Cyber pal and frame builder Steve Garro asked a question the other day on the Velocipede Salon found here. He wanted to know how many full-time frame builders are in the US by State. Steve’s question had no ulterior motive, but I want to know, what’s a full-time frame builder and why should I even care? I know some guys want to flaunt they are “full-time” because they derive no income from something else. Maybe they think that’s a competitive advantage? I don’t really feel that. Some guys are rightfully proud of what they do outside of frame building, I am. How full-time is your profession if children are unaffordable or retirement plans go unfunded, not to mention health insurance. Why do we draw the line of credibility at how much time you spend at the bench? One of my pals has worked very hard at making frame building a profession, a professional endeavor. He wants us all to be seen the same as your doctor or lawyer. That’s how I view myself, not full or part time.
When you start to define professional ( Webster’s defines it as someone who is an expert) you get into the areas I think of as important. First, professionals usually have sought to learn a skill or area of expertise. A pro also continues to improve or add to those skills or knowledge. Many professions have you do it as a requirement. I know my doctor does an insane amount of professional reading, and I feel my health is better off for it. I’m always surprised when I hear an experienced, usually self-described veteran frame builder say something that is not right about materials or construction. That basic materials course I took in college as an engineering major is more information than many guys who do this for a living have prepared themselves with. We work with metal; knowing something about it should be constructive, no?
A professional also maintains certain business practices common within an industry. In frame building, liability insurance should be required, but unfortunately it’s not. How much credit for being full-time should I give you if you don’t have insurance? Don’t even ask me to call you a professional. Another pet peeve of mine is customer service. There are several levels to this. There is a minimum amount a client should expect. Setting reasonable expectations of delivery being the most important followed by providing good service and follow-up before, during and after the sale. There are a few guys who do it well; the others not so much. I can think of more ways in which a professional distinguishes themselves; but I’m a bit tired of typing so I’ll wind this down.
Added all up I think it’s laughable to even get too bent on full-time or part-time. Some guy working full-time in his garage with the same amount of startup capital as a kiva loan isn’t exactly defining the merits of one business model or type over another. Historically, there is no precedent for a label of full or part time. As has been mentioned, let the work speak for itself, not only the output, but the business’s sustainability. And getting back to cyber pal Steve Garro, all of us are part-time compared to his work ethic, which is the perfect amount of irony to sign off with. JG