Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Joining the 21st Century

Well, now that I am in my 30th year as a steel detailer, I have finally decided to join the 21st century and learn CAD. OK, maybe joining the late 20th century is more like it.
To be fair, when I bought this company in 2000, my partner and I purchased Autocad LT 2000i. We even registered for a cad class at the local community college. At this time we were billing about 90 board hours a week. One weekend, I received a call from my partner's daughter; he had suffered a stroke while in Maryland. I quickly went to the office to evaluate our situation and, even though I was able to get some help, I spent the better part of the year playing catchup. George eventually recovered but retired, so I was left to try to keep this business going without his help. At that point, taking the time to learn CAD just had to take a back seat.
I realize now how there has been time and I just kept putting it off so a few weeks ago I purchased a program called "Autocad LT 2008 Tutorial Series" by 4dTechnologies. I chose this program based on its flexibility, price ($99), and a great review from Cadalyst Magazine. I have been really impressed by how well I can lead myself through the instructions and how each lesson, while linked to the next, also can stand on it's own, allowing me to learn in small bits of time since, as a business owner, father of 3 and 8 year olds, and active volunteer in several organizations, this is a benefit. I would recommend this product to anyone looking for a good entry level way to learn Autocad. Sure is nice here in the 21st century. Think I'll stay a while.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Life Happens

Well, I started this blog with the intention that I would post at least once a week. Then life happened. I am generally busy enough to fill 40 hours of board time a week and then spend Saturday morning invoicing, filing, etc. But in October, I booked the 2 biggest jobs our company has had in our nearly 16 years. I am certainy grateful for that and the last 3 months have been a lot of fun as I enlisted the help of several detailers that I have known for years. I worked about 60 hours a week and my wife really carried the load at home. Then last week, my sister in law died, very unexpectedly. We buried her yesterday. It reminded me how important balance is in our lives.

She was a perfect example of that. She lived a short but rich life, always making sure she was present for all birthday parties and family functions. She had a good bit of trouble with her own family issues yet always called to see how her sisters were doing. Mag worked for a large hospital and had large responsibilities but yet she was always there for us. It occured to me that she was the first family member I met after my wife and I started dating; she was there at Veterans Stadium, throwing confetti as I asked my wife to marry me; she was in our small wedding party; and she was at the airport to greet us both times as we arrived home with our children, adopted from China. She touched a lot of lives as there were nearly 500 people at her viewing. She will be missed greatly.

Why am I writing this here. Because detailers today are in such demand that we could fill all 168 hours a week with work if we wanted too. I was getting so wrapped up in work these last few months, I have missed important meetings with my kids teachers, golf outings with friends, and dinners with my wife. Heck, with a 2 year old and an 8 year old, time is limited anyway. So, I got my daily planner out and filled in time for work, time for family, and time for play. My goal this year is to learn how to say "no." I am very fortunate to have over 15 customers that send me a steady flow of work, on a T & M basis. As their "drafting department," I jump when asked. While this business model has worked well and will continue to be the primary mission of my company, I will do what I can for my customers during the time I have allocated. Of course, we know that life happens and we need to be flexible. But if it's planned, it might just happen. We make "blueprints" for our customers so they can complete what was planned by the building owner and design professionals. Make one for your life as well.