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Dropping the Ball

Posted: Tue Oct 26, 2010 1:58 pm
by Neibelungen
I guess a perenial problem (or at least for me) is keeping up with orders and time management.

I started this year with the best of intentions to try not to repeat the same probloms I've always had, namely actually keeping up with orders, but recently I still keep dropping the ball on it.

People are getting hacked off again (if still are from before) by the fact I take 6 months on commisions (if not more) and still don't get these jobs completed.

How do other people manage their time and working with one-offs and commisions?

Re: Dropping the Ball

Posted: Tue Oct 26, 2010 4:33 pm
by chrisanson
i gave up mate, just do occasional things now, i work which brings in enough to feed us etc but i.m happy

Re: Dropping the Ball

Posted: Tue Oct 26, 2010 4:53 pm
by Tod
About 99% of what I make are one offs, some are a variation on a theme but it's unusual for two orders to be the same. I know aprox. how long it takes me to make some thing when I quote, but getting the materials is the difficult bit to start with. I work all week so that has to be done Friday afternoon or Saturday. I try to be realistic with my lead times. I always get people asking for sooner and I used to agree and end up working till 1am. I won’t do that now. It’s what I say or don’t order. Ask me for earlier and I will try and help but that depends on the time of year. Hassle me a lot about an earlier delivery and I’ll stop returning your calls.
I’m lucky that I can do most of my computer work during the day but I’ve learnt not to get into long email conversations, its better to talk and take notes, it saves loads of time. If I’m running late I tell the customer but that hardly ever happens.
The bottom line is only take on what you want and know you can do. Don’t jump orders and don’t bow down to those who shout the loudest.

I do what I do because I like it and I need the income.

Re: Dropping the Ball

Posted: Tue Oct 26, 2010 5:28 pm
by Neibelungen
In theory I try to do the same, estimating time and stagerring work out, but somehow it never seems to able to work out correctly for me.

Perhaps I'm too fussy and a perfectionist and keep going back over things till I'm satisfied that I'd accept the work . I know what you mean about computer time and telephone calls. It's amazing how much time they eat up when you don't pay attention to them.

I think I'm really going to have to learn how to say 'no' to work and mean it.


Although I can only speak from my own perspective and the hassle I cause people, I've noticed that there's a certain degree of this bad time management among english traders, especially on the top end. While some seem to manage, a lot have that same reputation that it just takes forever to get things made. You hear it a lot with armourers who work for themselves.

I know costumers flit in and out and I'm sure every one of them has had both difficult customers and their own mismanagement at the root. Take for example Sutler's stores or Discriminating General. Both have, or had, that same mixed reputation.

I know some of it's cash-flow.. You have to tie up a lot of working money in materials on occasion for a small job that doesn't cover it's costs initially. You need the next deposit to get the previous one completed, which is a bad way to work !! I'm sure we've all done it when the car breaks down or there's a sudden, large unexpected bill.

Some of it's motivation and attitude too... Some days you can't find the energy or get into the flow of working.
Too much time spent staring at the computer screen, or even doing your accounts can seem an attractive option for once. !!

Anyway, I want to appologise to the people I've let down, already and begining too and would like to publically thank them for their patience, tollerence and ability to put up with my faults.

Re: Dropping the Ball

Posted: Sun Oct 31, 2010 5:09 pm
by gregory23b
I have suspended my trading for a year or so to get my training out of the way. It will resume, but commissions only, no stock items as such, because I wont have the time to do shows, much less make the stock for them. I found the last year or so that I was not fulfilling my own timings and had let a couple of clients down.
Also, I find making stock items to be a chore, they are often loss leaders for the one off pieces I enjoy making, so a different marketing strategy awaits.

Re: Dropping the Ball

Posted: Sun Nov 07, 2010 11:42 pm
by House of De Clifford
Hiya,

This is an age old problem.... we made a conscious decision to supply raw materials in the main... and very very rarely, make up bespoke items. We'd rather teach people to do it themselves... i know this doesn't help..... but am just sympathising........
I know mum has the same issues at times as a costumier and always has a constant battle between stock and orders....
I don't think there is an easy answer.....maybe get some elves????

I know that is a strange comment... but back in the day...we would have had apprentices, up to 6, each one having been supplied to us by their parents with a years worth of their wages... and all we had to do was
1) give them shelter
2) teach them the trade
3) feed them 3 times a week.

ah them were the days.............. :thumbup:


M

Re: Dropping the Ball

Posted: Mon Nov 08, 2010 1:28 am
by paul bennett
I used to have a job with really strict deadlines and quality requirements.
As a craftsman, I totaly sympathise with the quest for perfection (or at least just seeing all the things that are wrong with what you have just done, rather than the quite decent bit of work it is). But perfection costs time and time is money

Bottom line, charge more or learn to use the phrase "f*ck it it'll have to do"

Re: Dropping the Ball

Posted: Tue Nov 09, 2010 1:21 am
by Pete the Pong
My way (with the books) is to never take a deposit -but then 100% payment on delivery. Therefore in order to survive, and be paid, I have to be able to present the client with the goods before I get the cash.
But then I have the advantage that if the client does not like the book, or decides against it I can always sell the same item as a one off at (usually) 20% more than my original quote!!!!

Re: Dropping the Ball

Posted: Tue Nov 09, 2010 2:30 pm
by mogey
As a customer (I am talking generally here) - I would always prefer to be quoted a time that is twice as long as what a trader thinks it will take, and then be pleasantly surprised if it takes less time to produce. Equally if there are problems, being given a revised estimate...it is the not knowing that i find a problem (I start to worry that the order has been lost, or my address misplace etc etc)

Re: Dropping the Ball

Posted: Tue Nov 09, 2010 3:03 pm
by John Waller
mogey wrote:As a customer (I am talking generally here) - I would always prefer to be quoted a time that is twice as long as what a trader thinks it will take, and then be pleasantly surprised if it takes less time to produce. Equally if there are problems, being given a revised estimate...it is the not knowing that i find a problem (I start to worry that the order has been lost, or my address misplace etc etc)
Quite. Good communication goes a long way to smoothing the waters. Last TORM I placed an order for a commision piece worth £600. To date I have heard not one thing from the maker even though I was given a lead time of around three months. Given cash is now tight - I have just bought a new car - I won't be seeking him out at the weekend. If I had been advised of any problems he might still have a customer.

Re: Dropping the Ball

Posted: Tue Nov 09, 2010 3:29 pm
by Neibelungen
Yes, some very good comments and notes to follow there.

Communication does seem to be key.
Even if your delivery times are going badly wrong, people are a lot more forgiving if they know what's going on, even if you can't promise them a delivery date.

Definately something to take on board and improve.

The hardest bit for me is to balance being too finickity and trying to get everything right, against just getting the job done. Most people probably don't see the errors that I notice and and wince over.

Deposits are always going to be a tricky problem and finding the right balance between too much and not enough.
Too little and you run the risk of being short of raw materials, and consequently need the next deposit to finish off the one previous. Viscious cirles develope if your not carefull
Too much and you don't get the benefit once the item in finished and got paid. Plus people get itchy when they have tied up a lot of money and not seen anything or heard anything .

No deposit works if there's little material costs or you have other income. When you do commision work though, you can end up with something that doesn't have a market or won't fit anybody else.

Perhaps the biggest problem for skilled craft-people is over-reliance on themselves... paying somebody else to do work that they could do themselves. Not neccessarily better or worse, but time factors meaning they could get on with other parts. Partly cash-flow, but also probably pride and wanting to make everything too.

The hard part with staff or training somebody up is the time it takes for them to become good. Yes, they learn the basics fast, but beyond that they end up costing you more than they earn for the first year. The flip side is a training somebody inside the re-enactment field with the skills. Your creating your own competition in the long term. To always a bad thing I grant, but risky in a small market.


I'm guessing most dedicated craft-people do it for the love of the job.. if they really did a full financial breakdown they would probably find shelf-filling at tesco's actually makes more money. Work's work these days, but not exactly fulfilling.


Thanks for all your comments people.. good to see the other side perspective too... Learning is not just what you do, but how you do it as well.

Re: Dropping the Ball

Posted: Mon Nov 15, 2010 11:01 am
by John Waller
Following on from my last post. So I went to TORM principally to collect an item I had given to a trader for repair at Kelmarsh. I had enquired in advance and received an email saying the item would be available for collection. And it came to pass that A had not talked to B and the item was left in the workshop.

I deliberately avoided the trader from whom I had ordered a commision piece as I had pretty much written the item off having heard nothing from him since placing the order at the spring market despite the 3 month lead time I was given. I seem to recall his promises to 'keep in touch' with me. I didn't want an argument to spoil my day.

On arriving home I checked my emails to find that he had emailed me on Wednesday to say the item was finished and I could collect at TORM. A phone call would have been good. Even if I had talked to him on Saturday I could not have taken the item due to the size of the vehicle I was in. I will honour my order but if the two examples above are typical then I think a number of traders will go to the wall due to poor customer service. As we have seen recently one major player has gone bust and their reputation for delivering goods as ordered and on time was poor. Good communication is key. A trader's reputation is all and word gets about.

Re: Dropping the Ball

Posted: Mon Nov 15, 2010 11:07 am
by davetmoneyer
Pete the Pong wrote:My way (with the books) is to never take a deposit -but then 100% payment on delivery. Therefore in order to survive, and be paid, I have to be able to present the client with the goods before I get the cash.
But then I have the advantage that if the client does not like the book, or decides against it I can always sell the same item as a one off at (usually) 20% more than my original quote!!!!
Identical to my sales methods :thumbup:
Dave