This shop has ‘MoFlow’ - Clientele

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“I think some of our best employees are the ones that have worked in production, particleboard, shops making junk ... so when they come here they go, ‘Wow.’ They get to build in hardwood, so it’s a different beast.”

Gaudin has often received the advice that he should increase the price of his furniture in order to tap the high-end customer. He says he prefers the upper middle-class customer, not the rich and famous.

“Our customer appreciates woodworking and the quality of it. When they come in here, they may not know exactly what that is. But hopefully when we’re done with them, whether they purchase with us or not, their ability to look at drawers, mortise and tenon joints and dovetails, how we lay stuff out, well, we hope they take that with them. Education of our customer, if we do that, we’re doing our job. The sales will come a little easier.”

MoFlow, MoJo and ProFlow
The business structure of The Joinery is something Gaudin says he loves and could talk about for hours. He proudly calls himself The Joinery’s “Founder and Headslacker” and signs his e-mails with those titles. He has created three groups in his business structure.

“I have a group called Moflow where I want more flow from my guys when we’re talking about work in production throughput. My direct reports are essentially from three people; one is operations, one is production, one is assistant production. Those are the guys that I go to. We meet weekly. That’s Moflow.

“I also have in the company, Mojo, which is good feelings. You know, treating our employees well; we’ll have contests, barbeques, group events, people go skiing — that’s Mojo.

“Then there’s Proflow, which is production flow and there are four people in that group, but I’m not part of that. When they sit at my table, I’m like ‘Let’s look at the numbers.’ I want more flow. I want to get the pieces out the door; that’s the bottom line.”

Gaudin has a partner who owns 6 percent of the company and two others who work off percentage profits. One of his goals is to be able to leave his business for extended periods of time knowing the company could run without him. He’s done it a few times, but doesn’t feel totally comfortable doing so. He’s an avid bicyclist, triathlete and golfer, and just got his welding shop back up and running. In other words, he has other interests besides The Joinery.

“There’s a part of me that’s probably the old hippie, the anti-movement. I don’t engage as much as I should in the networking, rubbing shoulders with the mucky mucks. I would rather go home, get on my bike or have a cold beer.”

Bump in the road
The Joinery stuck to its plan of weeding out slow sellers, introduced its new product line of top sellers, and bought the Inventor program last summer.

But even with the long-standing success of The Joinery, the nation’s economic troubles, particularly in September, have taken their toll on the Portland furniture-making business. Gaudin’s belief that the company needs to have a minimum sustainable growth rate of 6 percent a year is in jeopardy. It doesn’t appear that any custom shops are immune to the financial problems currently facing the country.

“Interestingly enough, the most recent month [September] has hit us pretty hard as far as new orders,” Gaudin remarks. “I haven’t seen this in 25 years. We’ve had to take some other moves. I’ve actually laid 12 percent of my work force off, which was a sleepless time period. We’re working definitely very hard at reaching out for other accounts outside of the retail end of it a little bit ... not wholesale, necessarily, but commercial.”

The Joinery was bolstered by some uptick in potential commercial projects in October, and without a full load of work, Gaudin is taking advantage of the free time that exists and investing it in his employees. He has been able to cross-train some of his workers and continues the education of other employees. The owner of The Joinery has been through some slow times during his career and is convinced there are some bright lights at the end of the current economic tunnel. n

Contact: The Joinery, 4804 S.E. Woodstock, Portland, OR 97206. Tel: 503-788-8547.