Thursday, October 28, 2010

The shrinking pot

2010 has been an interesting year , at least for me. During this economic slowdown my business has not slowed down-it actually set records in terms of incoming orders in 2008 and 2009 and looked to be doing the same in 2010 until about mid August. Suddenly, the phone stopped ringing.....normally I would welcome some hours where I could just weld and not have to jump up and go to the phone every 10 minutes. Now , a typical day will be largely devoid of the phone ringing and I can merrliy weld away on the now rapidly shrinking list of orders. Last year at this time I had about three times the orders on the list as I do now in the fall of 2010. Is this the economic slowdown finally catching up with me , or did I do something to piss off the frame buying public at large ?
This is the dilemma of the self-employed small framebuilder: What ca we attribute a sudden silence of the phone to ? Economic trends ? More competition from newer builders ? Maybe our style has become outmoded as we have not evolved with the ever changing trends in bike building ? It is stuff like this that keeps people like me awake at night .......what did I do to cause this and what, if anything can I do to turn things around ?
Maybe , there's a reason I'm not really taking into account-perhaps what has caused this lull in new business is something I didn't cause and maybe it is something I can't do anything about. I know well that what I do is largely a luxury and not something of an impulse purchase.....people plan ahead to get a custom frame, way ahead in most cases. Sooo, if the slowdown in my business isn't caused by me and cannot be changed by me , what the heck do I do ? Maybe I should shut the hell up and do my job, at least while I have it. As I have said before , I'm very lucky to have work in this fickle field and the run of the last 7-odd years has been exceptional. All over the world people are looking at situations much more grave than what I am faced with-it's time for me to take whatever resources I have and do something for folks less fortunate than myself. If my business does not survive this slump I would rather go out on a note of having done some constructive and community-based work rather than having some sort of 'fire sale' or the like. Maybe a lull like this is a time when I can attend to projects long neglected........maybe all I need to do is to start restoring that old Colnago and as soon as I get about halfway though , the phone will start ringing again and all of my noble efforts will come to a grinding halt while I go back to earning a living.....or not !


  1. One of the first things to be cut in a down economy is advertising. Contrary to that action, a recession is actually the best time to INCREASE advertising. In fact, it's almost a requirement. That said, you should consider engaging in ad space in both print and web, where it will reach your target audience, of course. A revamp of your web site would be a good investment to draw interest as well.

    It would also be a good idea to get together with some of the other full time framebuilders and see if they're experiencing the same thing. Brainstorm ideas to generate interest or lower costs such as a group buy of tubing or other supplies. Now might be a good time to lobby a magazine such as VeloNews to include more content on custom framebuilders in their 2011 Buyers Guide.

    Framebuilding is one of the crafts where the competition is friendly and it appears everyone is willing to help out. Collectively you all can weather the economic storm we're in. It just takes someone to get the ball rolling.

    It'd be a shame to lose your talents or that of any of the full-time framebuilders to the recession.

  2. ...or just start working on that old Colnago.

  3. Funny you should mention advertising. I'm sending a bike to a magazine for a test/review. I know well that you have to stay visible if you don't want to be forgotten.