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Re: Business Practices - Ben

1/5/2006 3:05 PM
Mark Hammer Re: Business Practices - Ben
The world is chock full of people who have enough money to have title to 2 pieces of property, but not enough money to maintain them both. So, they live in one and keep it up nicely, and the other they rent out. You may know them as your landlord. They're not BAD people, but clearly they have attempted something which was simply beyond their reach to do well, and pleasantly. You end up cursing them a lot.  
The era of the internet and e-commerce has blessed a great many people with the opportunity to run a cottage industry and serve the world as their clientele. Where advertising outside one's immediate community would have been prohibitively expensive and near impossible (imagine that Jason or Dave had to buy 1/8 page ads in every local entertainment review across America for folks to know about them), it is now possible for one person, working out of the extra bedroom in their 2 bedroom apartment, to have what appears to be a "business" that anyone anywhere in the world can stumble onto just by plugging the product category into a search engine.  
The same era has also permitted people whose business is really more of a bench and an occasional trip to the post office to create an online presence that is no different from high-power retailers. There is a well-known hardware and gardening supply house near me that occupies a couple of blocks of space for their head office, manufacturing plants and local retail outlet, and has a number of large retail outlets across Canada. Their website isn't a whole lot different than Steve Daniels' website at Small Bear Electronics, and Steve only moved the business out of the apartment and into a small industrial space a month or two ago. It has become increasingly impossible to determine the size of the business one is dealing with via a website.  
Now, when the business is large, you have employees who can shoulder the extra burden when someone gets sick or is on holiday. Chances are also pretty good you have personnel officers who can hire more people when you need them. When the "business" has two hands and two feet, one stomach and one throat, should that stomach get the flu or that throat get sore, the closed for business sign is effectively hung up.  
*IF* it were the case that we had an accurate appreciation of the nature/size of the business we were dealing with each and every time, I suppose it would be easy to be more forgiving. If there were someone who could edit the website and post a message when the business side was derailed by something, that would be great, but it often can't happen.  
There is/was a guy in town here who, after his retirement from Bell got into repair, modding, and maintenance of vintage amps, as a labour of love. He quickly earned a great reputation and well-known people would bring their stuff to him. Like a lot of people in that situation, he has a website. I brought my old Bassman to him to get a rear panel made and found he was this guy with a shop in the basement of his small 3-bedroom row house, just him and his wife.  
This summer, the website indicated that he was on "holidays". I figured he was, and that as a second hobby-career during retirement why wouldn't he take a couple of months off? Then in September I saw his obituary in the paper and learned he had been battling cancer during that "time off". It took about 3 months before the website showed any indication that he had passed away. Obviously his wife wasn't gonna update the website or didn't know how, and there was no one else to do it. Hell, maybe nobody even knew his password for his ISP. So what was happening to those people who were writing him asking when the amp would be ready, or what his price would be for a retube and bias?  
The bottom line is that in this day and age, while there CAN be people who wouldn't know how to run a business if it bit them on the nuts and drew blood, there are also a lot of people trying their hand at operating a business under the most minimal conditions for calling it a business, and if anything happens in their lives, the continuity of the business is jeopardized.  
What would be very helpful to a great many is a thread detailing some of the strategies that people use to manage such situations. So, how do you set up realistic expectations for delivery while still striving to be speedy? What is your backup plan for handling e-mail or product support? What do you do when you get sick or have to travel? And so on.
1/5/2006 3:31 PM
Fred Hammon
I work alone and typically run up to as much as 2 months behind. When I get that far ahead of myself I stop taking orders for awhile. I take care to answer all emails regarding projected shipping dates and if I start falling short of that I’ll send an apologetic email or phone call. I find customers to be very forgiving as long as I’m available to them and communicate.  
Things seem to always take twice as long as they should.  
Is that part of Murphy’s Law?
1/5/2006 4:01 PM
Fred Hammon
+1 on what Dave wrote. Well said.  
I wanted to add that I hate when people trash each other in forums. Somebody said once that in forum flame wars everybody gets covered in shit. Nobody ever wins these things and everybody involved ends up looking and sounding foolish. At least to me. There’s something a little cowardly and pathetic going on when people say things that they wouldn’t say face to face. At least then a little diplomacy goes a long way. Is the main goal to lash out and hurt somebody or is it really a need to be heard and understood?  
Now, when it comes to trolls…I say….don’t feed ‘em, I guess.  
It is tempting to flame a troll though.
1/5/2006 5:13 PM
I agree.
Fred I have been flamed and ridiculed for saying the same things. I am a man and try to act like one. But I always have fought back, I don't's a waste of time and gets into a feeding frenzy for the trolls. This is the last place I will ever post. I no longer go on the Weber boards or the amp workshop. I never ever started anything with anybody but I have been disrespected too many times even on this board. In the past I felt compelled to fight back. It seems like most of the really knowledgeable people who can help stay away from all boards now, it wasn't like that 5 years ago.
1/5/2006 6:52 PM
Dave Stephens stick around Ben
Ben, I wish you wouldn't just walk out of here, I really don't know what went on between you and your customers and am not judging you. Being a one man winder is a tough deal especially if word gets out you do good work, then its a race to keep up and keep it all straight and sorted out. I sometimes goof and totally forget someone's order, I sure could be better organized. I had one customer recently who is "one of those" who act like spoiled five year old kid if you don't immediately answer their email the same day. This guy called up Vintage Guitar and complained to them that I had taken his money and disappeared!!!! Unbelievable, just because It took me two days to get back to him. Some people have emotional problems and its definitely a learning experience how to deal with people who are really difficult to deal with and like to project their problems on you. I'm getting to the point where I'm starting to get a sense when someone is going to be like that, you just sorta have to grin and bear it and hope they go away soon, hopefully happy with what you made for them. Anyway, stick around, I've said embarrassing things here on the forum and made an idiot of myself sometimes, but I'm still here. After all who the hell else is there on this planet who you would share lengthy discussions about pickups with? Most of my friends get bored real fast when I try to talk about what I do with pickup stuff, so I check the forum everyday and its always a highlight of my day too....stick around dude.....
1/5/2006 7:26 PM
Hi Dave, yeah I too dont have many people to go on and on about pickups. Pickups are a passion for me, I eat drink and sleep the darn things. No excuses here, I am guilty of being afraid of getting my head ripped off when I goof up or cant get an order out as I hoped in the time I was planning. I am a one man operation and things get very overwhelming a lot of times. There have been times I just wanted to quit it and never look at another one again, but then im right back at it again, could it be a sickness? Pickupitis maybe, I dont think there is a cure. I am not going to retaliate against anyone, no point. I just dont know why someone would be so vengeful as to try and ruin someones income and in some cases maybe their livelyhood. I know its a dog eat dog world in business but if the shoe was on the other foot I would never try to kill someones business, I figure if I get a bad deal and the person is really a total idiot they will kill themselves, why should I try to speed the process. Just as I ordered some parts from a certain business, no names here, and they dropped the ball and 2 weeks passed and no parts, I called and they said the had a site/email breakdown and never got the order. Ok I was mad that I had been waiting on parts that I needed yesterday but gracefully said I understood and that was that. I didnt pop a vein and I sure am not going to bad mouth them. I only hope when he gets the pickups he will be happy and that will be that. Right now I have an order that has been made and sitting here almost 8 months, I lost my computer and all my emails so I dont have his original email with an address to send them to him. All I got from him was a money order with no address on it or the envelope. But you can bet I'll get a hefty helping of ass chewing if he ever emails me. Im not sure why he hasnt, but I wish he would, it bothers me that his pickups are sitting here and I cant get them to him. Oh well, I must go, the ball and chain is bellowing, she is trying to get ready for work and both babies are screaming. PS, im still looking into the patent you are searching for, i'll let you know if I find anything.
1/6/2006 5:18 AM
Dave Stephens
Ben, yeah I'm living the same thing you are though I don't have the family responsibilities you do, and also obsessed with this stuff and getting overhwelmed sometimes anyway. Just hang in there its all we can do. So don't drop out of the forum, I have thought about that a couple times because I made an ass of myself but as a pickup maker you have to keep learning and not stop in the pursuit of more knowledge and the ability to tailor the sound of pickups more and more and to design your own ideas, and there is no better place to learn new knowledge than this forum and of course the other 80% you do on your own, the grunt work. As for dealing with customers, I was discussing this stuff with a killer guitar player who helps host our jam, Marco Savo, master of the jump blues, and he told me "you're not in the pickup business you are in the people business." That is really true. As a result of this discussion I am going to be more diligent about letting customers know that there is no set date I can get their pickups by and that things change daily here, I try to do that anyway. Most of my customers are really cool people and not in a hurry, but theres some who need reassurance and freak out if you don't keep in touch. Man, I spend about two hours a day just doing emails to a handful of people wanting to buy pickups or want to know what I do. Just make sure you are charging what its worth, all that stuff counts as billable time for me. I'm like you also that I don't ream people I buy stuff from if they screw up,which they do in this parts resourcing alot. we are all only human so most of the parts suppliers are real small guys like you and me and the rest of us here. Guitar Jones, StewMac, Allparts, those aren't really big companies, StewMac has it together but AllParts has problems and runs out of stuff, GJ has stuff that doesn't cut it sometimes, and its just a bunch of people in a room really trying to sell stuff they buy overseas and they get stuck with some crap somtimes and they don't know enough sometimes that what they bought is bad stuff so we are on the end of that line and have to deal with that. OK, I'm ranting now, hang in there, and man if you find that DeArmond pickup patent you're a damn better guy than I am, I have given up trying to figure out how to find their early works........Dave
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