Remodeling as a second language

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I've heard it said, "Craftsmanship is a valuable commodity, but it does not guarantee success in business." Craftsmen who have been in business for a while will recognize the truth in this statement immediately. Those considering taking the plunge into self-employment often overlook the warnings of seasoned veterans; running a business is not the same as plying your craft, mostly because dealing with clients (who talk back) is different than dealing with inanimate building materials.

This may be something you're already familiar with. Perhaps you have managed a successful transition from employee to business owner. And now, you are considering expanding into other markets to supplement your bottom line.

Diversifying can help your business if executed properly. Just don't forget that the principles of first entering a business venture apply to diversification. Research into the market base/ need and analysis of your ability to adequately provide services cannot be overlooked. Don't let arrogance cloud your judgment. Just because you have been successful in one market segment does not guarantee the same result in another. Many large corporations have fallen because they believed their dominance in one area made them a shoo-in for any new venture. This failure can occur even when entering similar or seemingly easy markets.

The remodeling market
The fact that you are reading this publication suggests you are most likely somehow involved in the custom woodworking industry. Perhaps your primary business thrust is fabricating custom products in the shop. During slow times you take on the occasional remodeling project. This could be something as simple as a fence or deck. Realizing how easy the work is in comparison to shop work, you're contemplating taking on more complex jobs such as a kitchen remodel or even an addition. After all, you have proven successful in one aspect of your business so this seems like a natural way to fill in the gaps of sporadic shop work, or expand the arm of your business.

Back when I was in school, we were required to participate in an intensive week-long seminar on general contracting. This was in addition to the four-year course study on construction management. The school had arranged for industry experts to take us through the entire mundane process of a general contractor's responsibilities. After sitting through hours of liability and more liability instruction, I later discovered it was basically a scare tactic to make us question our professional goals. Well, it worked. I finished the week-long onslaught vowing never to become a general contractor. The main reason? Liability, of course.

That was many years ago. I eventually overcame my fears of becoming a general contractor, but never the fears of liability. I'm grateful for the scare tactic because it instilled in me a healthy respect for preparation.

Remodeling is different in many ways from shop work. One of the most significant differences is a lack of a controlled environment. Unlike working in the private confines of your shop, remodeling puts you on a stage. Your every move will be scrutinized. If you're remodeling a residence, you are working in an individual's private space. And it won't only be the client who is watching. In this age of "media-ized experts," neighbors and friends of your client will point out how they think things should be done.

The quality of work you are doing is not the only concern; how you go about that work is also under scrutiny. Simple things like personal hygiene/dress, hours of work and even the details of how you actually fabricate and construct will all come into play. In other words, it's not just about the finished product, it's the complete package. Keeping people happy throughout the entire process becomes equally if not more important than the product itself.