I know it sounds funny but small orders just suck! People spend too much time prepping and packing and we figure it costs $15 to do one invoice. We could gear-up for small sales but we would need a plan and training. Typically, 80% of my product goes out in full truck loads, 26 pallets on a truck, four trucks a month...just like clockwork. 2 customers take that
On Sun, 7 Sep 2008 02:52:29 -0400, with neither quill nor qualm, "Tom Gardner" quickly quoth:
I know how that goes, as I still sell tees and glare guards one by one. Instead of gearing up for small orders yourself, perhaps you might talk to other distributors you haven't talked to already. The Chinese brushes are so shitty that they fall apart on the first use. Your market is anyone who has ever used one, since quality sells itself, especially during downturns. People can't afford to waste money.
Scary! Last month was like that for me, with one client usurping nearly all of my time. It had been really slow, so that really helped. She made my month. Now to make my year...I have only 7 months to make up and 4 more to go!
-- Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life. ---- --Unknown
Five years or so ago when I decided to go-it-alone I thought long and hard on my business model. I concluded that the competition for machining, prototype, production, type shops was too fierce here in south-western Ontario, Canada. In discussion with owners of a number of related businesses I discovered that there were weeks where every employee got their weekly paycheck while the owner worked for $2 per hour! Not for me.
Being a P.Eng. with broad heavy engineering and business experience I "hung out my shingle", obtained license and E & O insurance, and advertised. (reminder to self: PAY E&O Ins. TOMORROW MORNING).
The first year was not very encouraging; the second was much better, the third was outstanding, now the fourth year is back to the straight- line growth curve (as opposed to exponential). And two or three of my clients provide over 50% of my billings. Last year 1 client provided about 50%.
Having no employees I can do as I like as long as the bills get paid. With all the tax deductions available this is not difficult.
Here are the services I provide to my client=E8le in south-western Ontario:
-Certification of load capacity of assorted material lifts and hoists including under-hook appliances and lift assists.
For each of the above items I can, of course, also do the design; but often the design is done by firms with experienced but non-P.Eng. staff and the legal requirement is that a P.Eng. certify and sign the fabrication drawings. I'm a pretty conscientious guy and do the design calcs regardless whether it is my design or not, so that I can be sure, and afford my E&O insurance in the future.
Occasionally I run into interesting situations when I am asked to certify an old and in-use lift or hoist. I explain to the owner/user what he is in for and that his pride-and-joy that made money for him for 20+ years may not pass certification BECAUSE IT MUST COMPLY WITH REGULATIONS before I will certify it.
Only twice have I certified an item that was not in strict compliance with applicable regulations. In each case I wrote a report, which became an integral part of the certified documents, describing why the superficial infractions provided a safer working environment for the workers than if the regulations had been strictly adhered to.
So far I have not been called-out by the regulating authorities. Mind you I am conservative in my assumptions (that's why we talk of the ART of engineering!) and steel is cheap. After all I am not paid to design or certify airplanes:-)).
Wow, what a great article. Explains many things I have experienced an I bet the rest of the group have, also.
One example: I own a small electronic assembly service. Last Spring we replace our old wave solder machine with a new CNC selective soldering machine. I junked out the old wave solder machine after we emptied the solder pot of hundreds of pounds of solder. The machine had lots of stainless steel sheet and other steel parts which we sold to the local scrap dealer. When all was removed, there was a large supporting frame made of square steel tube. I questioned whether I should just cut it up or was there some use we could make of it. I had already taken some other framework home for future projects.
I was about to continue on with cutting the frame up when I decided to relax, setting on the old green stool in the shop. I sat and stared at the frame for perhaps 10 minutes, then I saw it! This was not a framework, it was two metal carts joined by 6 pieces of square steel tubing! We always need more carts in the plant and they are a pain to build. 15 minutes of sawing and there were the carts. Well, there were the frames all welded up and ready to be cleaned and painted and have a plywood top and shelf added, plus 4 casters.
This article also shed light on why when we collect boxes and boxes of seemingly useless stuff, and finally get rid of it, only to discover we need one piece to solve a problem, only it is gone. Our brain remembers each and every one of those pieces of junk and perhaps sorts through them trying to solve a problem! I am more encouraged than ever to stop getting rid of my precious STUFF!
In the same vein, boxes of stuff I have bought at auction or yard sale never enter into a problem or projects solution. These are someone else's memories. I find when discovering one of the purchased boxes and searching through it, I have several 'aha moments. If I had know about this item, I could have solved last weeks challenge. If I rummage through the boxes often enough, then they seem to become really part of my junk collection, but it takes time.