The Top 7 Mistakes Woodworkers Make When Starting A Business

A cabinet shop owner explains how to avoid the most common pitfalls of start-up businesses. September 27, 2005

Reprinted with permission from Ed McDonough. Visit his website at:

by Ed McDonough
(c) Ed McDonough - All Rights Reserved

All too often, web woodworking forums are loaded with questions from folks thinking about starting their own small woodworking businesses.

They are screaming for help. In amazement, I read things like "How much should I charge?", "Where can I find high-paying jobs?", "How can a small, one-man operation make a profit?" and "Do you think I need insurance?" These are all very valid questions that can easily be bypassed with some initial planning and knowledge of how to avoid the Top 7 Mistakes:

Mistake #1: Having the Wrong Attitude
This is the number 1 mistake, because the wrong attitude can kill your business before you even get started. Success is 95 percent attitude and 5 percent aptitude. If you don't believe, in your heart, that you will succeed, guess what? You won't! Before taking another step, learn the art of positive thinking. Master the "I can" attitude, because a positive attitude will open the door to a successful business.

Mistake #2: Having a Hobby Mentality
Anyone can make money with their hobby, but you won't make a good, comfortable living at it unless you change your perspective and treat your business like a business. You go into business for one reason: to profit. If making money and being profitable isn't your business goal, then you're not really in business. Develop your business mentality first and you're one step closer to success.

Mistake #3: Not Planning for Success
Simply stated: No planning = No success! I see this as the biggest problem with small businesses. Everyone forgets to plan for success and profitability before doing anything else. Without a plan, how can you expect your business to provide your income and make enough money to keep itself running? You must plan for success if you're looking for consistent, ongoing income.

Mistake #4: Not Improving Business Skills
It will take more skill than mastering a mortise and tenon joint or hand rubbing a tabletop to a mirror-like finish to make your business a winner. You'll quickly wind up in the

poorhouse if you can't effectively communicate with prospects and customers both in person and in writing. Learn to become proficient in gathering requirements and developing solutions. Then master presenting them to your clients.

Mistake #5: Not Promoting Your Business
It doesn't matter how good a woodworker you are, if you can't sell your products, you won't make any money. Woodworkers make the fatal marketing mistake of trying to sell the features of their products instead of the benefits. Marketing 101 tells us that people buy the benefits of a product, supported by its features. Learn the difference between the two and how to use benefits to effortlessly sell your products.

Mistake #6: Not Understanding Your Responsibilities as a Business Owner
When you change your mentality from hobbyist to business owner, you accept a role that requires you to wear many hats. From woodworker to bookkeeper to production planner, you are faced with doing it all or going down with the ship. This directly relates to Mistake #3 in that planning how your business will operate is equally important to planning how to start your business. Developing a solid, written operating plan ahead of time will keep things running smoothly once you get started.

Mistake #7: Being Afraid to Get Expert Help
Frequently, business owners are reluctant to pay for expert knowledge when, in the long run, it can save them money and pay big dividends. If you're not sure how to do something critical to the success of your business, hire an expert to teach you. An expert's advice is valuable because it is based on fact as well as personal experience. An expert must do a good job because if they don't, they lose you as a customer and tarnish their reputation. Bottom Line: Get top quality advice and guidance from an expert when you need it!

Ed McDonough is the owner of Boston Accent Furniture, a high-end custom furniture and cabinetry studio, and the author of the easy-to-follow woodworking business planning tool, "How To Have Your Own Profitable Woodworking Business... in as little 33 Days" digital multimedia workshop. Ed's writing comes directly from his experience as a successful small business entrepreneur. Visit his website at