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View Full Version : Dead in the water here... how about you?



Mark Winlund
05-20-2009, 3:07 PM
No orders at all for the last 6 weeks here. Lots of talk on the phone, lots of "can you do it for half price", lots of "we'll get back to you", but no orders. 12.1 % unemployment (official, which means actual unemployment is 25%) in Oregon. The state thinks the solution is to raise taxes on beer, car registrations, and all sorts of other stuff.

Crime (robberies, burglaries, family violence) is a growth industry here. Lots of homeless wandering the streets... not just old farts, but young people and young families.... living in their car, or in homeless camps in the woods.

Anyone else see this?

Mark :(

Steve Clarkson
05-20-2009, 3:28 PM
Whenever I show someone something that I have made, they love it. But they have no interest in buying it.......they don't even ask how much it costs!!!!!

So I was getting a complex thinking that no one liked ANYTHING that I had made and were just too kind to tell me.

But I'm HOPING that itt's just the economy.

Gary Hair
05-20-2009, 4:20 PM
If I can get all the work done on my "in progress" board, I'll have a record month. My business is not quite three years old though, so I'm still in a pretty high growth phase. The growth has been slower this year than in the past, except for this month, but I'm still growing. I hired a sales rep two months ago, that has helped quite a bit and should triple my sales by the end of the year. As soon as he is "done" with Eugene, he'll be up in your area Mark - Corvallis, Albany and Salem are all in the not too distant future.

Gary

Tim Bateson
05-20-2009, 5:14 PM
I had record sales November - January, and then things started to slow down to the point that in the past 2 months I've had 1 sale. Every business I talk to it's the same story. People are shopping, but buying only when it's absolutely necessary.
Gary - I need to borrow your sales guy for a bit.:D

Mike Null
05-20-2009, 5:43 PM
Mine has been very good for the last 4 years with each year setting a record. This year will be my best and I'm passing retail type orders to a couple of new guys here in St. Louis.

I was requested to bid on a govt job here in St. Louis and declined because they wanted to go through the govt. contract system. They can't find bidders and I told them I would bid if they'd pay by credit card. It would have been $4500 so it was not something I wanted to turn down.

Scott Shepherd
05-20-2009, 5:49 PM
Well, there you have it, Gary's stolen all Mark's work ;) Knock it off Gary.

Maybe you can sub some stuff out to Mark????

Larry Bratton
05-20-2009, 6:38 PM
You ought to try and sell real estate in this mess. Lots of lookers and tire kickers but few have the money or the ability to get it. You see people that call themselves "investors", thieves are a better term. They want to pay you 65% of fair market value. Have had my property on the market now for almost 9 months.

Our graphics business is terrible here, orders are hard to come by. I was lucky today and delivered a sign I had made and I sold $175 worth of printing to the guy. I was happy to get it.

David Fairfield
05-20-2009, 6:40 PM
Sales are a bit lighter than last year. So I'm focusing on R&D; the economy will bounce back.

Dave

Albert Nix
05-20-2009, 7:03 PM
Mike I am still looking for ideas. What kind of service was the Gov bid for? It may be something I could look in on locally. If you had rather not post that info I would understand.
Thanks

Doug Griffith
05-20-2009, 8:54 PM
I work with a fairly large vacuum former and from what I've seen, related businesses are dropping like flies. I was told from a very reputable source that 23k plastics processors shut their doors in April. This includes everything from extruders to small ma & pa shops - laser engravers are probably included in that number.

I've also noticed that companies that are still producing products here in the US are looking for less costly processes. For example, instead of injection molding parts where the tooling is outrageously pricey and the production runs are huge, they are redesigning what they can to be vacuum formed where the tooling is cheap and runs are small.

This might translate to lasers. An example would be a company that normally does large runs of die cutting that still needs parts but not enough to justify new tooling. Another would be a company converting to a less pricey material that is now laserable. Another would be engraving or marking items that used to have custom machined branding plates inserted into their tooling. Another would be items that are normally embossed using stamping that might not have quantities high enough to justify new stamps, a Cermarked part might be just as good if not better.

I recommend looking at the manufacturers around you and see how you can incorporate lasers into their system. Knock on their door and say "hey, I've got a manufacturing method that will save your company a lot of money. I know the per part price is a little higher but there is no tooling expense. Here is a component for you to test out. I can be producing parts for you tomorrow." The benefits could be huge. The worst that could happen is they kick you out the door.

I'm done rambling,
Doug

Mike Null
05-20-2009, 9:24 PM
Albert

It was a one time job for the Navy Recruiters here in St. Louis. It was more about sign making and cabinet making than engraving though there was some engraving. The price I quoted would be about what I would bid.

Steve Clarkson
05-20-2009, 10:53 PM
If I can get all the work done on my "in progress" board, I'll have a record month. My business is not quite three years old though, so I'm still in a pretty high growth phase. The growth has been slower this year than in the past, except for this month, but I'm still growing. I hired a sales rep two months ago, that has helped quite a bit and should triple my sales by the end of the year. As soon as he is "done" with Eugene, he'll be up in your area Mark - Corvallis, Albany and Salem are all in the not too distant future.

Gary

Gary......let us in on the secret to your success!

Joe Pelonio
05-20-2009, 11:12 PM
My laser work has actually remained decent but not enough to live on, the sign part of the business has totally tanked. Some of the bigger shops have laid off lots of staff, those left are struggling. I think the main problem is the residential and commercial real estate, and developers which have kept so many sign makers busy for years and now they are all folding up. Literally.
I spoke to some other sign shop owners that have huge bills owed to them and have received bankruptcy notices and will be lucky to get $0.05 on the dollar.

As for me, I took a full time job and now work at the Port in Seattle, in utilities. I get up at 4:30am, do some laser work, head for work at 7, get home about 5:30 and back up to the shop. Here's the building, I took a walk along the waterfront at lunch today. That boat is the ferry to Victoria, BC.

Albert Nix
05-21-2009, 6:28 AM
Thanks Mike? I think I will contact some of the local Gov agentcies and request to be put on thier bid list. Do you send them a list of services or will they just send a request on anything they bid out?

Mike Null
05-21-2009, 6:52 AM
Albert

I can't help you. I thought several years ago I would get on the bid list and filled out a bunch of forms. Never heard anything. Through a couple of people I bid on some jobs but found that the specs had been written so that only one company could meet them. (that was for 60,000 name tags)

I just gave up on it and don't even think about it any more.

onur cakir
05-21-2009, 7:39 AM
I'm reading these posts with eyes open to get an idea about current situation in USA..

You cant imagine how you people effect economy in Turkey !

To be honest i'm getting some positive signals in these days from markets

Dan Hintz
05-21-2009, 8:00 AM
Mike,

My SO works for the government (fun fun morning bus rides into DC :rolleyes:), and I have to shake my head over how things are done. Every new job must be advertised and open to any qualified individuals... and there's the rub. The job descriptions are often written with a particular person in mind. The posting has to stay up for a minimum time period (two weeks, I believe), but unless you're continually searching for positions they can pass you by, and the person the job is intended for is tipped off as to when it will be posted. A number of people may apply, and an HR person scours the entries and ranks them for fit. The hiring manager requests the top 'X' number of people on the list... and if the desired person didn't make the cut, they expand 'X' until that person makes it. It's all legal like, but it's skirting the essence of what the rules were put in place to prevent.

Same goes for bid work, so I won't do it. There's no point. Unless you have an 'in' already, the chances of you getting the job are practically Null (pun not intended).

Belinda Williamson
05-21-2009, 8:46 AM
The laser side of our business has never been big, so I'm not feeling much of a crunch there. However, our main customer is laying off hundreds of employees weekly. All of the work that they contracted to us is going back in house in an effort to keep their employees busy. Our second best customer changed our payment terms in January to net 45, meaning we get paid at 55 to 60 days. Our vendors, however, still want their money net 30. This has really eaten into our cash reserves. According to this customer we are looking at about 60 days before they are "caught up" and at that point the amount of work we receive from them will drop to nothing. So, today (and from now on until we have business) I'll be on the phone offering our services to anyone and everyone who is willing to listen.

Good Luck all, and let's hope there is a turn in this economy quickly.

Albert Nix
05-21-2009, 9:13 AM
Yeah I know what you mean. I have watched several bids over the years(not related to my business) get spec out so that only one bidder could possibly get the bid and it had nothing to do with price. Makes me sick !!:mad:

Martin Boekers
05-21-2009, 9:44 AM
For those near a military base, there is a fair amount of work done on base.

Most bases do have an engraving shop, but there is work that is still taken off base.

The better service you provide can be a key.

What I would suggest to try to sell to that market is get a copy of the base newspaper, the one here is called the Command Post, maybe take a small add out in it, it might be wise to subscribe to it to keep up with retirements. If you can make or provide shadowboxes or flag cases that is a plus! So is being able to have coins made.

Next check out the base web page and do a bit of research to see who may be prospective buyers, then send them a promo piece, an engraved keychain, coaster mug, etc. Make it personalized to them, then chances are better for them to keep it and use it.

Check in with legion posts close to the base, sometimes you can find some great contacts there.


These are just a few thoughts. It takes work though to make it happen. These days the jobs don't find there way to youselves as they used to, you gotta hustle a bit!

Just some thoughts.

Oh you are better if you execpt charge cards, Pay Pal and checks don't cut it real well with many Government agencies.


Marty

Scott Shepherd
05-21-2009, 9:48 AM
Dan and Albert, it can make you sick, without question, but are you in business to make money? If so, it's part of the game and you need to learn how to play it. Government contracts are so huge they could require you to purchase additional equipment and hire people. There are a lot of people who feel the way you do, they feel it's wrong and they don't want to waste their time. Turns out, there are bids that go out and either 1 person bids or no one bids. You could be the only one bidding on a job. But you'll never know if you don't try.

I understand times are tough, and we could find ourselves in trouble tomorrow (I hope not), but if it does happen, I won't be able to say that I didn't try every possible method to make it work.

We just finished a government job that would pay for our laser. Granted, it wasn't all laser work, but it shows the scope of how large some of the projects are, and we believe that was a small one.

I've seen and experienced exactly what you are talking about. It's true, but overall, I find that it happens because no one questions them. The purchasing agents aren't trying to do wrong, but they don't know the details. They are given the info by some other department. So when you call up and say "Mr./Mrs. Purchasing Agent, I'm calling about the bid you have listed. You have specified part number 43543 as a widget from Acme Widget Company and I have contacted Acme Widget Company and they tell me that is not a valid part number, can you please help me clarify what your needs are so that I can submit a more competitive bid?".

They almost always try and help out. If nothing else, it highlights to the purchasing agents who, in the food chain, is stacking the deck, and one thing I have found is that many purchasing agents want to be extremely ethical, and when given the chance to make it more competitive, they almost always take that route.

Will you get them all? No. Will you get most of them? No. It took me a year of bidding because I got my first contract.

But you'll never know if you never try.

Joe Motley
05-21-2009, 9:59 AM
A simple idea that might appeal to somebody... My wife and I are retired and started a mom&pop jewelry business in 2004. Did OK but quickly discovered that low prices and high quality are available at Sam's Club. Bought a rotary engraver to do sterling silver. Last year we purchased a mini-24 40W and experimented with sea shells to create monogrammed pendants and earrings. Shells engrave beautifully and easily. We buy them from various vendors in Indonesia and China. Cheap. Also small marble pieces designed to be pendants and earrings. They all come with holes for bails and a finish coating that is both shiny and makes for easy color filling (rub-n-buf, permanent markers, etc.). Shells come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors-- same for the marble. Average cost of shell or marble plus a string or ribbon necklace is around $2.00, so the profit potential is obvious. Not much competition, either. The only company doing shells that I know of is Heart Strings and their work is poor. They use rotary cutters: the edges are shattered and the cuts too shallow to hold the paint. Real possibility to do some wholesale work.
Check our website at etchedintimedesigns.com. Not trying to sell you anything, but you might like the idea. Be happy to provide names of shell vendors.

Mark Winlund
05-21-2009, 11:18 AM
The laser side of our business has never been big, so I'm not feeling much of a crunch there. However, our main customer is laying off hundreds of employees weekly. All of the work that they contracted to us is going back in house in an effort to keep their employees busy. Our second best customer changed our payment terms in January to net 45, meaning we get paid at 55 to 60 days. Our vendors, however, still want their money net 30. This has really eaten into our cash reserves. According to this customer we are looking at about 60 days before they are "caught up" and at that point the amount of work we receive from them will drop to nothing. So, today (and from now on until we have business) I'll be on the phone offering our services to anyone and everyone who is willing to listen.

Good Luck all, and let's hope there is a turn in this economy quickly.

This is one of our problems. Our small town has 2 biggies.... Oregon State University, and Hewlett-Packard. At one time, HP had 6000 people working here... mostly highly paid engineers and technical people. I believe there are less that a thousand left. Just recently, HP announced further layoffs. Their buildings are for sale. They have cancelled their participation in the chamber of commerce. Ten years ago, we were doing 10 to 15 k a month with them. Today, zip.

The university is on the same track. Since we deal mostly in awards, we see the mid level people... the secretaries, assistants and so forth. My partner goes into an office that had six desks and workers.... now only one desk is occupied. The rest are empty. They now require three different levels of executive to approve an award purchase. Each one thinks they can cut the price in half. They are starting to give out paper certificates instead of awards... they print them on their office printer. It's like after 30 years, instead of a gold watch, they get a $2 chinese made timex instead.

I am at retirement age (63). I have been carefull over the years, and have some savings and no debt. I am horrified about what the young people are facing in the future. As the chinese curse says, "may you live in interesting times". I wish everyone in the group good luck. May you all get big orders, high profits, and no rejects!

Mark :p

P. S. Perhaps we'll see some of that TARP money... after all, the bankers have been able to keep their bonuses, and still have their house in the Hamptons.... shouldn't we be next? HA HA HA HA .

Belinda Williamson
05-21-2009, 12:10 PM
P. S. Perhaps we'll see some of that TARP money... after all, the bankers have been able to keep their bonuses, and still have their house in the Hamptons.... shouldn't we be next? HA HA HA HA .

Well Mark, I am the "Troubled Asset" in our company and I could sure use some "Relief". Maybe if they change TARP to stand for "Tired and Relatively Poor" I'll see some money. :D

Marc Myer
05-21-2009, 1:20 PM
I work for the Navy at Pearl Harbor. Lots of military bases here, Army, Air Force, Marines, etc.

You are right, there are people who can manipulate the government's system to their advantage.

The government has very strict regulations and layers of supervision, but connected people can still find loopholes.

Some tips: when you see a job or a bid form, write your summary/resume specifically for that job. Use the exact same language and phrases if possible from the announcement. Most resumes are read electronically and rely on specific words and phrases. Use action words, instead of 'experienced with,' use 'managed' instead. I'll be glad to assist any of you.

As for engraving jobs, Martin is correct. There is work to be found, and it's just a matter of getting your name out there. Find someone with a contact, and get onto a base or into a building, or get your friend to do it for you!!!

Every department has people retiring, moving on, or employees to be recognized. They have discretionary money that's often raised in the department for such things. Get your samples into their hands! There may be 10 different secretaries in a building. Any one will do. Make a cool sample of something--it is money well invested! Make it something they won't want to throw away, and just put your name and contact info somewhere on it discreetly where it can be found. List all the cool things you can do, and emphasize fast service. Give your contact several items to distribute to the other secretaries--oops, administrative assistants. The small jobs will definitely lead to larger ones. Some offices have access to a central engraver that's owned by a department. That's not much of a threat, even if they say so. The in-house people are often overworked with many different duties and not very motivated to give special service. There may be another engraver who they say is 'contracted.' Don't worry, you can still get work.

I don't do any engraving work for our offices, unless it's freebies, in order to avoid conflict of interest issues. But creative marketing can really pay off!