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Tim Bateson
09-22-2016, 12:09 PM
Yes, it's been a long while since I've stopped by SMC. Wanted to check in and see whats new in these parts.

Since I bought the Epilog M2 Dual last year, I've been working my tail off. I still work my full-time day job (19 more months) and also full-time engraving - 7 days a week - evenings and weekends. I rarely work the single item orders any more. I turn most of that work away in favor of industrial/commercial work. Yeti's are massive as most of you probably know. Have 450 of them in the shop now. Gun engraving has become a major part of my business as well. Still a one man shop, but working on changing that soon. Learning curve and I don't delegate well have been the stumbling points there.

FYI - I would NOT have gotten to where I am without the good folks in this Forum.

Mike Null
09-22-2016, 12:16 PM
Tim

Glad to hear things are going well. My situation is similar to yours but I'm turning away single items and guns. The commercial work is too profitable and no hassle.

Sounds like your fiber is doing what you intended. Stay in touch.

Gerald Johs
09-22-2016, 3:05 PM
Yeti's are massive as most of you probably know. Have 450 of them in the shop now.


Hello Tim, Where do you get your Yeti's from and what size it the most popular.

Tim Bateson
09-22-2016, 4:04 PM
I sell very, VERY few products. I'm more of a Service provider - customers find me and bring their product to me. Often even drop shipping to me.
Popular Yeti type mugs - 20 & 30 oz. Yeti prices are set by the manufacturer, so if you find them cheaper - buyer beware. That said, at least 3 of the major brands are all made in the same China factory (so I've been told). So except for the status of "Yeti" they are all the same - the $49.94 Yeti at Cabelas and the $9.74 Ozark at Wal-Mart. I don't advertise & don't even have a single Yeti mentioned or pictured on my webpages, but they still find me.

Bruce Volden
09-22-2016, 4:58 PM
Nice to see you back Tim.
Now it's Dan Hintz's turn to come back.

Bruce

Kev Williams
09-22-2016, 5:26 PM
Still a one man shop, but working on changing that soon. Learning curve and I don't delegate well have been the stumbling points there..

Same here, but NOT working on changing that soon. I simply can't teach anyone how to do this...

I learned how to engrave by watching my dad run his new pantograph when I was 11 years old. First time he let me try he didn't have to show me a thing. Dad gave me one lesson on how to sharpen cutter tools, done them myself ever since. When CNC machines came out, my NH rep gave me one lesson with each different machine and different piece of software, everything else I figured out myself. I watch, and fortunately, I catch on fast :)

Unfortunately, people who catch on fast are a minority, and trying to teach one of the majority how to do what I do is an exercise in sheer frustration. And those who do catch on fast, I couldn't afford to pay! ;) (-and most of those I know wouldn't do better working for me anyway)

I chat with small biz owners and managers quite often- a couple of smoke shop owners, a few computer repair shop owners, manager of the vet clinic, machine shop owners-- And they all have one thing in common: Their employees don't seem to think showing up on time, if at all, is all that important. Just last Sunday I asked the owner of the smoke shop why HE was working? "my guy didn't show up."

Ever notice places like Best Buy and most computer shops don't open till 10 or 11am? It's because no one will show up to work at 8 or 9.

The work ethic today is non-existent. So, Tim, good luck with finding a decent employee if you go that route. Me, I'll just keep adding more hours to my work day! http://www.engraver1.com/gifs/banghead.gif

Kev Williams
09-22-2016, 5:27 PM
Nice to see you back Tim.
Now it's Dan Hintz's turn to come back.

Bruce And Shepherd's...

John Lifer
09-22-2016, 6:50 PM
Same here, but NOT working on changing that soon. I simply can't teach anyone how to do this...

I learned how to engrave by watching my dad run his new pantograph when I was 11 years old. First time he let me try he didn't have to show me a thing. Dad gave me one lesson on how to sharpen cutter tools, done them myself ever since. When CNC machines came out, my NH rep gave me one lesson with each different machine and different piece of software, everything else I figured out myself. I watch, and fortunately, I catch on fast :)

Unfortunately, people who catch on fast are a minority, and trying to teach one of the majority how to do what I do is an exercise in sheer frustration. And those who do catch on fast, I couldn't afford to pay! ;) (-and most of those I know wouldn't do better working for me anyway)

I chat with small biz owners and managers quite often- a couple of smoke shop owners, a few computer repair shop owners, manager of the vet clinic, machine shop owners-- And they all have one thing in common: Their employees don't seem to think showing up on time, if at all, is all that important. Just last Sunday I asked the owner of the smoke shop why HE was working? "my guy didn't show up."

Ever notice places like Best Buy and most computer shops don't open till 10 or 11am? It's because no one will show up to work at 8 or 9.

The work ethic today is non-existent. So, Tim, good luck with finding a decent employee if you go that route. Me, I'll just keep adding more hours to my work day! http://www.engraver1.com/gifs/banghead.gif

I'll Hijack and offer my opinion that there is a SMALL minority of kids (I'm 58, anything younger than my oldest t-shirt is a kid) that do have a decent work ethic. But you are totally right that very few want to work at all, let alone early or late. My last position was as manager of location that opened at 5:30am and closed at 8:30pm. Almost ZERO people I employed wanted to come in that early or stay that late. 12 to 5 was their shift.... Ain't happenin'
THIS is the reason I want to make a business out of this. I can and DO work 12 hour days with no issue and no complaining. Let's get it done :-)
And I'll take this opportunity to say THANK YOU to everyone that has so far given me advice and for that matter, just comments about lasers and what the do with them.
GREAT Group here!
John

Bill George
09-22-2016, 7:18 PM
Thought for the day... these people today the Millennial
Generation
are going to be the ones keeping Social Security solvent. My wife has a grandson who will be 24 in a few months, holding his second job ever for a full 3 months as a landscape engineer. He plants trees and whatever and is happy doing it. His other job back when he was 19 was working at a hotel getting the free breakfast for the guests ready. That job lasted until he did not get out of bed one morning and got fired. I think he was there maybe six months. If he had a choice he would not work at all, preferring to stay up all night on the internet and sleep all day. But mommy and daddy are cutting his gas money allowance. Things are tough all over...... sob.

My youngest grand daughter, my over achiever is just the opposite. Been working part time since she was 16 and still managed to get A's and B's in high school and wants a career in the Navy doing something Techy. Go figure.

Joe Pelonio
09-22-2016, 8:37 PM
Welcome back! I have also been limiting my work to commercial, mostly industrial in fact, but just a few good customers the last couple of years. Since I have a full time job now, the laser is just a few evenings and weekends for extra vacation spending money. I haven't fired up the plotter in about 6 years, should probably get rid of it. At 64 now, I expect to retire in a few years and then do more fun things with the laser, in addition to my regular customers.

Mike Chance in Iowa
09-22-2016, 8:57 PM
Welcome back Tim. It's always great to see a post from you. I'm guessing you are still doing the Christmas lights too?

Now that you have had the two lasers for awhile, do you have a preference of one over the other?

Mayo Pardo
09-22-2016, 11:06 PM
Congrats Tim (and others) who are very busy with work.
There seems to be two general groups of people here, maybe three - those who tinker around and make a few things as a hobby, those who do trophy and awards related business, and those who do commercial work or parts marking. Maybe a small fourth group who manufacture their own product and use a laser?

I think I've been in the tinker group and I'm ready to move into the commercial work group.

I'd like to figure out how to get started - I've been playing with the laser for about two years. It's time to make some money.
I did put a page up on my web site with some samples but so far it hasn't brought in any work.
Learning to price what the market will bear is something I also have no clue about.

When I see the Yeti brand travel mugs in various stores, I can't help but think to myself, "Do people REALLY pay THAT MUCH money for a travel mug? And on top of that pay even more to have it lasered? I don't get it. Is this the new working man's luxury splurge?
"I can't get the Ferrari this year, but I got a YETI!"

I guess big companies are buying cases of them, having them laser engraved and then give them away to clients?
Who does this ? Automobile dealerships when you buy a new car? Realtors when you buy a new home? Cabinet companies when you buy a new kitchen? Laser companies when you buy a new laser (hey that's a novel idea...)

What is all this commercial work consisting of and how do you go about getting it? Cold calling, email introductions, Google ads, Chamber of Commerce networking? Anyone willing to discuss or pass along a hint, please feel free to msg or email me.

Tim Bateson
09-23-2016, 12:06 AM
Welcome back Tim. It's always great to see a post from you. I'm guessing you are still doing the Christmas lights too?

The Christmas display is in jeopardy this year. I'm so busy that I haven't had a chance to program this year's display.


Now that you have had the two lasers for awhile, do you have a preference of one over the other?

I do still use the Mini24, but very seldom. If you can run a job on a larger bed 50watt, why use a smaller bed 35watt? Also being a one man shop, manning two lasers at the same time can be (I've done it) very difficult.

Keith Winter
09-23-2016, 12:10 AM
Welcome back Tim! Glad to hear all is well and you are keeping so busy!

Tim Bateson
09-23-2016, 12:34 AM
...I'd like to figure out how to get started
...What is all this commercial work consisting of and how do you go about getting it? Cold calling, email introductions, Google ads, Chamber of Commerce networking? Anyone willing to discuss or pass along a hint, please feel free to msg or email me.


I'd like to say there's a quick easy solution, but I would be lying.
My situation started out REAL slow the first few years. Then there were times of the year that business was dead. Slowly over the past 9 years it's developed into a non-stop business with fairly consistent cash flow.

My keys (my 2 cents worth anyway):
1. Everyone's market is different and will get different results.
2. Patience
3. Advertising is a waste of money
4. Doing work for free will NOT earn you future paying jobs.
5. Know your worth - It's likely more than you think. This is a skill most people don't have. Charge appropriately for that.
6. Study the prices in your area, otherwise look regionally & keep raising your rates until a noticeable drop off in business. Stop there and never reduce that price - The market WILL adjust. If it doesn't, then re-examine if you are offering the right service. There will Always be those who think you are too expensive, no matter what you charge. On that same note you'll find other who will pay an outrageous sum. Find the middle ground.
7. Keep you eyes & ears open. I've had a lot of great ideas, but someone else was already sitting on that business - Be flexible to change.
8. Most of my business finds me. A website is a priority & it doesn't have to be great. Don't pay anything to raise it's search level. That happens only with time and web search hits.
9. Find your niche - easier said than done. Took me over 7 years & it found me (see #2 & #7).
10. Don't be afraid to change your direction and/or try new things. You never know what might stick.
11. Doing what everyone else is doing is a great way to learn, but don't count on it being your "niche".
12. Keep your investments low/non-existent until you know you have something that will pay dividends.
13. Some customers will walk away - let them go. You can't please everyone so don't try.
14. You will make mistakes, some more costly then others - it's the price of learning and doing business. Suck it up.
15. ENJOY (including it's challenges) what you are doing or STOP doing it.

Chris DeGerolamo
09-23-2016, 9:15 AM
Tim, if you decide you have too much firearm work, I'll be happy to lend a hand. :) Do you have an FFL or are you doing unserialized/component work? On the YETIs, are you using the fiber or Cermark? I find that most folks that want their tumblers engraved are priced out once I give them a quote...I'd be curious to know whether your customers have deep pockets or if you have a low price point.

Tim Bateson
09-23-2016, 10:24 AM
...Do you have an FFL or are you doing unserialized/component work?

I do have an FFL, although I was doing this work long before the FFL. Some would make you believe the ATF is going to send a swat team to your home if you engrave firearms without an FFL. To be honest, it took me over 30 minutes to explain to an ATF agent what it was I was doing. They had no clue about laser marking/engraving a firearm., and the concept was slow to be absorbed. Now the disclaimer - Yes, for this type of work to be above board, you should have an FFL. The FFL has also opened more doors for me. Disclaimer #2 - Pain in the .... to get.


...On the YETIs, are you using the fiber or Cermark? I find that most folks that want their tumblers engraved are priced out once I give them a quote...I'd be curious to know whether your customers have deep pockets or if you have a low price point.

Cermark. The Fiber does a much nicer job of Marking stainless steel but WAYYYYYYY to slow. I love the quality of the Fiber Marking, but I need to make a profit too. Yes, some customers will walk away when quoted a price. My time isn't cheap & I refuse to work for pennies, so it doesn't much bother me. If someone can afford to buy a dozen or 300 of these, they can afford a 20-30% premium to have it customized. If it's a single mug, they'll have to shell out a 55-60% premium. Some do - actually more do than do not.

Matt McCoy
09-23-2016, 10:42 AM
When I see the Yeti brand travel mugs in various stores, I can't help but think to myself, "Do people REALLY pay THAT MUCH money for a travel mug? And on top of that pay even more to have it lasered? I don't get it. Is this the new working man's luxury splurge?
"I can't get the Ferrari this year, but I got a YETI

I'm not sure what a YETI mug looks like or how much they cost, but became aware of the brand via white vinyl stickers on the back window of trucks and SUVs. I was a little disappointed to discover that this was not unbridled enthusiasm for a new boat or high-performance auto part. Now that I know it's not, I just think that the driver must really love cups.

Tim Bateson
09-23-2016, 10:46 AM
I'm not sure what a YETI mug looks like or how much they cost, but became aware of the brand via white vinyl stickers on the back window of trucks and SUVs. I was a little disappointed to discover that this was not unbridled enthusiasm for a new boat or high-performance auto part. Now that I know it's not, I just think that the driver must really love cups.


They where 1st known for their coolers, which in some areas are a hot item for thieves.

Matt McCoy
09-23-2016, 10:57 AM
They where 1st known for their coolers, which in some areas are a hot item for thieves.Nothing wrong with letting the world know one's love of coolers either, I guess. It's cool. :)

Tim Bateson
09-23-2016, 11:22 AM
Shameless Plug for SMC - If you are not a Contributor and/or Friend of the Creek, PLEASE hit the Donate button at the top of this screen. For as little as $6... more preferred, you can help keep this fantastic forum running.

Ross Moshinsky
09-23-2016, 12:44 PM
Just to comment on labor since I think it's a controversial subject for small business people.

1. No generation is better than another. There have always been smart and stupid people. There have always been lazy and motivated people. There have always been good workers and bad workers. It's the reality of life. So to bunch an age group or a generation up and generalize that they're lazy or don't want to wake up early is pretty ridiculous.

2. When you want to pay $10-15/hr for labor, you cannot expect them to be $25-30/hr employees. If you do, that's your problem with unrealistic expectations. What your expectation should be is they show up and do their job in a reasonably efficient manner. The idea behind hiring "cheap" labor is simple. You charge your customer $60-100/hr. You pay the employee $15/hr. You/your business profits because it leaves you time to do the higher level labor. Anyone can unbox something, clean it, and apply some cermark. Anyone can go on USPS.com and print out a shipping label. Anyone can do pickups and drop offs. It's about using unskilled, less expensive labor, to do unskilled work so that you can do the skilled labor and theoretically this should make you much more profitable.

People seem to forget this is the point. They magically want the guy who does the unskilled labor to help out doing skilled labor and when it doesn't work out, they're not a good employee. Well that simply isn't the case. If you want skilled labor, you need to hire skilled labor. But then you're going to complain that you're paying someone $25/hr to do unskilled labor.

The other point is job commitment. If you have someone working 15/hrs a week for $12/hr, that's $180 or $9360/yr. What kind of commitment can you really expect from that person? If they miss a day, it will cost them $50-80 depending on hours worked per day. While it's money, it's not change your life money. That's actually one of the benefits of being on the lower end of the pay scale. You simply cannot be expected to be married to your job. This doesn't mean you shouldn't be fired if you're constantly late or don't show up. But it does mean that you shouldn't be shocked when someone calls out last minute because something better came up.

John Lifer
09-23-2016, 1:09 PM
I pretty much agree Ross, but when I hired each one, I TOLD THEM UP FRONT THE HOURS AND THE DAYS, and I ASKED THEM honestly if there was any problems with the hours.
They said no, and were hired if qualified. Then they don't show up.... I DO agree that $10-15 is low wages, and I usually started an UNSKILLED employee at $12, and then if they showed up, they BECAME skilled. AND were continually promoted if they did good job and expressed interest in continuing to learn.. TOO may, don't want to WORK.
They want $15 an hour to flip a hamburger WHEN THEY want to flip a burger. Sorry Business doesn't work like that. When I NEED you, I NEED you, not when you want to show up.

Sorry, Forget about buying the 'latest' Iphone, our latest generation is going to starve to death when we are gone.....