Posts tagged #Micro Business

Business or Personal?

I have a couple blogs, one for myself (which I have not updated in a while) and the one you are currently reading.

Why?

When I originally set up the accounts I felt separation was warranted because why would I want people on the business side having to deal with anything from my personal life and vice versa. Plus, keeping personal and business life separate seems logical.

Finding a Balance With Time Management

One of the hardest things we deal with as a two man small business is time management. Especially since the recent purchase of our new CNC plasma table, with the goal of growing the business, our time is split between many things. Learning a new system, a new way of doing what you've done for over twenty years can be daunting and many things will sadly be neglected in that ongoing process. For my father and I, especially me, it has been keeping up with many responsibilities in regards to the website and social media.

We have recently hired someone to take-on the marketing aspects of the business, but that also requires attention on a daily basis. With more traffic to the website and orders coming through the door, there is more that must be done to be available for our customers. We want to make sure that our customers are finding us online and that we accommodate them, no matter how small the order. Therefore dialing in our search results to make sure keywords etc. are up to date is on my mind constantly, creating more work and time to make sure things are running smooth.

Keeping up with Twitter and Google+ have become a challenge because of the extra work established by our new machinery. I have neglected much of these responsibilities for over a month, which does not help people engage you looking for your services. It's called social media for a specific reason....social reasons. Organizing myself down the road will help me to make sure I am on top of everything. At this point we can't afford to pay for more help, so it falls on my father and I to get things done.

No one said building a business was easy and I am learning quickly that time management will become one of the best things I can learn going forward. No matter how small your company is, look into time management and how it can help you balance your time and goals.

 

Thank You to 'The Fabricator' For Featuring K & E Sheet Metal

I would like to thank Dan Davis and The Fabricator Magazine for asking us to contribute to one of their feature article's in this months issue titled "Developing Shop Employees For The Field". I was more than happy to give an interview to a publication that I have enjoyed and will continue to enjoy. My father and I were thrilled with how the article came out, with much appreciation given to Dan Davis and his team. When I first started in the business, working for my father, I was an installer for our residential and light commercial jobs. I learned a lot about how and what was needed to be fabricated for many different kinds of jobs. That was the simplest part of my job installing and working in peoples homes each day. The hardest part was dealing with customers from a business and personal point of view.

Every customer is different, especially when you are working in their home. Their first inclination is to be skeptical about the stranger in their house. Their second is to wonder if this person will ultimately rip them off. Most of these issues are expected to be taken care of during the quoting process, but this doesn't always put the customer at ease.

These kinds of problems are something I explained during my interview with Dan Davis, The Editor-in-Chief and writer of the article. There is definite psychology to working in a persons home; the hardest part for me as an installer.

My father and I work alone now due to economic conditions, but if we bring on new installers, these are the types of things I would pass along to help and develop new employees for our company.

You can read the article below and be sure to subscribe to The Fabricator Magazine. It's FREE:

Click the link to read the full article

Developing Shop Employees For The Field - The Fabricator

Should We Start a Facebook Business Page?

I have been pretty open regarding my hatred and questions about Facebook. We have never had a Facebook business page; I deleted my personal account over a year ago and have never felt more free. But...

Now that our company is working diligently on marketing the business, latching onto the power of the web and social media, I may be having a change of heart. Is it time for us to start a Facebook business page?

I openly despise, throwing barbs whenever I can, everything that is Facebook. The incessant baby bumps and people who I've talked to once pretending to be my bestee. However, my hypocritical juices are flowing, not wanting to miss out on any opportunity to help promote our business. Should I really let some, let's be honest, minor personal problems deny our business of opportunities?

These strong feelings I portend to have about Facebook over the last year and a half are all for naught if I decide to start a page. Seems pretty weak of me to cave on something not so important in the grand position of personal and business stances. However, we're not talking about abortion or gun control here.

Gasp...am I a flip-flopper?

Or does it not matter in the grand scheme of business and promoting the brand? After all, this is a personal position, ultimately hurting no one in the process. The caveat being that the company consists of my father and I only, with my dad not really caring or able to deal with any of the online promotion. Hence, much of what I put out there is very personal.

I try to use this blog as a billboard, company news site and sounding board for my thoughts and questions. The Facebook thing has been riling me for months since we started a concerted marketing effort via Adwords and now with the announcement of graph search earlier this month, I'm even more confused. Clearly, this is something I have strong issues with, but am I hurting the business in the process?

Any suggestions in our comments section or twitter regarding whether or not a Facebook business page is a must would be greatly appreciated.

 

The Mercy of Others

If you follow this blog or our Twitter feed you have heard about our little company purchasing a new CNC plasma table. The process has been exciting, especially since it's the first time in years the business has taken steps to move forward and grow. When last I updated the optimism was flying high and I expected the machine to be running sooner than later. Sadly, it's later and the plasma still sits gathering dust waiting for the final hookup. The waiting game continues for a step down transformer, exhaust fan and final electrical installation.

My hands are tied. Everything in my control is complete and for now I am at the mercy of others to get the ball rolling again. The last word I had was this week was looking good for receiving both the transformer and exhaust fan. Whether or not I hear the glorious beeping sounds of a truck in reverse will remain to be seen.

My optimism still reigns true, but the waiting game is growing tiresome.

 

Small Time Logisitics

My naive assumption is that logistics was just another word for shipping. The actual definition from Merriam-Webster is as follows: 1 : the aspect of military science dealing with the procurement, maintenance, and transportation of military materiel, facilities, and personnel 2 : the handling of the details of an operation

So clearly, not shipping per se, just dealing with handling of details in a military sense.

Who cares! Something you may be telling yourself right about now. The above is a long winded and relatively interesting ( at least for me, because I was unaware ) way of getting to something I have thought about company wise for some time.

The reality, or non-reality of shipping our products around the country, the logistics if you will are completely foreign to me. Obviously, I understand that packages are shipped, but as far as making it viable for business is surely something new.

To date, we have shipped one, count them, one order to somewhere in the lower 50. That place was Kansas and the whole transaction was a great experience. The customer was willing to be patient with our maiden shipment and the headaches which could undermine the whole project.

I had the fabricated fittings strapped flat to be packed at the nearest UPS store, communication was good with the customer and the shipment went off without a hitch. I didn't want to deal with any complications of securing and packing, so I left it to professionals.

A few days later the package arrived to a thankful customer and a giant sigh of relief from the shipper.

Could this be a viable option for our business going forward, especially with new (expensive) equipment about to be up and running? Are the costs of shipping and time needed for packing worth the trouble? Would only advertising local shipping to a mile radius work better for a smaller company like ours? These are just a few of the questions I have been asking myself over the last few weeks.

To be perfectly honest, the shipping costs alone are something that could sink the whole idea. In order to ship a small supply air plenum and two small transitions, flat packed to Kansas, the total shipping cost was roughly $44 for packing, materials and shipping. That's a tough pill to swallow for customers that are used to free shipping from the likes of Amazon. Not to mention the fact that this was a small order of minimal size fabricated fittings. What would that shipping cost ring up on something a bit larger? Would we be looking at freight costs instead?

The UPS and FedEx commercials make the whole process seem so easy with their no nonsense marketing of packages flying all over the world with seemingly minimal problems. However, when you go to the websites of either the process can be very confusing. It's not just as simple as zip code and weight.

We are moving toward a non-localized world which depresses me as a very local business. Nevertheless, these are things we need to take into account as a business that builds items for customers. If we can find an economical way to get our products into the hands of people that need them, why shouldn't we try? The trick is not to inflate your greedy little head and understand the limitations of the business. There is one thing I have learned over the years in our very niche micro business. Getting too far ahead of the game can be disastrous in the long run, bogging you down and making everything seem insurmountable.

This doesn't mean stunt ambition, goals or growth of the company. These are the reasons we invested in our new CNC plasma table and why we have struggled with the possibility of adding shipping to our normal business repertoire.

The last few years have been a challenging time for our company, more positive then negative however in regards to understanding the business from multiple angles. Ideas like the one I have briefly outlined in this post are something that never happened for our company, keeping us stuck in neutral. The goals have changed, the attitude has changed and ideas are bandied about frequently around the shop.

Whether or not we decide shipping is viable for us is still up in the air. However, we have run a successful test and know it's something that can be done.

Logistically speaking.

 

The Invaluable Insight From Customers That Care

One of the best things about having good relationships with customers is the feedback you gather on a daily basis. This can be invaluable when you take big steps that benefit you, your company and your customers.

The last few months, putting everything together for our new investment took a lot of time and effort. Mine and my fathers minds have been fixated on making sure we had t's crossed and i's dotted for the purchase and installation of our new CNC plasma machine. As of today, the battle continues for the next few weeks until the machine is completely setup and calibrated with our perfect settings, ready to use.

During this time we have had many customers in and out of the shop to see the new addition and discuss what has been going on with the company in the fourth quarter of last year and into the new year. All of them have been fantastic. They genuinely care, wanting us to succeed and wish us luck with anything that pertains to our new investment.

The best part of our interactions are the questions about minute details pertaining to the machine. Things I haven't even thought of over the course of the process. Great inquiries which I lock into the mind vault, adding to my growing list of questions for the techs.

It's amazing what you completely overlook when you're focused on other things. Even when you feel like you're totally focused, you're not. My customers have saved me the time of sitting, racking my brain to list questions for the techs when they come to finish the installation process. Questions that seem so obvious when I hear them out loud. I think to myself, "How could that completely obvious and logical question totally escape me?"

They will never know how grateful I am for these insights. Everything going on these days is new and scary (good scary) territory for our company. The process has been exhausting, but beyond enjoyable because it's exciting to know that you are taking steps forward instead of sideways.

The adventure continues...