Five key asks for every woodworking business

28 February 2017

There is a growing realisation that wood is very much at the cutting edge of construction design, offering lightweight, durable and above all sustainable solutions.  The recent growth in market share of timber windows is testament to this, fuelled by design, material and coating developments.  There is no doubt that the potential is there for growth to continue, but there is also significant uncertainty - recent stock market declines have impacted confidence and availability of capital.  The elections in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London all likely to impact the timings of investments.  We also have the EU referendum starting to ripple through the market, which could impact timing of projects, particularly in the commercial sector.  We need to be prepared.

1.    Stay safe.

I don’t need to remind you just how hazardous it can be in a joinery workshop or on a construction site. We all need to commit to a culture that promotes our employees as our most valuable resource and keeps them safe and well.

We believe that safety and health are core values to every successful business. So if you’re a BWF member, sign up to the Health and Safety Hero campaign – a new initiative to achieve zero tolerance in respect of fatal injuries, RIDDOR related incidents and occupational ill health incidents in the woodworking industry. We’ve created a whole host of resources to help make that task easier.

You can download a pledge form here:

 2.    Don’t lose sight of your RISKS

Brexit will be be a bumpy ride, are you prepared for project slips and payment issues?  New consumer regulation and alternative dispute requirements also came in in 2015, so please make sure your contracts are up to date.

BWF has a range of template contracts, supporting document and guidance here.  These are backed up by our specialist helpline.

We also have a range of template contracts to support employment matters.  Remember resliance is key and over-reliance on any one individual is never a good long term plan - you should be planning for change, however unlikely.  What is your business continuity plan - again we have template documents to support.

Also consider carefully how you can share the risks, what guarantees can you cascade, what insurances do you have, how robust are your internal processes (e.g. quality control, moisture management) and have you tested your products recently, how would certification help you to manage risk and sell value?  Again BWF is onhand to help with a range of supporting documents, discounted deals for members and our specialist helplines.

The BWF Risk Matrix can really help you to assess and quantify the risks (and identify a few unknown unknowns!)

 3.    Keep on learning.

Despite hard times, ours is an industry that continues to look to the future. We have the best track record of any industry in our provision of apprenticeships, a record we can be very proud of.  Training and developing people is key to your business growing and developing and also helps you to hang on to the good one.

But we must continue to invest in skills and training. And whether you’re an apprentice just starting out in bench joinery or wood machining, or the managing director of a woodworking firm, the BWF’s specialist continuing professional development (CPD) programme enables both individuals and companies develop skills, record success and recognise development needed for your business to excel.

You can find out more here:

4.    Inspire the next generation

Where is the nearest school to you with a Design and Technology teacher? Give them a call and see if there is anything you could do to help towards their curriculum and inspire the youngsters about future career opportunities in woodworking and joinery. For older students consider offering work placements, factory or site visits, and a process to recruit new apprentices.  We need to do better at selling our industry to the next generation of woodworkers.  This is a key focus of the work of our Wood Industry Traininig Forum.

There are lots of great resources for 14-19 year olds and their advisers through our Wow I Made That! campaign here:

5.    Get recognition for how great you are

No more modesty ok?  This industry is a key part of the manufacturing and construction sector and all too often takes for granted the fantastic products and projects that we deliver, the engineering and process improvement behind this and the great people that keep us all safe and those starting out as apprentices and trainees.  This is the year to get your best projects celebrated through the BWF Awards. And if you start the process now, you won’t run out of time when entries close in June.  Recognising and rewarding success should be a critical part of your strategy and awards are a great way of doing this (and recognition can be a great help in winning future work).

The BWF showcases the best in the joinery and woodworking industry through its prestigious awards programme, with categories covering technical innovation, process efficiency, health and safety, apprenticeships and trainees. The Awards are open to both members and non-members of the BWF, as long as they are from the joinery and woodworking sector, so there really is no reason not to enter this year.

 You can find out more here:

PS Have you seen our Guide to Running a Joinery Business - packed full of handy hints and tips for running your business.  Download your copy now

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