Growing season was stalled by all of these pieces to projects with no homes!

Spring 2016- Story of LW, Post 5

Nick is always searching for great deals on materials and upgrading machines and looking into getting new machines. He has a special skill in finding awesome prices and researching equipment that is good fit for our current needs. This skill has served us well over the years long before it benefitted the LW business.

The greatest impact of this seek and find skill was in this growing season of the business. Not many tools or extra cash to acquire more and we took no loans to get started. If we couldn’t afford it, we didn’t get it. So we started out with very few tools and even our “best tools” were several models old at best. So we kept trading up and making do with what we had.

Better tools would help us to be more efficient in our time and increase our craftmanship. Talent and sub par tools can only take your quality of work so far.. Insert our “Deal Seeker Nick” and his love of a challenge. That’s when much needed upgrades start to happen!

The most fun one in this season of machine acquisition was the Laser. The option to laser engrave wood became a serious thought to how we could expand our products and make them even more custom. So Nick got hot on the search for pricing and differences in laser machines. Which led us to our first import and it had us go across the ocean to get the Laser Engraver from China!

Laser in it’s first location

And it took forever to get here! In these days of Amazon Prime and quick shipping, this was a totally different experience. And navigating customs…that was interesting. It even got held hostage at port for an extended time until we could get it released. I guess someone thought these laser engravers are potentially dangerous… It eventually got here and we made quick work of getting it set up and running.

Other than the lack of instructions (the translation to English leaves you more confused than when you started reading…), it’s been amazing! That machine paid for itself quickly and is still running today. That machine has far more capabilities than we have explored and still has not been used it to its full potential.

Partly to the fact that Nick is only one that knows how to set up the computer part of the laser jobs… So the rest of us can run it once it is set up but not start something new. One thing we are currently working on, taking Nick’s hands out of everything. It’s been harder than expected… setting aside time to teach when you can just do it yourself quickly is a learning curve! For all of us 🙂

Also a common theme in the start of LW… Nick having his hands in most everything and running wide open that we don’t pause to spread the training out… (also a theme for another post coming down the pipe!) I have lost count the number of times we have had the conversation of “How can we spread out the responsibilies” and “What all is Nick in charge of” and “What can Nick delegate/out source to others” We are not a one man show by any means and throughout the growth more have added to the team. Yet that is one area we still are trying to get a handle on! And I hope that soon I have a post to put up with some movement in the area of “Nick stays in his lane” 🙂

Back to the power of the engraver- It’s hard to even guess how many cups we have engraved to this point. We originally had customizing wood on our minds for this machine yet cups have really been the largest constant seller. Having personalized tumblers is all the rage and have done it all from gifts to advertising to mass quantities for a business.  We have done one at a time and then 300 of the same design. Some days that Laser runs hot for days in a row. And is a great way to multitask and do more than one project as a time. Or get our lil entrenpreneurs set up and running the laser. The Arlinghaus boys are masters at the laser! It’s not child labor when it’s your own kids, right?!?

Also makes us wonder if we should get a second laser… The bigger orders get quite complicated yet maxed out on shop space… That idea is still in the works! As usual, Nick has his eye out for a great purchase and ready to jump when we sees the right one. Or a job that is so large that warrants this next purchase. Or a shop big enough to hold more than 1 laser… That also might be an idea for another blog post… 🙂

The next awesome connection that entered the LW mix and led to instant business growth at about this time is a partnership with 2 local custom kitchen companies. Both have been friends of the Arlinghaus family for years and it just naturally led to jumping in to help on small scale jobs. In the beginning, it was often jobs that had some shelves or small counter tops. Fast forward and we pretty much have a job going all the time for both SL Designs and Kitchen Concepts. Floating shelves and wooden countertops are super popular so those 2 alone kept us hopping at this time. Throw in a mantle and a hood and wallboard and it’s a recipe for some fun jobs!

Steady work with great people and with high end clients and with always changing jobs- all this is right up our alley! So this was our first taste of seeing the lane we want to go after and looks like huge potential. The beginning of seeing our niche and figuring out ways to get to that level of business.

As much as we prefer the ability to do a full build in the Shop with the option of delivery, these larger custom jobs require more in person appointments and being away from Shop. And this side of the business is starting to grow and take more time… Adding in more time quoting jobs, coordinating with contractors and time away from Shop for install… Are we sure this is what we want to pursue? We walked away from the construction company for the reason of not wanting to do a majority of work in people’s homes… We liked the work and enjoyed our business partners and got to pick our clients so it was not all negative. We always had the vision of taking jobs that were connected to one of these 3 things- to have control over our work and do cool builds and have a way to grow the business.

So we are starting to see original idea of an established small scale wood shop is probably not our best fit. We liked these connections to clients that had money to spend and wanted really neat builds. Things just keep getting larger, by no effort on our part. What a great “problem” to have! Lead times get longer, jobs increase in size, job requests are coming in more often. And it still the same set up with Ryan and Nick working nights and weekends at the Shop…

Looking back it’s just plum crazy the speed things moved at and the fast changes we had to make on the fly. All while having young families and active kids and keeping up with life. We have always been a Family First Focus and this season definitely tested that part for the Arlinghaus family. So hang tight and make sure to read the next post. If you want a true behind the scenes look and where it got a bit nutty, check out the next post. Burn the Boat is where it gets REAL!

Stay tuned for pt. 5!