Work has been very slow. My partner got a job and comes in on evenings and weekends. It's only me left in a shop full of tools - CNC router, CNC dowel drill, edgebander, case clamp, spray booth, saws, software, and on and on. Lots of overhead.
There is still hope. We have a job that will start in 3-4 weeks. With that down payment, things will float again, but if it doesn't start soon enough, we'll have to shut the doors. So the million dollar question is, is this worth it? How far can money be stretched? Suppliers and banks are barking at me and I don't know what to tell them anymore.
For you guys that made it through hard times, I know it doesn't get easy, but does it get any better? And for the guys who pulled the plug and found a job, do you have any regrets?
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor J:
What are you doing with your time if you have no work and no employees to manage? Are you marketing or cold calling? Where are you located? With a CNC router sitting idle, I imagine you are losing a lot of sleep. What products do you make? With that information, maybe we can help you.
Only you can answer your question about whether it's worth it or not. I think what you are really asking is whether or not you can make a living at this. This is the slow time for many shops. Likewise, contrary to what the media says, we are headed into a recession big time. I have no idea what your debt situation is, but it sounds as if your cash flow is nonexistent. That means that you are going to have a hard time digging out. But as the saying goes, anything worth having is worth working for.
I have been in both situations. Like many others, we've had great times and we've had bad times. The bad times lasted longer than I would have wanted, but they did go away and left with me a valuable lesson.
The second choice is to give up. I seldom recommend this option, but this is up to you. You need to weigh out the plus and minus of having your own business. You also need to admit your strengths and weaknesses. Then decide if you can make it all happen.
Our main product is frameless cabinets, but if it's out of wood, I'll take a shot at it. We deal with both contractors and homeowners. We are in Northern CA. We're an hour away from San Francisco, but still having trouble finding customers. I tell the customers up front that we are not going to be the cheapest because there are shops around selling for less than our cost and lots of people buy based on price only.
I struggled for a long time and finally pulled the plug after going in debt several thousand to my landlord. I wanted to keep going and didn't want to lose my pride by giving up, but it seemed the only reasonable thing to do since I wasn't getting any jobs, not even prospective jobs. It was either busy as heck or dead as a door nail.
Do I regret it? Yeah, in some ways I do, but when I'm able to pay my bills each month and have money left over to enjoy myself, that's the part I don't regret. I severely miss my freedom, but at what cost? Being in debt for the rest of my life and ruining my credit that takes at least 7 years to fix? No thanks! I make more money working for someone than I ever did being a one-person business, after all of the bills were paid and machines purchased.
For almost the past 3 years, I worked for one company as a cabinetmaker for a year and then switched gears and now work as a full-time draftsman utilizing Cabinet Vision and AutoCAD.
I think out of anything, you'll miss the freedom the most, but the sleepless nights will diminish and you'll start to enjoy life. I do things on the side and let people know that it will take me a lot longer because it's part-time. Most people don't mind because once again, it's cheaper! Don't be too hard on yourself, because others have been there.
(1-3) Read these easy, fast books:
The Dip (Seth Godin)
Purple Cow (Seth Godin)
The Traveler's Gift (Andy Andrews)
(4) Get this movie ASAP:
Facing the Giants
I read lots of books and these are at the top of the list when I need some answers. I think you will be able to find a creative way to get the CNC utilized and get the shop running strong again. You could read all the books and the movie in about four days and I think it will give you the oxygen you're looking for.
Our service is a luxury good in most cases, not a plumber or HVAC guy. When this economy tanks, people will hold back, and the ones that dont will smell blood and want a bargain. I already see it. There was a similar (self created) banking crisis indigenous to RI back in the early 90s and it wiped out my uncle... 50 years in business. Every time I decide to throw in the towel, the phone rings with another job, but not lately. I hope it rings for you and you prevail through your situation if this is truly your passion. I know a guy that makes 90k working at a battery factory, and he has the IQ of a first grader. The hardest part about his job is getting to work on time. It really makes me wonder how we fit in.
I came across a nice woodworker (new) last month picking lumber. Started chatting and he was telling me how he just finished a 4 2 thick maple built-in bar with cabinets, and also a matching 8 entertainment center finish grade... $2800 for all. He is retired and thought it was great he charged that much. He described the process he used and his work sounded very, very good. I guess my point is that this may be a better business to retire to than retire from.
I think if I were in your shoes, I would call a lawyer, throw in the towel, and get a job working for someone else. Then after a little time for reflection and licking my wounds, I would first determine if being in business is the right thing for me. Then if I believed that I would still like to be in business, I would take some night courses in business management, marketing and accounting, do a ton of reading, develop a sound business plan, and get a business advisor from SCORE. After learning how to be a businessman, I would make another approach at starting a business. The second time around I would start small, keep overhead low, learn how to market, learn how to run a business, gain a feel of cash flow, develop a customer base, develop systems for working efficiently in the shop and in the office, etc.
There is nothing wrong with starting a business and then cutting your losses when it is not working out. In fact I think you need to fail at least once to really be successful.
We spend more on advertising and marketing than we take home each year, so you won't find a twenty thousand dollar SUV in the driveway, but since starting to treat advertising as a business expense that must be paid each month like the lease payment, we don't have to ride that roller coaster.
We made #36 on the Wood 100 two years ago, #20 or #16 this year (I need to look it up again, as I forget which), so our growth has been very steady. Advertising is a tool, no different than the panel saw. And when you need a tool, you are already paying for it, no?