The custom sheet metal business has many facets and can be thought of as many different things. Because of this, we receive emails and calls for many different types of fabrication that we, as a sheet metal shop, may or may not be able to accommodate. However, this does not mean every job is something that is right for our fabrication shop or business in general.
With that in mind, I did something earlier this week that I hate doing. Especially in the business environment that we and many others find ourselves confronting daily.
For the first time in a long while I gave up a project that I would have given my left arm for just two years ago. However, the project had one major flaw that, up until now, I had never payed attention to and it drove me to stressful, anxiety filled places where I never want to be again. The kind of place that made me question whether or not trying to keep the doors open was even worth it in the end. The kind of job that, honestly, was too big for our tiny custom sheet metal shop to handle. A job that would have payed well, but stretched our time frames and kept the stress throttle to the maximum it could handle. Like I said, a place I never want to go back and visit.
K & E Sheet Metal is a niche custom sheet metal business that focuses on the residential HVAC markets. We are a job shop that caters to customers that need something in a pinch or small HVAC contractors requiring custom transitions or plenums when replacing a customers dwindling or broken forced air furnace.
My father and I knows this.
The problems arise when the big projects come down the pike, the rose colored glasses move down off the brow and dollar signs fall from the skies like showers in April. The lead times seem perfect and the voice on the other end of the telephone, in reassuring tones, makes everything seem like nothing will be a problem. We have plenty of time. Nevertheless,time passes quickly and small items are slowly finished. We are a one man operation pretending to be the robotic armed assembly line of the Ford Motor Company.
I take care of a few old, returning customers and before you know it the phone is ringing, the time window is closing fast, I'm working late now and on the weekend. The stress builds and nothing seems to satisfy the beast of time because there's none of it, never enough time in the day to accomplish what you need to. Why did I take this job? This is too big for our shop. I can't do this all by myself and we don't have the resources to hire any help! Get me the fuck outta here!!
In my drinking days, these kind of scenarios ended at the local pub. However, I am older now and understand this is not the way to run a business. Something needed to change and it started with me understanding what we were all about.
There is a market for the kind of custom sheet metal work we provide. K & E has been providing this service in the Greater Glens Falls area for over twenty years and we continue today. The things that I, as partner and chief fabricator, never focused on was understanding what we do. I didn't pinpoint my efforts toward the strengths we possess. K & E Sheet Metal provides a necessary service for the little guy and we--and I-- need to be proud of that fact. Not shy away from it, but embrace it. The stress of trying to be something we are not made me lose interest in the business as a whole, leaving gaps where we may have been able to grow. Instead I tried to find easy ways out, looking for ways to expand where we didn't have expertise or the money to make the proper impact. Sometimes breaking it down and starting from scratch is the best way to find your identity as a business and as human beings. Getting rid of the clutter and focusing on yourself, what you do and how you can focus your skills to help others is the best avenue. Personally and in business.
My father and I have learned the hard way that trying to be something you're not isn't the best way to find business success. Bringing a positive attitude, focusing on your strengths and producing quality custom sheet metal fabrication is what will ultimately make us successful. We may not be millionaires, but we will run a quality, well functioning business in our local community of Glens Falls, NY.