Interview with a Maker - Matt Weber Capital Wood Working
We get a lot of customers looking for custom built wood pieces and we always send them over to Matt. His interview will give you a window into his business, the attention to detail and customer service he provides which is bar none!!
∙ What do you make/ what is your business all about?
Capital Woodworking is a custom woodworking, cabinetry and furniture company run by me, Matt Weber. As a small woodworking business, I enjoy taking on a variety of projects from a simple cutting board or woodwork repair, all the way up to large custom built-in cabinetry and heirloom furniture pieces. I pride myself in the quality of the products that leave my shop. If I wouldn’t put a finished piece in my home because of a small imperfection, I wouldn’t sell it to a customer. I also find that from a cost and quality standpoint, you’re going to get more for your money going with a custom locally built piece, especially when you get to specify the exact size, colors and features for your piece.
∙ How did you get started?
I began my woodworking journey at a very early age. The father of a good friend of mine who lived a few houses down the street growing up worked for a large commercial construction company. He would often get a hold of old or broken tools that were no longer up to par for this type of work. We began making all sorts of small projects out of whatever material we could find. As we grew older and began taking shop classes in school, my friend and I had a fantastic woodworking teacher in high school. He wasn’t your typical teacher. He was a woodworker and cabinetmaker with years of professional experience. My four years of instruction with him built a strong foundation in woodworking techniques. In my introductory class, everyone built a small cabinet to learn the basics of woodworking. I finished this project and built a matching blanket chest/coffee table before most other students were done with the small cabinet. Overachiever, or lover of all things woodworking? Maybe a little of both! My senior year of high school I decided to take on the task of teaching myself how to build acoustic guitars – something even my teacher was unsure about. My first guitar was a gift for my oldest brother for his wedding. It wasn’t perfect, but it plays, stays in tune, and hasn’t destroyed itself from the string tension in over a decade. In college, I continued my woodworking interest by taking art, design and woodworking classes. Over all of this time I continued to build small projects for family and friends as a hobby, but decided to make the business official about three years ago.
∙ What's your biggest SUCCESS this far?
My biggest success so far is building a customer base that knows me and the quality of the work I produce. This has led to a number of returning customers in the few years that I have been in business. One specific project that I will never forget was a china hutch I built for a customer. She is an interior designer for a large firm in Madison, so she really knows her stuff! A piece of furniture seems like a small possession that doesn’t really impact our lives very much. It may offer some convenience or look great in your home, but in the overall picture of our life it is just a thing. For her it was much more than that. I remember receiving a voicemail from her the day after I delivered the finished piece (she was at work when I delivered it, so she didn’t see it until later that night). Nearly in tears, she said how important this piece of furniture was to her and how much it exceeded her expectations. I had no idea when working on this project that it would mean so much to the customer and I was ecstatic that it exceeded her expectations.
∙ What's your biggest Failure?
My biggest failure so far was probably taking on a project that was too big for my shop. Literally, it was too big…it wouldn’t fit through the doors! I went back and forth trying to modify the design to make it work, but it just wasn’t going to fit. I even called in professional movers to try their hand at it. Luckily, I figured all of this out early on in the build, so it wasn’t a totally failure. I had to install a bigger door in order to get the piece out of the shop. Having this extra door did end up being a huge convenience in the future, and I developed a great relationship with that moving company and we continue to work with each other. I guess this failure kind of turned out to be a success in the end!
∙ What do you love the most about making/your business?
The thing I like most about making things is…well I love everything about it! From sitting at my computer designing a project and seeing it come to life in 3D on screen, to the final finishing process, every step of the way is enjoyable for me. If I had to pick one thing it would be a more abstract idea that all of the things I have made are somewhere out there in someone’s home or business being used and enjoyed by someone.
∙ What is your business Super Strength?
While invisibility and the ability to fly would be amazing superpowers for a person, they’re probably not the most helpful for a woodworking business! My business’s super strength, however, would have to be the level of customer service that I strive to provide for my customers. Personally, nothing bugs me more than paying good money for products or services only to receive poor customer service. I’m sure I’m not alone in this feeling. My customers are not just buying a product, they’re also investing in me and the local economy. For that, I am grateful. Small businesses also thrive on repeat customers. If a customer receives less than perfect customer service, they’re more likely to shop around the next time they are looking to hire someone in that field.
∙ What advice do you have to those makers/ entrepreneurs afraid to take the next step?
I’ve read two books by Jim Collins that helped me in building my business (Good to Great and Great by Choice). In one of these books, the author suggests a method for “testing the waters” of an idea he calls bullets and cannonballs. Cannonballs are big, heavy, destructive, require a large and heavy machine to fire, and multiple people to operate. In essence, a cannonball in business is a large investment that requires a lot of time and money, and if the cannonball misses the target, can severely damage a business. A bullet on the other hand, is a lot less expensive, easy to handle, and doesn’t require a lot of effort to shoot. The author suggests “shooting” many bullets (small ideas/investments) to see what works before investing in a cannonball idea. What I have taken away from this is to try many different, smaller ideas for your business before investing all of your time and resources in a cannonball that may miss its target and leave your business in a tough spot. This means you have to be flexible and willing to make changes to your products, services and marketing strategies as you see what works and what doesn’t. The hardest part of this process and what makes thriving businesses win, is knowing when an idea is a cannonball and when it is not.
∙ What is your spirit animal and why?
A beaver, of course! Have you seen the stuff those things can make out of wood?!