BLUF: Save the woe is me for someone who actually needs it. Back in action.
Improvise, Adapt, Overcome.
Depending on how close you follow us here at Rybak Woodworking, you may have noticed that our output has slowed considerably during the second half of 2017. From the inception of Rybak Woodworking in 2015, we have steadily grown in terms of creativity, skill, and the scope of our projects. After completing one of our larger builds earlier this year, focus began to slip away from the shop. A variety of things both personal and business related, mostly personal, hit me at the same time and beat me down.
Health and Wellness
After successfully completing a large build in early 2017 that was both physically and mentally draining I began to let certain priorities slip. I allowed the business to take precedent over everything in my life: personal health and fitness, personal relationships, and spending time with friends and family. Continuing to drive the business forward was all I seemed to care about. Any creative that has seen their ideas grow can tell you how intoxicating it can be, but I got wasted on it.
The constant long days and nights had me skipping out on regular physical fitness and eating mindlessly just to keep going. The lack of exercise and proper diet resulted in a weight gain of roughly 30lbs over the course of about a year and a half. Couple the lack of exercise and poor diet with sleeping less than five hours every night and you can imagine I probably wasn’t the nicest person to be around at times. I’ve always been a big believer in keeping your ‘meat vessel’ healthy, as it’s our #1 tool, but I let mine slip into disrepair. Keeping the body and the mind running properly should be every individual’s main goal, as only then can we help those around us.
Personal Relationships and Work
Of all the failures of 2017, this is the hardest one to talk about and overcome, but it is the main reason why shop output has slowed considerably. As I’ve said, driving the business forward was the only goal. In doing this I began to neglect the needs of my girlfriend at the time: not spending enough time doing enjoyable things together, attending social events, or growing as a couple. We ended up parting ways.
To hedge off any comments that may arise from this particular paragraph, my girlfriend at the time was 110% supportive of my endeavor and was one of the main reasons I was able to grow the business to what it was/is. She pushed me to grow as a person and entrepreneur. It wasn’t until she left that I was able to fully appreciate all the ways in which she helped and supported me.
Why would I want to continue a business that resulted in negative personal outcomes?
I wasn’t even working 24/7 for financial reasons either, a potentially excusable reason for the time and effort I was sacrificing. I was addicted to the steady growth and success of the business, as dumb as that may sound. Obviously, there are worse things in life to be addicted to, but this one still took its toll.
I lacked the personal fortitude to take care of the important people in my life and now must solider on. Although we are still friends, losing someone I cared about because of business hurt worse than dropping a freshly sharpened chisel onto a concrete floor…tip down.
Wait, what? I can’t crack a woodworking joke in the middle of this?
Business and Gettin’ Paid
Now to the business of business. So, let’s not get it twisted, Rybak Woodworking was started as a business, not a charity. Successfully being your own boss is probably one of the greatest freedoms someone can experience and remains my main goal. In order to reach that goal, I need to talk money.
At Rybak Woodworking, we understand that not everyone can afford a $5000 solid walnut table, but we always try to work with the customer to find a solution that fits their needs and budget.
For a business of our size, we felt we were getting a decent amount of requests coming into the shop. Unfortunately, though, we felt our customers’ expectations of pricing weren’t quite inline with ours.
In the words of the old timers at the sawmill, “Everyone wants Walmart prices!”
Maybe our prices were too high, or maybe the consumer was not properly educated on what it takes to build a quality item. Material prices, maintaining tools, consumables, rent, utilities and, most importantly, the value of a properly skilled craftsman, all play into a creating a handmade item. As craftsmen, we feel it’s our duty to educate the consumers on materials, construction method, costs etc. If they walk away from us more educated, they are better off and hopefully won’t get taken advantage of by Johnny Two Tables.
I’ll always bet the farm that you can find someone to do it faster or cheaper, but it all comes at a cost. Remember, there are levels to this game. You can’t speak about Anna White in the same sentence with Sam Maloof or George Nakashima, you just can’t.
Yeah, it’s time to jump off this soap box now.
COMING FULL CIRCLE
Ultimately, the lack of business and overall low output falls squarely on my shoulders as business man. It’s my responsibility to drum up work/create, and after everything stated above, I was lacking in that department. But…
WE ARE BACK (Mike, the guy writing this, is at least). I’m working on getting those tasty six pack abs back, properly prioritizing work, and regaining control of life outside of the shop.
This is not a typical blog post for Rybak Woodworking, but after spending Thanksgiving with friends and family, I wanted to be open and honest with everything that has been going on during the past 6-8 months. The small business life isn’t everything social media makes it out to be.
Just a softwood guy wrapped in a hardwood veneer.