Posts filed under Micro-Business

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...

 

The Fear is Real

I realize how melodramatic that title may seem, but in regards to our recent investment, the fear is real and if I sit and think too much, it scares the hell out of me. Not the fear of making the actual move to sign our life over to the bank, but the fears that the future will bring enough work to pay for our new equipment. Obviously, investing in yourself and the business is the only way to grow and be successful. Taking the emotion out of any investment is the hardest thing for humans to do. The people who can take that emotion out of the transaction have the upper hand. Some of the best stock traders and investors have the intangibles to subtract those feelings that keep regular people from risk.

My goals are to grow the company and work my ass off to make sure these fears are completely unfounded. However, they are real in the sense of learning new things and creating new lines of business. Not to mention the facts of becoming more of a salesperson rather than a trades person. These are risks my father and I must take in order to reach any of our new benchmarks.

My father is a tradesman through and through as am I. The difference is my interest love of business and how it works on a daily basis. My schooling is lax when it comes to running a business, but my experience is 15 years in the making. I have learned so much over the years, along with being a sponge when it comes to anything involving business and investing.

The next steps for our company are beyond exciting, but the fears are real and need to be acknowledged. Pushing them down doesn't help you grow as a businessman or person for that matter. Taking on calculated risk is the only way for us to make the leap. My shoes are tied up tight.

Change is scary. Embracing the fear to accept the change is the catalyst needed for growth. IMHO

 

CNC Plasma Table, Air Compressor Installation Update

CNC Plasma Table & Air Compressor

CNC Plasma Table & Air Compressor

Been a few weeks since our new CNC plasma table and Air Compressor were delivered, so I thought I would give a little update.

First off, the machine and air compressor are still not hooked up and running just yet. In fact, I haven't even taken the plywood off the table top that was placed there for shipping purposes. Usually, I would chalk this up to dropping of the ball or laziness. Not this time. We have actually been hindered by some electrical issues, and by issues I mean really old building with screwed up voltages and the like. Minor problems, but still problems.

So we have a 600 volt 3-phase coming into our rented space and we need to transform that down to a 230 volt 3-phase. I was unaware that this is an odd ball transformation and that much of today's industrial electricity or bigger buildings run on 208 volts 3-phase.

For some perspective, I am a dummy when it comes to electricity, so a professional has been hired. I like to think of my father and I as pretty handy with skills to take care of many tasks. These do not however include electricity or water.

Anyway, we have had to order a transformer--15 day wait--so that we can have our electrician get everything set, giving us the opportunity to schedule techs to come in and make the final connections for the equipment and software that runs the machine.

My stock answer to everyone who enters the shop these days is that we have cut sheet metal by hand for 20 years, so a few more weeks won't kill us. However, we need to start paying for our new toy, so crunch time is near.

We are close and my minor issues are exactly that, minor. The transformer is ordered and our electrician is set. A few more weeks and we should be rockin' and rollin'. As for me, I have that child at Christmas feeling again, except this time the gift is open but the batteries were an oversight. Now my shiny new gift sits neglected until the stores open later in the day.

Patience young grasshopper.

2013: Breaking it Down and Building it Back Up

Happy New Year to all! I was originally going to write a post looking back at 2012 and all that has happened over the year. However, after thinking on it for a few minutes I realized that looking back wasn't something that would benefit our company at this point. The end of the year brought our biggest change--financing and purchasing a new CNC plasma table--since the business began in 1989. Not much is going to trump that for us.

The weekend after the machine was delivered my father and I were text-ing back and forth about needed tasks to get things moving. He ended the conversation with "Start of a new era" and he is absolutely correct. We are starting from a whole new position, not to say we will forget anything that has gotten us to this point, but we are turning the corner and making a new path.

My father and I had stagnated up until a few months ago and honestly we are looking forward to what will be, rather than what has been, helping to focus on growth. I understand learning from history and all that jazz, but this company needs to focus on gaining positive momentum over the next few years. We are breaking it down and building it back up.

I expect 2013 to be one of our best due to our recent changes in procedure and mindset. The biggest is being mindful of not stagnating and searching for business rather than sitting back, waiting for things to come to us. We need to concentrate on being proactive, creating proper boundaries that will benefit us as a growing company.

Our company needs to take that fearful step forward and let the past fade, letting those new positive changes filter in.

Have a great 2013!

 

Someone Has a New Vanity Short Link...keshtm.tl

Over the last few days you may have noticed that many of our Twitter, Google+ and Linkedin links had a little more K & E panache than ever before. Well, your sharp eye could not be more accurate. Friday I decided to invest in a new short domain for all of our social media short links with the intent of helping to grow our brand as much as possible. For a $40 yearly investment I secured keshtm.tl as our new vanity short link. Therefore, when you're perusing our social media pages and see our new link, you can trust that you will be led to our website kesheetmetal.com or a trusted article sent out by my father or I. Who am I kidding...I would be the only one sending anything out :)

My nightly reading has focused more on branding the business and making sure that our web presence is as consistent as possible. The short link is just another step in that direction. We may be just a tiny local HVAC sheet metal fabrication shop in the physical world. However, with the internet, we can be as big as we wanna be, spreading our wings and finding new business wherever it is hiding.

Walking that same line we must keep in mind not to over extend ourselves, losing focus on finding new business and keeping our new investment running at all times. Marketing the business is new territory, so we must keeep things in perspective and not spread ourselves too thin.