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PostPosted: Wed Jan 17, 2018 9:17 pm 
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Mahogany
Mahogany

Joined: Wed Jun 08, 2011 12:49 am
Posts: 40
First name: Joe
Last Name: Cady
City: Livonia
State: Michigan
Country: USA
So I have been a little quiet here lately in my own world with the day job getting crazy (I service the new HP industrial 3D printer). But I have been in the shop on my down time a lot lately. Though I have whittled my clientele down to a select few I WANT to work with so I can focus on building guitars more. I still take on quite a few repairs.

Recently I had a client drop off a Jackson Dinky. Run of the mill guitar he did some custome body art on (looks pretty cool surprisingly). But he is done with the Floyd Rose. He had purchased a standard two pivot style Schaller to replace it - but didn’t realize the routes and saddles wouldn’t line up. He didn’t consult me first. So he wanted me to fit the new bridge. The only way I could see to make it work and make it work right would be to route the Floyd Cavity out. Plug the cavity and reroute and drill for the standard trem (or hardtail). Needless to say $$$ work for a $ guitar = not worth it. Though you don’t want to break it to the customer that way. I finally decided to decline the job and did not charge for the estimate...

Why do I feel bad? Ultimately he understood and saw where I was coming from. How do you approach the inevitable “talk” with the customer? When I had my shop - I would take on these piles of misery and end up in the hole after all the work is done. Or worse yet, one thing leads to another thing and I’ve opened Pandora’s box of all the issues the factory hid under the finish.



These users thanked the author XevKai for the post: Hesh (Thu Jan 18, 2018 11:56 am)
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 17, 2018 11:55 pm 
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Old Growth Brazilian Rosewood
Old Growth Brazilian Rosewood
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Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2007 9:49 am
Posts: 10040
Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
First name: Hesh
Last Name: Breakstone
Country: United States
Status: Professional
XevKai wrote:
So I have been a little quiet here lately in my own world with the day job getting crazy (I service the new HP industrial 3D printer). But I have been in the shop on my down time a lot lately. Though I have whittled my clientele down to a select few I WANT to work with so I can focus on building guitars more. I still take on quite a few repairs.

Recently I had a client drop off a Jackson Dinky. Run of the mill guitar he did some custome body art on (looks pretty cool surprisingly). But he is done with the Floyd Rose. He had purchased a standard two pivot style Schaller to replace it - but didn’t realize the routes and saddles wouldn’t line up. He didn’t consult me first. So he wanted me to fit the new bridge. The only way I could see to make it work and make it work right would be to route the Floyd Cavity out. Plug the cavity and reroute and drill for the standard trem (or hardtail). Needless to say $$$ work for a $ guitar = not worth it. Though you don’t want to break it to the customer that way. I finally decided to decline the job and did not charge for the estimate...

Why do I feel bad? Ultimately he understood and saw where I was coming from. How do you approach the inevitable “talk” with the customer? When I had my shop - I would take on these piles of misery and end up in the hole after all the work is done. Or worse yet, one thing leads to another thing and I’ve opened Pandora’s box of all the issues the factory hid under the finish.


The only successful Luthiers that I know have learned how to not attempt to be all things to all folks. Or, in other words, they, we turn away jobs possibly frequently based on what you are tooled-up or knowable enough to do. We turn away work daily for reasons like this with the primary reason being the economics are not there for the client. In the last day I turned away $150 classical that needed a new top and a $150 steel string that needed the body refinished. Retopping would cost a factor of ten the value of that classical and refinishing perhaps a factor of three what you could charge for the steel string.

It's also very much about being honest with folks. It's been my experience that even when emotion is making decisions for the client the facts may sink in in a few days and they may abandon the instrument and stick you with the bill. This happened to us a number of times for set-ups on cheap instruments.

It's about being honest with clients AND making good decisions as to working smart and opportunity costs. These days we are not doing full on restorations because we have more than enough daily work now which is more profitable. No one ever said that there are any rules as to what level of "opportunity costs" you must bear. If one thing you do is far more profitable do more of it and don't let other things create these "opportunity costs." For me what I don't mind at all is doing what ever is most profitable for us so long as I stay busy. I like to bill around $600 a day when I have the work to do and this is an amount that I can do with little trouble in a day. What I hate doing the very most is NOT.... being.... busy.....

This is a frequent discussion with other Luthiers and it's not uncommon to feel some guilt when referring people elsewhere or turning away work. The ones who get-it IME have a far better chance of surviving IF they really have to survive in a Luthier's income and not a spouse or someone else.

I got a bad review from someone who I turned away for reasons that we do not do what he wanted done AND he told me he was already banned from a shop where we have a lot of respect for our fiends there. This underscores the need these days to not only be true to yourself... but to develop some diplomacy skills to use when this happens. Clearly I could have done better on the second reason.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 18, 2018 12:56 am 
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Joined: Sun Mar 06, 2011 12:04 am
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First name: Chris
Last Name: Pile
City: Wichita
State: Kansas
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I used to worry about stuff like that back in the late 80's. It drove me crazy. Good friend and luthier Ken Donnell told me I didn't owe my customers to service their stuff. He was right. You CAN say no. If they have functioning gray matter, they will accept it.

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These users thanked the author Chris Pile for the post: Hesh (Thu Jan 18, 2018 5:24 am)
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 18, 2018 5:32 am 
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Old Growth Brazilian Rosewood
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Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2007 9:49 am
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Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
First name: Hesh
Last Name: Breakstone
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There is also a tool known in the trade as a "punitive quotation." If someone does not accept that you don't want to do the work quote it at a rate much higher and require a 50% deposit to start before you let the client deposit the POS in your shop. This, plan B... usually does the trick.

We may suffer from a very real and unique malady in this biz and that's getting stuck with a job that has massive "scope creep...." and likewise "opportunity costs" where we may sincerely wish that we had never taken it in. It's also possible for the ole going ugly early thing to happen where we take in something we shouldn't have because we were slow and then we get busy.

In all cases people will ask for whatever they want and it's up to us to understand that we will get many requests for things that should be avoided and that the clients won't know but we sure as shooting better get a clue. I've known Luthiers who could not go to work for periods of time because they got buried in BS work that did not pay the bills, was uninteresting, and for clients who could not be pleased.

Keep your managerial autonomy with your work and exercise control over what you take in, for who, and why and learn the skills if you don't already have them to diplomatically refer clients elsewhere while still being of service to them and it will serve you very well.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 18, 2018 9:14 am 
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Brazilian Rosewood
Brazilian Rosewood

Joined: Thu Feb 12, 2009 10:27 pm
Posts: 2042
Location: South Carolina
First name: John
Last Name: Cox
Focus: Build
Status: Amateur
After dealing with several luthiers who didn't turn down anything.... I kinda wish fellows would understand what their strengths and weaknesses - and turn down jobs that they cannot do well and profitably....

One big issue - "charity work" where you can't charge what the job costs often becomes a death march with no hope of making your money back... and the goal is to make it go away as fast as possible.... That means the work won't always be the best... Or it just gets shoved to the back of the pile because nobody wants to get stuck working on it....

of course there is also a flip side of this.. There are some guys out there who have gotten really good at some weird stuff because everybody else refused it.... I knew one luthier who was the go-to guy on all things Ovation... He made a lot of money off Ovation work because he figured out how to do good work on them when nobody else would work on them... But that guy was not the go-to guy for vintage Martin work.... Not an issue for him - as this was the 90's and probably 50% of acoustic guitars were Ovations...

There was another guy who was "The Floyd Rose Guy"... And he made a LOT of money because that was the hot ticket... Everybody else was turning them down because they lost their shirts on Floyd's.. He had all the jigs and tooling... And could charge what it cost... Again - not the fellow you would choose to replace damaged purfling on a turn of the century Galiano..... But if you had a Floyd - he was your man...



These users thanked the author truckjohn for the post: Hesh (Thu Jan 18, 2018 11:51 am)
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 18, 2018 10:07 am 
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Cocobolo
Cocobolo

Joined: Wed Feb 17, 2016 8:54 am
Posts: 380
State: Texas
Country: United States
Focus: Repair
I'll share a recent story with you Xev. I had a customer call me with this statement "I have a 1980s Les Paul Sunburst Custom I would like to get set up, it's been playing weirdly the last few years" I say bring it in when you get a chance and I'll see what we can do.

Customer shows up with the guitar. The reason it was playing weird was that the neck was essentially a potato chip. Extreme twist was causing the action to be all over the place, this was compounded by the fretless wonder job that had been previously done. The only viable solution was to invest a huge amount in getting the neck even mildy straight again and would quickly exceed the value. I informed the customer in a polite way about the situation and he immediately got angry and began complaining. He left in a huff but seemed like he had accepted the information I told him.

Next day he calls the shop, his first words to me were "You just hate Les Pauls don't you?" Clearly he wanted to fight. I simply informed him that I had been up front and honest with him about everything. He was more interested in getting into a fight than he was discussing options on the guitar. The conversation ended and that was that. If I had actually delved into this guitar, this person was clearly willing to get into a fight over something so fickle, what would've prevented him from flying into a rage or even filing a lawsuit over the fact that I turned his work down?

From experience I can say that you should ALWAYS trust your gut over jobs like what you're describing. You will always win if you are honest and up front about things.

A machinist once told me "Just cause the job will cost 3,000$, doesn't mean it's worth 3,000$"



These users thanked the author DanKirkland for the post (total 2): Jeffrey L. Suits (Mon Apr 30, 2018 12:24 pm) • Hesh (Thu Jan 18, 2018 11:51 am)
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 18, 2018 10:24 am 
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Walnut
Walnut

Joined: Mon Aug 28, 2017 12:18 pm
Posts: 7
First name: David
Last Name: Flis
City: Wyandotte
State: Michigan
Zip/Postal Code: 48192
Country: United States
Focus: Repair
Status: Amateur
I had turned away a neck reset just last week. First time customer wanted a new nut and saddle, I explained that it would only further his issues and it needed a reset. (from like 5 ft away) Resetting is something I have tried on a few trash/ pawnshop finds but not something I am proficient in. I had to be honest with myself and him.

Further complicating the issue, the guitar was bought for a few hundred bucks and was the builders 4th build, there was visually some funky things happening at the extension and heal.

Next I have to recommend somebody for this job... Not knowing who would want to take it on was the next difficult part. I gave him a list of luthiers in southeast Michigan and explained that the cost of the repair may exceed the possible worth the guitar (which is a cool little Martian copy) and that it was going to be difficult to find the right person for the job and be costly... and he's okay with that! Doesn't mean he'll find a pro to take it on. Which possibly leaves the wolves.

Now, is this the perfect job for me? maybe but probably not.

But I didn't feel bad about it. I have a full time day job, a baby, a toddler. I need to keep things moving quick and know that it will 100% when it leaves. Not take a gamble on lack luster results or jeopardize my name & work.



These users thanked the author DaveFlis for the post: Hesh (Thu Jan 18, 2018 11:51 am)
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 18, 2018 11:51 am 
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Old Growth Brazilian Rosewood
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Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2007 9:49 am
Posts: 10040
Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
First name: Hesh
Last Name: Breakstone
Country: United States
Status: Professional
DaveFlis wrote:

But I didn't feel bad about it. I have a full time day job, a baby, a toddler. I need to keep things moving quick and know that it will 100% when it leaves. Not take a gamble on lack luster results or jeopardize my name & work.


Congrats Dave and good thinking on your part too. The idea of not ever letting schlock house work leave our shops is a very good rule to subscribe to, always!


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 18, 2018 11:14 pm 
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Koa
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Joined: Tue Nov 11, 2008 9:13 pm
Posts: 815
Location: Durango CO
First name: Dave
Last Name: Farmer
City: Durango
State: CO
Like Dan said, most folks "gut " knows the one's to run from. The trick is listening to it and having the dance steps to tactfully bow out.

I've often thought a repair forum should have a thread of boilerplate phrases to exchange like any other sharing of techniques.

Nancy Regans "just say no" program would have been better suited to luthiers. Touring troops of actors coming into your shop to do some roll playing exercises to help you turn out the losers. Beginners could practice the phrases in front of a mirror. laughing6-hehe

Chris, Congrats on being able to say "I used to worry about that stuff back in the 80's"!

On my most recent turn-away, (a classic ball of yarn) I utilized one of my standards, " there's probably someone out there willing to take this on but it's not a good fit with me".
It kind of says," your instrument isn't necessarily toast, (it actually is) you just haven't found the right repair person yet. :)

I'll definitely have my ears perked for some good new boiler plate when I come see you Hesh!

I think Paul simon said, "there must be fifty ways to leave your customer" :)


Last edited by david farmer on Fri Jan 19, 2018 11:01 am, edited 1 time in total.


These users thanked the author david farmer for the post (total 2): Jeffrey L. Suits (Mon Apr 30, 2018 12:25 pm) • Hesh (Thu Jan 18, 2018 11:22 pm)
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2018 6:37 am 
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Old Growth Brazilian Rosewood
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Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2007 9:49 am
Posts: 10040
Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
First name: Hesh
Last Name: Breakstone
Country: United States
Status: Professional
This is from our Ann Arbor Guitars website. When I wrote it I had two things in mind. First I wanted a disclaimer of sorts as something to point to if I need to when for example we let someone know that we are referring them elsewhere because we don't spray copious amounts of finish at our location. Or, in other words we are declining on a job because of a physical limitation of our business. We are located between several fine.... dining... establishments and the City of A2 did ask us to limit our spraying of toxic finishes. BTW this is not a bad thing for we humans either.............

Second I also wanted boiler plate when we decline on a job for other reasons that might include the idea that we have a whack job making unreasonable requests who even after much time trying to explain how things, how guitars work we believe that they will never be happy with anyone's work. This personality that I am describing exists and if you do any volume of repair work at all they will surely come your way eventually and no I am not calling you Shirley....

Here is the statement from our web site:

"We don’t attempt to be all things to all folks: On rare occasion we may decline on a job. The reasons will also be customer centric in nature meaning that for one reason or another we believe that you may be better served elsewhere. Examples are refinishing guitars, this is something that we don’t do but would be happy to refer you to someone else. The value to our clients in understanding our own limitations is that your instrument will never be subjected to someone’s learning curve...."

Ever partake of a service and the provider never comes though and delivers......

The only push back that I've ever received was the thinking that we don't want it perceived that we are not capable of some sort of job, maybe refinishing, etc. Even some years later I still believe that ego in this business cuts both ways... and can get one who is attempting to be all things to all folks into enough trouble that your work becomes unpleasant for you and/or others.....

Lastly we have a friend who decided to decline on an entire class of work because he does not like doing these operations. His decision was to decline for a year and see how badly it harmed his business.

When the jury was in he made more money that year doing more of what he liked doing and not doing any of what he dreaded. I'm not surprised and again believe very strongly that declining on some jobs with good reasons even if they are specific to you, your location, your skill set, etc. is simply being honest, is advisable in my view, and will help you live to play another day AND enjoy playing!

This is a business that if your view is always the money you will fail. Instead the money has to be incidental to 1) providing exceptional service and value, 2). Doing so on time, under budget, and over and over and over again predictably and 3) remaining in touch with the idea.... that who wins at this may not at the end of the day be the world's best Luthier but they sure as shooting will have grown to understand that value has no value.... if you can't deliver it to the people who need it and want it.

YMMV


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2018 11:46 am 
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First name: Chris
Last Name: Pile
City: Wichita
State: Kansas
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By now, I've turned so many jobs away it would take hours to list them. Be nice if you can, but don't be afraid to say GTFO at the top of your voice.

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Stop saying "How stupid can you get?" Too many people are taking it as a challenge!



These users thanked the author Chris Pile for the post (total 2): Clinchriver (Fri Jan 19, 2018 3:44 pm) • Hesh (Fri Jan 19, 2018 1:14 pm)
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 29, 2018 11:54 am 
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Mahogany
Mahogany

Joined: Wed Jun 08, 2011 12:49 am
Posts: 40
First name: Joe
Last Name: Cady
City: Livonia
State: Michigan
Country: USA
Some great insight here. I totally agree with the general consensus here. Nice thing about being on my own and working on my own time now, is that I get to really pick and choose my customers. They are all repeat customers and trust my judgement wholly. Which I think is why I feel bad about turning projects away mainly. I'll take on a basket-case here and there if it's a major sentimental value type thing.


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 Post subject: "scope creep...."
PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2018 12:22 pm 
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I call them, "tarpit jobs"...

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