The other morning as I turned on the shop lights and radio, the lyrics “War – what is it good for? Nothing!” filled the room. A powerful relic from the Vietnam era. It got me thinking – Experience what is it good for?
Then I stopped. I certainly hoped that it was good for something. I learned a lot of what I know and still practice from the experience of others. Couple that with my own experience and abilities, the outcome is what I produce.
Is this enough? Is experience enough? I questioned while pondering some jobs that I have failed to sign this year.
A particular stair job – the architect was hell bent that we would be able to supply CAD drawings. CAD standing for computer aided drawings. Let’s fully understand the concept – computer aided. The computer does nothing in full, it doesn’t envision the stair, it doesn’t plan and it certainly has nothing to do with the actual build. That’s what we the craftspeople do – hands on ability and experience – build it. The computer only aids. Unless the plan all along was to pin a CAD drawing to the wall and walk up them – we’re giving way to much credit to the computer.
The premiss is that if your have full CAD capabilities then you can pull off the job. We’re at a point where the CAD drawings are given more importance in the build process than the ability and experience of the craftspeople doing the build.
I just don’t get it!
Another bid that pops to mind is one that was lost to a smooth and/or unscrupulous salesperson. One thing that I have come to accept from the business end of woodworking is that we are salespeople first. After the job is booked – then we become woodworkers. That doesn’t mean we’re good salespeople, it’s the reality of the situation. The hope would be, with years of experience and a portfolio packed with successful jobs- work would sell itself.
If you go shopping for a car, you can view, drive and compare the actual products. In our world the customer doesn’t get to compare a finished product. It’s easy for the smooth salesperson to cast doubt, to build up what they have, to cut down what we do. The simple truth is that a smooth pitch usually wins. They want clients to assume that all of the finished products will be equal.
Another simple truth is that most gifted craftspeople are not gifted salespeople. Besides -what salesperson doesn’t drop the term ‘experience’ in their pitch! Years ago I worked for an area contractor that had an ad claiming the years of experience the owners had – it added up to more years than they were old! I guess they calculated exponentially. The slightly awkward craftsmen with years of experience just doesn’t sell for a lot of people.
But it still sells to some. Those are the ones we call customers – our customers! They appreciate the difference between an acceptable job and a great job. They appreciate quality.
One of the craftsmen I learned from would say “You have to know a great job to build a great job.”
The same goes for the customer.
We will leave that thought for another week.
Until then – take five!