Tuesday, October 23

Chasing My Tail

Have you ever watched a dog spinning around trying to catch it’s own tail? That’s a little bit like what my day was yesterday.

Monday mornings are always bookkeeping time, when I prepare the previous weeks reports and checks for Marie’s review, approval and signature. Normally this is a pretty straight forward thing and it takes only a couple of hours. This time we ran into a few speed bumps that caused us to review the way we do things and make some policy changes and that meant making updates to the web site.

I also fielded a long phone call from a fellow who wanted a bench made for his wife’s birthday. Nice guy, just has some questions and things he needed to be clear on. So we discussed those. Then I went ahead and created the estimate and posted it for him.

I also got a call from a fellow who worked for FreightQuote.com a company that books freight deliveries through various trucking lines, and because they do a considerable volume of business with each, they can get better rates than I can as a small account with Old Dominion. Old Dominion is one of the companies they represent.

At first I was going to politely blow him off, but what he was saying made sense so I had him run a comparison quote for the last piece we had shipped. His price was about $80 less than my cost with ODFL, and was almost half what I paid if I went with South Eastern truck lines.

That is tempting – this could save our customers a considerable chunk of change – but there is a danger in switching.

In the six years we have been shipping through Old Dominion they have not torn up a single piece of our furniture! That is an amazing record for a freight line, one no other company we have worked with can match. I am reluctant to “try” another company when failure means having to rebuild a piece of custom furniture that my customer has waited patiently for months to receive.

Then I discovered that he did not include lift gate service or residential delivery in his quotes. That would add $150 to the ODFL quote, making my price better than his and he could not get an updated quote from South Eastern so we have no idea how much extra they would charge. I think I’ll stick with what I have. By eliminating the middlemen, I can save you money.

In the afternoon I packaged up Ellen’s tray tables. This involves cutting down sheets of Styrofoam to line the box, cutting special pieces to insert between the tables and stand to protect them, strapping the whole table set assembly together with cellophane wrap and packing it into the box to prevent movement. These boxes are custom made for us just to ship these tray table sets because we sell so many of them. Then of course I must weigh the carton and process a shipping label.

But wait… Ellen chose to pay with PayPal instead of the regular credit card processor. We were experiencing technical difficulties when she placed her order. So I can’t run her final payment and ship the box the same day as I normally do. No I have to bill her through PayPal and wait for the payment to come in before it can ship. So… it waits.

Time to clean up and put away the packaging materials. These are all stored out in the loft of the lumber shed. Eventually I will build a shipping room onto the side of our workshop to improve the work flow, but that won’t be for another year at least.

Then as the day was winding down and I was about to get started making templates for Lynn’s steamer trunks, I got an e-mail from Start-Up Nation (http://www.startupnation.com/) informing me that Smoky Mountain Woodworks had been selected as a finalist in their Top 100 Home Based Business contest. But to keep the qualification, they needed some additional information about our business TODAY. So I spent the rest of the day filling out their form (which included an essay) and submitting it.

I had intended, along the way to get Maple and Honey Locust lumber brought in for projects that are to be started, but it rained pretty much all day. Wouldn’t you know it. It’s bone dry all summer long. Even when we get a 70-80% chance of thunderstorms the most we’ve gotten were a few light drizzles that barely dampened the ground. Today we had a 30% chance of rain and it rained all day. Not that I’m complaining; we REALLY need the rain! And I would have, without a doubt, braved the rain but it was accompanied by high winds. I have learned the hard way that attempting to handle the 10 foot long sheets of tin that cover our lumber piles single handedly in gusty winds is a very good way to end up decapitated.

I will try again this morning. We have a 100% chance of rain today, but so far have had just a sprinkle early this morning. The winds are less consistent, so if I time it right I may get the job done without losing my head over it!


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