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Do You Have What It Takes To Build A Winning Team?

8. August 2018 07:36

By: Gary Vitale, GFV Business Advisory                                                                                                                                                                      

The question: “Do You Have What It Takes?” has been asked for centuries and in many contexts.  When it comes to leadership and team building the answer is yes, in most cases good leaders have what it takes to build a winning team.  But then why do so many leaders fail?  The answer lies in the details of how extraordinary leaders prepare and the process they use to select, train and build their teams.  Just by reading the previous sentence will give you clues to why most leaders fail.  If you break down the components and drill down you will see this is not as simple as it sounds.

First, extraordinary leaders go through a rigorous process to select their team members.  They evaluate talent from many perspectives and use all the tools available.  In business these tools consist of a resume, several interviews by people within the organization to determine fit and talent, reference checking, and a professional assessment.  Some leaders even go beyond this but at a minimum all of the mentioned items should be part of the evaluation process to determine if an individual is a good fit for your team.  How many of these tools do you use consistently?  If you are falling short you may be compromising your ability to select the right players for your team.

The second part of the process is on-boarding and training.  Usually these are two separate steps but I will combine them here for the sake of space.  Even the best players will struggle if you do not take the time to give them a well thought out orientation period where they can meet and understand the functions other employees perform and see how everyone contributes to the success of the company.  Just as important is a clear explanation of the new employee’s performance expectations and how he or she fits in to the overall plan.  Without this step they will be left to wonder from person to person asking questions and learning by osmosis.  Certainly top performers expect more from you and will see a lack of effort on your part as a red flag when deciding if they are a good fit for you.  That’s right, just as you are going through the process of deciding whether or not the prospect is a good fit, they are doing the same.  Your job as a leader is to make them want to work for you and the company.  If you slack off on the orientation and training after they are hired my guess is things have a good probability of not working out as well as you or the candidate anticipated.

Training is an ongoing process that requires thought and time.  And, training should not be limited to product knowledge and job performance topics.  Training should be well-rounded and include company culture, self-improvement, team building, and many other topics that will make employees feel they are valued and keep them interested.  This is a broad topic and sometimes it takes a little outside help to implement correctly.

Finally, there is the evaluation stage.  For new employees this should be done at a minimum every six months for the first year and a half.  And it is extremely important that it be made clear that this is a two way conversation.  Just as you have expectations, so do the new team members.  An honest, open conversation is essential to building trust, setting goals and future expectations, and addressing any areas of concern on both sides.

The process described above really just scratches the surface of how extraordinary leaders select, build, and retain team members and it is an ongoing process that never ends.  Too many leaders select a team member and leave it to others to make it work.  Strong leaders make sure it works and are part of the process. 

So, do you have what it takes?  You do but the real question is; are you prepared to put in the time and effort to make it work?  This is the difference between teams that win consistently and teams that win occasionally.     

Learn more about this at Gary's session "Building Winning Teams" at the IWF 2018 Education Conference.



The future of manufacturing

7. August 2018 08:19

To qualify the challenges we are currently facing in manufacturing as it relates to technology, talent and innovation, Deloitte recently collaborated with the Council on Competitiveness and Singularity University (SU) to conduct the Exponential Technologies in Manufacturing study, and share the resulting insights in this publication. Below are a few of the key findings from this research study.

There is a clear and compelling case for manufacturers to leverage exponential technologies and incorporate digital transformation throughout their organization (page 10). The fourth industrial revolution is enabling unprecedented change, and the pace of this change is no longer incremental; it is exponential, disruptive, and nonlinear. It is imperative that manufacturers quickly move to adopt and use exponential technologies to tap into this disruptive change; the longer they wait, the further behind they may fall.

Among the exponential technologies that can enable transformational growth in manufacturing are: 3D printing (additive manufacturing); advanced analytics; advanced materials; advanced robotics; artificial intelligence (AI) (including machine learning); biotechnology/ biomanufacturing; blockchain; cybersecurity; digital design, simulation, and integration energy storage; high performance computing; Interface of Things (AR/VR/Mixed reality, wearables, gesture recognition); Internet of Things (IoT).

Innovation enabled by exponential technologies can help manufacturers grow faster, be more agile, and unlock new forms of value (page 15). But while exponential technologies’ roles are more important than ever, the pace of their adoption is seen as relatively slow among manufacturers. Interviewed executives cite several barriers, including structural and cultural challenges, regulatory burdens, talent constraints, and leadership mindset.

Talent continues to be a key competitive differentiator within the manufacturing industry. Yet talent shortages and the need for new skill sets remain a critical issue across the globe. Attracting and retaining top talent and exploring new approaches to accessing talent will become more important than ever.

Exponential technologies are also dramatically changing the “what” (technology and automation), “who” (talent and the open talent continuum), and “where” (workplaces, physical location) of work across manufacturing organizations. As manufacturers look to increase their pace of change and transformation, they are not only leveraging internal assets in new and different ways but also turning more often to resources outside of their walls, tapping into the broader ecosystem, as there are clear advantages to being close to where innovation is occurring.

Business and government research and development (R&D) activities, along with venture capital (VC) investments, also play a critical role in company- and country-level innovation pipelines and ecosystems. In addition, more manufacturers are looking outside their four walls to increase innovation and decrease time to market, forming collaboration within and across the broader innovation ecosystem.

Across the global manufacturing competitiveness landscape, US companies lead in R&D spending, but other countries, especially China, are quickly catching up.

Moving confidently into the future means that manufacturers should develop a culture that is receptive to change and agility, one in which all stakeholders see differently, think differently, and act differently. It also means adopting an exponential transformation approach that uses an iterative process that begins by determining a company’s strategic vision and needs. Once that journey is established, the company can use a portfolio approach to invest its resources and innovate across the core, adjacent, and transformational areas.

Among interviewed executives’ recommendations for developing an exponential mindset: Know what problems you are trying to solve; entrust small teams to innovate at the edge; operate outside of traditional walls; and raise the national dialogue on system-level competitiveness and innovation enablers.

Learn more related to this topic, register to attend “Robots in the small- to medium-sized shop” during IWF 2018.


Be Demanding

7. August 2018 08:17

Everyone knows you should be demanding of your employees, but that’s not the intent here.  It’s about your vendors, suppliers, and distributors, and how you should demand A TON of them. Not just a little bit, but A TON. Make them work for you.

Why should you do this? It’s all about customer service and the environment you’ve created to push everything “upstream” as far as necessary. Make them contribute to your efforts to make your entire operation more efficient.

How do you do this? For example, you should insist that your vendors provide sheet materials to match your production demands. Perhaps it’s having them deliver smaller quantities of whatever you need when you need it – and not at any greater cost to you. Yes, you can do this. Yes, they will complain but they should comply in the end.  It’s in their best interest to keep you as a valued customer. If they do not have the capability or capacity to do this, then perhaps you need to find a new vendor who can.

Your vendor exists to serve you – not the other way around. Your vendor should be focused on making your business more profitable. This is in their best interest, and they know it. It’s what keeps them in business. Your success is their business.

To learn more, register to attend “The Power of Leadership” presented by Guy Bucey during IWF 2018.


Effective Email for Small Businesses

6. August 2018 07:55

By: Ralph Bagnall,Woodworking Consultant, Author and TV Host: ConsultingWoodworker.com

Today’s audience is bombarded with messaging, and email is no exception. It’s easy to fall into the trap of promoting your products and services and telling everyone just how wonderful you are without providing any value relevant to your subscribers. All the little things you bring to the table beyond your basic business offerings are what keep your audience engaged and coming back for more.

We all know about the 80/20 rule. I like to apply it to email marketing content too. I believe you should give away 80% of your knowledge base and save 20% for your best customers.  Wait, what? Give away some of my best information? Don’t be afraid of giving your audience insight that will help them solve some of their biggest headaches.

The people on your email lists subscribed because they were looking to learn about your areas of expertise or solve a problem that is right up your alley. When you give them the knowledge they seek, your audience learns to trust you as an expert, a thought-leader in the field; doing it consistently keeps you top of mind. Will this convert them all to customers? Unlikely, but many already need your help and will know to turn to you because you’ve earned their trust. And do-it-yourselfers will love your content, share it, and just might become your biggest ambassadors!

Learn more about this during Ralph's session "Effective Email for Small Businesses" at the IWF 2018 Education Conference.



Opportunities after the new “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act”

6. August 2018 07:28

Opportunities after the new “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act”

The “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” which was passed by Congress in December, 2017, made significant changes to individual, business and estate taxes, and became effective as of January 1, 2018.  While the business related provisions are considered permanent, the individual and estate tax provisions only remain in effect until December 31, 2025, when they are subject to a “sunset” and will revert back to 2017 law.

Here are a few of the major changes that could impact you and your business in the coming year:

Individual Taxes

  • There are still seven tax brackets, but the rates have changed to 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35%, and 37%.
  • The standard deduction increased to $12,000 for Single taxpayers, $18,000 for Head of Household and $24,000 for Married Filing Jointly.
  • Personal exemptions are eliminated.
  • Itemized deductions for state and local taxes and mortgage interest are limited; the deduction for miscellaneous itemized deductions (subject to the 2% of AGI) is eliminated.
  • Taxpayers who receive pass-through business income from sole proprietorships, partnerships, S corps and LLCs electing to be taxed as a partnership or S corp may receive a 20% deduction, which essentially reduces the top marginal rate to 29.6%. Owners of certain types of pass-through service businesses are subject to income limitations and may not be eligible for the deduction.

Estate Taxes

  • The estate and gift tax exclusion amount is increased from $5 million to $10 million per person. Indexed for inflation, this amount is $11.2 million per person in 2018 ($22.4 million per married couple).
  • The annual gift tax exclusion increased from $14,000 to $15,000.

Business Taxes

  • The corporate tax rate is reduced to a flat 21%.
  • The corporate Alternative Minimum tax (AMT) is repealed.
  • The amount that can be expensed in the current year under Code §179 (rather than depreciated over time) increased to $1 million.
  • Deductions for business-related entertainment expenses and employee transportation fringe benefits are eliminated.

These changes bring a wide range of both questions and opportunities for business owners.  “Is my business is better off being a pass through entity (like an S corp or LLC) or a C corp?”  “Do the potential tax savings to my business this year support an increase in wages for my employees?”  “Are there increased opportunities for implementing employee retention strategies (like a Private Bonus or Split Dollar plan)?”  Talk to your attorney and/or CPA for information about how the Tax Act might impact you and your business based on your individual situation.

For more information, attend “Building a Valuable Business” during IWF.


Think Light - Benefits and Opportunities of Lightweight Materials

4. August 2018 11:21

Weight restrictions on products exist for a variety of reasons, such as for health reasons to allow customers lifting the product, or for safety reasons when a table top cannot be too heavy, or due to construction restrictions when a remodeling project in an existing building cannot add weight to the structure.  Lightweight materials also help reduce transportation costs as more products can be packed into the back of a truck without exceeding weight limits.  Indeed, today's lightweight materials offer good value as an environmentally friendly, strong, and versatile material that provides ergonomic benefits and offers a competitive advantage.

Experts from industry provide insights on lightweight materials, how they are made, how to work with them, what they can be used for, and what is particularly challenging.  M. Zimmerman from Sauder Woodworking Co. will talk about what the company is doing with lightweight materials, why they use lightweight materials, and how they see the material to evolve in their line of products.  Steven and Robert Boerrigter from Axxor North America, LLC, a producer of cores for lightweight panels will provide insights into the diverse uses of lightweight panels and how the core can be adapted to fit the required properties of a panel.  Jim Trainor from Jowat Corp. will explain adhesives used for lightweight materials while Mark Joel from Bürkle North America, Inc. will talk about equipment solutions for processing lightweight materials.  Connecting and fastening lightweight materials require special care and, often, special hardware.  Marcel Strobel, formerly with Adolf Wuerth GmbH & Co. KG and now with MKT Fastening will talk about connecting lightweight materials and show solutions for this challenge.  The session will conclude with Key Take Aways and a Q & A session.

Workshop attendees of the "Think Light - Benefit and Opportunities of Lightweight Materials" session will learn about lightweight panel materials, the different types of lightweight panels, how they can be processed, what can be made with them, and the benefits and challenges that exist with lightweight technology.


Determining the best spray system

4. August 2018 11:16

By: Diane Shattuck, Gemini Industries
With all the different spray systems available today, how do you determine which one best fits “YOUR” needs as a small shop?

Questions to ask

  • How much finishing do you do on average?
  • What type of parts will you be finishing?
  • Where will you be finishing (shop/field)?
  • What types of coatings will you be spraying?
  • What other equipment will you need to support your spray system?

Three essential components

Choosing a spray systems basically breaks down to three essential components: spray gun, cup or pot, and a power system. A

Spray gun

A tool that uses compressed air to atomize finishes and apply to a surface. The finish and air enter the gun through two separate passages and then mix together at the air cap (atomize) before landing on the targeted object.

Cup or pot

A container that holds the finish, ranging in sizes from as little as 4 oz. (used on touch up guns) to 10 gallons pressure pots. They can be connected to the gun directly or by a fluid hose from the container to the gun.

Power system

  • Turbine systems: self-contained system, portable and generates high volume of slow moving air only when in operation. Controlled and consistent air pressure determined by how many stages (fan blades & size) very limited in variances of pressures.
  • Compressed air: used as a source of power for many tools in your shop, has the ability to store energy on tap, available in all sizes, can produce high and low air pressures.

Register to attend “Transitioning to in-house finishing – profitably” during IWF to learn more considerations before you bring your finishing in-house.


Know your numbers

4. August 2018 11:13

As a business owner, you know it is important stay current with your financials.  However, there are a few key questions that are often overlooked.

  • Do you know much you have invested in your operation and charge every customer to recoup that investment? If you do not know what you have invested and you do not charge customers for the investment how do you get paid back your principal investment costs?
  • What do you pay yourself and how to you determine an appropriate amount?
  • What is the current replacement value if you had one month to get back on track, say in the event that your shop burned to the ground and you had to reinvent your brand? How much would it cost to replace everything you have?
  • How many billable hours per employee are there?

Learn how to calculate these numbers and more during “The Art of Pricing for Profitability” during IWF.


Effective Estimating that leads to Bullet Proof Proposals - Part 5

3. August 2018 08:36

By: Bobbo Buckley, Software Developer: Cabinotch Innovative Solutions

Effective Estimating that leads to Bullet Proof Proposals - BMG10

In earlier posts in this Effective Estimating series, we talked about two principles of Effective Estimating. One being Managing Customer Expectations and we briefly touched on another, that your Estimates and Proposals should SELL MORE JOBS, but we have not touched on the first of these three principles, and in my opinion, one of the cornerstone principles of Effective Estimating.


I alluded to this principle when I said that your Estimates and Proposals should be bi-lingual in an earlier post, that they needed to speak two languages, Cost and Selling Price. The objective of a good Estimating System is to ACCURATELY account for the labor, material, overhead and profit, then AUTOMAGICALLY translate those costs into a selling price.

In my Effective Estimating Seminar at IWF-2018, we will go through the 10 1/2 Attributes of Accuracy, but in this context, I just don't have the bandwidth to go that deep into this subject matter. The primary point being, that if we abide by these 10 1/2 Attributes of Accuracy, we will have what I like to call a “full figured” Estimate (now you know why I like to use the word sexy when speaking about Estimates and Proposals), which makes certain your client is comparing apples to apples, not apples to broccoli.

In all my years of being a cabinetmaker, and owning a custom cabinet manufacturing business, there have been two predominate estimating methods. The most popular (or at least it seems that way in the Southeast) is pricing cabinetry by the linear foot, the second being pricing cabinetry by the square footage of the face of the cabinetry. If I dig back deep enough into my pretty darn old memory banks, I even remember a formula where the cabinetmaker would add up all his material costs and multiply them by a factor (usually 3).

Pretty much every cabinetmaker figures out fairly quickly that linear footage and square footage estimating methods are not only not accurate (1 ten foot cabinet with 3 drawer fronts, 3 drawer boxes, 3 drawer guides, 6 doors and 12 hinges costs the exact same amount as 10 one foot cabinets that have 10 drawer fronts, 10 drawer boxes, 10 drawer guides, 10 doors and 20 hinges using either method), and that these methods provide no way to translate material costs to selling price. If your hinges go up by $0.30 a pair, how much do you adjust your per linear footage or square footage price? If your sheet-goods go up by $0.10 a square foot, how much do you adjust your per linear footage or square footage price?

I am aware that lots of cabinetmakers have started doing add-ons, so much per door, so much per drawer front, etc., but this still does not translate from cost to selling price very well. Another attribute of these systems is they simply are not very accurate from one finish type or option to another, and the vast majority of pricing systems I have heard quoted simply used a percentage markup from one finish type or option to another finish type or option. How can we accurately express the difference in the cost from a natural finish on hickory to a complex stained, glazed, antiqued, distressed level three with wear sanding on cherry using a simple percentage markup?

We will cover the process I recommend in depth during the Effective Estimating session at IWF-2018 in Atlanta, and I will illustrate how I quickly and easily create very accurate Estimates and Proposals, and do so very quickly.




Tooling: a primer

3. August 2018 08:33

By Leland Thomasset, Taghkanic Woodworking

As you get more comfortable with your nested-based CNC router, then you will want to take your tooling to the next level. There are two main types of tooling: solid carbide stock router bits and braze on and stock router bits. Allow to me explain the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Solid Carbide Stock Router Bits

Down Cut Router Bits

The geometry of these bits will give clean cuts to the top side of a piece of wood. Down cut bits are good for shallow pockets, and very thin, small parts will not move because of the downward pressure caused by this bit. They are not good for deep cuts as the material that is being cut gets pushed down into the tool path.

Up Cut Router Bits

The geometry of these bits allows for clean cuts on the bottom of a part. The tool will remove material from the tool path into the dust collection stream very easily. They work well when you have to take several passes to cut thru a thick piece of material, and they also work great for a deep mortise or pocket. However, they will pull the piece that you are cutting off the spoil board if it is too small or if you are taking too much stock out in one pass.

Compression Router Bits

The geometry of these bits are both up cut and down cut some bits have shorter up cut shapes to allow for shallow grooves or mortises. They are great for cutting composites and plywood with veneers on both sides, and they can come with staggered chip breakers which work well with solid materials. They cut very quickly with no tear out at all and are a great tool for nested-based panel cutting operations.

Ball Nose Router Bit

These are the bits that we use to cut 3-D parts, parts with compound contours, and curve molding profiles.

Braze On and Stock Router Bits

Brazed tooling, which you should be familiar with, is the tooling that used with hand routers to create counter edges, flush trimming bits for laminate and joinery bits for dovetails, box joints, etc.
Brazed bits require a lower rpm and feed rate, so if you have a one off item this can be a perfect affordable solution. If you are making many repeat items then it may be worth the money to invest in a custom insert tool.
You may find that your cut quality may vary due to tool balance, sharpness, and design of tool. Also, you run into the situation where you choose a profile, get the job all set up, and then you find out this is a discontinued profile.
To learn more about how tooling selection can impact your machining, register to attend “Boundary-pushing with your Nested-Based Router” during IWF.