The Handyman's tools
One of the ongoing jokes in our family is the fact that many years ago I was offered a charter membership in the “Handyman Club of America”. This is funny because I am not exactly a handyman. Yes, I can do some of the very basic things around the house but it would not be too far-fetched to say that my wife is as handy or even more handy than I am. But I can be a very good handyman assistant, which leads me to this story.
Last weekend my daughter Emily asked me to come to their house in Kansas to help them get the house ready to sell. There were several projects where her and her husband Pete needed extra hands. I agreed to help and talked son Ted into making the trip with me. In addition to helping move a significant amount of their belongings to storage, the largest project facing us was repairing the deck outside their kitchen door. There were several floor boards that needed to be replaced and the top railing had definitely seen better days. Finally, after those tasks were completed, the entire deck could use a good new coat of stain.
The good news is that Pete knew what he was doing and had pre-purchased the wood to replace the bad wood on the floor. Both Ted and I could handle the simple job of removing the screws that held the old boards in place, or so we thought. Using Pete’s 2 power screw drivers, we were able to remove and salvage most of the old screws. Unfortunately some of the heads were stripped and none of us were able to remove them. So Pete brought out a jig saw to cut away the parts of the board that could be removed. Then we used a hammer to loosen the remaining wood from the screw. Finally we were able to either cut the screw with a hack saw or use a vice grip.
While we were removing the bad boards, Pete was busy with the new boards. First he needed to shave ¼ inch off the entire length of each of the 12 foot boards. I had no clue how he was going to do this until he brought out a table saw. With a little help to hold the long boards, he easily cut the boards to fit. Then he used a router to make the edges rounded, something I would have never thought of. When the time came to fit the boards in the right spot, cutting the right lengths and angles, Pete pulled out a chop saw. If I had to do this job with my tools and knowledge, it would have taken twice as long and the quality would have been half as good.
As small business owners and managers, we need the right tools to run our businesses effectively. Sure Pete could have done a lot of that work on the deck with hand tools, but the task would have taken all week instead of a few hours. So what are the right tools for a business? There has to be some common tools that all businesses can use, right?. So I Googled it. Turns out there are sales tools, inventory management tools, accounting tools, customer management tools and the list went on and on. Some were free, others not so much. So my advice today is to talk with your peer groups, your accountant, banker and others to see what works for them. Then try before you buy.
Turns out that business tools are harder to understand than the different kinds of saws that Pete used last weekend. When we left for home, the deck was not completely stained, but it was definitely safe and usable. Thanks to Pete and his tools and without the help of the Handyman Club of America.
Small Business Today is a bi-weekly feature written by Tom Friedman, market president of First National Bank, Ankeny.