Is it worth a career change?

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I'm in my early 50's and have been a programmer, designer, and manger of same for almost 30 years. I feel it's time for a change but still have to pay a mortgage and 3 kids in college.
I'd love to open a Woodcrat store. Does anyone have any idea how much I could take home? I know it depends on location, location, location, and other things like the qulaity of help, etc. But are we talking $40K and that's a struggle or $400K? What should be my expectations?
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Never Enough Money wrote:

I know someone who runs another woodworking store. He's been established for quite some time. I don't know exactly what he makes, but it's definitely not 400k.. He says he's "surviving". One interesting thing he told me was that since most of the big machines (tablesaws, etc) have gone to China, the margins have evaporated. Every year, the cost of fuel and steel goes up, and they have less margin. His store has the 10% of Jet/Delta/etc days once a year. He told me that many customers are not impressed, making comments like "that doesn't even cover tax".. but he told me that the only way they are able to do those sales is by having Delta absorb 5% of the discount.. in other words, they don't even make a 10% margin on the machines.
He said they make a decent margin on accessories.
So basically, you definitely aren't going to get rich off it. If I was you, I'd look around the other woodworking stores locally and see what kind of volume they do (look to see how busy they are). Since so many people buy woodworking stuff online now, I think it would be very difficult to start a new store. My guess is it would take awhile to build a customer base to be even just "ok" proftiable.
If any of the information I gave above is false, it's unintentional. I'm just going by what my friend told me.
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On 1 Dec 2006 09:54:42 -0800, Never Enough Money wrote:

I considered that, too. I was serious enough about it that I went to Parkersburg for a day for the official presentation for prospective franchisees. Most of what I learned is restricted, so I can't share numbers and such. But, if you're able to survive lean times while business ramps up, which could take a few years, and you can come up with the capitol needed to start up and carry you through that, the potential exists to earn a reasonable income. You *will* have to work your a** off, I expect.
Your best source of information will be Woodcraft. Call Bill Caroll at Woodcraft HQ (800-344-3348), and get the skinny from him. He's a really nice guy, and he won't lead you astray.
--
Art Greenberg
artg at eclipse dot net
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It would be a stretch for me to come up with the approx $150K money (I listened to the video on the Woodcraft website regarding their franchise - they say average investment is $500K with owner putting in $150). I have two rental houses I'd have to sell to get that and would have to pay some hefty tax on my profits. I certainly don't have years to build a business, I darn well better be making money the very first day.
Note to self: buy a powerball ticket tonight.
Art Greenberg wrote:

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wrote:
... snip

Let us know how that works out for you. ;-)
+--------------------------------------------------------------------------------+ If you're gonna be dumb, you better be tough +--------------------------------------------------------------------------------+
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This is a long response as I just helped a couple of friends of mine look at this very subject with the very company in question about 3 years ago. Here are the salient points I remember.
Don't think you will be your own boss if you own a Woodcraft or any other successful franchise for that matter.
I have known the players here at our local Woodcraft for many years now, and the amount of $$ is staggering to get in, certainly the numbers floating around here at 400K level are correct. From what I understood when the local joint went up for sale, WC has it all mapped out for you.
This is what I got from some of the folks that looked into purchasing our local franchise. I wasn't there, but these guys are pretty straightforward individuals.
Price for the franchise and required store size are based on population of the area where you want to start the business. Certain stock items are mandatory and you will carry them at all times, even if they are slow movers. This keeps a familiar appearance of a WC store, no matter where it is located. Items that are purchased by the home office that they feel should be in the store are purchased by them, sent to you, and billed (they don't ask). Their sale and ad merchandise and timing will be yours, too. Only a certain amount of "outside merchandise" is allowed, so you shouldn't think it is your store to stock with the items you find.
And apparently the folks at WC are upfront about the $$ requirements. They told the guys that were looking at the franchise that they needed enough additional income and savings to hold on for about 3 years or so until it was up and running correctly. 3 years income!! Then they could pay themselves a nominal salary. It seems the real income starts when you open your second store (no kiddin').
And me speaking as an employer, if you haven't managed, hired, fired, paid, scheduled, or trained employees, you are in for a real shock. In your mind you are thinking you will find a retired craftsman, some old German guy (OK, that's my dream) that would do the job for the love of woodworking. Check out the feedback you get when you tell that cranky old sombitch to do something he doesn't want to do. Or take a look at the youngsters working in Home Depot... even the good ones are most green as gourds. These will be your affordable labor to fit your business model. Solving benefit disputes, working around sick time off, personal time off, employee infighting, bad/childish behavior from full grown men, overtime pay, meetings with your state unemployment commission... if you haven't done these things you should really take a crack at that first as a manager or asst. manager somewhere to get a feel for it.
Our local store survives by hiring well meaning retirees that have at least one income, and sometimes 3. We are in a military town that had 5 bases for 60 years, so we have a lot of retirees looking for something to do that are more interested in keeping busy than making a career mark after retirement. Perfect for WC. But I don't know what the talent pool would be like where you are.
And I agree with Swingman on his keen observation.
I sent a buddy of mine opening a small custom shop over to WC to buy his tools. Pricing wasn't that good, the people weren't that knowledgeable at WC, they didn't have all the stuff he wanted. So, we talked about it, and he went to Amazon where I thought he should have gone in the first place. He bought his Jet cabinet saw, Jet 15" board planer, Jet 6" jointer, Jet 16" bandsaw, Jet monster dust collector, and a pile of accessories and he got some free promotional goodies from them (a Bosch router and a router lift for one!). Shipping was free. It was shipped to his door. He saved about $2600 at Amazon over WC. WC was higher on all the tools, and he had to pay taxes on his purchase locally. On top of that, WC charged for delivery of EACH tool, not just a large truck and mover rental.
Needless to say he was thrilled things didn't work out for him at WC since he saved a pile of money. The only reason he went there in the first place was that he felt like he was supporting our local economy. (A civic minded chap.)
I don't buy anything at WC anymore. I buy all the disposables and tools I need on the net. Our local store is hurting for that very same reason as I am certainly not alone. And it has not gone unnoticed by me and many of my cohorts (including one that works there) that a lot of the merchandise in WC is the same as in *gulp* Harbor Freight. Different packaging, but the same product.
If it were me, I would try something along the lines of developing a new skill. While you have income, take some furniture making classes and invest in some top notch tools. If you want to get into woodworking as a profession, you need to learn how to do a lot of different tasks very rapidly, and that takes practice. Do that while you have income and no employees.
Whatever you do, good luck!
Robert
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:
> > Don't think you will be your own boss if you own a Woodcraft or any > other successful franchise for that matter.
A fraternity brother and I were having lunch one day, when he announced he was going to fold up what had been a very successful consulting engineering business that he started by taking out a $5K loan on his house.
When I asked him "why", he answered, "Because I'm getting tired of having to hold a guy's swantz every time he has to go to the bathroom."
One of the reasons I run a one man band.
Lew
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On 2 Dec 2006 01:40:30 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

Something in the same vein that I've seen working well for people is cornering a niche market- a very clearly defined one. It's amazing what people will pay to get one process done. A couple of examples-
Two retired guys used to run an outfit called "precision welding" that did capacitor discharge welding only for the shop I work for. They charged $2.65 per part to weld on six pieces of hardware. They've since quit doing that, and now I have to do it- turns out, I can do about 100 of those parts an hour- and I'm sure not making $265 an hour to do it! If you're not familiar with what that is, it's sticking a special screw in a thing that looks like a little pistol, pressing it to metal, and pushing a button- takes less than a second per piece of hardware.
We've also got an outside vendor that makes one part. Just one, on an old CNC mill. We give him pre-sheared blanks, he mills the outside edge to shape, drills 20 holes and countersinks them. For that, he gets better than $20 a part, and doesn't even deburr them. It's a bargin for my bosses, because they are constantly on order, and the guys I work with (myself included) hate large production runs. Farming that stuff out not only keeps production levels in the shop high, but it also helps to keep the employees from looking for greener pastures- we're job shop guys, not factory workers.
There are plenty of others. I guess my point is that if you can handle a little repetition or can lay out an investment for even one top-notch industrial machine that will run itself, there are a lot of bread-and-butter jobs that you could make a nice living from at home. I'd bet that you could buy a nice panel saw, a crapload of MDF, and cut shelving to standard widths all day long in your garage, and make a killing at it. Or get a screw-making lathe with a bar feeder, and let it run while you play around in your shop. Retail won't do that for you unless you're amazingly gifted at it, and really, genuinely like people.
Or, on a completely different track, I have observed (though never really understood why this is the case) that a lot of engineers and programmers take up plumbing when they change careers, and I've yet to meet one that didn't appear to be estatically happy about the trade. Myself, I hate plumbing- but there must be something about it that appeals to technology workers, and it pays pretty good once you get past the learning/apprenticeship stage.
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I certainly don't have years

Well, I suggest that you continue doing what ever you are doing. It is rare and very hard to for any new business to show a profit the "first" year.
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On Sun, 03 Dec 2006 05:13:32 GMT, "Leon"

I'm only down a couple thou ;)
I'm sure it will all turn around in December though.
December 1st: 5 hr power outage December 2nd: Hmm, what's that dark colored sawdust next to the bench? Oh, it's wet. Hey, it's over at the other end of the wall too. Hmm, and all the way down the other wall too...
Or, maybe not.
-Leuf
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Never Enough Money wrote:

Wow. No offense, but the mere fact that you asked the question indicates you have better not do it. It's going to take a substantial cash outlay to get started and profits won't be realized as quickly as you need them, maybe never. You can't just put up a sign and start making money - it doesn't work that way. Now, if you plan to keep your "day job", then it might be worth trying out, just to see how it feels and what prospects, advertising, rent, storage, insurance, fuel, taxes, etc etc etc look like. Believe me, being your own boss is going to take a LOT more work than putting your straight-40/week. I'd save it for when the kids are thru college at least, and you have at least three year's salary put away that you won't have to spend on the business so you can be sure to survive until it'll support you, if it ever does. Also don't neglect your age; leaving now might make it hard to go back, and even if you do, it won't likely be for your current wages since you'll be starting all over again.
Pop
Pop1
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Good advice. However, I expect a McDonald's to have enough income the forst month to pay expenses. Otherwise why even do a franchise?
My brother is in the convenience store business and he makes money day 1 -- by that I mean, the income pays the rent, stock, loan payment, and labor. There's a little left for him.
Pop` wrote:

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Likely you'd be better of with a McDonalds. Fast food is ingrained in American life. Business is there no matter the economy and everyone eats. A woodworking store, on the other hand, is a niche market that can take a severe hit during an economic downturn.

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Last I looked (which was a loooong time ago) minimum net worth required for McDonalds to even consider a franchisee was $2.5 million. I seriously doubt that any McDonalds has ever made money from day one since it takes a few weeks of having employees in training programs before you open and you better expect to grossly over staff for a several more weeks while that green staff learns the ropes even a little bit (not to mention the 50% turnover you will likely face from a completely green minimum wage staff and all of the free food you will be giving away to try to molify pissed off customers whose orders were screwed up by that green staff). This all assumnes that you have worked in and managed a McDonalds for several years because I guarantee you that you don't just walk in and start running a complex business like a McDonalds (or any other food service place shy of "Mom's diner"). I expect that the time from quiting your current job, though training, building a premanufactured store, equiping it, staffing it and just getting it open is at least 6 months - with no income and lotsa outgo. Major time is spent before that getting the franchise, finding and buying (or leasing) real estate in a viable market, etc. A short cut might be to purchase an operating store from McDonalds or an existing franchisee (with McDonald's permission of course) but they don't give away successful stores and who the hell wants to start out in a store that failed for someone else. Franchises are business opportunities designed to reduce the very high probability of bankruptcy that any new business faces - they are not viable get rich quick schemes.
Dave Hall

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There's always "McDougals!" <G>
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Never Enough Money (in snipped-for-privacy@79g2000cws.googlegroups.com) said:
| I'm in my early 50's and have been a programmer, designer, and | manger of same for almost 30 years. I feel it's time for a change | but still have to pay a mortgage and 3 kids in college. | | I'd love to open a Woodcrat store. Does anyone have any idea how | much I could take home? I know it depends on location, location, | location, and other things like the qulaity of help, etc. But are | we talking $40K and that's a struggle or $400K? What should be my | expectations?
There used to be a Woodcraft store down a block and across the street. I gather that the entry fee is much closer to the $400K number than $40K - and that the franchisee has very little control over what or how much is stocked. It sounded to me as if deep pockets were a definite requirement.
Even so, about a year ago the store was closed because the owner's pockets weren't deep enough. I've missed it - the prices weren't fantastic; but the store was convenient and the staff was savvy and always helpful. Enough so that I've made an effort to keep in touch with them since.
On the other hand, if you use the time while the kids are in school to plan the next phase of your life, then (graduation) might be a good time to make a well-planned change and open your own woodcraft (lower case intentional) store - but I wouldn't expect the entry fee to be small nor the net ROI to be very high.
-- Morris Dovey DeSoto Solar DeSoto, Iowa USA http://www.iedu.com/DeSoto
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Never Enough Money wrote:

Save your money. Retail is a hard, hard way to make money. If you are just looking for a change in what you do, try fine carpentry. Your overhead is low, your rates are good, and your risk is substantially less. If you have decent people skills, know who can afford your rates, and know how to sell 'trust' then you will do ok.
After you have gained some experience, and possibly some associates, take that down payment you were going to blow on a franchise, put it down on an old house in a good area then flip it for profit. You won't make a ton of money, but it's steady work, and you are in control.
My 2 pennies
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Never Enough Money wrote:

In my area its about 40 miles to a specialist store like woodcraft.
To get to it I pass close to a menards, Fleet Farm , Home Depot and a Harbor Freight place.
That usually means its got to something really special for me to stop , and I shop online now for the best prices.
If your kids were out of college and you had a small pension fund and your house was paid for , I would say go for a retail store , it could take you to retirement .
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Never Enough Money

I echo the other sentiments here. If you really want to do this, you should have a good plan. Speak with a financial advisor and look at what it would take to get things rolling.
I had the opportunity to buy a local furniture store. Guy has had the business for close to 35 years and wanted to retire. His take home was under $50k a year. And that's working 5 days 10 hrs a week. I had to think about all sorts of bills - inventory, fixing the building up, etc. I ran the numbers and figured I couldn't make it work. Be 2 or 3 years before I saw anything coming back.
This is really got to burn a hole in your soul to get involved with a francise. There's going to be money going out the door and long days/nights before you can get settled.
It's attractive to think to be own your own (I've got the same background you do). Perhaps you should think of contracting work in the high tech area? Still a lot out there.
MJ Wallace
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On 1 Dec 2006 11:23:54 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Yeah, I too agree with the others - it would be tough! But MJ has a point. Today I heard a piece on NPR where some IT *expert* was talking about the huge money that will be involved in data recovery, emails, etc. It sounds like your jobs got you down so maybe a change -within your area of expertise- would be more practical and have more potential.
Good Luck!
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