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Do we have to be poor?

Bob Carter

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Jen is poor and wears it like a Badge of Honor.

Ellen says it pretty much a forgone conclusion that if you select framing, you opt for poverty.

Why is this so?

I know several framers that seem to be doing okay financially, but a lot more that seem to fit the profile of poverty.

Why is this so?

I can tell you an observation: I don't seem to see any correlation between skill level and professionalism and earnings.

In fact, almost all the framers that I seem to come in contact with all seem to frame pretty well. Certainly, I can't say that I know anyone that uses substandard materials or approaches with the possible exception of self-framed work by a lot of artists (not all)

So, tell me-What it is about this trade that seems to make a really good living so out of reach?

And, why in the world would you put up with it?
Sponsor Wanted


PFG, Picture Framing God
As I sit here in abject poverty I will eagerly await replies.........

Even though I got such a miserable apparently impossible to recover from start I still believe it is possible to make a good living as a frame shop owner. Any of my lack of success has to do with bad choices and lack of resources. But, I came into this deal thinking like a framer. I think that is probably what keeps most of us down. Thinking like a framer first and a business person last. I've corrected my way of thinking so at least I know which path leads to success.............now if I could just get there. I wouldn't even continue if I thought it wasn't possible to make a good living......

Jay H

PFG, Picture Framing God
Bob I would take a stab at this but it would be purely speculation as I don’t have the business experience to back up any theory I have. However I will say that I hope and pray that a framing business doesn’t have a ceiling that only a few demigods can break through. I didn’t open this store to build 2 or 3 hundred frames a year for $30,000 in income. Very good question Bob. I look forward to reading some responses.


CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2
I am considered to be an excellent framer for a number of years. What I have learned about myself is that I am not a good business person. I hate dealing with advertising, paperwork, buying, etc. There were so many things that I did not know when I opened my shop. For me, those are definitely some of the things that kept me from making enough of a profit to live on.


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
My success to date as a framer/framing business has being dismal...I have not lost money but what I have made is not worth talking about…….but I keep trying…..I know there is an answer to what I need to do in “my” market place to make a true living out of framing……I’m fortunate that my wife is very good at making money and I have been able to indulge my passion for framing……that still has not stopped me think and learning every day about framing….and the business aspect of what I’m doing…….I keep thinking about how I can reinvent my self as a framer and recover from the dreadful way I started in this business……I feel that I’m close to achieving my goal of positioning myself as a very specialised niche framer in Ireland…..the general market place for framing is just not for me I just don’t have the necessary retail skills to run a full blown retail framing operation in Ireland…..the investment that would be needed in Ireland just frightens the life out of me…..so it is niche placement for me and I think I can make as good a living or pretty close to it out of being Mr. “Preservation Picture Framer” in Ireland as I would out of a full blown retail operation…..I will leave that to others…..the retail landscape in Ireland is tough…..Gymbroree just announced today that they are pulling out of Ireland and the UK….they admitted that they found the going to tough in Europe…they are consolidating back to the US..

Bob….it there an opportunity for you to teach a class for framers who made a bad start on how they could reinvent themselves….

My answer is no you don’t have to be poor in the framing business…..


SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
I don't think this problem is limited to framing. I think it affects small business owners of all kinds. We have been in business for over 15 years now and we have seen many small businesses of all kinds come and go. The ones that do survive and thrive seem to either be run by people who have an outside source of income or by people who have exceptional business skills or both.

Location seems to be another factor for success. Open a needed business in a populous area, and you will survive. Open in an area that is already oversaturated with similar businesses or that doesn't have the demographics to support what you do, and it will be a struggle.

Jerry Ervin

PFG, Picture Framing God
For some unknown reason Bob, it would seem that Yes there is some kind of limitation on the money an individual framer will make. Other than a very prosperous few, most of us are not in a huge tax bracket.

I have told others before they open a frame shop that it is like taking a 'vow of poverty'. I was only halfway joking.

Bob Carter

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Hi Dermot-If I had that capability, I would be selling my program from a beach in the Pacific.

It just isn't that easy.

However, when I do get involved, I do see two common factors and they are both related.

The locations are a true hinderance and the operators never developed a realistic plan.

Most have never developed any meaningful relationship with a mentor or business adviser; someone that they could bounce ideas off, someone that could say "This just doesn't make sense, are you sure you have thought this through?"

Most tend to be in business not only for themselves, but by themselves.

I certainly don't mean to point out our good friend Kathy, but had she had good counsel prior to her move, I rather suspect that part of that counsel would have been to suggest that the shop she purchased might not have been a wise decision.

She has certainly proved herself to be tenacious, yet some obstacles are simply too daunting. And she is not alone, in spite of her best efforts.

So, Reinvent Yourself?

Sure, but who has the ability to change?
For most,Resources are stretched beyond breaking points, egos would have to checked, a true desire to make the difficult decisions and a complete reliance upon someone that can be a strong Devil's Advocate.

That's asking a lot for most of us and I suspect I know there truly aren't many candidates.

And those suggestions are merely a starting point

So, Bottom Line? Most of us are willing to give up financial rewards for the comfort of no one telling us what to do. We tend to be a fiercely independent lot and simply prefer to do things our own way. Then we tend to rationalize our actions (see:ArkJen)as the worthy payoff.

Reinvention? Maybe. But Self-Realization might be a better first step

B. Newman

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
I consider myself to be a mediocre framer but a good business person. I have as much (and sometimes more) work than I can handle and do all the other things that I want to do.

I meet all my overhead and make a fair profit for the work that I do. The only reason the income is not higher is that I am not willing to give up the "extra curricular activities" that I do. Some of them are "family based" and have to be done; some are "Betty based" and just want to be done.

The (even) higher income potential is there - I just have to choose to devote the work to that end.


Oh, and an edit after reading Bob's latest reply: One thing that I am VERY good at is bouncing ideas off of other people. That's the reason I meet with my CPA/CMA quarterly. Yeah, he does the tax stuff and all, but his REAL worth to me is the time that we just talk.

I've never considered myself "the lone framer". I've always got a "tonto" or a Texas Ranger or two to call on in times of questions (or just a simple need to talk!) And that's the real reason that I love to write and answer e-mail questions and threads on marketing - I believe that "to whom much is given, much is required."


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

Blow for blow you just about nailed me…but principally on the Mentor and Self-Realization bit…….I have finally asked someone to mentor me and can I say it is proving to be the best thing I have ever done in business……I’m very fortunate that I have this person……in a very short space of time that I have involved him in my plan I have made great strides and I finally feel that I know where I’m going…with my framing business….I know that niche my not be your cup of tea…..but after a lot of research, looking, talking to people in the business in Ireland which left me with two options….one was to go big time retail……and shucks I could not wet your appetite for an that :D …..and the other was niche…….and this will be a good niche….as it will pull all my business skill that I have from the past (I have more or less always been a niche player) and my framing skills together….for the first time I feel very comfortable about what I’m doing in the framing world……up to now I always had a bad feeling that the way I was going about things was not on track or it did not feel right…….

And the Self- Realization bit well I’m finally losing some of the arrogance I would have had about myself and replacing it with well founded knowledge an confidence…….for the first time in the framing business I do feel I could replace Jeans income if the need should arise…….and as you know that is a reasonable level of confidence………I do say this from the bottom of my heart I would never have arrived at this point without all the help and support I get on a daily based here on the Grumble……you guys are just support beyond anything I have ever come across…


PFG, Picture Framing God
I don't mind being used as an example Bob. I'm a good example of why framers are poor. I would love to have "do overs". I have come to the agonizing conclusion that I most likely cannot recover from my poor start. I've learned a lot, I know I have that business person in me. I didn't when I started, but I do have a pretty clear picture of what it takes and what direction I need to go in. But it is like swimming in molasses. I am stuck, I can't move forward. Take it from me tenacity does not pay the bills. Cash does, and I don't have any.

My lease is up at the end of September. Three long years, can you believe it? Hanging on for three years in a tough economy with no financial resources. What to do, what to do.......

I am full of self realization too Bob. Believe me, I couldn't possibly have one ounce of arrogance in me after the mess I have made. I very clearly knew I couldn't survive doing it my way. So, I have taken all advice from many sources and done the best I could to apply it to my situation but I always come up short and my hands are tied.

Plan? You are supposed to have a plan? Ya know I didn't have one of those either. Again, I wish there were "do overs".

So, there you have it, "Confessions of a Poor Framer".

It's not all bad either, yesterday as an example for about three hours, a bustling shop with comings and goings and $1,500 later I am a happy <strike>framer</strike> business owner......just never enough of those kind of days. I can see the brass ring, just don't seem to be able to grab it.


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
I met you at the last Las Vegas show and took your class about the state of the framing industry. Afterward I talked to you for a little while and told you that I had only had my shop open for a short while. You asked why I took the class, I had “bigger fish to fry” than to listen to your take on the situation. I’ve been chewing on that question every since. Here’s my answer; I want to make a comfortable living and have a business that I’m proud of. Going to every educational class I can get my hands on and learning what others are doing, how the market as a whole is doing and where I fit in is how I’m going to achieve it.

I agree with Anne, this isn’t just the framing business, I see restaurant owners, doll shops, cleaners, etc. in the same boat. Could it be WE as consumers have been molded into thinking that giant companies are better? (Even subconsciously?) When I think of the term “mom and pop shop” I think of a quaint little out of the way store and the people who run it are generally nice folks who make a nice little living for themselves but could be bulldozed by XYZ corporation tomorrow to build a mega store. Do we have the mindset that we are no longer the majority in the business world? Maybe re-thinking who we are and stop thinking the “other” guy might have an edge on us because he has better buying power or has the best location in town or whatever, then we can concentrate on getting out of poverty and make a living that makes us happy.

Perhaps becoming successful scares some. I know I have my own fears about becoming bigger than I originally set out for and understand that is part of growth but it still makes me nervous.

Jerry Ervin

PFG, Picture Framing God

After following your story from the beginning. I firmly believe your only problem is location. If there was any remote way you could get yourself moved at the end of the lease, I have total faith in the fact that you could survive. You have come this far. You hung in there for 3 years. A lot of people would never have made it.

Let us now ponder how we could magically move Kathy's store to better ground.


PFG, Picture Framing God
If wishes were fishes Jerry, I'd have a fish tank......

I am in the perverbial rock and a hard place.....I'm holding out for spontaneous combustion, me or the store, so I don't have to make a decision.

Sorry, didn't mean to have Bob's topic veer off course......

Cliff Wilson

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Jen is poor and wears it like a Badge of Honor.

Ellen says it pretty much a forgone conclusion that if you select framing, you opt for poverty.

Why is this so?

I know several framers that seem to be doing okay financially, but a lot more that seem to fit the profile of poverty.

Why is this so?
I have always believed that you rarely achieve more than you expect to achieve. So, our colleagues accomplish what they expect to accomplish. NOTE, I did not say "what they want" or "what they try for" or even "what they deserve." I believe you rarely achieve more than you EXPECT.

That may be why it is so.


Angry Badger
Fear of success.


PFG, Picture Framing God

Your original question, "do we have to be poor" is a very open ended one and leaves the reader with a very broad slate to draw on.

I have been a framer for over 16 years. I have never made alot of money framing, yet I have had much success with my designing of new ideas in framing. I have had numerous articles published in Decor, U.S. Art, and PFM over the years about different things that I have designed and brought to fruition. I have been on the Grumble and a few other forums for the past few years and I feel that I have made some measure of positive contribution in helping other framers with ideas and problems. I have posted on this forum some of the design ideas that I created that I haven't seen duplicated since and I try to be as objective with answering questions about different aspects of framing as possible. I have written business plans for my different locations and have spent money frugally on supplies and inventory as I saw the need.

I have spent over 5 years travelling down the Florida coast and gathering every stitch of information that was available on the demographics of the towns that I visited. I spoke to Chamber group representatives, Main Street representatives, business owners, and have pried every bit of useful information out of them regarding the need for custom framing the likes of which I specialize in and I have visited virtually every frameshop and art gallery in each town that I visited to compare what they were doing to what I had to offer. I saw a definite niche for the types of designs that I specialize in and decided to relocate last year.

I carefully planned my move to NW Florida and had found a nice location for my shop. I have advertised, joined business groups, networked with other businesses, been invited to talk to the local BNI group here in Destin, and have generally slept, breathed, and eaten my shop name all over the Emerald Coast over the past year. There are very few times that I go out in public that I don't hand out at least one business card to somebody who shows an interest in my work or finds out what I do in the course of a conversation.

With that in mind, I am afraid that S.T.B. Custom Framing & Gifts will be closing its doors within the coming month. I know that some of you have heard this story from me about a year ago when I saw no future in staying in my previous location up North. Well, now I am completely tapped out. My funding is dried up, business is dragging along at a miserable rate, I have not had enough business come through the doors this past 2 months to pay my business rent. I have survived much of what Kathy has endured for most of my framing career as I tried to eke out a living in the blue collar area of So. IL and I have given as much of my time to helping her with her business as I could. I know that she can do the business, as I have done the business. But, with both of us and a few other framers that I have had contact with, it boils down to getting warm bodies through that front door.

I have advocated this concept for quite some time here on the G, if you don't have people walking through that front door, you can be the most proficient framer on the block and you will not succeed with your business. All other aspects of running a business being accounted for, you still have to move bodies into your sales area to be able to make a sale, plain and simple. This is the one area that I feel that I have fallen short for one reason or another.

Right now I am waiting on the completion of an architectural rendering for a new sports complex here in FWB and I have the OK for a fund raiser that utilizes one of my ideas that I have tried and proven to work. They have commited to a minimum of $10,000 worth of framing with a possibility of double that. But I won't be open when they are finally ready to go ahead with the fund raiser. That is a sad ending for me.

Do framers have to be poor?? Heck no!! But they do need a little bit of grace from the Good Lord and some proper timing to get off the ground at the right time in building up their business.

It seems like, to some, the opportunity is simply there and things just fall in place almost automatically, people rush in to have things framed, the open house goes well and word gets out like wild fire that there is a new frameshop in town and jobs come in from the get go. In my case I didn't do something right because I have not changed my pricing from what it was up North, slightly lower than the average, I have all the needed equipment and skills to be a successful framer, I did my homework on location and demographics, I have saturated the area with mailings, newspaper, professional, and TV advertising, and have had great acceptance and compliments from those who did take the time to have me do their framing for them. But here I am, about to close up for lack of business.

One shortcoming that I have faced and have had little insight into is breaking into the condo development area and getting hooked up with the designers who furnish all these new condos that are popping up like dandelions in May all over the Emerald Coast. I have not been able to make the proper connections with these people and that has been very frustrating for me.

But I have had a good ride and don't regret any of the years that I have struggled to make things work for me as a framer. I have had a very conservatively good life framing and I look forward to seeing what lies down the road for me. Heck, I am just starting out on this adventure and there are many rocks yet to be turned over in my path. One of them may have that big keeper lurking under it and that will be another story to tell later.

They say that pride cometh before a fall and that may be my ultimate problem. Had I come to my friends here on the Grumble and bared my soul to you, there may have been that bit of information brought forth that would have made the difference. But that isn't to be for me. I only hope that I have been helpful to a few of you through the past few years and that some of you have benefitted from my postings. I have always had a positive attitude towards my business and have trusted in what is out there for me just around the bend.

I have told Kathy many times that you never know who will come through your door tomorrow and there is no way to predict the future no matter how bleak today looks. I hope that she has taken that to heart and learned from it as she has had some spurts of good business lately and I hope that she doesn't take tomorrow for granted. If there were any way for me to keep this business going until things get better, I would gladly hang in there until the last dollar is spent and the fat lady has sung her final song. But I am afraid that I have already heard those final notes and I don't have much choice anymore in what I have to do.

I have never been one to complain about my situation and that may be one of my shortcomings also. I always looked forward to what tomorrow had in store for me but I also have to eat. So I will be moving on to the next chapter and we will see what is there for me.

Poor?? What does that really mean? I have never been "poor" in all the years I was framing. I thoroughly enjoyed going in to open my shop up each day and I thoroughly enjoyed every job I had to do for each of my customers. That is riches far above any monetary gain that I could have realized.

Does that answer your question, Bob??


Baer Charlton

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
FGII, sorry to see that it didn't work. You did the right things.

Tim, simplistic but very true.

I once sat in on a lecture by a very successful lawyer, to an about to graduate law class.

He ask the question: "who among you likes to sell?" Two people out of the 70 or so future lawyers raised their hands.

He continued: "I mean LOVE to SELL? Your juices flow so hard that you jump in at the department store when you see the clerk just stand there looking dumb. You jump in and sell the person on the $400 suit instead of the $42 pair of slacks. You just can't help yourself. After the sell, you give a twenty minute private seminar on where the clerk went wrong. From her hair dyed pink, the nose ring in her ear, the gum and her choice of clothes. You love selling so much that you'ld do it for free if it paid good!"

The class sat with their hands 100% in there laps except for the one girl who was waving her hand, with a paper in it.

He stopped. It was so unusual for him. He pointed to her and asked "Yes?".

She got up and gave him the paper, saying, "this is my resume, I have your card. I'll call you tomorrow at 10:15 am, and we can go over what I'll be doing for your firm."

The lecturer stood there dumbfounded, then said to the class. "She's the only one creating a career this year. The rest of you will be working at a job that you accepted."

He went on to explain that every job is about selling. You sell yourself all day long. If your passion isn't for selling, then you need to go accept a job that is offered you and be happy with it.......

There is something that I have been talking about for years. Rob Markoff understands it as well as others. But, unfortunately, many frame shop owners turn a pale shade of greenish-white when I start explaining "Pro-active framing".

It isn't just opening your doors earlier; it can be about being open later. But basically it is leaving the shop and going out and clubing the work over the head and dragging it back in.

and sometimes it is the little things. Ask yourself how many of these you do:

1) give away 1,000 of your business cards a month?
(three foot rule: if they are within 3' of you, they get your card. PERIOD. Even if it's your mother.)

2) Open till 7pm? If the whole world gets off at 5PM, why are you closing then. You can do 3/4 of your inflow between 5 & 7 pm.

3) Do you belong to more than 4 organizations that don't have anything to do with your church?
(Network, Network, Network.)

4) When was the last month that you gave a talk on framing to more than 2 organizations? One?
Ever? Fear of public speaking? What are you doing at the design table? If you have been in business for more than a year, you have something to give a 15 minute talk on. Remember "Show & Tell"? Everyone loved it then; what makes you think they don't like it now?
There isn't a group who meets every month, that wouldn't love to hear someone other than themselves give a talk about something they don't know about. (Remember, less than 10% of the population has EVER been inside a frame shop. Why? Because they have no idea that you are there to "Solve Problems" and sometimes that involves a frame or six.

Oh, and that girl at the law school? She still works for my brother the lecturer. She's now a partner, and what they call "A Rainmaker", she clubs large business over the head and drags it back in.

Kathy, CALL the Small Businessmans Association TODAY. And get partnered up with a Mentor.

90% of all small businesses fail from a combination of: Under-capitalization, poor salesmanship, no plan and or help from a mentor.

But then, what do I know. I'm only a hack whos been at this 38 years.



MGF, Master Grumble Framer
I'm very sorry to hear that Framerguy. :(

I used to make a decent living at framing, but since March 2001 it's kind of been a downhill slide with occasional ups. It's very frustrating and depressing. Several shops have closed in our area recently and unless I can get it rolling better I will be among them next year.


True Grumbler
There are a lot of intelligent framers on TG and I'm most grateful for all the input I get here.

I just can't see anyone going into this business to get rich. But we sure as heck don't have to be poor either. I've worked for some framers who made a very good living from it but they were strictly wholesale outfits.

I have my own business cos I lost my job (layed-off) and couldn't tolerate having to find another job and work for someone else, that independant thing rings true. But I wonder if I haven't made the biggest mistake of my life.

I absolutely "love" this business, it's all I know how to do! I've been framing for over 25 years! Being a business owner is a whole nother ballgame. I have learned a lot though from all the employers I've worked for. Some goodthings and well, don't do it that way! I think there is always something worthy to take from any situation.

Being poor is all relative, I'd be devastated to lose my business, my wishful, hoping for financial security. I just pray a lot,, read all I can about business, marketing, advertising and being as much of a sponge as I can.


PFG, Picture Framing God
Tom, you are a good soul. You have been the most positive person I know. Even in your post you remain positive. I wish I had your strength. The heck of it is there might be a sudden burst of business, you never know. So, never say never.......


True Grumbler
Just an after thought!
One day I'm sure I'll let ya all know who I am, where I am but for now I'm just so darn insecure and cagey about this whole business thing. I'm my worst critic at times and can't see the forest through the trees.
But I get a lot of positive response from my ads, my sinage, and my logo.
I couldn't pay the rent this month or since I've been open but giving birth is never easy! I had 2 people come in from my ad today and one call from the yellow pages. The past month has been so slow I feel death around the corner but taking action is the best thing.
I'm going to my first Chamber of Commerce networking luncheon tomorrow and I'm scared to death, of what?, just silly stupid stuff.


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Man - I don't know where to start.

Success/riches are a product of so many things - many that may be out of our direct control.
The easy answer is that because of the low cost of entry, few specialized skills required and the fact that "I have good taste" it's not hard to open a frame shop - but incredibly difficult to open a successful frame shop. Framing skills do not necessarily equate to business skills.

Framerguy has done everything right - with a dedication and determination that many of us probably haven't pursued - and his shop is teetering on the brink. I met Tom last year at Decor and he explained all the work he put into planning his move -- he certainly did his homework. I left Atlanta with the determination to do many of the same things he talked about - groups, networking, community involvement, the whole 9 yards. I felt that using his actions as a guide could certainly lead us in the right direction. While I've only met Tom in person only once I count him as a friend and it truly hurts to hear of the impending demise of STB.

Regardless of our best efforts, there are things working against each of us - the Big Box store, the competition from every corner for the extra disposable income, the general lack of awareness of our industry - that could kill our business in a day. One large order (about 1 month's business) came through the door and carried us through July. August brought us our best month ever. It's never easy, and regardless of good fortune it could go away tomorrow.

Why do we have to be poor? I don't know the answer. I certainly didn't put my home/loans/life on the line to go broke - but it's terrifying to think that regardless of what we do it might not make a difference. It's a cliche, but for us failure is not an option. We did it to control our own destiny, make a better life for ourselves, and make money. Going into the business with the resignation you'll never be rich is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Maybe a left-handed answer to the question is what does it take to be successful? Doing everything right is only part of the equation. We've learned this year that depending upon framing income alone isn't sufficient. Since we started this ride a year-and-a-half ago, we've grown a simple frame shop that sold a little original art into:

*A thriving frame shop with above-average ticket;
*The answer to the question "Can you do....?"
*A community-involved company
*A frameshop/gallery that hosts artist workshops
*A partner to a small number of successful designers

You can't stand still - you've GOT to be different and be open to new trends and services; be willing to embrace and welcome change; keep trying and looking and fighting to be known as THE source for what we do. It's ongoing, every day. We've tried to be the high end gallery - the middle ground frame shop - and the old established gallery we originally bought. We're only now starting to come into our own. McDonald's sells salads - they used to sell only burgers and fries. Eckerds sells photofinishing - they used to be just a pharmacy. You can't sit still, but be proactive and ALWAYS be looking for something new and better.


SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Kathy, FGII, if y'all want any ideas about being a "bare bones" operation - just ask me! I am in an old, nice neighborhood in a depressed dying city with greedy men in charge who line their pockets while the city wilts. Still I go on. Why?

What choice do I have? What else can I do to earn a living? Nothing! So I go on, trying to maintain a cheerful outlook. I have had the WORST summer ever!!! Days and days with no traffic. Work orders sitting here, un-picked-up after dozens of calls (and these are good, repeat customers).

I have used the time to readjust the focus of the business (am trying to appeal to the big-spending pet owners with pet art) and honing the website. Bills have piled up, but I still survive and I will do what it takes to keep going. My financial goals are not huge - I would just like to be OUT OF DEBT once and for all (DEBT is a long family tradition, invented by my mother and shouldered by my dad) - and to be able to buy a nice Hybrid car some day and shop at Amvets or Salvation Army or Goodwill any time I want and buy anything I see!

A word (or two, LOL!) about the SBA. I sure hope they have advanced their mentoring program from 1982. When I first opened my shop, I set up a meeting with a lovely elderly retired "businessman." I had all my facts and figures to show him.

He "harrumphed" over my little columns of figures and then looked up. "You haven't included a figure for YOUR salary!" he exclaimed.

"I just put down all the incoming and outgoing money - there is nothing leftover for salary - where is that supposed to come from?" I asked.

"Simple," was his reply, "Sell more stuff."

I have never thought about "taking a salary." The shop takes what IT needs and I take what (if anything) is left over.

I realize my approach to business makes SOME of you keel over, but money is NOT my final or primary goal in life. I will work in my shop til I die - it is my life. It is a daily renewall of my soul and my energy and my art.

I have a car that drives. I have a house that doesn't leak. I have four wonderful kitties, terrific friends, wonderful family and I am happy with my life. What else is there?

Sure, I could be open 7 days a week plus 2 evenings - what kind of a life is that? A long time ago a PITA customer (she was an "art dealer") wanted me to be open EVERY DAY at 8AM JUST IN CASE her Highness decided she needed my services. I told her that I would be GLAD to meet her at 8AM any day she made an appointment, but NO, that was not good enough for her!

This is slightly off topic, but remember Seinfeld's "Soup Nazi"? The merchant who insulted all his customers and they waited in line for the experience? That was based on a real guy who had a kitchen and chef supply store - he was the Kitchen Nazi and he made piles of money!

I figure that (to a certain extent) being "quirky" can only add to a business. And I am an artist, so people EXPECT me to look like an artist! (I got that out of the Dress for Success book from the 80's). My customers know enough not to be on my doorstep at 8 AM.

All of the businesses in my area have virtually the same hours as I do. I am open 32 hours a week. And I have enough to eat and feed my cats. What else do I possibly need???

Am I proud of being poor??? You're darned tootin' I'm proud. Because I am HAPPY!!! If I am in debt when I die - who cares? I leave no one behind to pay! LOL!

I am also extremely pleased to report that the dry spell has ended (at least for now) the customers are pouring in and the bills are being paid. Soon I will have enough $ to buy the postage I need to mail out the website announcements and then I will "alert the media."


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Retailers know the following information:

Who they want to be
Who they want to compete against
How they are going to compete
What competitors they can not compete against
What the competition is good and bad at
Who their customer is
What their customer wants
How often their inventory turns
What their breakeven point is
How much over their breakeven point they are
How many customers they had last month
How many the same month last year
What the average sale was
What the optimal location is
How to get a customer in the door
How to keep the customer coming back
How to build brand awareness

Many many more.

In a previous thread, someone said that POS software was too expensive. Many told that person that it was well worth the money. I would venture that over 90% here would say that TV advertising is too expensive. I will tell you that if done right, you will be able to pay for your POS and CMC after using TV advertising.

I know what % of my DMA, with a pop of 771K between 25-54 are familar with my store. I also know what % of the pop have had a picture framed in the past 2 years. I also know that 81% of the people in my DMA that have had something framed have spent less than $200.

I also know that many here have no idea as to what all of that means or how I could have found that information.

This is the difference between being a retailer and not being one. This is the differece between the framers and the "demigods" who break through the ceiling in this and any other retailing business.

Knowledge is power, you need to have knowledge and know how to use it. In the framing business, what is going to get more people in the door:

Knowing how to conservation mount a limited edition.

Knowing who your potential customer is and how to reach them with a message that will stick in their minds

If you picked the first one then you are in a world of hurt. We are in a business that studies have shown only 15% of people have ever used our services, what are you doing to get that other 85% in your store?

How do you keep your name in front of your current and potential customers? I will be on TV every day between October 1 and December 22. Sure many of you will say that there is no way that you can afford that but, I couldn't either
5 years ago. Be consistant with your advertising, work your way up to more repitition, know the demographics of who you need to advertise to and use that to pick your medium. Remember that cheap advertising does not get you spectacular results. We preach that cheap framing will not last yet, we go for the cheapest advertising if any at all.

Tony and Kassandra just mentioned this but I will repeat, become involved in your community, and let the community know it. I am involved in a project as a major sponsor called Shoes that Fit. People donate shoes and clothing to specific school children and have to come into my store to drop them off. Find out if you can become involoved with this organization at www.shoesthatfit.org.

There is nothing that says that you have to become a retailer to be successfull. As far as I am concerned if you are paying the bills and make the amount of money that you are happy with then you are doing pretty good.

But the question was how do you make a good living in this business. Some do and many could if they decided to.


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
One more thing,

retailers are open for business when it is convienient for the customer. Sure I don't want to be open on Sundays or every night but my customers want and expect me to be open.

Remember the customers are the ones that pay the bills for your business. If you do not let them shop with you then they will shop with someone who will.


PFG, Picture Framing God
I've often wondered how many framers decided, before they graduated from high school, that framing was what they wanted to do. There are so many varied backgrounds among our family. How many made more money at their old job before venturing into framing?

Poor, as has been stated, is a state of mind. If you looked up poor in the dictionary, you'd see my picture. But, aside from problems with elderly relatives, (which I embrace gladly, because the properly raised child will eventually become the parent), I'm happy as a pig in mud.

Someone once told me, in all seriousnes that, "With me, money comes before ANYTHING!" I revert to my old saw, "How much money do you NEED?" If you have enough to live comfortably, why would you risk all/some/part of it to make another $5.00? But so many people DO. And, IMHO, while you have the dictionary out, look up greed.

There's a local contractor here who is reputed to be worth 18~20 million. And he probably is. But he is continuously buying more property to develop. Informed sources say he's going to movve into the Florida contractural business.

If I had his money, I'd get Bob to pick all of us an island in the Pacific, and give it all away...saving enough to ensure I was able to live comfortably the rest of my life.

I posted a picture of my sumptious 1986 single-wide trailer, and my lovely '86 truck. But ya know what...I've got my dog, my family and my friends, some of which I've had all my life. It don't get no better than that, for me.


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Framer's don't have to be poor, but the choices made at the very beginning, the location they choose, whether or not they have outside support, or whether they planned on not taking a salary for a couple of years, can affect their business forever. I had a husband who supported us while I started my venture. I had the luxury of making my mistakes and learning what I had to learn, and not worrying about, well, anything. If I didn't have him, I know now I should have had enough money set aside to support myself for at least two years. This is not the kind of business one goes into without some kind of "slush fund" or backup support.

One important way of growing your business has a "catch 22" attatched to it. You have to invest money back into your business. But, if you are not making money, you can't put money back in. However, if you are making any money at all, the best thing you can do for your business is to invest back into it. Equipment, advertising, education, and attending trades shows are investments in your businesses growth. All the years I was in business, I never stopped learning, attending trade shows, and buying the equipment I needed. I'm not insulting all framers, but many have what I call a "framer's mentality". I have used this term often with my sales reps, and they agree with me. Many framer's are happy with their "status quo". If they are making enough money to get by, that is just fine by them. Some are just happy doing what they are doing, being their own boss, and framing their lives away. They wait for sales reps to see them, never attend shows, and never learn, or buy, anything new. Their shop looks the same in 2004 as it did in 1984. How boring for them, and their customers.


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
After read some of the latest responses on this thread my confidence has dropped a bit, now there is a big break through this must be the first time I have ever admitted that my thinking/plan for business may not be as fool proof as I would like it to be…..but I’m not rolling over….there is still to much ambition in me…..I’m opting for a niche sector of the market in Ireland…..that’s if the niche exists, all my research (that is in as much as I know how to do research in my market) would indicate there is a market…..the market does not exist at present as nobody is doing Maximum Preservation Picture Framing in Ireland (bar the few jobs I have done recently)……..Oh,,,,boy….I have got it wrong in the past…..but the indicators are very good for my present plans…..time will tell….has anyone got a crystal ball….or how do you research a totally new service in the market place……

I think I will be picking a few brains in Atlanta….

Jay H

PFG, Picture Framing God
Dermot, this is quite a depressing thread on its surface. However I think for many it has light a fire. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say this: If this shop doesn’t work out and I have to close it, the odds of me ever opening another business are slim. The odds that I will open another framing business are slimmer. This thread has convinced me that I only have one shot at this. I will not allow things to happen to me. I will happen to things. I have an appointment today to meet with a local mall manager. World get out of my way before you get run over!

At its current location the store has pretty much paid its own bills. I have about 6 customers a week! What would my bank statement look like if I had 20, 30 or 80 more a week for 3 or 4 hundred more dollars a month in rent? One day, one day!

Barb Pelton

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
DTWDSM, that was a good post.

I just want to interject that the pursuit of profit is not anything to be embarrassed about. I don't "need" much either, but I enjoy the challenge of making money, and I have the added benefit of being able to help other people in need or treat my friends when I want to.

ArkansasJen said she'd frame for free just to be able to make people happy. (Or something along that line). I admire that. However, it stands to reason that to take it up a notch and begin thinking of profitability would allow you to touch the lives of more people in ways that free framing could never do.

(And don't think I lecturing anyone: I have room to grow also. It isn't easy by any means, but it can be done and the strategy can be fun, actually.)

Warren Tucker

MGF, Master Grumble Framer
I think the main reason many frame shops don't make a lot of money is lack of capital from the start. It's really hard to escape that trap and I think a lot of the shops I've seen haven't been able to. Also there is a lot of competition in framing. The cost of entry is very low. Competition always pulls down prices and profit margins. When we realized that competition and thus competitive pricing was always going to be with us we decided to compete in that market which meant aggressive pricing. And while I think location is important; I don't think it's terribly important; it's necessary to have a good location (well known and easy to get to with parking close to your shop) but great location isn't necessary.

Too, I don't think the problem has much to do with framers being poor businessmen. No matter how good you are at business, overcoming poor capitalization is going to be very difficult. I'll admit I know next to nothing about business (my undergraduate and graduate degrees are in English Literature; I had 9 years teaching experience at UNC-W when I started my business, but no business experience).

Also I don't see how small 1 and 2 men shops are going to generate enough revenue to produce a high income. It simply takes a lot of people to turn out a lot of product for a lot of money. We do about 30 frames a day and two people or even three aren't going to be able to do that. There are times in our stores when four customers are being helped at one time. What happens in a 2 one-man shop when four customers need help or in a one-man shop?

There will be a few small one and two man shops that make big money but they will be the exception. There is more to life than making a lot of money, and one-man shops have their attractions. I'd hardly describe a man in his shop, his own boss, making any kind of a living as being "poor."

It may be that in order to make a lot of money from a micro business (and none of us are small businesses) there has to be a certain level of capitalization and that would include intellectual capital as in the cases of doctors and lawyers. Our shops generate a lot of revenue but we've invested a huge amount of capital in them. There are few businesses with $30 to 40,000 in total capital that are going to produce high incomes.

Finally, and I hesitate to include this point, I feel that aggressive pricing is important which means doing everything possible to offer low prices (and, of course, that takes capital). It's hard to get customers coming in the doors if you're just another expensive frame shop. If I were younger and more aggressive I might pursue a fixed price frame shop: say $39.00 for anything 16 x 20 or smaller and go in increments to 32 x 40 for $175. It could be done, but not by me. To offer aggressive pricing, you've got to carry stock (and thereby capture the middle man revenue) and have excellent automated equipment.

We got a unique view of the industry when we started because the Frame Works was a frame it yourself shop. We saw immediately what the advantages of stocking molding were. We had to have trained employees and we had to do a lot of business. We also saw at first hand how willing affluent customers were willing to shop for values. We also learned that with automated equipment we could actually do all the work for what we charged for FIY, actually it was less expensive. We were able to offer fast, excellent custom framing for the price of FIY. Believe me, there are plenty of people why want this service, even in a small town like Wilmington.

Capital, good location, well-trained staff, value pricing are the keys I think to success. How many shops have them?

Bob Carter

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
I posted this topic in hopes of people sharing ideas and ways to become profitable.

Instead, we get the same old, same old.

Folks, that just won't feed the bulldog.

I talk to framers all the time looking for a silver bullet answer. Without exception, they all want to make as much money as possible. If able, they would like to make Bill Gates money. There is nothing wrong with that and is certainly nothing to be ashamed of.

Tom's post hit me in the gut harder than imagineable. Most of us read Tom, and several of us have had the pleasure to have met him. No one would ever question his framing expertise. Like Kathy, he is a guardian of the craft.

Unfortunately, that simply isn't enough anymore.

Do we have to be poor?

Of course not.

Do we have to understand that it takes more, so much more, to not be poor?

Of course we do.

In Atlanta, two of the smartest guys in this trade, Jay Goltz and Marc Bluestone will be giving business courses. Not quite on the same level, I will have a course.

Any of these courses can offer another way of doing things. And, while we all differ slightly (as it should be)we all have some common themes-That is to become more business-minded if any part of your goal is to become profitable.

I can't speak for them, but I suspect that if confronted with someone that suggests they aren't in it to make any money, our universal response might be "That's nice" and move on.

Because it isn't worth the effort to try and overcome that mentality.

And, I really don't know why that justification ever finds it's way into normal discussions.

But, you cannot make that argument that that is why you decided to take the risk and open your own business. If there was ever an ex post facto argument, that is it in spades.

If we truly want to offer some good to the world and to our industry, then we need to develop meaningful and practical responses to our good friends, Kathy and Tom.

And that really means refraining from posting about 90% of the business advice we see consistently proffered.

False hope is not a business startegy

You Go Girl is not a marketing plan

I'm not in it to make any money is a fool's errand

There are things more important than making any money must have been thought up by a bankruptcy attorney (right before he collected his fee)

Let's agree that it isn't the sole goal, but let's also agree that it is very necessary component to survival.

For those that want to give framing away for free? Admire them? Hardly

I'll admire the person that teaches for free or provides medical help for free or provides the opportunity for free for someone to become more productive.

B. Newman

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Years ago (when I used to read such drivel) there was a regular column in a popular woman's magazine called "Can this marriage be saved?" A man and a woman would tell their sides of the story, and a counselor would respond with what they needed to do to "save the marriage." (I don't ever remember one saying, "nope, just get a divorce" but anyway...)

Perhaps we should ask, "can this business be saved?" Does there come a time when there are no more answers? Is there a time when it is beyond hope? As I remember, William Parker addressed this subject a year or so ago by saying that sometimes, closing is the smartest thing to do.

Bob, if you're looking for the sharing of ideas, what's your's at this point? Of course one would only have to do a search for posts of yours over the years to find bunches of ideas you've shared before. But many times, we suffer from the "yeah, but" syndrome. "Yeah but, that won't work for me..." To which I say, "yeah but, maybe it will, too. Try it. Whatcha got to lose?"

As for making money, I know that the more I make, the more I can give away. I don't do anything for free that I can make a profit at, so that I don't have to take money for anything that I want (and feel led) to give away.

So Bob. "Can this (these) business(es) be saved?"



PFG, Picture Framing God
Man, this has turned into one devastating thread, for me anyway. I want to comment on several things, but not right now...........too much to take in.

Tom, would you send up some sort of smoke signal please? Thank you!

Jim Miller

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
I have mixed feelngs about all of this, because I can relate to nearly all of the opinions expressed.

Why are so many framers poor? Bob's right, we don't have to be.

Some of us aren't exactly poor -- but close -- because we choose to limit our responsibilities and, thus, our income. Perhaps we have other interests. We know how to earn what we want to earn, and we enjoy doing it our own way. If we wanted to earn more, we could do it. We've found our comfort zone.

Some of us are poor because we don't know how to get past that stage of business development where we manage to pay the bills & not much else. Constant struggle eventually diminishes the shine of business ownership. Drudgery sets in, and it's downhill from there.

A few of us are exceptional achievers who would succeed in any kind of business. I know Carter, Bluestone, Goltz, and Markoff well enough to realize that they all are in that category. The money's a great reward, but that's not the motivator. The swirl of activity; the perfecting of the formula; the plan/execute/succeed/savor the moment cycles are addictive to them. It's kinda like the race car driver who just KNOWS there's another 5 miles per hour somewhere under that hood. The excitement just keeps on going one way or another.

All of us who are in the grand scheme of business ownership create the kind of work environment in which we want to exist. And because it is of our own creation, we tend to nurture it, love it, and defend it -- regardless of how it compares to anyone else's business creation, even if we're not pleased with our own creation.


Angry Badger
OK Bob, I'll throw out some thoughts that I picked up from an interview on NPR a couple of weeks ago. It may not be new or original, but I never even thought about it until the person being interviewed spoke.

What people want when they shop for something is not the same as it was in the past, even the recent past. Because of the increase in stimulus from all the media, and the increased pace of life in general, the basic shopper is looking for more than a simple transaction...they are looking to be entertained. The entertainment can be totally external, like a Broadway show style where the shopper merely sits and watches, or it can be interactive to any degree, but the important point is that the entire process have dynamics that keep the short attention span crowd entertained.
The interviewee (a real word?) cited the increase in training for restaurant personnel to become more interactive with the clientèle, and the obvious success of the major theme parks to keep the level of entertainment up throughout the entirety of the visit as examples of this push toward making the shopping experience more entertaining. On a personal level, I see it at some of the chain restaurants, Moe's in particular, where there is a constant din of marketing information (IE. hearing "WELCOME TO MOE'S" out of every employees mouth every time the front door opens).
It's a new addition to all the things that a successful retailer has to do to attract and keep clients requiring new skills and personnel.

But...as you have pointed out in the past, and I know is your passion when it comes to retail, without a location that drives enough warm bodies past your door, the best pitch in the world will go unheard.


CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2
I find Bob Carter's question particularly pertinent at this time. Although it is difficult,if not nigh on impossible, at this distance to fully understand the general economic situation in the US say' since 9 /11, but all of us grumblers have our own micro financial climate wherever we are in the framing world.
May I briefly recount how my wife Gloria and I came to be where we are today?
We came from the south of England to live in the Scottish Borders to be closer to our only daughter. We left behind a steady and very esthetically rewarding mountmaking business at the very top end of the London picture dealer market. Our earnings were suffient to pay our way but not enough to pay for a pension.
Our reputation was hard earned and enjoyed,but when you deal with the top end of the market the financial rewards are not often commensurate with the picture prices. You are, after all, considered to be just another tradesman.
Our home and shop are in a small country town,pop.14,500 and declining. It happens to be the home of the cashmere knitting industry.
We opened our shop and started from scratch in January 2000.
At the end of our first year the main route into town (which passed our door) was diverted via a new bridge,past the rear of our shop. The next year brought the foot and mouth epidemic which dramatically reduced the vehicle movements around our countryside. The next year, the towns main street was dug up for replacements to the main sewer network. The following year the main street was again dug up in the name of steetscape landscaping to make the road more pedestrian friendly AND replacement of domestic water supply pipes!
Despite all the interuptions to the establishment of our little shop and the promotion of thegoods and services that we were offering, we seem to have come out the other side,if not exactly smelling of roses then at least with a steady increase in clients and turnover.
From the off we determined to say yes to every request however small,however how problematical, and above all we did not let our previous high class work put us above doing even the smallest jobs. Above all else, we were welcolming ,friendly, and helpful in every way possible. We were, after all English,in Scotland!
Where possible,we kept our shop door open and the shop and workshop are as one. That way everyone can see that all the work is done on the premises and if it is not always the tidiest place,well there is work going on there!
So far,so good. We are making wages for ourselves,and hopefully,when I can come to terms with the shop-keeping side of things,stock contol and storage,finance etc etc maybe this year we might actually turn a small profit. We will not take on staff again as I did in London as the cost of training and supervising staff would mean taking on the UK sales tax system and in any case I doubt that I could double our turnover which would be necessary to pay for the assistant.
We intend instead to maximise our order values by introducung a more comprehensive and more accurate price list for our services without,we hope,loosing our low end customers.
Better material storage and control is the current bee in my bonnet and I am trying hard to convince Gloria that this is essential right now.I may have succeed by insisting that she takes control of the finances! By the way' I do think that the ladies are so much better at looking after the pennies don't you?
Are we poor? I don't think so. We work for ourselves and in the process make our customers,their pictures and ourselves happy.

B. Newman

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Originally posted by wpfay:

But...as you have pointed out in the past, and I know is your passion when it comes to retail, without a location that drives enough warm bodies past your door, the best pitch in the world will go unheard.
In 99.9% of the cases this is true. But for the other .1% of the businesses, who can and do stay "in their customer's faces" the pitch will still get heard.

In the agricultural world, we often hear of "agri-tainment" as a way to keep the family farm alive. And there have been more and more articles in the business magazines on how small businesses have to do this very thing as well. I just thought you all were tired of hearing about what I've been reading lately...


Bob Shirk MCPF

CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2
I have lots of thoughts on this subject.

I agree with Bob Carter that location is extremely important. First you must choose the right town or neibhorhood. We need to look at demographics. How many people at a given income level does it take to support this business. Second you need to consider the location within that town. Good visability and accessabilty are important to consider.

I agree with Warren that you have to be big enough to reach a certain economy of scale.

I think you need to measure your business. By that I mean if you stock some moulding do you have enough turns to justify stocking the molding, what about art, posters, photo frames? If you are not getting the turns and profit you need do you look at other successful retailers to determine what they are doing differently.

Ask for help if you need it.

Pick one thing that you think you can improve or change and start doing it today. Give it three weeks, it will become a habit. Then pick something else and do it again. It is much easier to do it one step at a time.


Angry Badger
So Betty,
You going to open up a "D u d e Farm"?

As you point out there are always exceptions to the rules, but with the kind of question put forth, we are really asking the 99.9%.
So you may well ask why I chose to answer...

Bob Carter

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Guys-This might be the best thread ever; not only in content but flat out truthfulness and raw emotion.

I think Betty has a valid point of the 1%ers. They can do it and do it well. I often think of our friend, John Baker. He has seen both sides and landed squarely exactly where he wants to be. In the emotional sense, he might easily be the richest among us.He has defined his needs and made his business fit his needs. And good for him.

Yet, could we duplicate his success? Probably no more than we could Jay's or mine.

So, that puts us squarely in the middle of that old, reliable bell curve where almost all the rest operate.

Betty aks what is my suggestion? I listed the biggest shortcomings I see and if a person could improve any or all of those three issues, I am certain they would see profound benefit.


Nothing creates business opportunity easier than a better location. We hear all the time of all the guerilla-type activities used to overcome a sub-par location. But, imagine what additional benefit would come from the exact same effort, but applied to a "better" location? The networking, the business card pasing, the newsletters-all the things talked about-How much more effective would they become if the location was better?

Now, I don't mean malls.Locations do have a sliding scale. I don't know the Denver area, but I am quite certain that Kathy would flourish in a location that would allow her to flourish. Clearly, her location is a big negative factor. It wasn't much for the prior owner and it hasn't changed much with all of Kathy's best efforts.

No matter where you are, I am certain there are better locations available.

The problem? We try and save money on rent. That's like saving money on help


Who does budgets? Who has a Business Plan? Who does 5yr plans, 2yr plans, any plans?

Would you hop in your car and just start driving for a vacation? Okay, some bright eyes will say they do and swear it's the only way to travel. But, back on planet earth most of us need some type of plan


Everybody needs someone to tell them they are crazy as a loon. Everybody needs someone to share experiences and bounce ideas off. I would suggest that the person be outside this trade-untainted by failed prejudices and outmoded thinking. Somebody mentioned using a SCORE rep and he quizzed them on their plan about where the Salary was. I got the impression that they thought the SCORE guy was out of touch for small business. I think he was right on the button.

The important thing about a mentor is you have to believe the pure unvarnished truth no matter how bitter the pill. At least, develop the skill through analysis to prove the mentor incorrect. Notice I didn't say wrong; mentor's are never wrong, they just sometimes may not be correct. But you have accept that they know more than you.

If I could work on one first, it would be on location. Most do not have the luxury to do that. Then, in that case, do the mentor next.

That person can help you do the other two effectively.

My mentors are wiser than I ever hope to be. One actually is my partner, a CPA. He can tell me in a heartbeat if I am so full of it (if I had a dollar for everytime he said that...) and the other is an old boss that starts every conversation, when he disagrees with a very stern, "Now, Robert..."From that point on I am taking notes as fast as I can.

I do have many other "advisors" that I speak to constantly. They ask for advice as often as the give it. They believe, as I do, that we all continue to learn

So, my advice, Betty....

Do I think every marriage can be saved? No, not really. Is virtually everyone worth the effort? Absolutely.

[ 09-02-2004, 05:59 PM: Message edited by: Bob Carter ]


PFG, Picture Framing God
Well, I am not sure what Kathy means by a "smoke signal" but I want to reiterate what some of you have said about keeping a business afloat. First, if you don't have enough cash to make it through at least the first 2 years of startup, you should stay away until you DO have that cushion to depend on. I had that cushion for most of my years in framing but my big mistake was trying to hang on in an area that was destined to become an economic wasteland after the millenium. I knew this, saw it on the horizon, but I foolishly tried to settle on moving to what I thought was a better location and trying to stay afloat on a sea of dying businesses. The county that I moved out of was declared the poorest county in the entire state last year just shortly after I moved to Florida. Should I have waited so long? Most likely not. Could I have made a go of it down here if I had made that move 5 years ago to Florida instead of elsewhere in Ill.? Probably, because I would have had the benefit of about $60,000 of liquid assets that I don't have now.

As Bob said, there is no silver bullet or any secret potion that will magically make you a successful business person. You have to have a good location. You have to have a minimum of good professional equipment to handle a single frame job or 20 frame jobs. Some of the equipment that is talked about on the Grumble is just a step above a hobby quality and is unsuitable for quality high production framing on a consistant basis. You need enough seed money to support yourself and your business for a minimum of 2 years. And this might sound far fetched but, that seed money should support you for 2 years of theoretically NO framing profits!! In other words, you should be able to make zero profit and still be able to support yourself on what you have in reserve. That shouldn't be the case in most instances but you should be prepared for the very worst scenario rather than the pie-in-the-sky instantly successful business that we would all dream of having. And those are just for starters. there are many other aspects of running a business that have already been discussed in other threads time and time again.

Believe me, I have not sat on my duff wishing for business to come to me this last year. I have beat the bricks handing out business cards, introducing myself to everyone who I could either get cornered or been able to keep up with on the sidewalk, and been active in every community group that I felt could bring me more business. I have spent thousands on advertising and, when I saw that a particular type of advertising wasn't working, I became a royal pain in the toukas until they moved that advertising to a place where it DID work for me. I had to do this with my TV ads twice. I have made my appearance in the community with donations to special events and school projects. I have donated framing to Chamber events which carried special notations in their advertising for the frameshop.

My location has traffic backed up as far as the eye can see for most of the day during the summer months. I get about 40%+ of my new customers from people sitting in front of my shop waiting for the light to change or passing by the shop on their way to the beaches or work.

I could go on telling all the "right" things that I have done according to the standards set by others on the Grumble but the bottom line is I am still not drawing people through the portals of my frameshop. And that is the Kryptonite bullet that is whizzing in my direction right now. It doesn't matter how good I may be as a framer or a businessman, it doesn't make a difference if my location is visible or highly visible, whether my windows have lights and displays or not, if I can't get a quantity of people through the front door each day, by one means or another, I can't prosper in my business. I could blame it on so many things that you all would agree with but I still have to rationalize the fact that there are insufficient people coming through the door to whom I can sell my framing.

My biggest problem is lack of funding to continue until some of these loose ends come together. I have always been able to weather the storm of recession, local slowdowns, and other setbacks but now that isn't possible.

Give away MY framing?? NO WAY!! I want to make money framing!! I would like to have people kicking down my doors 7 days a week for awhile just to brag about it on this forum (and know that it is REALLY happening!!).

One good thing about this thread, it is providing food for thought for those who are just getting into this framing thing and, if you are wise, you will follow some of the advice that is given here. This is stuff that you don't HAVE to find out after the fact!! Read about it here and listen to what others are talking about. You will benefit from what others have already been through and you can minimize the mistakes that you are assuredly going to make in your own business by listening to what is being discussed on threads such as this one.


Warren Tucker

MGF, Master Grumble Framer
I'm amazed that my post is the only one out of some 44 that mentions aggressive pricing and that maybe some shops don't get as much traffic as they'd like because they're too expensive. Does anyone here worry about being too expensive? Well they should. I worry about it every day. Framerguy refuses to "give away his framing" which I take to mean he doesn't want to lower his prices. His location is good, he networks (something I've never done and while I'm at it I might mention that I participate in no community activities), he has great skills and a good personality, he genuinely wants to please his customers. Well, what's wrong?

There is an iron law of economics that says if you want to make a commodity abundant, price it higher than it's worth; if you want it to be scarce, price it lower than it's worth. There can be no doubt that people shop for value and, generally, businesses that offer value (and I mean low prices) thrive; they don't have to worry about people coming through their doors. Lower prices will attract customers; higher prices will repel them. Anyone who knows me knows I'm not giving away the farm working to offer low prices. There are 9 people who make a very good living here and they're doing it because we're selling framing, not giving it away.

Has it occurred to anybody that stocking molding that doesn't turn every certain amount of days might just be a good idea if its cost is significantly lower than not stocking it? That that molding you have in the back just might be considered a *customer service* that customers value. I know that's true in my case. We get a lot of movie business because of that molding, so much, in fact that I worry that we may become too dependent on one source of revenue. When "Dawnson's Creek" wound up, our revenue from the Frame Outlet dropped 15%. It's back up now that "One Tree Hill" is in production. Would anyone like to guess why when one production company moves out of town and another completely different moves in, we still get the business? Unless you buy really ugly stuff, molding isn't going to go out of style. We've had maybe 100 patterns in the last 27 years that have gotten stale but we converted them into ready-mades and moved them out, more than recovering our investment. One more thing, talking about how stock "turns" may be particularly valuable when the subject if finished goods but isn't as valuable when you're talking about material to be used in fabrication. I can't think of any reason not to stock what you sell unless there's simply no way to do it. There is a current thread about the amount of customer inconvenience caused by Chop Services' out of stocks. Well, that's customer disservice. And customers are aware of it. Stocking what you sell is a customer service especially when you consider you're a fabricator.

There's not a doubt in my mind that I could make a lot more money with my business if I ran it in a more business like manner. But I'm definitely not a businessman or a retailer and at my age don't particularly want to become one. Remember my background before I went into framing: a liberal arts teacher in the state university system for 9 years, not an environment from which you'd expect to find "go getters", And while I have no pretensions to being a good businessman, I'm not stupid, either. I simply can't bring myself to accepting the notion that by selling a product for $20 that I know I can sell for $7 and still make money is anything like a solid business plan. Hello, this is a product that can be sold profitably for $7; what would drive someone to pay $20 for it and what's his reaction after he pays $20 for it and realizes he could have gotten it for $7? And what is he going to say to his friends? That actually happens around here. I imagine that the experience may be fairly universal.

All that said, I have a friend in Charleston who doesn’t stock a lot of molding (he stocks some) and depends on chop services and he makes a lot of money, but, then, he’s a businessman. Go figure. He does have a great location in a very affluent area with some 20 years in business. Since I’m not a businessman and am not surrounded with a lot of affluence, I had to think of another way. It’s also evident to me that I could probably make a better use of my capital if it weren’t tied up in molding in the back, but this is a plan that I know works and I know molding so it may be the best place for my capital.



CGF, Certified Grumble Framer
Yes, this is the old Cody from years ago.
Some will remember me, most will not.
But I've had my frame shop for 16 years.
We hit the ground running, won Decor awards,
attended trade shows, cmc, etc.
Tried to do all the right things.
Just ditto Framerguy's story.
I closed the shop on July 31st for good.
Reason, lack of interest from customers, no
profits. Last two years have been rough.
I've read the Grumble everyday, wanted to
say HELP, but it was always there.
I've read of Kathy's problems over the
years. That lady has guts.
I've read about the bb's, competition,
but in my case a store housing 50 shops
in my shopping center decided to allow
8 shops that feature cheap framed art.
And, if you want a different mat/frame they
can mysteriously change it, yet they don't do
custom framing. I have two years left on
my lease, but hopefully the rider we put in
will save my **** as I have no more funds
to donate to the leasing company.
As Kenny says - "know when to fold them."
I've made good money over the years. And I
can't blame any one thing for my demise.
But, there has never been a day in 16 years that
I dreaded going to work. What more can you ask
I have no regrets and know that those that
are struggling now will find something new
around the bend. There is no magic bullet
unless it's hard work.
I'm getting close to retirement anyway,
but for the younger ones, keep on going.
Framing is an honorable profession. There is
money to be made.



PFG, Picture Framing God
Perhaps I posted on the wrong thread.

What I meant to get across was my opinion that you don't have to make a billion dollars to live. And the making of large profits seems to be paramount with most framers. And that's ok.

I, however, am totally content, and probably worry less than most about making a gazillion dolars, because as long as I have a place to keep me warm, cool and dry, a car to drive, I'm content. But that's just me...

If you're losing money framing, get another job. Be a dental assistant, a medical transcriptionist, a mechanic, go to work for one of the big boxes.

Sorry, but I've never required large sums of income to be happy. Guess I'm insane because of that. I want the last check I write on my deathbed to bounce!

Jerry Ervin

PFG, Picture Framing God
I'm glad that Warren brought up the price thing and not me. A couple of years back, every time I would bring the price thing up I got shot down. It does have a very real impact on your repeat business. I win over new customers every day by offering lower price points. Not that all we do is 'cheap' framing. We sell the good stuff too. You simply have to work both ends of the spectrum to survive. If you buy into the "I only do conservation framing" theory, you cut out a large section of the framing market.

I can't believe what is happening to Framerguy. It hurts to see someone try so hard and things not work. I am witnessing a parallel event happening to a Friend of mine that owns a restaurant.

I know deep in my heart that Cody would still be going strong if she would have moved from the declining area her shop was in. I know moving a store can be difficult, expensive, scary, and an emotional challenge. It is like rolling the dice. Sometimes you shoot craps. My new location has been open for 7 weeks. I had the best August I have ever had.

I hope that things work out for those in need of increased business. You are all in my prayers.
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