Very large 1-person manual shops - is this unusual? - Page 3
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  1. #41
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    "How does a one man shop both run parts and go out to sell his services? How does a small shop bid for work? Do you have a "in" with a bigger shop that gives you its surplus work?"

    I have 1 man 1 part time wife shop. I have 2 CNC mills and Wire EDM and various manual machines. I made up my mind when I started (10 years ago this month) that I would not attempt to get offload work from other machine shops. I figured when things get slow, my work would dry up before the shops doing work direct. I never go looking for work, even right after 9/11 we had the best year to that point. When you establish a good reputation, deliver on time good quality parts, you should be busy. But it depends on were you are I suppose. And if you don't know people it could be rough too. I've probably turned more work down that I have done in the last 10 years. Many times too I don't even have to quote the work. I treat my customer fairly and they trust me to charge what it cost to do the work.

  2. #42
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    Grow or Die...

    IF you are running a publicly held company (say, Microsoft) or a privately held company with a set of investors who want similar returns

    Then you must "increase shareholder wealth" on an ongoing basis.

    It's the *increase* that matters.

    So Microsoft, one of the most profitable companies on Earth, and sometimes the most valuable by market cap, has been feeling a lot of pressure the last few years. The whole time it was making great boatloads of money. But the rate of growth in the boatloads of money wasn't high enough, so the stock was stagnant.

    Regardless of anything else, "stock stagnant" is BY DEFINITION bad for publicly held companies.

    What is more, question one on the executive management application for a publicly held company is "are you ever content?" and if you answer "yes" you are not fit for the job. Contentment is evil for publicly held companies.

    SOOOO for a publicly held company, or a similarly driven privately held company, "grow or die" is a fact of life.

    There is no reason at all that this has to apply to privately/personally held, sole or small number of holders partnerships and so on.

  3. #43
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    I was in Portland a couple of weeks ago, hadnt been down in a couple of years, and the whole neighborhood over there by where Flash Welding was- its like somebody dropped one of those "instant yuppietown" sponges in a glass of water- suddenly there is an entire district of 10 story buildings, streets full of trendy shops, where only yesterday, it seems, there was just a few one story warehouse buildings, and a bum or two dozing off on the sidewalk.
    Now- Look Out! Fast Moving Lexus Ahead!

    Kinda like the big Kenny Scharf graffiti/spaceage column sculptures, though.

    Here in the Northwest, the biggest scourge of the old guy in the one man shop is real estate prices. Those shops were gone from Seattle 20 years ago, right about when Paul Allen and Bill Gates suddenly became the two richest men, and oldest teenagers, on earth.
    Allen alone bought something like 20 to 50 industrial buildings in the industrial neighborhood of Seattle, just because he could.
    And quadrupled the rents, then, when he started to get high tech startup firms in, raised em again.

    There used to be a couple of nice one man shops down there, where now we have Starbucks World Headquarters instead.

    I have managed to tread on the edge for a long time- I have what is really a one man shop, with lots of machines that are way overkill for what I really need, but I like em, and, as Brian said, they are paid for. I will often spend 10 grand on a machine, for one specific job, and then it may sit unused 11 months out of the year- but when I need it, it makes me money, fast, and besides, I LIKE my machines.

    But at the same time, I usually have a few guys, part time, working in the shop. I just did my W-2's, and found my main guy, who is very good, and works on his own, with very little input from me, made a whopping $7500 last year. Now thats not because I pay him minimum wage- I pay him $15/hr, with the occasional bonus. No, its because I have been lucky enough to find employees who are interested in flexible schedules, interesting work, and learning from me, and dont want or need those 80 hour weeks. Those guys with all the big "toy" payments- they dont wanna work for me, and thats just fine.

    I, too would go nuts if I had 5 guys working 7am to 7pm every day. My shop is on my farm, a couple hundred feet from my house. I wanna live like a civilised person, which means going out for lunch when a friend comes over, or going on vacation when I want, or taking it easy on semi-holidays, like Malcom Luther King day.
    I find guys who have their own side jobs, their own career trajectories, and eventually, they all move on. Which is just fine with me.
    For lots of the stuff I do, it does take about 2 years for somebody to become really fluent in my various tricks and techniques, so its not like I want transient labor- but in 20 years, I have never had a problem finding guys, and the occasional girl, who stick around for a few years, part time, and help me out quite a bit.
    I dont find its excruciatingly expensive to have employees- most of my taxes are based on hours worked, so if I dont have cash coming in, I dont have em work.
    I have managed to stay below the radar of beaucracy, and have had no problems with governmental agencies.

    A lot of it is your attitude towards your work and other people. If you believe everybody else but you is an idiot, most people will generally prove you right.
    If you demand the same standards from employees you have for yourself, you will never be happy.
    My wife is like that, and generally speaking, employees drive her crazy.

    But me, I have a bit more easygoing attitude. I know the guys will never think the way I do- and so I plan, design, and build accordingly. I never get mad at screwups, I do the trickier stuff myself. But I find I just could not do what I do without help. I aint got the stamina anymore, or the desire, to do a repetitive job a thousand times.

    I generally try to schedule at least one day a week where nobody is in the shop but me. In fact we usually only work something like 4- 6's. No, I am not gonna get any medals for overachievement- but as somebody else mentioned here- you only get so many hours on this planet- if you wanna spend em all drilling 1/4" holes, thats your privelige- but me, I like to balance work with pleasure.

    At any given time, I could call the boys and say- no work this week. Or no more work, ever. And the shop would be all mine to putter around in. But I like a bit of help now and then, the presence of young people around, I like the energy. And I like teaching kids stuff, and then seeing em a few years down the road, actually making things on their own.

    So just call me a partially crusty old curmudgeon. Semi-Anti-Social. Half time Cranky old grump.

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  5. #44
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    awesome Ries!

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    "Lets just say sometimes I fear leaving because I think my guys will kill themselves if I am not around."

    maverick...time to clean the 'ol gene pool......


    I think one of the most critical things with being a one man shop is people skills. You're the guy that has to make the first impression and develop the relationship to where it works well for both you and your customer. I don't schmooze or talk sports or ask personal stuff about customers but I DO try to be helpful and polite and return calls quickly. Because I'm curious I usually want to know what the piece I working on does and have discovered two benefits there. One is that customers like that you take an interest in their project, and two is you can sometimes make cost saving or quality increasing suggestions (very low key here...) that make their product better.Sometimes it just helps you make the part better. That seems to create loyalty.( except when I'm dealing with a buyer...)


    Ries...I that's a great schedule!

  7. #46
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    Hey- its not like I get to spend all the time I am not in the shop in my Barca-lounger- dont get the wrong idea- I have 2 teenagers, and a wife with full time ambitions about her own work- I cook and shop a lot, I do laundry and dishes, I drive kids to events, and I spend a fair amount of time in the office.
    I have 35 acres and a dozen buildings, so I am also a plumber, electrician, general fixit man, and occasional industrial gardener. I like the gardening that involves machines. Oh, I do a bit of tending of plants that you can eat- we grow raspberries, blueberries, logan berries, cherries, pears, apples, plums, and a small kitchen garden of salad greens, potatoes, onions and garlic for the year- just 30 or so fruit trees, a few hundred feet of berry bushes.


    But its true, I dont work like a maniac- in fact, when we got married, 28 years ago, the first thing my wife did was make me quit my job- I was working for somebody else, and I would come home a glassy eyed zombie.
    Havent had a real job since.

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  9. #47
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    I didn't think you were goofing off....I could definitely use more of that type of balance. Seems you have it figured out!

  10. #48
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    Richard Rogers, or any one else, Does a family member cause OSHA to come around? Must it be one and only one, or is a family member who presumably is a part owner exempt you from big brother? A great thread, it would make a great article for a magazine and for congressmen who make these rules. Thanks Bob
    Bob,

    Pop is now basically retired, and the business is all in my posession, and has been from the outset. No need for dealing with Big Brother. I suppose if your family member did work for/with you, then there'd be some reason to deal with OSHA, worker's comp, payroll taxes etc, as they're still an employee in the eyes of the law. I don't see why being related would matter. As a teenager, I worked for Pop, and was on the payroll like anyone else that worked at his mill.

    In the mill days, one thing that began to develop as I came into authority (started coming around the mill with Pop at 8 yrs old. Loved to miss school and learn for a change)was that some crew members thought I'd be a sneak route for obtaining a pay raise. You see, I did some hiring for the experience of it, so others thought they'd con this kid into raises, etc. You talk about some pitiful stories! They could put them on, and YES I did feel for them, but I somehow, with small exceptions, kept myself from being used. Remember, any eight idiots can outsmart the most brilliant man ever born. They'll work him down, just like crows taking down an eagle.

    Richard

  11. #49
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    Both in my custom furniture business days and later, dovetail jig and tapping machine manufacture days, I never* had more than one employee besides SWMBO in the shop/office. Most of the time it was just me and her..and mostly just me. So I guess I gravitate toward the simplicity of the no employee model.

    Having said that there is something to be said for having some good employees and if done right, the comradary and "one big family" aspect can add a pleasant dimension to working life. But as the business owner and leader one has to have the personality for it. To some business owners, taking care of that "family" of employess is what it's all about. I've got a friend who is that way. He seems to really enjoy his 20 or so employees. So, to each his own way I guess.

    ============


    *well there was one time I had three "fake" employees. Was exporting tapping machines to Japan and the importer insisted on visiting my "plant" At that time I was still in Mebane, NC out in the country in a little 2,000 sq ft metal building...just me and SWMBO doing everything. So I got hundreds of parts stacked up and "hired" three of my dairy farm neighbors to pretend to be busy as bees while my Japansese guests "toured" the facilities.

    It worked...they kept ordering...exported 40 percent of my machines to Japan for about five years.

    www.practicalmachinist.com/muraki.jpg

    [img]smile.gif[/img]

  12. #50
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    I've run a one man band small shop since the late seventies, always on my own though admittedly in the early days I'd do a fair amount of relief or agency type work in other shops to make the bills.

    Nowadays in 160sqft I have a Senior universal mill a couple of ten inch lathes (one a boxford and the other a right oddball), an 8" shaper and Thiel die filer, plus the usual bandsaw drills and tool grinders etc, all reasonable and PAID for, nobody wanting their monthly payment come hell or high water.

    While the machinery might seem limited I go out of my way to pick up ''oddball.'' taps, dies and cutters, usually for nothing more than a few $ apiece, often much cheaper.
    Some of my freinds, (and surprisingly I have some! who seem to accept that Sami might cancel something because a rush jobs come in) ask me wah on earth I want THAT for in that certain manner, but in that price range they can sit there until needed, then it's payback time, just get a quote on ''specials'' and see what I mean.

    The downside? well I suppose you end up a bit of a control freak, as well as becoming un-employable, hey ho.

    Samll machines, yeah, works for me, despite the recent loss of jobbing shops, there still seem to be plenty of outfits with 15 & 20 inch lathes to do the bigger stuff, but none for the little bits and pieces.
    I've a few regular runs for a couple of customers,........... and no way am I telling what I get for a delrin roller 6mm dia 4.2 bore and 5mm long with a tiny groove on the od.

    My family had a business with up to 70 employees, until I started on my own after it went belly up,and all the hassle of being an employer? no way, I grew up with enough of that pantomime to last me a lifetime thankyou very much!.

    One advantage when it's only your backside you've got to keep, is being in the wonderful position of being able to say. 'Thanks for the offer, but no thanks.' when you don't like the look of something.

    Thought:- could the one man bands be the last of the mavericks, the true independants?

    Sorry if this post seems a little jumbled but I kinda put my thoughts down as they came.

    Keep you a troshin bor. Sami

  13. #51
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    A good friend of mine who lives nearby was a former aircraft journeyman Machinist at a local airbase with over 25 years experience. He saw the closing of that base coming and began amassing enough machines to take work on for himself several years prior. He now has a CNC Milling machine, CNC lathe, two Bridgeport Milling machines with DRO's, A lovely gigantic Monarch Lathe and another Monarch tool room lathe and all sorts of MIG, TIG and stick welders. I probably haven't even mentioned half of what he has, including all of the tooling.

    He owns his shop which is located on his property in a rural area and works completely alone when and if he chooses. He does various parts for companies that value his abilities. He's also taken the time to teach me a great deal about machining and welding in my hobby type shop for which I'm grateful.

    I admire him and any person like him who loves machinery and wants to work alone. These posts about one man shops are very interesting and encouraging.

    [ 01-19-2007, 10:46 PM: Message edited by: Newman109 ]

  14. #52
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    It would be cool if all us 1 man shops could somehow get together in person for a visit.

    Like that could ever happen.....

    I like the thought anyway.

    dk

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    One Man Shops might be a Natural Thing.

    When you think about it, the recent history of economics is about physical things getting cheaper in real terms, while human time mostly seems to get more expensive in real terms.

    So a large collection of tools that allow one person to produce some kind of output makes sense, because the machines are relatively inexpensive while the person is costly.

  16. #54
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    For what I do now, the reason I have the best forklifts, electric pallet jacks, machinery skates, and trucks/trailers that money can buy is so I can move iron in the easiest, safest, and most enjoyable manner possible....by myself.
    Also, if it weren't for the internet, digital cameras and cell phones I would never have got into the machinery sales business in the first place. Haven't decided if that's good or bad yet...

  17. #55
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    Is working alone in a machine shop considered safe?

  18. #56
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    Brian, from Versa Mill, who posts here, and Sean, the Deckel moderator, both have shops like that.
    Wow, well I'm flattered my name was mentioned!

    My shop doesn't really qualify since it's really a *zero* man shop.
    In other words, there is nobody for hire in it.

    My shop is 8500sqft built in the cafeteria of an old elementary school (I bought the school). It is not 100% shop since I park my cars in about 25% of it and run our small ebay business in there.

    The reasons for me having it are probably weirder than most.
    In the deepest sense, I suppose it is having the desire and ability to *create* something...whether I actually do it or not.
    Each tool, and the quality of that tool could somehow be compared to a healthier sperm count when put in the context of "creation" Reaching even deeper might be the fear of not being able to create, and the fight to keep that from happening.
    "If I don't buy this, i cannot counterbore"....etc. A fear of impotence perhaps.
    If Freud is listening, he might find it interesting that I have not attempted to have children after 10 years of marriage to a beautiful women. Hmmmm... I guess I'll take some ribbing for this analasys.

    Another angle is that I am not a terrific machinist but really wish I was. Maybe I figure with enough stuff, that suddenly that will happen.

    In addition, I covet things of precision and beautiful design. I have awakened with a Wohlhaupter in my bed after falling asleep admiring it. If I never use it, it will still be a piece of art to me.
    This is amplified by knowing that I will never achieve the level of skill required to make such a thing.

    Still more would be my resentment and perhaps fear of being at the mercy of someone who is properly prepared to do a job when I am not. Something breaks, or I need a bracket, i have to *submit* to another person's skills and tools. I hate that.

    Then there is the collector disease. This one goes faster, but this one is more rare, but this one does tricks. It goes on and on.

    I don't have the largest, nor best equipped shop around, but I could safely say that it is far more than my need, skill or means, which is why I offer this post of "all the other reasons".
    Obviously I have thought about it and wondered myself.

    All the Best
    Sean

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  20. #57
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    Ries, youre just the chap I would work for! Im "between jobs" at the moment & will probably find myself back at my old job before long ; little choice in the matter; half an hours break all day. dont know many in area so not a snowballs chance in hell of finding work, tried it & no response, ask local firms to quote you on things & still no reply. I am looking to do a "replica"project which would entail capital outlay ,from the base of a "day job". Sean, I admire your frankness I am trained machinist but have always liked& collected fine (even if Im the only person who thinks so!)things. In my bedside unit is a little "museum" of "twiddlies", Impleased that there are others like me! I think of Bilbo Baggins& Gollum in the dark & "whats it got in its pocketses".

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  22. #58
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    "Is working alone in a machine shop considered safe?"

    It is if you are careful. When you are sharing equipment with a lot of other people you have an inherent safety risk. Most of the times I've had close calls in a shop environment it has been due to someone less careful.

    Sean,Brian,Richard,Ries,D,(ETC).....Now would be a great time to post some pics of your layouts. Each of you have described a setup like most of us dream about.Some outside shots of the whole shebang would be nice too.I'm a one man op. but 760 sq feet doesn't allow for much collecting......

  23. #59
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    The way I see it, if a one man shop has the market ability and tools to produce a profit, then it's definitely a lot easier than dealing with workers who are not vested in the business. I run a one man shop, but have sons that help (when they aren't playing Play-Station)(one is more interested in being in the shop than eating lunch, though)... In any case By the time I'd hire one employee, pay employment tax, workman's comp, etc... Then pay for breaks, goof off time, late for work because the car won't start, cat's in the drier... (you get the idea)... I'd be in the red...

    At least if I'm the only worker I have to worry about, then I am accountable only to myself...

    I love creating things & would much rather be in the shop "creating" than on the couch with a remote control...

    I take one evening every other week or so to eat out with my wife & we talk about ways to improve our business, or about the purchase of a new machine, tooling, materials,,, shop talk...

    I would find it very difficult to share the same enthusiasm with someone that is there for a paycheck...

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    I take one evening every other week or so to eat out with my wife & we talk about ways to improve our business, or about the purchase of a new machine, tooling, materials,,, shop talk...
    Wait...wait...wait.
    Your WIFE talks shop with you?

    NOW I'm jealous ......

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