I have relocated my shop to the Asheville NC area. For the past six months I have been advertising in the paper, have a large sign out front of my shop on a fairly busy road, mailed out fliers to local architects, designers, etc and I'm dying on the vine. Sure, I have landed a few jobs but the phone only seems to ring every two weeks or so.
I am just trying to find a way to build this business here in the new location. If anyone reads this and is local to the Asheville area, and need some help, please let me know. It just drives me crazy when I hear you guys talking about billing out 100k a year or more as I'm just looking for a small piece of the pie. Am I wasting my time?
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor B:
You're fighting two main issues: First, you are new to the area and not a lot of people know about you yet. This is a difficult hurdle. It can take years to build a client base. It seems to me you've tried some good advertising schemes, and perhaps you just have to keep at it. Maybe knock on a few trade-related doors. Even just walk onto jobsites looking for the general contractor. Asheville is a great little city and had a strong vacation development economy when I was there about a year ago.
Second, you're talking "custom" woodworking here. That means you have a limited market compared to off the shelf products. A very small percentage of the population is willing to spend what it takes to get true high quality custom work done. Most people are happy with Ikea.
Most of the guys I know who are in this business started young and built up slowly over the years. It's got to be tough to move into a new area and try to come on strongly enough to survive.
Change your tactics or your business will die before you can establish yourself. Maybe come up with a standard product you can offer at a good price as a "bread and butter" product between custom jobs?
Do you do any finishing? In general, it seems like there are way more cabinetry shops and not enough finishers out there. If you have finishing skills, maybe you could focus on that to pay the bills, giving you time to make contacts and grow the cabinet side at a more realistic rate.
For example, "I'm a cabinetmaker and I’m new to the area." "I'm looking for some work." Leave them some cards and then stop every couple of days, even if it’s to buy a box of screws. Let these guys see you and they will help you out.
Contributor B also has a good solution. Get out to the job sites and meet the supers and the other trades. Another good source is your local countertop shop. Same thing - shoot straight with them and tell what you want. You will be very surprised at how quickly your schedule will fill up. Oh, and for now, quit spending your money on ads and yard signs.
Next, spend a few bucks and sponsor the local weather on the best radio station in your area. This time of year everyone waits to hear the weather report especially the morning one. Try it for a few weeks. The response will not be immediate but it works.
Hit the road and start talking to builders, framers, home owners that just started construction of there homes. Often a do it yourselfer homeowner builder that is doing there own contracting will listen to a cabinet guy during the foundation to framing stage, after that they have a cabinetmaker.
I like the saying "you snooze you lose". And talk to the stone guys, you know the granite countertop, and tile shops, work out a referral thing - you’re often there talking to a builder before they do. Hand out their cards, and get referrals from them also, and phone numbers of builders they like and the ones that pay up for work done. You help them get work, and they do the same.
Get out there and take your cell phone with you. You will find work plus a lot of rejection, but then again this is the trade where rejection is a part of the job. Don't sit around waiting for the phone to ring.
For example, what do you plan to put here? Obviously, it is a kitchen or bath or laundry. Just let them tell you what they are wanting and then you can make comparisons. I think you get my drift. I've said it before and I'll say it again - getting business is the easy part. Keeping it, well, that's another story.
I would suggest deciding between selling direct and selling through furniture galleries. There are examples of both that seem to be doing well up there. In order to keep your up front costs down, you may want to start with the galleries.
Leave a good impression of yourself and what you do to others. Advertise yourself in the local newspapers and radio stations. When people become familiar with your name the business will follow. When they come a knocking than your salesmanship has succeeded, always ask where they heard of you for future references.
If your signage is like your website it says "I am a woodworker" then there are a ton of other woodworkers and you are the new guy on the block. What do your brochures say? What are you offering that all the established guys are not? Why should I, as a potential customer stop by some new upstart shop when there are a lot of established guys hungry for work. You need a hook.