I was talking to a friend of mine earlier this week. He’s a carpenter and he’s been struggling with a challenge in his business. He’s actually a really talented carpenter. A true artist. He’s one of those guys who who is always trying to improve the way he builds things. He keeps up with the latest tools and materials and he’s always experimenting and trying to find ways to get projects done faster and better, without sacrificing quality. He’s pretty tech savvy, so he’s active on forums and has a great website that customers and other carpenters alike flock to.
His customers love him. He gets all of his business from direct referrals and the online stuff he does with his blog, Twitter and those woodworking forums. He has all the business he cares to handle. He’s bummed though.
It turns out that someone just came out with these new plastic composite studs called Plastuds, that are lighter than the metal ones that are currently used in most interior walls, and stronger than pressure treated wood studs. They’re more fire resistant and cheaper than anything on the market too. So he jumped right on these things. He started using Plastuds in projects and writing about them on his blog. A lot of other carpenters started experimenting with them too, and every carpenter that used them agreed that they were about to change the industry forever.
Since he was out there writing about these things and using them in real projects, he started getting interviewed by the big carpentry magazines. Big construction companies and developers started contacting him to find out more about Plastuds, and how they might use them in their own projects. He’s a smart businessman so he decided to hold a workshop, and charged $100 per person.
Then a weird thing happened. A fire-storm of criticism unlike anything he had experienced came down on him online. His fellow carpenters who showed him so much respect in the past were calling him a scammer. His critics cried, “How can anyone call themselves an expert on Plastuds? They just hit the market! And a limited market at that!” Other carpenters wrote all sorts of nasty things about him and his business. The criticism started to spill over to the product too.
People questioned whether Plastuds would catch on. What if the manufacturer didn’t make it? Builders could get really screwed. All of the criticism started taking it’s toll. A lot of builders, who were already nervous about trying any new building materials, got scared off from experimenting with Plastuds. Some of his customers too. He just didn’t understand these other carpenters’ reactions.
I didn’t know what to tell him. None of it made any sense to me. How can people who make a living using a common set of raw materials and processes so publicly attack one of their peers for shinning a light on a new alternative? In the end, wouldn’t my friend’s success end up helping them? Wouldn’t it be better for all the carpenters if there was a new building material available to create their own art? Wouldn’t it benefit all of them if one of their own was able to show the value of using these materials to the builders and developers that hire carpenters? It’s not like my friend can build and remodel all of the houses himself.
It seems that this inter-carpentary criticism is becoming more widespread too. You see carpenters calling other carpenters out for all sorts of things. And the criticism is getting more personal, vicious and just plain mean.
When did the world become so black and white, so right and wrong? When did we lose our ability to disagree without personally attacking the other person? When did our way become the only way and everything else become wrong?
There will always be those who like to do it old-school and those who like the cutting edge. For some, there will always only be wood, a hammer and nails. Other’s use Hilti guns, metal screws and C-channels. In the end, they can all be used to build a house quite well. As long as they comply with the building code, for any one carpenter to tell another his choice of materials or building technique is wrong, is ridiculous. For one to dictate another’s hourly rate, or what is charged for and what is given away for free, is absurd.
So often, when we want to do things in our business differently than our peers, to lead instead of follow, we will be met with fierce criticism. Please don’t ever let that deter you from your path. That really would be wrong.