In those parts of the country where boats get put away in the winter, the first hints of spring often bring a rush of business for marine fabricators that doesn’t slow down until the leaves start to fall. Once that work begins to back up during warm-weather months, it’s not unusual for fabricators to quote lead times of two to four months for most jobs.
Many fabricators have found that their repeat customers are willing to wait and often plan accordingly, if they can expect quality work at the end and a company that will stand behind its work. But if you’re not honest about how long a job is going to take, you’ll end up with unhappy customers, according to Mark Hood, owner of Hood Canvas LLC in Merrimac, Mass.
“It’s so important not to give people misleading lead times,” Hood says. “Honesty really wins out. If you tell someone ‘two or three weeks,’ and then stretch it out to two or three months, they will not be happy. As long as we do good work and are honest about our lead times, our customers will be OK with it.”
Keeping customers informed of progress is important as well, Hood explains. “If there is a long lead time, the worst thing you can do is wait until the customer calls you, anxious for an update,” he says. “You need to be preemptive and call them to keep them up to date.”
Hood has one other bit of advice. “Answer your phones at all times,” he advises. “It may seem obvious, but I know some shops get very busy and they feel they can’t answer the phone or return calls. No matter how busy you are, ignoring people or not calling them back will come back to bite you.”