended IWF?

From contributor M:
I think your purchase of the product would be worthwhile even if a small percentage of the information is useful. $300.00 is a drop in the bucket in the grand world of woodworking.