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Dealing with Storms and Droughts

(April 2013) posted on Mon Mar 25, 2013

How to deal with an inconsistent job flow without increasing your number of employees.


By Craig Miller

So what are your options? Marty McGhie’s “Business and Management” column this issue (see pg xx) also provides you with some solid solutions to this challenge, but here’s my take on how you can deal with an inconsistent job flow when you can’t simply increase your employee head count.

Sub it out
One solution is to take your work and have someone else produce it (aka “outsourcing”). Our company has subcontracted with other vendors to print, finish, install, and/or design for us. This past month, we employed this option very successfully and profitably.

Subcontracting, however, must be done with all due diligence, because it’s your reputation that’s on the line. We only sub out to companies with whom we have developed a good cooperative relationship and know well. You need to know not only their quality and capability, but their character, too. For instance, one very good company that’s conveniently located within a mile of our shop has done a good job printing for us over the years on a subcontract basis.

When it comes to installation work, we have six in-house guys we can mobilize. Our challenge, however, is that they’re all cross-trained and multi-talented. So if they are all on the job site for a big install, this can leave gaps in our cutting, welding, and other fabrication capabilities. So we sometimes rely upon specialized, freelance decal applicators and wallpaper hangers when we’re buried in finishing work and can’t spare our in-house staff.

Similarly, although we have maintained a full sewing department for more than a decade, the physical size, quantity, and complexity of some dye-sub fabric projects can tax that three-person department. When that happens, we don’t hesitate to turn to three subcontractors that we use for sewing overflow.

Overworking staff
For better or worse, our standard method of dealing with an onslaught of work is to pile on the hours. The good news for the staff is they earn lots of overtime. The bad news for the company is we pay lots of overtime. Time-and-a-half and double-time can really eat into any job’s profits.


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