I don't typically have a lot of time to peruse the Velociped Salon forums, as I spread my computer time emailing with customers and e-marketing; updating my "smoked out" thread, my blog, and the business facebook.
The last two days, while taking a quick break for lunch, I've been reading a thread over in the VS general column about the current state of frame building and the economy. Looky here... Small Builders taking a hit
Of course, now that I wanted to contribute to the discourse, it is locked. So here it goes...
Although the thread takes a few branches as it climbs up the tree, there were two thoughts that piqued my interest.
The first is why some builders no longer contribute to the knowledge base and the second, what is a sustainable business model?
I felt the first was well covered...time constraints of "life" balanced with the fact that a fundamental bank of information already contributed and existing on myriad of fabrication subjects is readily available with a little searching throughout the forums. An element missing in the discussion, however, is the sentiment by many builders that there is such a wash of misinformation spread across the interwebs, accepted as absolute truth, when they do attempt to provide solid guidance based on their personal years of professional fabrication experience, they are challenged or attacked for their differing perspective. When trying to offer honest assistance with no other impetus but to advance the knowledge and opportunity for someone who desires the information, these builders soon find that if their information is not valued, why waste their time?
It's a shame so many have chosen not to contribute due to this fact...how are we to right the ship if we cannot get everyone paddling together?
The second issue...what is a sustainable business model?
Richard commented and was affirmed in his perspective by Steve...
"I think the one-at-a-time, each-one-different, each-client-different-from-the-last, never-do-the-same-thing-twice business model is a major league, varsity sport level stress-a-thon and one totally counter to allowing a profit that would allow for a sustainable living wage atmo."
It is a perspective that is echoed by many of todays successful builders and is one that, ironically, is totally opposite of mine.
I do one at a time, each one different, each client differnt from the last, never do the same thing twice, control the entire process, complete all the fabrication in house, day in and day out business. That's one of the reasons my customer base comes to me...because no one else does. Within the framebuilding world are plenty of niches...mine is totally unique projects, personalized for each individual customer, with as much made by my hands as possible. A project may take anywhere from 40 hours to over 6 months to complete dependant on it's complexity. Yes it is stressful, yes it takes more time, and yes...the fulfillment and rewards are greater than just sending out a standard frame with custom geometry.
So how is this sustainable?
Charge what you work is worth darling.
I may only complete 10 - 12 projects a year, but those come at a price that provides a level of income necessary to keep the doors open (or closed with air conditioning on!), upgrade equipment and tooling yearly, and provide food and clothes for the family, for which I am the sole income earner.
Want to know what the secrete is to surviving in the bicycle fabrication business?
- Do good work: never let an item out the door you are not satisfied you gave your best
- Communicate and be honest: through good and bad, open communication and honesty should be a foundation of your business model
- Treat your customers with respect:
- Charge what your work is worth, not what you need to survive: if you've done the previous three, your customers will gladly compensate you.