MY GAWD..... I laughed myself silly watching that. With almost 30
years of self employment in construction, I cannot tell you how many
times I have had that conversation with a "lead carpenter", crew
chief, or just one of the numb nuts.
I can't imagine any example on that subject being more spot on.
Those guys hit a home run with every damn sentence.
NOT ONE of my amigos, NOT ONE, has made it doing only custom cabinetry
(or any other kind of specialized woodwork) on their terms. Those
that stuck to their guns and "didn't want to build crap" all went
broke to a man.
Being trained as a carpenter and being damned proud of my skill set 35
years ago, it was horrifying to me (and yes, I spent all of my savings
gearing up with equipment) to find out I made more money rehanging a
poorly fitting door than I did installing a brand new one. I made
more money building a deck than I did cabinets. It was a sour pill
for me, to swallow, no doubt.
Today, although I would love to be the guy in the hat with the dreams
of connecting to the ancient cabinet makers of yore by doing only
projects I like, that just isn't practical. I make 10X the money
fixing a tile roof leak than I do installing crown molding in a few
rooms (probably the whole house!). And people are significantly less
Since folks these days are shocked at the price of cabinets, I let
them go find the ones they want, then quote them an installation price
after I see the drawings. Lowes/HD does the design work, collects and
dispense the money, arranges transportation and delivery, and are
responsible for all design errors. I am the good guy. I go out with
a helper, install the cabinets, and if they have to order additional
pieces (fillers, replace a damage door, shorted trims, etc.) I get to
charge for additional labor charge above my quoted price. I am at no
risk at all unless I drop a cabinet, and if they don't like their
design in execution, it isn't my fault.
I make my money getting people out of jams these days, not necessarily
because of my carpenterial skills. I would rather be that guy in my
shop, surrounded by all kinds of cut wood waiting for assembly while I
cut that last 32nd off a piece of trim for a perfect fit. The smell
of freshly sanded wood, the drying glue, and the romance of the whole
picture of being a dedicated craftsman that only does what he wants is
quite alluring. But money for me these days is all in specialized
repairs or installations.
That scene was genius, Jay. You bet that will see a lot of linkage
from me to my buddies. I will be more than sure that my buddies that
have pissed away retirements, personal savings, racked up huge loans,
crushed their family resources, and all the other things they did
while in business get a chance to see that. It might just ring a
But at 21, I was that guy in the cap.... wow....
Oh yeah.... your post title is perfect, too. *despair*
On 3/16/2011 12:18 AM, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
Agree 100% with your assessment, and the following is in no way directed
at you (that would be the mother of "preaching to the choir"), but to
those who will quit before getting started, based on just the
possibility of "despair", as illustrated.
If you work it right, and long enough, you can have the last laugh, and
a dollar or two to boot, instead of despair. ;)
Granted, it is not often that the uninitiated get to see what can be a
startling difference, and not often that you can even find folks who
even care, but therein lies one of the secret(s) to not tripping over
#1: ALWAYS work toward the goal of putting yourself in a position to
pick your clients ... NOT vice versa!
CAVEAT: You can't advertise your way into this position, you can ONLY do
it by word of mouth and referrals.
In that regard, had the opportunity recently to present a client, mid
job, a very sharp, stark, contrasting dose of reality with regard to the
difference in QUALITY of the work done by a well respected residential
construction "trim carpenter" with years of experience on high end
homes; versus the work done by experienced, accomplished "cabinetmakers"
who put quality and pride in what they do above all else ... <Leon and
I, even if I have to say so myself>
We did all the kitchen cabinet work and, to save time for me to devote
to supervising the rest of the project, and the client money, I had a
hot shot trim carpenter do the cabinet work in the den and two bathrooms
of vanities, doors and drawers.
The STARK difference, in just the drawers alone, was enough to cause the
client to scrap and swallow the cost of all (23) of the bathroom drawers
done by the trim carpenter, and to pay rebuild new drawers for the
bathrooms " ... just like those in the kitchen!".
<those "domino" drawers in a recent thread, crafted by Leon>
Again, in that regard, I can guarantee that this client has friends and
family who have not only heard about this, but can also pay the freight
... eventually the chickens from the eggs laid on this job, as with
every job, will come home to roost, which brings us to the other, and
most important, "secret":
#2: The REAL, and ULTIMATE, challenge is in being economically smart
enough to still be around to take advantage of it.
You have to admit though, the drawers had a visual aspect to them not unlike
dovetailed drawers, but certainly a more unusual and visually noticeable
appearance. You could say that the client was almost committed to having the
bathroom drawers redone just to make them match.
Nothing like promoting yourselves into a little more work and profit eh?
True ... but it was not the visual aspect that did it. You only have to
handle both to appreciate the difference, which you could do
blindfolded. AAMOF "They feel more like furniture" were her exact words.
Name of the game ... helps keep away "despair". :)
Pride in your work is what it is all about. I currently have a customer in
waiting with no rush for me to begin my 4th installment of modifications in
her kitchen, she is willing to wait. Her husband worked with his father, a
cabinet maker, when he was young and they remodeled kitchens. He has the
tools and equipment to do it himself but he sees the difference in my work
and gives his wife cart blanc when it comes to their kitchen.
an old saying comes to mind from all this.
The Bitterness Of Poor Quality Remains Long After the Sweetness of Low Price
I have several clients(interior designers) that have gone elsewhere over the
last 32 yrs to get work done.
Everyone of them has returned and will wait til I can get to it. In 32 yrs
I've never had a job returned, ever.
I even went 15 yrs with an UNLISTED phone number. And Swingman is right,
word of mouth is the only way an artist/craftsman can find his niche' and
The only thing I would add is always bid it high, you can always come down,
but going higher is always more difficult.
A client will tell me to do it the way i would do it for myself. I tell them
thats not he way they want it done, because I don't get paid when I do it
For those that have acces to binary groups, look for artist defined
The same guy made another video as well, detailing a conversation with
a prospective client. That, too, is quite entertaining.
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