The Essential Tracking that Ensures this Team’s Efforts Actually Result in Profit
Greg Pilotti, owner of GP Furniture Makers, explains how he has learned to pinpoint the projects that create positive business results.Visit Website ››
Greg Pilotti, owner of GP Furniture Makers in Parkesburg, Pennsylvania, has advice for people building their own business from scratch.
“There are going to be days that you are working 16 hours and you are going to hate it. You are always going to have fires burning,” he says. “But I’ve figured out that you can’t solve your problems all at once.”
Just as rolling with punches landed him in this business, Pilotti says adjustments and flexibility must remain part of the plan. “We started off just doing custom jobs—pretty much anything. But we’ve had to narrow down to the more profitable jobs. Now there are some jobs we won’t do.”
But how did Greg come to these conclusions, and how has he had to roll with the punches? Let’s start at the beginning.
Facing the unexpected
Just as a carpenter adjusts to the imperfections in a piece of wood to bring out the best in what the material has to offer, when life throws you the unexpected you have to adjust and adapt in order to achieve.
Greg had planned to be an architect. But a sudden death in his family and the 2008 recession showed him that life had a different plan. And that you have to be resilient.
Instead of continuing his studies at architecture school after his father passed away in 2008, Pilotti found himself back home taking care of his mom and running the family’s business—a convenience store founded in 1943.
After a few years running the store, Pilotti started trying his hand at woodworking on the side. He set up shop in the family garage and found he really liked it.
Taking a leap of faith
“I like the skill of it. With furniture it’s hands on. The wood is a natural material and it’s got imperfections and boundaries you can push,” he says. Soon he decided to learn more of the craft and enrolled at the Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology.
“The material itself is romantic. We are using the same material and some of the same techniques people have used in this country for hundreds of years.” That led Pilotti to start his own woodworking business in 2013 while still at school. At first it was part-time, then he took a big leap of faith.
“I thought, who knows what tomorrow will bring. So I sold the family business and jumped head first into furniture making,” he recalls. “I figured if I was going to do it, I had to do it now.”
Each piece of wood tells a story
At first it was just Greg doing custom jobs, but by May 2015 he’d hired his first employee.
Now Greg and his team of six design, craft and export custom made high-end furniture all over the US.
“It’s fun to see a project to the end,” says Pilotti, who talks about one job that involved getting a 27′ conference table to Texas. “I like the problem solving. I like it when people ask, ‘How the heck did you guys do that?’ And that’s what we do. We engineer solutions,” he says.
Pilotti loves the control the team has over what wood they use.
Greg Pilotti, GP Furniture Makers
I like the problem solving. I like it when people ask, 'How the heck did you guys do that?' And that's what we do. We engineer solutions.
“We are able to know where all our wood comes from—each piece has a story. And we choose our material based on location and ethics. We can say we won’t build with ebony because it’s over harvested.”
And it’s not just the business success he’s enjoyed, but feeling like this is what he was meant to do. “When it clicks and you figure what you want to do, there’s a lot of passion that goes into the finished product.”
Pick profitable projects
GP Furniture Makers found a good niche with conference tables and other custom furniture. They are also partnering with a kitchen designer to do more cabinets. And they are always coming up with other products and designs to expanding their offerings.
Pilotti says he draws on data for evidence-based business adjustments and decision making.
He uses Jobber to collect info, specifically the time tracking function to know how much time each project takes from design to production.
“Everyone clocks in and looks at what jobs are open,” Pilotti says. “I’m able to track what everyone is doing and they can jump in and out of jobs depending on what’s going on.”
Collecting data makes for better decisions
Having visibility into that data allows Greg to analyze different projects and ensure efforts square to business results.
“I know how long a table took for example. So maybe I don’t do so hot on certain custom jobs,” he says. “Jobber is allowing us to know where we went wrong—whether it took too long and I didn’t bill it high enough, or whatever.”
That data may lead to adjusting price point of certain products and the choice of which projects to proceed with in the first place. “Maybe I’m selling something at too high a price and if I bring it down a bit we could sell more. It’s allowing me to get my estimating and invoicing a lot more accurate.”
Greg Pilotti, GP Furniture Makers
[Tracking time] has allowed us to make decision on the numbers rather than just my gut feeling. Which has been more successful for sure.
Time = money
Tracking time has led to better decision-making and less wasted money, he says.
“It also allows us to know what are billable and nonbillable hours. Because we can now understand what’s happening on a given job at a given time, we’ve been able to shave our non-billable hours by 50 per cent.”
Pilotti says if he notices a spike in overtime he may decide to add a hire to pick up the extra work. “Maybe the guys are spending a lot of time cleaning, putting tools away, sorting wood. Maybe we bring in someone at a different pay grade to clean the shop, stack the wood,” he says.
“It’s allowed us to make decision on the numbers rather than just my gut feeling. Which has been more successful for sure.”
And when you have to roll with the punches and expect the unexpected, having the data to make decisions about where to go next helps businesses flourish in an uncertain world.
Lightning round with GP Furniture Makers!
The most valuable tool in your toolbox?
My guys. If you took all their tools away, my guys would figure out how to build it. They are all passionate and are all critical thinkers.
Outside of work tools, what do you never leave home without?
My dog Primrose comes to work with me everyday. She’s the mascot. She’s a Burmese Mountain dog poodle mix.
Your top marketing channel?
Instagram has been great because it allows me to tell my story everyday. It allows people to see that sometimes it’s not all that much fun, but I’m honest about it. It shows people how passionate we are. We don’t give up—we’re fighters.
It shows the craft and skills the guys have. I show what they are working on. What they like to do. Instagram allows people to see what we’re all about. It’s like a conversation about how we feel and what we believe. We have a lot of people contact us and say ‘Man, you guys are really genuine.’ It shows that we care.
We hired a photographer for our Instagram feed, so it’s not just my crappy iPhone pictures. It develops networks and builds relationships with people.
Your favorite Jobber feature?
It’s the time tracking because it gives me billable hours and non-billable hours. So when I’m estimating I can go back in seconds and see how good or bad we did on the last one.
The best way to unwind after a long day?
I like craft beer so that would be the best way for me to unwind. Outside with a beer.