This is the second in a continuing series of quarterly round table discussions, powered by toolmaker Festool, to which highly regarded professional craftsmen from around the country are invited to discuss and share their insights about the profession. (For the first round table, see Qualified Remodeler, January 2013, p. 16.)
In addition to moderator Michael Williams of Festool, this conversation included custom furniture maker Jory Brigham, custom carpenter Darcy Warner, Pacific Coast Home Solutions founder Eric Martinson, and Chicago Window and Door Solutions owner Greg Burnet. The panelists chatted about a wide range of topics, from seasonal work and hiring extra hands to a shared love of white boards.
Michael Williams: Guys, thanks so much for taking part in this discussion to share your insights. In the remodeling and construction industries, a lot of work is seasonal. I’m curious; do you find that to be the case? Is there an influx of business in the warmer months, compared to the colder months?
Greg Burnet: We’re a window and door contractor, and we run the gamut from whole-frame and insert placements and restorations, to custom wood storms. For us, it really is seasonal. Frankly, the worse the winter is, the more demand we’re likely to have for our services. We tend to get pretty busy thanks to people planning to do projects going into spring and summer.
We also do quite a bit of multi-unit work, and we have repeat customers who will come back year after year. Very often we’ll confer with them at the very end of the year and try to schedule their project to where it’ll be better suited for everyone involved. We try to give customers a bit of incentive to push some work off until the end of the year or into the winter so we actually have some shop time.
Jory Brigham: For me, as a furniture maker, it’s not really affected by the seasons so much. It’s different around Christmas and the holidays, when it goes up a little bit, but it stays very steady. If things do slow down slightly, we tend to use that time to create extras of my more popular pieces. But in general, I have no idea when it’s going to hit and when it’s not going to hit. I wish I did.
Darcy Warner: There’s always something to do. There’s always something to do. That said, I suppose I’m usually busier in the winter than I am the summer — more people want me inside doing trim work, doors, hanging doors, interior work and so forth.
Michael Williams: Along those lines, could you elaborate on the types of work you do in the winter versus the summer?
Darcy Warner: Well, with regard to summertime, school is out; people with families tend to go on vacation and spend time together. A lot of people don’t really consider having anything done then. They tend push that kind of work into fall, winter and spring. At least that’s my experience.
Eric Martinson: For my business, it’s not seasonal in the way it used to be. We’re pretty aggressive about our marketing. I never turn off the switch to market it. We run projects that are inside and outside the house. We’re always calling people, giving them estimates and letting them decide whether now is a good time. As a result, I don’t see a huge downturn in the winter or a huge uptick in spring or summer or fall because we’re constantly marketing.
Michael Williams: Do any of you market different services during different times of the year?
Greg Burnet: We don’t differentiate or offer specific things. We do have seasonal incentives that we offer our prospects, but none of those have to do with the work — they’re mostly promoting the company. We might call with a different offering, but the projects are the same and the work is the same.
Michael Williams: So you use that as a lever to get more business during what could otherwise potentially be a slower time?
Greg Burnet: Absolutely. We look forward to every holiday possible. We’re always talking about the next holiday and the next seasonal event.