As a trade journalist, the subjects of my interviews tend to withhold information, to covet the knowledge they have gained through experience, and plead the Fifth when it comes to discussing their trade secrets … but really, what are they hiding? Fine. I understand some people don’t feel comfortable sharing their annual sales revenue; however, short of a secret formula of some sort, what information could their competition possibly discover that would be so detrimental to their business?
The owner of a custom cabinetry company once told me: “There are no secrets in woodworking.” While, of course in his opinion the quality of his product may have been far superior to the competition, the materials, the machinery and processes were much the same. He was an open book when it came to the discussion of the manufacturing of his product.
Yes, yes, I realize this is not a woodworking magazine, but as you all can attest, the world of surfaces and woodworking do indeed go hand in hand — and if a lesson can be learned from how one company has coped with the state of the economy; troubleshoots its way through the challenges of diversification; and offers strategies for retaining employees — why not share it, right? This issue focuses on two things: The importance of training and the willingness to invest in your No. 1 asset — your employees.
This month’s case study, “Bringing Fabrication In-House”, focuses on an architectural millwork firm whose owner, Eric Peterson, returned to his Corian roots when the economy took a nose dive and the company’s backlog started to wane. Rather than risk losing its highly skilled foreman to layoffs, New World Millworks instead chose to bring some of its solid surface fabrication in-house to boost its shop hours. It should also be noted that many of these benchmen were already certified to fabricate and install the material.
Human resources issues, like retention and continuing education, are always areas of high interest with manufacturers, this issue’s message: If you have valuable employees, invest in keeping them. In his article, “The Super Employee,” Jon Olson outlines the qualities valuable employees possess and offers tips for fostering their growth by simply recognizing these individuals for what they bring to the table. Chris Traynor urges shop owners to actively engage their employees to improve their company’s strategic business plan in his article, “Creating An A To Z Action Plan”.
Consider this: There may be no true secrets to the fabrication of surfaces — be it solid surface, stone, engineered stone, tile — but there most undoubtedly are things left to be learned. Kevin Padden’s article, “Fabricating Abroad”, and Andy Grave’s step-by-step tips for creating a No-Drip Edge are perfect examples of career fabricators reaching out and sharing their knowledge.
Be willing to learn from your peers and share your expertise with the fabricating community.