In last week's column, Deanne and Patrick Weier shared their experiences in opening PDJ Cutting and Fabricating in Manitowoc. After starting the business, they bought a complementary business, but soon discovered that the business needed to increase its margins in order to be profitable.
Since 2008, SCORE volunteer Tom Finley has been part of their journey. It was Finley the Weiers contacted when they wanted advice on pricing.
"The previous owner's prices hadn't been adjusted for five or six years, and we realized that we weren't charging what we needed to in order to make a profit," Deanne said. "Tom gave us wonderful ideas, and told us that if we explained the reason for the increase to our customers, they would understand. We were scared to do that, but we knew we couldn't work for nothing."
Finley recommended that they consider adding charges for set-up, rush orders, or a shop rate in addition to a change in the base rates. After making changes and talking to customers, the Weiers were able to increase profits and keep their clients.
As the business expanded its industrial-cutting capabilities, a secondary part of the business, the creation of metal art, showed unexpected growth.
"This part of the business took off," Deanne said. "We hadn't focused on the metal art, but as we filled orders and our customers showed their friends, people started to tell other people and the orders poured in."
The business features a full line of metal garden art, individual art, decorative art pieces, wall hangings, railing and gate inserts, and fire pit rings. PDJ metal art is sold online on ETSY.com, and they are a featured artisan on Wisconsin Made, a collection of items that are all made in Wisconsin. Orders have been shipped as far as Australia, and some retail stores have added it to their product lines.
Having reached the five-year mark in business and been recently honored with the Economic Development Corp. of Manitowoc County Rising Star Award, the Weiers continue to fine-tune the business and support each other.
While Patrick is now full-time in the business, Deanne continues to work full-time as a nurse and part-time as marketing director, sales support staff, and accountant for the business.
"Patrick would say that he is weak in sales, because I'm naturally more comfortable talking to people. But, we've learned to push ourselves in areas where it's harder," Deanne said. "There were so many skills we had to learn - I don't consider myself an accountant or a marketing person - but we've figured out how to make it all work for us. You do what you're good at, and I'll do what I'm good at."
From their first meeting at SCORE when they were considering a business purchase, the Weiers have met numerous challenges, and realize that change is about the only constant in business. The business now stands at the next juncture where they'll need to decide when to start adding employees. It will likely be a good time for another visit to SCORE.