Let’s build business
back in 2011
During the current economic
by William Sampson
downturn we’ve heard lots of de-
pressing stories about struggling
cabinet shops. One of the hard-
est hit areas has been Florida, so
I was curious what I’d find on a
recent visit to a central Florida
The drive to the shop was
telling. On my last trip to Florida
a couple of years ago, I recalled
seeing building boom signs every-
where. This time I drove past lots of empty storefronts.
Frankly, I was getting more concerned the closer I got to
my destination. I’d heard this shop was doing well, but I’d
also heard they were doing significant business out of state.
Maybe that was the answer. I was in for a surprise. Not only
was the shop filled with work, it was mostly jobs from the immediate region. Was business really coming back or did this
shop owner have some magic potion to scare up new clients?
The truth was almost prosaic. Yes, there are some signs
of life in the economy. But the real story was how the shop
owner was completely dedicated to the long-term success
of his company. He talked about getting really excited about
creating a business entity that has a life of its own and that
can outgrow its creator. Of course, he has an added incentive
in that regard, as he wants to turn the business over to his
sons who are currently in their 20s.
Have you just bought a job?
Too many owners of woodworking businesses have really
just bought themselves a job by running a shop. They haven’t
built a real business. They are too focused on short-term
goals to create long-term success. The Florida shop owner I
visited talked about selling quality and developing a reputation for jobs that please customers even if they have to dig
a bit deeper in their pocketbooks to pay for them. He was
talking about buying new machines and constantly making improvements in production and manufacturing. He was
talking about investing in and grooming a talented staff that
will stick around. (One of his top guys was homeless when he
was first hired years ago.)
If we want to build back the economy we all need to first
build back our businesses and do it for the long haul. ❮
A fan’s notes
What did we learn from doing the
research on this year’s FDM 300?
We encountered relatively few
companies that have gone out of
business and closed. Certainly
fewer than could be expected in
such a difficult year. There were
also a few consolidations, which is
encouraging – people are seeing
value in existing companies. In
2010 many of the woodworking industry market segments reported
encouraging news. In our research of the FDM 300 companies
we saw more secondary woodworking firms reporting 2010
sales similar to 2009, or down only slightly. Some companies are
reporting stronger sales in 2010, a rarity in the previous year.
by Karl Forth
Here are a few other observations:
❯ A variety of companies repored stronger sales in 2010: Best Chairs,
Inc., Pacific Crest Industries, Spectrum Industries Inc., Norcraft
Cos., Wellborn Forest Products, OFS Brands Inc., Affordable Interior
Systems, WoodCrafters Home Products, LLC., MasterCraft Wood
Products LLC, Nucraft Furniture Co., KI, Fetzer Architectural Woodwork, Barbosa Cabinets, and Exemplis Corp./SitOnIt.
❯ There are more news updates on LinkedIn and Facebook.
Relatively few FDM 300 companies have Facebook pages,
(maybe 30 or 40) but some of the ones that do have an active update on what they’re doing: new products, upcoming
events, community projects, company news. A similar number
are on twitter in some form. There are a surprising number of
basic company profiles on LinkedIn.
❯ No news is good news? Almost every company in this group has a
web site (there are a couple that don’t -- seriously) and almost every
one of those has a news section. And most of those have no recent
news at all. There’s been nothing new at your company since 2006?
❯ Bad year for the E’s. Of the unlucky 13 companies beginning
with the letter “E”, Ello is out of business, Eurodesign and
Environments were purchased by other companies, and Eagle
Industries is operating in bankruptcy. Ethan Allen reported
lower sales and plant closings.
❯ Closing the P.O. Box. We still do a mailing, and in the course of postal, internet and telephone research we found a growing number of
companies that have closed their P.O. Box and have gone back to a
street address. They’re getting less mail, so that makes sense.
Thanks to those companies that did provide us with information this year. It is really appreciated. ❮