Framing Your Future

Banks, Bank Managers and Your Personal Account Manager May Not be Able to Answer Your Future

I recently wrote on my FaceBook page that “He who frames the issue determines the outcome.”. I think that that is true. I have had dealings with banks and other enterprises handling business issues and money and for the main part always came away feeling like the apple I bit into looked good on the outside but was rotten inside. Banks have of course shown their true colours here in Britain over the past decade or so and that didn’t happen without some deep-rooted badness in the core essential at the heart of banking. If you are in the business of making money without actually making anything we should ask how can the outcome be any different? When someone starts to think about starting to own their own business it’s usually because they want is to take a measure of control in how their lives work into the future. For woodworkers and other crafting artisans they generally want to make things beautiful to grace their and others homes, give lovely hand made gifts, be creative with their children and friends and then make some income or a way of making a living in the future. I have a friend in Texas who paddles his own canoe, literally, around the shores of a massive lake to pick up driftwood of ashe juniper surrounding the shore line of the lake. He reshapes them into ducks and carves shaped toys from them and sells them at craft shows and he’s done that for 30 years. he also makes trains and trucks from other woods too, but the point is he framed his life, became a lifestyle woodworker and got off the corporate ladder early enough to carve out a life he liked to live. Now he’s retired and he still continues his work but now he has the control he wants and does what he does because he wants to.

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Try to imagine walking into the bank ad asking for £20,000 to buy a canoe, some machines and have say 6 months working capital for such a project. They’d send you away first of all and say come up with a business plan, jump through a few hoops and see of you can rely on some other social media things, family money and work out an online marketing strategy like a website design and such. All stuff you could have manage without their input but you feel better because these are the experts in money matters. Well, woodworking is good DIY and so too are these things I speak of. It’s surprising how little it can really take to start your own woodworking business if you have a little vision for it.

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There are many ways of starting a business, but they all take  a little forethought and planning to ensure startup success as early as possible. Planning such things is both part of the process and, dare I say, very ENJOYABLE! Remember that success is measured by how much money you make only by other people. Don’t use that as the benchmark. Yes, you want to be financially responsible, but measure the success by more important things.  Your sense of being in control. Your sense of wellbeing by spending carefully without money excess rather than borrowed excess you will be paying back for decades is payment enough. All too often I hear of people applying for some kind of funding to ‘get going‘ and especially do I see banks somehow declaring whether a model will work or not. Try to remember that banks don’t like risk and especially backing something they don’t understand. Banks do not understand crafting artisans and they can be demoralising when you have an idea that you might like working with your hands and making beautiful things. Banks do however understand that crafting artisans are rarely good business people if they, they banks, define what good business is. Remember banks are ONLY in the business of making money and they ALWAYS make money off people who actually have ideas, who work hard and need a way of exchanging money for goods they need and goods they are selling.

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Can a Bank Understand This?

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Or This?

If you can finance your business yourself by continuing in income-producing work then that becomes a better business model until you have proven your income earning capacity by selling what you make. By then you won’t need a cash injection and in many cases I have seen people borrow money for equipment that will make more goods cheaper thinking making more for less is good business. That usually was not the goal in the beginning. they wanted to work for themselves and ended up working for the bank and the staff they feel obliged to care for. I don’t think that that’s what you were looking for. Be true to your original vision. If that’s not what you want, pick up a copy of Financial Times and read no further. Remember that, for some of us at least, making money is or at least can be secondary to the lifestyle we want to carve out for ourselves. Banks don’t understand that you will gladly work 80 hours a week over seven days making £10 an hour rather than £20 and hour for 40 if it’s the lifestyle you are working for first. I have often worked such long days and weeks to make my life happen the way I want it to and have no regrets at all because my workshop was important to my home life and I could be with my family.

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This week I made some beautiful hand made picture frames and although I am not going to make this a business plan for me, it certainly could be for some of you. Hand made frames like this cannot be made by mass makers. Mass makers need to buy in stock, stamp out the goods and sell in mass quantities. Even custom framers rely on machine moulds and finishes and their skills might rest more in combining frames and mounts and sizing borders than actually creating the whole from from raw stock. That’s where you come in; to fill the niche for truly hand made, beautiful frames. There is a demand for the combined work of framers and the images and artwork installed in the frames. Creating frames as I have here means you can configure dozens of components to make highly desirable and distinctive frames for customers looking for the kind of quality money generally cannot find to buy. Exclusive work doesn’t necessarily mean exclusivity. You can make all kinds of frames using hand methods ranging from using paint to finish the wood and the actual wood itself. In the frames here I have used no machines at all. I have used standard moulds available in moulding planes and the grain I have planed and shaped has awkward wiry grain. In some cases I have used a scratch stock because of the awkward grain, but, regardless, all nine frames are made without any machine methods.

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I have used basically one wood to make the frames from; sapele. One of the frames I inlaid with some figured maple and there are a dozens of other configurations I could use just for a change or to compliment my offering. Soon, in a matter of a few weeks, I will be showing all of the techniques I used to make these frames in a video series. I have chosen the unplugged methods because I feel that they give me a way of life that is quiet and gentle, peacefully manageable, clean and healthy and they give me peace of mind in my work. By now you will hopefully see that it’s the way I work I strive for and not merely money. This for me is wellbeing. You can learn to make frames like this in a few hours. You may already have the skills but have never used them for this application of the tools. Regardless, start working on a business plan that excludes your banker and borrowing is a great place to start. Read this blog post to your spouse, partner, parents, children and friends. Consider it. Go to a craft show. Host a party and invite family and friends to see your framing options. There is no comparison between a mass made frame and one you designed and made by hand. Frame the issue and take control of the outcome.

 

15 Comments

  1. BrianJ on 11 August 2014 at 6:57 pm

    Wonderfully inspirational, and fitting for this time in my life. I’ve been reading some ‘business books’ recently on recommendations of those that think they have possession of what it takes to ‘make it’ in this world… None of it has as much value as I have found in the piece above.



  2. Joe Kaiser on 11 August 2014 at 7:08 pm

    I can’t wait for this series 🙂 I mentioned it to my wife and she is excited for me to try my hand at making them. If all goes well, I might just send some to family at Christmas.



  3. momist on 11 August 2014 at 10:13 pm

    “some deep-rooted badness in the core essential at the heart of banking. If you are in the business of making money without actually making anything we should ask how can the outcome be any different?”
    Wonderful, simply true. I understand that there needs to be services surrounding the real creation of wealth by production or manufacture, but they should not be rooted simply with the aim of ‘making money’!



    • A, W. Baker on 13 August 2014 at 1:45 pm

      I was a Bank Lending Officer for most of my working life. It has been my experience that most people don’t understand what a Bank is or what it does. First and foremost a Bank is a business, just like a woodworking shop, a shoe store or a grocery store. People invest their capital to start the Bank operation, and share in the profits and loss from the business. It is not a charity or a non profit operation. They are in the business of renting money. Just like a landlord expects the return of his property at the end of the lease, the Bank expects the return of the money at the end of the loan period, along with the agreed upon rent. To operate a successful lending operation, the lender must judge the risk involved. After you have been in the business for a short time, you soon learn that most small business operations fail. Just because someone has a dream, doesn’t mean it is a practical idea. The mark of a successful lender is the ability to tell the difference between a good idea and a bad one. Every one makes mistakes in that process, and sometimes a good loan is rejected, and sometimes a bad one is made. Make enough bad ones, and you will soon be out of business, so sometimes a lender can be too cautious, but better too cautious, than too liberal. Too cautious and you live to see another day. Too liberal and you are gone. I have seen operations that disappeared because they were overly liberal in their lending standards. I could go on about the need for a Banking system of some kind, but this is getting too long, so I will stop.



  4. Ken Luxford on 12 August 2014 at 2:35 am

    “some deep-rooted badness in the core essential at the heart of banking. If you are in the business of making money without actually making anything we should ask how can the outcome be any different?”

    Paul it’s a little more than deep rooted badness I think. Banking is now a system that creates “wealth” through the packaging and sale of debt and through selling the perceived worth of organisations. i.e the stock market. There is no better example than the recent CYNK fiasco. No assets; produced nothing; owed $59k and yet valued on the stock exchanges at $6 billion.
    Sheesh, it’s just plain broken and I’ve no idea whether it’s even fixable.

    So I agree if it’s at all possible we aught to reclaiming our own futures rather than leaving them in the hands of a system that’s demonstrated time and time again that it’s busted.

    Lovely picture frames by the way. I’d love to do some before Christmas especially if we get to make a poor mans rebate plane…..A chisel I have.. A rebate plane I don’t



  5. mmelendrez1955 on 12 August 2014 at 4:47 am

    Thank You Paul. I have been looking at starting a business for some time now. I keep thinking about how you sold walking canes. But I really like the frames they are very wonderful and would look great in anyone’s home. I am so glad that I found you and your Artisan course when I was recovering from an injury. Woodworking has changed my life in so many ways so why not pursue a business that will promote what I love to do. I am also thinking about helping others like me who are in physical pain through woodworking. We both now that using your hands to create things of beauty heals the body and mind. All I know is it works and I love working with wood.



  6. Chris B on 12 August 2014 at 8:57 am

    mmelendrez1955
    I wish you success in your venture we look forward to seeing positive news keep us all informed. It sound a great idea.



  7. Bradley Bingham on 12 August 2014 at 10:27 am

    Anytime we can avoid debt so much the better. My wise grandfather had graduated in the school in accounting but instead decided to farm with his brother. They worked 10 years with out debt to make their farm a success and then split into two farms one for each brother. I always look at my grandfathers avoidance of debt as a way to live my own life and any debt I undertake.

    You suggestion to start a business slowly and steadily growing in a sustainable rate is a good idea and a good way for a person to live a live they control.

    I have a friend that was as ships right and was unemployed when the company discontinued business. It took a few years for him to redirect his skills and now makes world class furniture he sells all over the world.

    I believe you can control your life you just need skills and desire..



  8. Erland on 12 August 2014 at 10:37 am

    thanks Paul for sharing this .
    Very helpfull at the moment!

    Waiting for your next book!

    Hoping to see a mastercass video where you make a hope chest,
    just like in your blog a few years ago.

    kind greetings

    Erland
    from Ghent
    Belgium



  9. Matt on 12 August 2014 at 1:29 pm

    Is there another book in the works? I would be very interested.



  10. rickcorradini on 12 August 2014 at 9:09 pm

    Paul, I really love your blog.
    Your texts are real gems.
    You are a philosopher as well as an artisan.
    Thank you for both the vision and the craft.
    Ricardo Corradini



    • Paul Sellers on 12 August 2014 at 9:25 pm

      Hello My Friend,
      How are you doing?



      • rickcorradini on 13 August 2014 at 2:29 am

        Thanks Paul, I’m very fine, working wood and progressing a lot by following your path. Real woodworking is very rewarding and your classes/videos are brilliant!
        Regards from Brazil,
        Ricardo Corradini



  11. Andy in Germany on 15 August 2014 at 5:14 pm

    Looking forward to this. I’m wondering if this could be possible here: from what I know, I can be self employed as a picture framer or woodcarver without falling foul of the Guild and their rules. I’m not sure and information is hard to come by as I can’t exactly go and ask the guilds…. Will have to dig a bit further.



  12. Carlosjc on 19 August 2014 at 7:13 pm

    I love these entries that describe, stimulate and stir the spirit into action to make woodworking a real part of my life, in the income-generating sense. I absolutely love working wood for my own quiet enjoyment, and the satisfaction of creating, of making, objects of beauty for my home, friends and family. I haven’t done much of it yet, but I can see very satisfying it really is. At the same time, I make no bones about wishing woodworking as a lifestyle and add-on income in addition to my current business. In fact, I need something in addition to my current income source in order to stay solvent with a young family in this increasingly unaffordable and crazed world. Also, as a business owner, any type of hedge against slow downs or loss of clientele, be it from technology or simply the ebb and flow that comes from being self-employed, is always welcome.

    Allow me to explain. I was searching for an add-on income. Some experiences and successes earlier in life when a younger man (I’m in my late 40s) doing tile setting and concrete work led me back recently to doing construction. Not having finished my woodworking workbench yet, I could neither sell it nor envision using it to make furniture to sell pieces just yet, as much as I would have liked to.

    So I recently set 200 sq. ft. of porcelain tile for a kitchen floor, as well as set a glass mosaic backsplash. While it did provide a way to another income, I discovered that while tile-setting and construction work does provide a chance to make extra income, it was very hard on the body. I did not expect this as I have generally always been healthy and active. But I concluded, after the swollen knees and aching back subsided, that although you do use your hands, and you are involved in a creative process, and it can be satisfying to construct and remodel for clients, it is just plain hard work that I can’t picture myself doing on any kind of regular basis for money as I approach my 5th decade on this Earth. I will work on my own home, and friends and family, but not necessarily in a production environment for builders or other homeowners.

    There is also demand for trim carpentry, building cabinets, stairs, and other things. This may be easier on an aging body and of course their is a natural affinity between this type of work and furniture making. However, it would still be a production environment, with the concomitant need for hiring a helper, and expensive outlay for power tools. I don’t see it as nearly as fulfilling as creating a niche for yourself as a New Genre or Lifestyle Woodworker as written about here in this blog. Working wood in the hand-tool, artisanal way, making furniture pieces, as a working craftsman, is something that this blog shows is possible and quite doable if you frame yourself right. My next step may be to develop a two-pronged approach where I develop woodworking skills that I will need on my path to establishing myself as a hand-tool Lifestyle Woodworker, able to sell my services and pieces, and also develop building and installation skills for trim carpentry, which at this point, for me in my area, there may be greater demand for. The objective, at every juncture, would be to dial down the carpentry and continue moving in the direction of cabinetmaker and hand tool woodworker as skills develop and progress.

    Thanks for reading and indulging me in this long post. I love how this in this blog and in Woodworking MCs, there is often a reference to how to actively have an income from your woodworking. Be it staffs or canes, benches, instruments, spatulas or spoons, it’s great to see how a skilled craftsman in hand tool woodworking is in fact in demand. Skills will generate income as things of beauty are created in an artistic process where each piece is lovingly made and the result can only be high-quality.