2004 is off and running…

We have already consumed more than 1 percent of 2004 and I can see that it is going to be a real screamer. Things are already moving faster than they were last year at this time.

Our custom woodworking business continues to attract customers and our consulting efforts are still producing increased client sales, so we are starting the year off on a good footing. I have also pulled in a talented guy to help me set up the wood shop for short-run production. With his help, I will be able to deliver on my original promise to provide hand-crafted products at an affordable price.

I am still meeting people who say wistfully, “I would love to be working with wood again. I used to do it in the past and it was so satisfying!”

It is all of that. I have pictures of people working in my shop and they are always deeply absorbed in their work and they seem to radiate satisfaction. There is something about shaping wood and bringing out the beauty of the grain that is unlike any other craft.

Doing custom wood work for a living rather than as a hobby means that a large portion of the time is spent prospecting for customers, planning, estimating costs, and setting expectations for customers. Like any other self-employed craftsman, I need to balance my woodworking time against the time required to generate and manage the business.

It is this balancing act that makes the game of working for myself so challenging and yet so satisfying when I do it successfully. There is no plateau where things smooth out. It seems to be more of a dynamic stability, like sailing, where you are continually adjusting to meet changing conditions.

The major difference in this career versus past careers is that I do not want to expand the business beyond the scope of a family business and several associates. I know from past experience that it is possible to organize myself right out of the workshop and find myself managing others and doing sales calls.

Customer contact is vital, but keeping close to the work and doing original design is where I get my real satisfaction. After 47 years of working in high and low tech jobs, I find that I enjoy life most when I have daily hands-on creative activity to do.

This is the year to bring all of the disparate elements of the business together, build an organization of sales representatives, do some trade shows, generate positive cash flow, and manage to do it in a way that provides continuing job satisfaction for all concerned.

I will continue to blog as frequently as possible, because this is the activity that requires me to maintain an external view of my life. As a result I am less likely to lose myself in the details.

I hope your new year is off to a good start also.

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