Wife's Role in Husband's Cabinet Business

Advice on how a wife can make a solid contribution to a woodworking business, while also handling child-care responsibilities. October 13, 2008

I married a cabinetmaker two years ago and I would like to be able to help him. I am currently doing the payroll and trying to learn the ECabinet Systems software. I am wondering if anyone has read the NKBA books on kitchen design and if they are helpful. We're looking for ways I can help and still stay at home with our baby.

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor M:
My wife took a course at the college for CAD drawing. We thought she would be able to help out on shop drawings, but without cabinet experience, it is hard for her. She stayed home with both our kids and I find her help in the shop to be much better. She takes care of all the books, ordering materials, picking up drawings, closing job bids, and after that she still helps me in the finish room sanding doors and spraying lacquer. Until I had an apprentice she would help me on installs. The best part is, because she is involved, she knows how much time and labour it takes to get a large millwork contract out on time and to still make some money. It was hard for her to spend much time helping until the kids were in school for the day. Both my kids helped in the shop while they were growing up.

From contributor K:
I think helping build a few kitchens would make it much easier to learn the design software. e-cabinets offers classes that are also very helpful. The forum on the Thermwood web site is full of great helpful people as well. Any questions are always answered quickly and without judgment of your skill with it. Sounds like a lucky guy to me.

From contributor T:
We work with lots of family owned businesses. I would suggest that you can help a lot more by keeping up with the books, collecting money, working on job costing, ordering materials and paying the bills. Don't underestimate this contribution! It is very important to the business.

From contributor H:
One of the greatest contributions you can give is to be understanding about the amount of time your husband may need to get jobs done. Time spent away from you and the kids. That time is time spent for you. This life is not a 40 hour life. It's more like 50+hours or more at times. Recordkeeping and any paperwork he does not have to do is a big deal.

From contributor C:
My wife and I did what you two are doing with our second set of kids. Our kids are 29, 27, 11, and 9 (we had a midlife crisis and started having babies again). Now she's a home-schooling mom and helps me in the shop when we need her. She can do just about everything in the shop. As our children got older she migrated more and more into the shop. There's no reason you can't do anything you want (or your husband needs) in your business. Just make sure you balance the needs of your child with the needs of your business. If you're planning on having an active part in your business, I'd suggest you figure out sooner rather than later whether you two can work together. You'd be surprised how many couples can't.

From contributor I:
Help! - I'm married to a cabinetmaker, too! Our shop is a small one with my husband and one full-time employee. We are a totally custom shop - all the designing, building, and installing done by us. I handle the books for my husband as well. Also, I order materials, track down hard to find items, run errands, and support my husband by being a sounding board for his ideas. I remind him of meetings, review his estimates, and assist in ensuring all hardware, lighting, and accessories are ordered, in, and at the job site at the time of installation.

Most of this can be done with a child in-tow, if necessary. We have two children - ages 3 and 6. Our accounting is web-based Quickbooks, so I can log onto our books from anywhere I have internet access. Right now, I am working from my favorite coffee shop. If you are interested in design - by all means, get educated in kitchen design. I say go with what you are interested in. We are a new business - 3 years old. My job in the near future will be primarily business development and marketing. I am also responsible for photography. We have had some professional photos taken, but I am responsible for photographing finished pieces and for creating and updating our website. I have not worked on that part of the business in a while - though it is more what I like to do than the books.

From contributor S:
Answering the phone is a huge help. The amount of time it takes out of your day just to answer the phone makes a big difference. Customers usually want to talk to the person who is going to be doing the building, but it is easier if you could make appointments for him. There isn't always time during the day to go see customers, so most appointments are after hours, anyway. Interruptions of any kind break your concentration and that's when you make mistakes, and it slows you down a lot. My wife and I have been in business now for 25 years and she has always run what I call the front end of the business, and I deal with the production. We have 2 employees now, but need 5, and we used to have 8.

From contributor N:
My heart goes out to you. The biggest help my wife has been to me is always encouraging me. We have 5 kids, married 23 years, 2 kids still at home. I have never heard one negative word from my wife. Tell him you believe in his gifts and talents and he is ultimately a cabinetmaker for you and your children. That's who I work for, my family! Another thing is that he will be more successful if he understands that you and he are a team and you have contributions that he is blind to and will benefit from. Especially in discerning people and smelling bad deals.