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Overwhelmed Being a Jack of All Trades/Master of None? Then Try Breaking It Into Manageable Parts

9. July 2019 16:01

By: John Lindsay, New Breed Furniture LLC

Editor's Note: This is the first blog in a series by design/builder/entrepreneur John Lindsay. 

After years of being an owner/operator of a small furniture company that offers more than two hundred solid wood products developed and manufactured in house, I determined I had to understand all my roles and responsibilities to help mitigate the anxiety that comes with having to wear so many hats. I began by going back to school - in this case, self-education through reading and listening to audiobooks - in pursuit of my own Masters of Business Administration degree.

I liken the process to reading about the latest research on aerodynamics while building a flying machine while flying said flying machine, while hurling down to the unforgiving ground at breakneck speed. What I was in search of were systems, philosophies, best practices, and heuristics that could help me structure my efforts building my business. 

What I came up with was a simple to learn acronym: A.M.O.R.I. which both represents the five distinct categories or departments that all business need to have to be able to scale while having its own business philosophy built into the name. This philosophy is that to be a successful owner/operator/entrepreneur you have to resist the natural desire to favor certain parts of your business over the others and learn to LOVE every aspect of your business, which means taking an active role in mastering all the differing roles. Here’s how it works:

A    Administration
M   Marketing and Sales
O   Operations
R    Research and Development
I    Investment and Intellectual Property

This is what I plan to share with you in this series of articles about owning your own woodworking business. However, discretion demands that I be transparent about when these ideas I share are more hypothetical, and when they have been practiced and hard-earned. In short, I am far from having mastered any of these categories, and in some cases have yet to have any real experience leading teams in the trenches, but rather, I am projecting forward standards I hope to one day prove essential to my success.

I’ll get right into it with the first letter of the acronym.

A  for Administration:

A question that has long plagued me was whether furniture, cabinetry, and millwork companies ever go back and analyze what parts of their initial estimates and systems for bidding were accurate? From my experience, it is very difficult to go back over a project, sift out all the necessary numbers, separating out the different activities and costs into the same categories, all in an effort to compare apples to apples. Then once the analysis is complete, be able to identify which unit costs or algorithmic heuristics are off and change them.

Next, keep a record of the changes with descriptions of the decision processes that lead to the change, so that they can be confirmed or denied time and time again. Finally, learn over time which systems are reliable, how reliable, and why? Instead, I imagine many companies skip these crucial process’, having completed the project, needing to move onto the next. My first principle thinking mind concludes that missing these steps will keep all bad practices and estimating flaws right where you don’t want them, in the driver’s seat of your profitability. In coming articles I will break down why doing this work is so frustrating and difficult, how to set up your operations and your administrations to best capture vital information, and more importantly how to know what isn’t necessary.

 M for Marketing and Sales:

Another question that every business owner faces is how to spend marketing dollars and time? It seems to me that if you have a company who sells products made of the most beautiful material on the planet (wood) and is handled and manipulated with expert skill and craft then why not learn to apply that maker’s talent to your marketing materials? 

In coming articles, I will break down why hand made marketing combined with smart social media is the winning strategy. 

O for Operations 

A third question that I ask myself as a user of space is how to use the shop floor in concert with the available storage to get the best performances and build the best products? In coming articles I will break down why most shops have it all wrong when they let their larger machines dominate their space with permanent footprints.

R for Research and Development

My lifeblood is dependent on the quality of the designs I am offering. For my kind of business, being serious about having an ongoing design process which includes art directing, engineering, cost analysis, market research, and comp collection is essential, but not always possible. How should a smaller to medium scale artisanal manufacturer continue developing their product line’s design languages while filling orders, collecting money, packaging, and shipping, etc?

In coming articles I will break down how dedicating time to experiments and explorations in design can be balanced with the day to day deadlines and orders.

I for Investment and Intellectual Property

This is the part of the article where I let myself dream, and share ideas about how to best invest real profits back into this crazy business that I am learning to run, while running it, while hurling toward unforgiving realities. The last question in this article is can you imagine being a venture capital fund that made strategic investments in parts of your business, expecting to see real return on investment? I much enjoy ignoring my present reality, and enter a fictional world in which the business (or business’) that I have created are all wildly successful and I’m faced with the happiest problem anyone could have, where to put the piles of money that is pouring in? In coming articles, I will dream big and imagine how real estate can be both the destination and generating agent of profits.

John Lindsay is President of New Breed Furniture LLC.  Reach him at john@newbreedfurniture.com  

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