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I have a really hard time getting some employees to put out what I call "production".   One just quit and I really don't think it's worth replacing them.      Sometimes, I feel it's just a "lateral movement of money".    Anyone have numbers for glaze and clay production?

From my experience, ideal numbers would be 10X wages for clay and 15X wages for glaze.   I've had employees that can meet this number.   Is this too demanding?    I'm at the point of just cutting back and upping the prices to meet demand.

 

Edited by DirtRoads

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You are asking a loaded question. For two decades, I had 50 plus employees building new homes and condo parks. No, I do not miss being that busy, but I still enjoy construction. The reason the question is loaded: you have a vested interest in the outcome, your employees do not. 

The fastest way to answer the question of production is to do a time study. Of course if you announce you are doing a time study, the outcome will be different. However, if you track the production of each employee at their respective station over a period of time: typically a week minimum: you will come up with a median average. Of course skill level has to be factored into the equation. If your seasoned employees produce (X) amount of pieces per day, or glaze (x) amount of pieces per day: then you have a basis for pay scales. If new employees produce 40% of seasoned vets: then pay scales are set accordingly.

However, you cannot set production by pieces produced per hour. This total has to be adjusted for : time loading and unloading kilns. Time prepping and cleaning, time maintaining equipment, and time spent packing and shipping. If your operation is large enough, then dividing these stations would be wise to increase effiency.

have you calculated pieces lost? If you make and fire 100 pieces and lose 10'pieces in the process: have you calculated those losses in your pricing?

your equipment requires periodic maintainence: have you calculated a per piece cost for this line item expense?

if you plan to expand, what percentage have you factored for expansion.?

production costs involve more than employee and material costs.  By the way, I fired five people over a ten year period because texting was more important than working. 

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If employees are quitting,  the combination of their pay, what they are asked to do for that wage, and other aspects of work conditions are probably less attractive than what they expect to get doing other work.  Or it's not as compelling to the employee as going back to school or something.

I know the job market is pretty local, but jobs just are not as hard to find right now in a lot of places as they were a few years ago.

So the question isn't so much how much a person can  theoretically do sustainably hour after hour week after week as whether doing that for you seems a better option to the potential employee than the person's other options.

Edited by Gabby

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3 hours ago, glazenerd said:

You are asking a loaded question. For two decades, I had 50 plus employees building new homes and condo parks. No, I do not miss being that busy, but I still enjoy construction. The reason the question is loaded: you have a vested interest in the outcome, your employees do not. 

The fastest way to answer the question of production is to do a time study. Of course if you announce you are doing a time study, the outcome will be different. However, if you track the production of each employee at their respective station over a period of time: typically a week minimum: you will come up with a median average. Of course skill level has to be factored into the equation. If your seasoned employees produce (X) amount of pieces per day, or glaze (x) amount of pieces per day: then you have a basis for pay scales. If new employees produce 40% of seasoned vets: then pay scales are set accordingly.

However, you cannot set production by pieces produced per hour. This total has to be adjusted for : time loading and unloading kilns. Time prepping and cleaning, time maintaining equipment, and time spent packing and shipping. If your operation is large enough, then dividing these stations would be wise to increase effiency.

have you calculated pieces lost? If you make and fire 100 pieces and lose 10'pieces in the process: have you calculated those losses in your pricing?

your equipment requires periodic maintainence: have you calculated a per piece cost for this line item expense?

if you plan to expand, what percentage have you factored for expansion.?

production costs involve more than employee and material costs.  By the way, I fired five people over a ten year period because texting was more important than working. 

Yes I need to do a new time study as you suggested.   No one here loads kilns except me  .....  I don't really trust them to do it.   One employee will unload.    I look at production on a daily basis.  My loss ratio is very very low, less than 1%.   I personally control the drying and care of drying pottery.    Kiln/equipment maintenance runs 1 to 2% of gross sales.    

I do NOT want to expand.  If anything, I'm cutting back and just raising prices.  I'm at 100% sell thru.  Yeah I hear you about the texting.  I had the 50 plus employee business in another business before pottery, and I'm not going  back there.    I've got 2 really good employees.  Going to check the production next week and see where the numbers are now.  I had these numbers figured out a few years ago but different employees. 

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@DirtRoads I’m a believer in the 80:20 principle when it comes to employees. 80% of the work gets done by 20% of the employees. My only advice is to make sure those two good employees know how much you appreciate them. Like @Gabby said, the job market is strong and it will be very hard to replace them with equally productive and reliable people.

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4 hours ago, neilestrick said:

If I was a really competent, fast thrower, I'm not sure why I would be working for someone else rather than making my own work, unless the compensation and work environment were excellent.

Maybe an apprentice program, where you plan to release them after a set time. Or offer the opportunity to make their own work. 

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I know excellent  carpenters who are lousy at business, and excellent  businessmen who are lousy carpenters. Having excellent throwing skills does not automatically translate to  excellent at marketing , or excellent  at book keeping. An option is to pay per piece and convert to an hourly wage. However, you need to submit this conversion to the IRS for pre-approval. Many do not realize you can submit compensation packages to the IRS for written approval before implentintation. Once the IRS approves a compensation plan in writing, then they cannot come back and penalize during an audit of if an employee files a complaint later. You can also file  an R&D plan: :). 

T

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I have known a few throwers that where good but had zero business skills and their attempt at being  successful potters fell short. They both threw pots for others at an hourly rate-some worked at their own homes and took the work to the potters as independent contractors.

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A word of caution about " contract" throwing. The IRS has a "20 point rule" to determine if someone is self employed or an employee. Paying a thrower an hourly rate would certainly open the door for a possible audit: especially if the contract thrower falls behind in taxes. The mere fact that an hourly rate was paid would qualify them as an employee. Writing checks to an individual in lieu of a business is another red flag for the IRS. Setting schedules or work hours, supplying tools or equipment, and the lack of invoices would cause the IRS to rule them as employees instead of subs. 

T

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Be sure your employees feel appreciated and what motivates them to slack off will be redirected into their work for you. What makes them feel appreciated might not be what you think they aught to feel appreciated for. Generally being treated like an adult human being, knowing your boss and co-workers have your back when problems arise, decent wages that allow you to handle your life outside of the job so you aren't constantly worrying about it, and a non-stressful work environment contribute to a sense of 'let's do a good job for the boss' mentality. As a past "slacking" employee, I'd go out of my way not to do a good job for someone who I'm aware reads books about Attila the Hun tactics as a business model. 

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Yappy:

Wess Roberts is well known for his allegorical writing style. Attila was merciless about winning ( business),  but shared the spoils of war (profits) with his soldiers ( employees.)  I have read several of his books: "Getting Straight A's Will Not Make You Rich."  He uses titles to shake traditional thought or preconceived beliefs or fears based in assumption. One of the worse mistakes made in business: is to make decisions based on limited information. Case in point ( pottery related) a potter loves blues and greens: and takes a van load to a market that loves yellow and rose. Then declares that it was a lousy show instead of realizing they misread the market. 

T

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I forgot about  Wess Roberts.  Ordered all the ones I haven't read.  That Straight A's book is great.   I also read that Star Trek one and was really excited to see you mention the one on Attila.     Don't really know how I over looked it.  Someone gave me the Warrior one for Christmas one year.    I just don't run in academic circles now and it's been awhile someone recommended a book.  Thanks!

 

 

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Ya know one thing I did that really changed things with a group of employees was a daily production meeting. We had office and field techs and it was a way to bring everyone together. Do it first thing and it's gets the day started off right with very specific goals. The only way this will work of course is being able to keep the meeting moving and not let it turn into a bull session and you, or someone, being able to project manage afterward. Too much independence can certainly produce the 80/20 rule and too strict over site will run folks off.

Having just two employees and having managed large groups in the past may be making the current situation harder for you. With a small group its hard to not develop closer friendships and a group of friends just by definition hurts raw productivity because interaction is just going to get in the way throughout the day.

Edited by Stephen

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Marketing- Toothpicks

for decades toothpicks served a functional,purpose, and never went beyond their bland wooden shape. How do you generate increased revenues on a long established utilitarian ware?  Marketing. You begin by selling them in colored packs so they can be displayed as part of the decor. This in turn opens the door for a new product line: tooth pick holders at various price points. Why stop there?  Sell them in foiled ten packs with cinnamon or other flavorings. Room for expansion? Sure, make them twice as long and twice as thick; then add a colored cellophane tag and sell them to eateries for sandwich presentation. 

You can try to capture part of the current market share, or you can develop your own market. Niche markets  are much smaller, but produce 2-3 times the revenue. If you are highly skilled in decorative applications: develop a market around your best skill sets.  You need "bread and butter" pieces to create an income stream, but once established produce designer lines with much larger profit margins. A year ago I suggested to a member to market high end pieces as " Gallery Edition."  Every show is loaded with coffe mugs with handles?  So what are you going to do to make your mug stand out?  Functional ware is supply and demand: do you know what the market in your area is demanding? 

No one needs a $700 I-phone, but through marketing you have been conditioned otherwise. Everyone makes mugs with pulled handles: how can you change the design to make yours in demand? Now there is a community challenge: new handle designs. 

T

 

 

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20 hours ago, Stephen said:

Ya know one thing I did that really changed things with a group of employees was a daily production meeting. We had office and field techs and it was a way to bring everyone together. Do it first thing and it's gets the day started off right with very specific goals. The only way this will work of course is being able to keep the meeting moving and not let it turn into a bull session and you, or someone, being able to project manage afterward. Too much independence can certainly produce the 80/20 rule and too strict over site will run folks off.

Having just two employees and having managed large groups in the past may be making the current situation harder for you. With a small group its hard to not develop closer friendships and a group of friends just by definition hurts raw productivity because interaction is just going to get in the way throughout the day.

I'd like to disagree with the last sentence here, Stephen. I've worked in a number of situations over the years where I and my friends on the job worked better together because we were able to incorporate separate individual skills synergistically to increase production...just saying...

JohnnyK

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I agree with Johnny K. on this.  Positive emotion and feeling part of a team typically enhance productivity. So do opportunities to learn new things (rather than to sustain a single routine over the long haul) and opportunities for autonomy within the work environment.

One acronym I have seen for this model is PERMA:

Positive emotion, Engagement (response to an environment of interest and opportunity),  Relationships, Meaning, Achievement (achieving goals and targets through use of the strengths a person most values in himself/herself)

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Ya know you're both right I shouldn't have said by definition but rather friends have to be extra careful not to let their friendship interfere with production if they work side by side. 

Edited by Stephen

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