A New Path in a Familiar Forest

In the summer of 2010 I opened the doors to my very own commercial wood shop. I was the owner, lead salesman, head estimator, shop manager, CNC operator, top bench carpenter, and most-trusted installer. I was the only employee and it wasn’t by choice. The real plan had been to purchase a well-established shop, learn under that shop’s owner/founder, and transition slowly and seamlessly into an ownership role as my would-be mentor rode off into the sunset, his pockets a little fuller. But, as they say, timing is everything…

It was 2009 when those negotiations took place. While the Denver economy hadn’t quite hit the same depth as many other metropolitan areas at the bottom of the 2008 financial crisis, everyone was still reeling from truly tough times. Our negotiations took a back seat to re-establishing respective books of business with the promise of talking again when everyone felt more confident. Having come so close to ownership of a respected business in an industry I truly love, I wasn’t content to wait. Not a few months after our deal was tabled, I stumbled across a Craigslist ad for a whole shop’s worth of commercial woodworking equipment. Contact was made, checks were cut, and I was the proud owner of a new architectural woodworking company. I was off and running…

Well, not really. Alone, in that small shop surrounded by large computer-controlled woodworking machines that looked nothing like the tools I had grown up with, I had never felt so overwhelmed. It was hard to see the forest for the trees. I spent the next few months struggling through poor English translations of German and Italian user’s manuals, bidding every project I possibly could, and learning the hard way that, in a recovering economy, you win projects when you are the lowest bidder, especially when you are the new guy in town.

Fast forward nearly ten years and I was busy “working on the business not in the business.” We’d completed projects large and small, grown our revenue year after year, employees had come and gone, and I was faced with replacing my shop manager. My time was spread thin and the skilled labor market in Denver was so depleted, I resorted to exploring the use of a recruiting company. After disappointing interactions with a couple industry-specific outfits, I settled for a general recruiting firm that was local, in Denver. While it wasn’t without its struggles, they did find me someone, but only after the first candidate failed to last six weeks with us.

Feeling beat up by a shrinking talent pool, increasing overhead, and construction pricing and scheduling models that never seemed to fully recover from 2008, I was taking a hard look at the future of my company and my role in it. At that same time, fresh off of my struggles with professional recruiters, emails were circulating amongst my most trusted group of industry peers (AWI‘s Best Practices Group program) asking if anyone had any experience with any headhunters in the woodworking space. I’ll spare the details, but the responses were decidedly negative. As they say, timing is everything…

So, here I sit having closed one chapter and opened another in what can only be described as a love story. A story that began as a child, the son of a carpenter; blossomed in the wood shops of my youth; was forged in the peaks and valleys of business ownership; and, now, continues down this new path. A path that feels familiar, but different.

My hope with Dovetail Recruiting is to provide what I interpreted as a need: a need for more focused and purpose-built recruiting in the woodworking trade. And a means to connect great employees with great companies in the name of sustaining and advancing our industry – an industry that I love.

Photo by Lukasz Szmigiel on Unsplash