Ways to a grow a wood working business during tough times

Ways to a grow your business during these tough times

By Jeff Finney

Right now is undoubtedly a difficult time for most businesses. Some are completely shutting down, while others are operating in a limited capacity. It’s very easy to fold up during hard times and not work on your business out of the fear of the unknown. But, if I learned anything from the last recession, it’s that mindset plays a huge role in your company’s future success. During the previous recession, I chose to believe that there was no work available. I told myself that it would be impossible to get any more contracts because there were too many people vying for them. And, it turns out I was right, but only because that’s what I chose to believe.  Of course there was no new work coming into my shop because I wasn’t out there looking for it! I wasn’t winning new contracts because I wasn’t making connections with prospects, not because they all overlooked me in favor of a competitor. This time around, I’ve chosen to believe that if I invest in my company, my processes, my employees, and my systems that I’ll be in a better position than my competition when the work comes back. My actions now are setting me up to grow my market share. I’ve already taken several steps and made changes so that, once this storm clears, my business will grow substantially. The top five ways I think businesses can grow in hard times are: 

1. Sell when others are not

 Put out some lines now, even though there aren’t as many buyers. Continue to sell and work your sales process rather than telling yourself that no one is buying. Many people are not, but some are.  Connect with old leads or past customers, as well as current customers who may not be committed right now. Whatever you do, don’t give up on your continuous sales process. Even if you aren’t getting a lot of bites right this second, you’re keeping yourself top of mind for your customers and leads. When they get to a point where they’re ready to buy, you’ll be the first one they think of.  

2. Tighten up your processes

 In my shop, we’ve been devoting time to tightening up several of our processes. There are changes that we’ve wanted to make but have been putting off because we were too busy. Now, we finally have time to address all of those things.  

3. Streamline everything you can and get organized

 For me personally, this means my office processes. There are things that I’ve wanted to improve but just haven’t done yet because I haven’t had the time or a pressing need. However, now has been the perfect time for me to work on getting organized in the office.  Even though I’m the only one doing a lot of the work right now, I would eventually like to delegate some of it to my team. The only way to delegate something is to streamline and make processes for it, so this is one place I’ve been spending my extra time.  

4. Invest smart

 Put your money where you’ll have the greatest return when the work comes back.  Money is undoubtedly going to be tight during these times, so you have to invest wisely. “Investing” doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be a large purchase or something that uses a lot of cash. I’m talking about things that will incrementally increase your capacity when it does get busy again.  One thing my shop is doing is adding and upgrading tooling and on all of our workbenches. Several of our stations needed small things like new hand tools, new air lines, or more drills. By purchasing more than one drill per station, for example, I’m saving motion and time because my team can just grab a drill that’s already got the right bit on it. When you consider how many times my team had to stop working to switch drill bits in a single shift, you can see how the impact of simply adding an extra drill to each station can really add up. This was a small purchase, but it was a big investment in efficiency. Look for areas in your shop where small changes can add up over time to have a huge impact.  

5. Outsource to reduce your fixed cost

 Anything that you can do to get your costs into the variable column and out of fixed will really help you keep more cash in the business and make a consistent profit. One of the greatest benefits of outsourcing is that it’s there when you need it, but it’s not a continuous cost when you aren’t using it.  If you don’t have any jobs to assemble or build, then you’re not ordering parts for those jobs. When you can reduce your inventory, work in progress, and labor, it makes it much easier to weather economic slowdowns like this. If you would like to learn more about our ready-to-assemble Lockdowel components, click the link below for a free sample kit. Get in touch if you have any questions about outsourcing with Ultimate Cabinet Components.