Many of you know I have an apprentice, Erik. He’s been with me for two years now per his agreement. I rarely take on apprentices but when I do I require they stay for an agreed amount of time. The reasons are that it takes a certain amount of experience before they’re ready to go out on their own. Also in return for my training I require them to work in the shop for me and it takes time before they can be productive enough to offer value. When I take an apprentices I do it for two reasons. First is that it allows me to give back. The second is that I always learn from them. I learn from the knowledge they bring and I learn through the process of teaching. You never realize how much you do that you don’t even think about until you have to pass it on to another person. You also don’t realize how much you forgot and what you stopped paying attention to until you are teaching and working with an apprentice. Working with Erik has stepped up my game and made me a better Framebuilder.
When I take on an apprentice I look for a couple of key attributes. I look for a good solid personality with well developed social skills first. It’s tough to make it in the business and the first thing any builder should have is a good personality. If you’re a bit weird, off, aloof, arrogant or negative you may be able to make Framebuilding work, but you’ll be fighting and uphill battle. More importantly, I don’t want to spend my days around someone unless I like them and they are fun to be around. The second thing I look for is talent. Believe it or not this job takes talent and it’s something not everyone has. It shows up in how you deal with people, if you can learn to weld, designing bikes, working with tools, inherent mechanical aptitude, business savvy and managing time. Everyone has different strengths but it’s being strong at every aspect of the business that is going to determine if you make it. When I send an apprentice out the door, it’s my goal that they are ready to run a Framebuilding business not just build a frame.
So with that said, Erik has been buying the tools and equipment he needs to build frames from his own shop space he is now renting in Haily Idaho. He will be moving into that shop next week and for the first time he’ll be in business building frames for himself. I wish him the best of luck and expect great success from him.
If you haven’t already, you can visit his blog at http://alliancebicycles.com/ and I’m told a full commercial site is on it’s way.