PDA

View Full Version : Thoughts on taking orders and prebuys



Delbert Ealy
03-11-2014, 10:30 PM
I sent out 5 knives today and I have several more gluing up in the shop to be finished in the morning.
I almost missed at the post office and I guess that and a few conversations I have had in the past few weeks, and the show coming up kinda got me thinking.
You guys have seen in the past that when I think I need to make some adjustment, I put my thoughts up here on the board for all to see. I don't tell you all that is happening in my life, at the speed I type I wouldn't have time for much else. ;)
When I think something is significant I tend to let you guys know. This time of the year I have the Badger show in Wisconsin, and its also time to do my taxes. The latter is a reminder of all that is happened over the course of the last year. That is happening now, and I am thinking about changing my business model.
One of the significant things that has happened in the last year is that since I sold the remaining knives from the show last year, is that I have not had a single knife available that was not sold ahead of time. That is part of what got me thinking.
In one way it is a wonderful thing, providing me with some job security, and knowing what I am going to be doing every day. On the other hand, there has been little time for creativity. I have managed to sneak in a few things, but sometimes allowing myself that creativity has meant an extra wait for you as the customer. Honestly, I hate making you guys wait. I know that some makers out there have wait times that are over a year and sometimes more. That just boggles my mind.
Looking back on the year and knowing that I had work to do every single day does give me a sense of security. I seem to have developed quite a following and for that I am very grateful. I know some of is that I provide a quality product at a reasonable price, which is my goal.

So all of that was a prequel to my thoughts on how I am thinking about changing the way I do things.
I am thinking about not taking orders or doing prebuys for awhile. Not a permanent change, just to allow myself some time for a bit more creativity, even if its just getting to choose what handle material I put on a knife. Or doing some more new designs. Or maybe making some wooden spoons, or some of the other crazy ideas that go through my head every once in a while.
I know there is a demand for the knives I make, and I think, but I do not know for sure that I might actually be able to make more knives this way, than the way I have been doing things.

There is another reason for this as well. Burnout is common in many professions and knifemaking is no exception. I love making knives, and I want to continue until I can't any more. Hopefully that's another 30 years or more. There are days now and then when I just don't want to do it though. Mostly I just suck it up and tell myself to shut up and do it, its better than flipping burgers.
Most days that works.
However, last year around this time, and the year before that as well I struggled with depression. It doesn't seem to have hit me this year, but now I wonder if or when it will hit me again. The biggest factor for me was a lack of motivation. Previously that was never an issue, I was always ready to go. Now I know that it is a possibility for me, I have second thoughts on those occasional days, is this the beginning of a downturn for me?

I would like to hear what you guys think. The main bonus for you guys is that there will be very little wait times, and possibly even more knives than I make now. The downside is that you might miss one that comes up because someone else got there first. I'll try to keep an eye on the comments and the demand for certain models and handles. I would like to think this will be good for all, especially me, but there are always exceptions. I may start taking orders again down the road a bit to fill those.

Thanks,
Del

apicius9
03-11-2014, 10:55 PM
Can I copy your text and paste it with a few small changes in my forum? I think I know exactly where you are coming from, with the wish for more time for creativity as with the struggle with depression. I came to the same conclusion, just trying to finish the current mountain of orders and then go the same route. Just saying this to show that your thoughts are very reasonable - or we are both crazy ;) And the lines between burnout and depression can be very fine also. I think there are times when you need to take care of yourself to keep going on long-term. And with the reputation you built up with your hard and excellent work, I would not expect any negative effect on your business either.

Just my thoughts, good luck with whatever route you go - and stay healthy!

Stefan

hambone.johnson
03-11-2014, 11:38 PM
That all sounds very reasonable. I think your prebuy model is consistently up all year. I don't think there is anyone else who had as many on this forum this year and I wanted in on almost every one. Your prices on the preorder is always reasonable and tempting and I'm sure that's why you sell out every time. But I could see why it's draining and repetitive.

You could look at your previous year and look at cutting down on how many each year you do, Maybee it's only one a quarter, Maybee you do 5 in a year, then they are evenly spaced,for you and the clientele and you can fit in a couple customs in between each.

Mrmnms
03-11-2014, 11:47 PM
I think you're overdue for a break from your routine. You know , "All Work , No Play" ... Got to take care of yourself physically emotionally and spiritually. Sorry if it sounds like I'm preaching.

Erilyn75
03-12-2014, 03:02 AM
Sometimes it's good to break away from the every day grind and use the creativity within for other things. It rejuvenates ones mind and spirit.

Bill13
03-12-2014, 11:09 AM
If the depression hits around the same time of year I would wonder if if might be partially related to seasonal changes like a lack of sunlight.

I could see the pre buys because they are so popular as being pretty monotonous to get out. Of course on the flip side they are an efficient way to knock out a bunch of knives. Maybe you should plan out your entire year with the pre buys scattered through out with the idea that in between you get to do custom knives or other stuff.

My trick for staying focused/motivated when stuck on a boring or dirty job especially if it's in an attic or crawl space is to think about why I am working. In my case that's family and retirement (and knives!). This is one case where my not being a creative guy is helpful. I don't look to my work for fulfillment, it's just a job. Not that I don't do my best to do quality work I can feel proud of; but evenings and weekends are where it's at for me.

gavination
03-12-2014, 11:56 AM
I think it's a good thing to take periods in your career to experiment and grow. I'm assuming it's what put you in this place to begin with. You make some gorgeous and functional knives with your own personal touches scattered throughout. You already know my opinion of your work from PM's and emails. :D Artists ebb and flow; produce and experiment. You're no different.

As far as what we think, I appreciate that you take it into consideration, but I don't think it matters as much. The alternative is that you burnout and stop making knives, which no one wants. I'm an advocate for taking some personal time and doing the things you love - that make you happy. Experiment and sell your one offs. If people clamor for them, make some more and do a six knife prebuy or something. Even for you, I'm sure you'd want to hone the new skill, style, grind, HT, or whatever you just did. This community loves new s*** that may not come around again. I know I do!

If you want to even it out across the customer base, you can always do a lottery system for buying your experimental one offs like Marko is doing or something along those lines. Perhaps a running list of people who want your one offs, like a custom list. If the person who's up for a knife doesn't want to buy it, then it moves on to the next person in the list. You could do both so that people who want a random surprise knife and are ok with that, get a knife that way. Then the one off lottery list, those people get a reasonably fair chance at signing up to get a knife they want.

I hope this is more than just babbling. It's probably more philosophical than you wanted, but gotta get my waxing in daily. :) Ultimately, I personally feel you should do what you want. The best of doing what makes you happy is that if it doesn't (either for personal or business reasons, you can change it immediately and do something else). Your following isn't going to decrease, that's for sure. People usually want them more. Heck, I'm searching high and low for one of Mario's gyutohikis. :lol:

Delbert Ealy
03-12-2014, 11:57 AM
Can I copy your text and paste it with a few small changes in my forum? I think I know exactly where you are coming from, with the wish for more time for creativity as with the struggle with depression. I came to the same conclusion, just trying to finish the current mountain of orders and then go the same route. Just saying this to show that your thoughts are very reasonable - or we are both crazy ;) And the lines between burnout and depression can be very fine also. I think there are times when you need to take care of yourself to keep going on long-term. And with the reputation you built up with your hard and excellent work, I would not expect any negative effect on your business either.

Just my thoughts, good luck with whatever route you go - and stay healthy!

Stefan


Stefan,
Sure, hey man if it fits then go ahead. While I'm not exactly happy to hear that other makers are feeling the same way, it does make me feel better. Or like you suggested, we might just be in the same crazy boat. (Or funny farm)

Bill,
Something in particular that you wrote struck me as funny, even though you did not mean it that way.
"Maybe you could plan out your entire year......."
When I read that I thought, I barely plan for tomorrow.

Thanks to all of you,
Del

Bill13
03-12-2014, 12:39 PM
Didn't mean for it to be funny, but it is in a way because planning out jobs is not my strong suite either. But I do know if I take the time to plan ahead I am less stressed. I compare it to cooking an involved meal. If I write out all the start times of the different courses it forces me to be organized.
If you know that in May you are going to do a pre-buy of 12 210 gyotos you can block out the time now thereby preventing you from scheduling anything else during the window you will need to make them. Most recently you did the parer pre-buy (which I bought 3 of) and you were trying to get them out before Christmas. Mine came after which was no big deal, but you should be writing it in your calendar when you need to start a Christmas time offer so that you have enough time to get them out and enjoy the holidays yourself too.
Hope this doesn't come off as to preachy but I don't want to see you get burned out due to poor planning. Sometimes small business owners spend so much time trying to get the work and build up their reputation we forget that once we have the work we need to have a schedule to make sure we don't over promise. I include myself in this category at times:beatinghead:

BJE1
03-12-2014, 04:25 PM
Do what makes you happy the customers that want your knifes will be there in the end.

Delbert Ealy
03-12-2014, 05:01 PM
I think it's a good thing to take periods in your career to experiment and grow. I'm assuming it's what put you in this place to begin with. You make some gorgeous and functional knives with your own personal touches scattered throughout. You already know my opinion of your work from PM's and emails. :D Artists ebb and flow; produce and experiment. You're no different.

As far as what we think, I appreciate that you take it into consideration, but I don't think it matters as much. The alternative is that you burnout and stop making knives, which no one wants. I'm an advocate for taking some personal time and doing the things you love - that make you happy. Experiment and sell your one offs. If people clamor for them, make some more and do a six knife prebuy or something. Even for you, I'm sure you'd want to hone the new skill, style, grind, HT, or whatever you just did. This community loves new s*** that may not come around again. I know I do!

If you want to even it out across the customer base, you can always do a lottery system for buying your experimental one offs like Marko is doing or something along those lines. Perhaps a running list of people who want your one offs, like a custom list. If the person who's up for a knife doesn't want to buy it, then it moves on to the next person in the list. You could do both so that people who want a random surprise knife and are ok with that, get a knife that way. Then the one off lottery list, those people get a reasonably fair chance at signing up to get a knife they want.

I hope this is more than just babbling. It's probably more philosophical than you wanted, but gotta get my waxing in daily. :) Ultimately, I personally feel you should do what you want. The best of doing what makes you happy is that if it doesn't (either for personal or business reasons, you can change it immediately and do something else). Your following isn't going to decrease, that's for sure. People usually want them more. Heck, I'm searching high and low for one of Mario's gyutohikis. :lol:

Gavin,
There are some good ideas in here, I have some friends that follow some of the ideas here.
Del

Delbert Ealy
03-12-2014, 05:24 PM
Didn't mean for it to be funny, but it is in a way because planning out jobs is not my strong suite either. But I do know if I take the time to plan ahead I am less stressed. I compare it to cooking an involved meal. If I write out all the start times of the different courses it forces me to be organized.
If you know that in May you are going to do a pre-buy of 12 210 gyotos you can block out the time now thereby preventing you from scheduling anything else during the window you will need to make them. Most recently you did the parer pre-buy (which I bought 3 of) and you were trying to get them out before Christmas. Mine came after which was no big deal, but you should be writing it in your calendar when you need to start a Christmas time offer so that you have enough time to get them out and enjoy the holidays yourself too.
Hope this doesn't come off as to preachy but I don't want to see you get burned out due to poor planning. Sometimes small business owners spend so much time trying to get the work and build up their reputation we forget that once we have the work we need to have a schedule to make sure we don't over promise. I include myself in this category at times:beatinghead:

Planning out jobs and over promising are both faults of mine. As is not taking enough pictures.
It doesn't sound preachy to me at all. I was hoping for input of this type.
Most of the time with the prebuys I don't set limits, I think that is something I'll change in the future. That was why the paring knife prebuy got so big, and probably contributed to how I'm feeling.


One of the things I want to make clear, I will still be making all of the proven designs that I have done in the past. I just feel the need for some more creative freedom. That's not about you guys, I backed myself into this corner. One example is that I havnt made a nakiri in awhile. Sounds like fun. Another is that I got some of that cool arizona walnut, three weeks ago and I can't use it yet.
There will be some new things from time to time, like a 300mm sujihiki, never made one. I might just feel like making something big like that. Or a 270mm gyuto with blackwood and snake wood handle.

Now that I have had a bit more time to think about it, I'm thinking I'll walk into the shop on Monday and decide what I feel like doing that I can finish by Friday. If I set my self a goal of X dollars to make in a week then I plan to make a batch of knives that comes close to that amount. Maybe a 240 gyuto, a nakiri and a paring, or two. Or Three line knives. Maybe things go really well and I finish early, and they all sell right away, then maybe I call my dad and say let's go fishing. Or maybe I get started on something big, like that 300mm Suji. Maybe this will work and maybe I'll get sick of deciding what to do. Then I can always start a prebuy for a certain style.
We can see how it goes. Right now I'm working on the line knives, almost done in fact. Then it's on to knives for the show.

Del

Bill13
03-12-2014, 06:38 PM
I love the idea of x number of dollars. I would make it what you need to pay the bills, then when you have that done reward yourself with the nakiri or something like it. Any money you make off that sale gets split between a rainy day fund and the cookie jar for something fun.

Knives for the show sounds fun; don't forget the pic's!

gavination
03-12-2014, 11:44 PM
If I lived closer, I'd offer to follow you around and take all the WIP and knife pics for you! Get some use out of this expensive camera I bought! :lol:

Chuckles
03-13-2014, 01:48 AM
Don't read into this but, I saw


Mostly I just suck it up and tell myself to shut up and do it, its better than flipping burgers.

And my immediate response was: 'Man, for even money I would take burger flipping over my job anyday.' ..... I just really like burgers.

Hang in there. I would gladly take the hypothtical 270 black wood - snake wood gyuto if it does pop up some day! :clown:

apathetic
03-13-2014, 11:22 AM
Certainly would love to see the nakiri and 270mm gyuto come to life :)

edit 270mm not 270m :lol2:

Delbert Ealy
03-13-2014, 06:50 PM
I love the idea of x number of dollars. I would make it what you need to pay the bills, then when you have that done reward yourself with the nakiri or something like it. Any money you make off that sale gets split between a rainy day fund and the cookie jar for something fun.

Knives for the show sounds fun; don't forget the pic's!


I'll try and some pics of the knives before I go to the show. One of the other reasons this model appeals to me is that to offer knives like this I have to take a good pic of every knife in order to sell them. I didn't take many pics of the knives I made this year. I need to get a place in the house that I can take pics rather than the place I have in the shop.
I'm glad you like the budget suggestion, I just hope it works out like I plan.
Del

Delbert Ealy
03-13-2014, 06:52 PM
If I lived closer, I'd offer to follow you around and take all the WIP and knife pics for you! Get some use out of this expensive camera I bought! :lol:

That sounds like fun to me too, although I might want to clean up a bit.
Del

Delbert Ealy
03-13-2014, 07:06 PM
I worked at Burger King for 14 years, doing every this from scrubbing the floors to running the whole store. It was ok, but the number of idiots I had to work with became intolerable. Not just the kids either, those I could deal with, most of them anyway. Some of the adults were something else. It was far from even money too.

The biggest thing I was worried about in my original post was that I would come off sounding like a whiner. Here I am doing the job that I love, and I'm complaining. You guys have allayed my concerns in that matter.
Thanks,
Del




Don't read into this but, I saw



And my immediate response was: 'Man, for even money I would take burger flipping over my job anyday.' ..... I just really like burgers.

Hang in there. I would gladly take the hypothtical 270 black wood - snake wood gyuto if it does pop up some day! :clown: