Last year’s big changes and costly lessons stretched us. Most days were filled with decisions on how to survive. But, when Jeffery and I look back on the year, we believe it will ultimately make us better. Our goal is to grow from our mistakes of 2018, celebrate some beautiful driveway gates, and move on to rocking 2019!
Expensive Mistakes = Lessons Learned
Really, there were more highs than lows. But, we are starting our review taking stock of the painful low moments because we learned more from those than the highlights you see in our Facebook and Instagram posts.
Doubt The Measurements
We had to completely rebuild a set of gates because they were too small. Not just a little too small. Several inches too small. The problem was sourced to our Leica Disto laser-tape measuring tool. Discovering this fancy contraption was off AFTER building the gate was quite frustrating.
Rework sucks. We learned to measure everything twice … maybe event three times. Then, have someone else double check everything with a different measuring instrument.
Stick to the Drawings
We have our clients sign off on drawings for the gates we build. It is a great policy. But, we made a costly exception on a project where the client didn’t seem too concerned about the drawing approval process. We used some discretion on the size of the materials shown in the drawing.
In the end, the gate didn’t look enough like the drawing to suite the client. As you might imagine, this was pretty devastating. But wait, our lessons on this gate didn’t end here …
Just Start Over
We knew in our hearts that we should just start over and rebuild these gates, but on the heals of the measuring fiasco, we were eager to find a way out. The client agreed to an alteration that seemed to be a quick fix. In an effort to salvage our time and money, we tried it. Guess what? The gates looked great. That’s right. Everyone was happy. UNTIL we hung them and found in our rush, we made some mistakes that pulled them out of square.
We ended up totally rebuilding a second set of gates. Finally, we got at happy client.
Later, as we had some spare time in the shop, Jerry fixed the original set of gates. I haven’t publicized they are for sale yet because we are still just licking our wounds. Did we mention that rework sucks?
We can’t afford to fix every gate operator with issues. Answering calls to repair gate operators that we did NOT install can’t be our game anymore. This lesson has taken us years to learn.
For every simple gate repair, there are two (or more) that we can’t charge enough for the number of times we have to go back. When we show up to try to repair a gate operator we didn’t install, we never know what that is going to look like. It’s a gamble we have lost a lot of money on.
It is really painful for us to decline these calls and business. Jeffery wants to be a hero to everyone, but we have to be profitable to stay in business. We warranty our labor for a year when we install a new gate operator because we want to stand by the equipment and installation. And then, after that, we have a maintenance plan for our operator installs.
We thought we had to compete with other gate companies in the area and be everything to everyone, but we want to specialize in estate gates that make you feel proud and secure. To do this right, we have to be specialists instead.
Jeffery likens it to the car industry. You don’t take a Toyota to a Mercedes mechanic or vice versa. They each have their expertise.
Reasons to Celebrate
Enough about all the money we lost. Let’s celebrate the fun stuff!
- We moved our shop from our house in Brock and into a shiny new building on the west side of Weatherford. We feel accomplished when we get up in the morning, drive to work and pull into OUR parking lot.
- After a long search for just ONE someone that could meet Jeffery’s high metal-fabricator standards, we found TWO amazingly talented welders. Jerry Pugh and Debbie Brillhart are blessings.
- Frankie, our gate-operator technician, started selling for us. He is naturally great with clients. Many of Aberdeen’s 5-star reviews refer to Frankie. With him selling, it takes a little more pressure off of Jeffery’s schedule. Another blessing!
- We updated our website to be mobile-friendly. It is a work in progress. None the less, we are proud of to hear potential clients say they got a good first impression before they even call.
Best for Last – FAVORITE GATES!
Despite the setbacks, we expanded our gate-gallery portfolio in 2018 with some exciting new gates. Being in the “custom” and not “standard/commodity” gate business, we constantly try to set ourselves apart with new materials and finishing techniques. Check out everyone’s faves …
The faux-wood painted iron gates that we did for the Conklin’s in Silverado were by far everyone’s top pick because of the new faux-wood paint technique we used.
Jeffery stuck his neck out on these iron gates. He sold them before he’d ever tried faux painting. He enjoyed every minute of proving to all the doubters that he could do it.
To learn this painting technique, Jeffery made a trip to Oregon to learn from his new friends at Stratford Gate Systems, Inc. They do beautiful work and were gracious to give him some pointers. But, in the end, had had to teach himself his own way of accomplishing his vision.
Though Jeffery would love to do everything himself, we can’t afford for him to be tied up in the shop all the time. So, Debbie learned the process alongside Jeffery. She was an accomplished welder with many certifications when she came to us. Now, she can add faux-wood painting to her resume.
Speaking of Debbie … for her favorite gates of 2018, she chose the ones we did for BellStone Masonry Supply.
While everyone on the team had a part in making these gates special, Debbie got to enjoy the challenges of adding the high-density, sign foam to the logo and letters.
This was another one of Jeffery’s ideas that he sold before anyone knew how to do it. But, the foam adds lots of depth and dimension to the logo and letters without adding weight to the large iron gate. The gates are now an additional billboard for the business on interstate 20 west of Fort Worth.
These just turned out so cool. Jerry had to fabricate a handle and then do “surgery” to fit it together with the keypad entry system they wanted on these doors for security. He enjoyed this challenge. And again, they are just really cool with a forced-rust finish.
Frankie does the operator installs on all of our gates, so he has different criteria for his top pick. He selected the Golden’s double-sliding gates that we finished just in time for Christmas.
He picked this one because it was his first set of double-sliding gates to automate. And, he liked the washed-out paint finish we did to give it an “old-world” look.
And finally, I selected the porte-cochere gates we did on a Mediterranean-style home because they were for a new custom-home-builder client that became a big fan of ours. And wow-wee … the gates amazing!
I’m excited about our future working more with David Lewis Builders, Inc. And, Ken Humphreys wrote us a great review!
So, we closed out 2018 with mostly high notes. Did we pick your favorite gates? If not, please share yours in the comments below.
We have some exciting projects in the pipeline for 2019. Stay tuned!