Jodi Wallace

Owner, Monarch Solid Surface Designs

Like a shiny new penny, the upcoming year offers us the opportunity to look through new eyes with optimism and excitement for adventures yet to come. Having survived the holiday madness, we now have the chance to reflect on the previous year with less stress and less emotional attachment. It’s a chance to review and give thought to what worked and what didn’t, evaluate ideas you may have had simmering on the back burner, or brainstorm new opportunities for the coming year.

There’s usually work for our shop in January, whether it‘s finishing up jobs that started in December, or jobs that I have been able to talk homeowners into delaying, with promises of reduced lead times since things tend to be on the quieter after the holidays. But February – March (and occasionally the beginning of April) are always my biggest stress months, since jobs are usually slow in coming. I make a lot of follow-up calls to customers, trying to get them to commit to a signed contract, and gently nudge to get things actually scheduled and started. Nothing feels worse to me than having to call my guys and telling them not to come in because there is no work in the shop. 

But I also view some of this quiet time as an opportunity for a “new year’s cleaning” (my version of a spring cleaning, except it’s for my business). Although we aren’t making money if we aren’t working the jobs that pay, it’s an opportunity for the guys to prepare for when things pick back up. 

It’s also a good opportunity to catch up on some of the “housekeeping” that seems to always get overlooked (or ignored) when the shop is going full throttle. 

To employees it’s “just a shop,” so their logic is, “Why clean it when it is going to just get messed up again?” But to us, and especially my husband and son who still come in on the weekend to use tools, it’s “our” shop. It frustrates the heck out of Ken to have to spend an hour putting tools away in their proper place and sweeping up before he can even start anything. And more importantly, when we allow employees to treat our shop with such disregard, it’s not a far reach to start treating jobs that way as well.  So although it is an ongoing battle, it is not one I am willing to give up on.

I use the available help to:

  • Sort through and get rid of material that we can’t do anything with. No one has the space to hold onto all the remnants and scrap, so it’s a good time to determine what should actually be kept and what should be tossed.
  • Put away leftover material that can be used for future projects in its proper place. It is a definite pet peeve of mine that guys just don’t return material where it belongs when they are finished with it. If they took only a couple minutes more and put stuff away it would completely eliminate having to do this. (Yes, wishful thinking on my part, I know!!)
  • Clean and organize tools, equipment and both shops. It offers a good opportunity to figure out what needs to be fixed, or on occasion, replaced. 
  • Put together a remnant list so I know what we have available for walk-in customers, with small projects, that don’t require a lot of material. This is a great way to get rid of discontinued colors, excess inventory, or on occasion a way to recuperate money when you had to replace (wrongly ordered) material, (sigh…  I have done that twice lately.)
  • Fabricate and install new displays for the showroom. Business is slow, so this is always the perfect time to work on a couple of projects for us. For example, I have several sets of cabinets sitting here with bare plywood, just waiting for things to slow down a bit, and an ugly existing vanity top I have been impatiently waiting to replace!! 

For me personally, I usually try to take a little time and write down a few goals I want to accomplish for the upcoming months.

I don’t have time for anything too complicated or large, but just a few small things I need to handle.  

Right now, my list includes:

  • Inventory my samples and compile a list of what I need replenished by my sales representative for each of my quartz brands, so I start the year fully stocked with samples to lend out. 
  • Contact distributors to confirm I have up-to-date pricing on their products (I have gotten burned on this several times this past year), and make sure all my worksheets and binders are up to date.
  • Request brochures I might have run out of and sort through discontinued color updates so I can make sure my display racks are current. I am almost obsessive in ensuring my samples racks are up to date. I have closed several jobs because customers were upset they chose something at another shop only to find out it was discontinued, and the other shop never pulled it from their display.
  • Send follow-ups to customers on outstanding proposals to see what I should hold and what I should “recycle.”
  • Upload new pictures on our website and delete some of the older ones that are just “so-so.” (I haven’t spent any time on our website in a while, so I know there is some editing and updating that I need to work on.)

Customers find us through both referrals and from searching online, so I haven’t done any official paid “advertising” in a while, but if I did, this would be a good time to set up a meeting with the sales representative and discuss rates and any changes to be made. 

I recently moved some displays around and had a chance to clean out cabinets and drawers, but cleaning out and discarding old and no-longer-needed magazines, brochures or other documentation would be perfect to add to the list.

I admit there isn’t anything earth- shattering or sexy about the items I have on my “To Do” list, but these things definitely  make a difference in how my customers perceive my showroom and my business.  

Although we all know the year may start out slow, spring will be here before we know it, and both homeowners and businesses will be ready to take on new projects. Taking some time now to organize your shop and showroom when things are a bit quiet, in anticipation of a busy spring, is a good way to welcome in and start the New Year.

Jodi Wallace is the owner of Monarch Solid Surface Designs, in Fresno, California.