Custom Bicycles
News: Organization vs. Creativity November 17th, 2009

No pictures today, just a mini-rant.

I do a seminar every year at NAHBS on the business of building frames. Most builders get into Framebuilding because they love bikes and they love building frames, I know I did. For whatever reason, it seems anyone that can manage to get a frame built feels compelled to make a business it of it. When a builder first starts a frame building business they more often then not have very few frames under their belt. Most of the new guys have less then 100 units worth of experience and many more far less. What the means is that it’s all the builder can do to get a frame out the door no less manage their business. Also bookkeeping, writing, ordering, checking in, calling and all the other business activities usually aren’t part of the fantasy they had when they decided to go into business, they were thinking about long hours at the bench, not long hours at the desk.

The truth is, that you have to pay as much attention to business as you do Framebuilding. For most running a successful  business building frames will take about half of a work day of things like customer management, marketing, sales, bookkeeping and administrating . Many will just blow off things like entering checks into their journal, email replies, call backs or cleaning the shop, others will work very long hours but the smart ones have a secret weapon, organization.

Organization is the key to being in front of the bench  instead of the desk. It may not be very  glamorous but often times spending money on tools like Quickbooks, BikeCAD or Outlook can have a far greater impact on the success of a Framebuilding business than buying an new milling machine. We all build tools and process to make frames but it’s equally as important to build tools, process and systems to run the business smoothly so you have happy customers, a sustainable business that can support you and of course time to build frames.

So what does organization mean to t he customer? It means you get call backs when you call and email replies when you email. It  means the builder writes down what you say and writes down what they say. It means you get what you ordered when you were promised it and it means it’s right when you get it. Of course we’re all human and even the best make mistakes and fall down from time to time but for the best professionals it’s the exception, not the rule.

So in an nutshell organization isn’t that anti-creative thing that left brain people do. Organization creates more capacity to be creative, most just never figure that out.