Every year in the knife shop has a predictable seasonal pattern. Summer is always the slow time but things start to pick up as the weather cools down. More people need knives as hunting season comes in and slowly the pace builds to a crescendo as Thanksgiving and Christmas near. After a few slow weeks over the holiday things ramp back up for knife making classes for the rest of winter and early spring. As things warm again there is a bit of a bump for spring turkey season and new fishing opportunities but no time compares with the pace of November and December. This past year we made well over 200 knives in the four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The busy times are great to financially offset the slower season but the trick is not losing our minds in the hustle. All kinds of organizational challenges arise when things pick up. Take order fulfillment for example, in the normal flow of business there are never more than a few orders per day and usually I can just do shipping once or twice a week. But in the busy time the packaging, shipping and handling is a job all to itself. Now I know what all the infomercials were talking about with that "shipping and handling" stuff. Even things like shipping boxes, product packaging, bubble wrap, tape, postage labels start to really add up. It is important to make sure to consider the cost of not only the postage cost but shipping materials and the time it takes to get things in the mail.
When it's busy, we are constantly running out of everything! In knife making, we need a wide variety of materials and supplies and have dozens of suppliers. I found supply shortages to be one of the most frustrating things to keep up. Managing orders and customer expectations is always daunting as well. Besides our website and in person sales we had some wholesale orders that really stretched our capacity. Keeping all that information sorted was another big job. Ultimately all the dimensions of running the shop that are normally manageable increase in scale and difficulty.
All the added work and logistical challenges are not enough to take us down by themselves, it's the stress that threatens our sanity. I look back on this past fall and see that there were many times that I really enjoyed the hustle and looked at the task of doubling our output as an interesting puzzle. The main thing I aim to change in the future is the level of stress and anxiety. I believe that a better system of organization - both physically in the shop and on the information side will help with our composure. We all really enjoy what we do here and there's no reason the work environment should be stressful if we can help it. Now that we are through our busiest holiday rush ever, I'm looking forward to evaluating how all the systems in the shop worked or didn't work so well.