You've thought about starting your own firewood business, but can't decide how to begin. First, get up and get busy. No one ever got anywhere just thinking. Take action. While you may be ready to get out and cut your wood, the business part may take a bit more effort, which is why I have compiled these tips to get you started with a secure foundation. All you have to do is follow these tips and make it happen.
Tip #1 Make a Name for Yourself and Get Your Business off the Ground
Thinking of a catchy, original name for your business may not seem like an important step, but having a name that not only defines your business but is also unique, catchy and easy to remember is one of the most important things you can do to get your business off to a running start.
1. Ask your friends or family to help. The old adage two heads are better than one is so true here, especially if creative thinking isn't your strong suit.
2. Grab pencils, pens and paper for everyone. Everyone needs them. Even doodling helps your brain shift gears into the creative thinking mode needed to discover your business name.
3. Write down every idea. Even if you don't think you will select the suggestion, write it down. Having all the possible names written down can help you come up with more business names and allows you to compare the suggestions, helping the good ones stand out. If you don't feel you have been able to come up with a great name, sleep on it and try again the next day. Just don't give up.
4. Narrow down your choices to a few options. Once you feel have plenty of ideas written down, start narrowing down your list. Listen to your friends and family, and really think about their input. Weigh the pros and cons of each name. If you can't narrow it down to two or three, narrow it down as far as you can. If you and your helpers are able to select THE name, then do step six. If not, do step five.
5. Write down each name from the narrowed list onto a strip of paper. Fold them up, drop them in a hat and draw. If the one you select just doesn't make you light up with the "That's it!" feeling, then discard and draw again. If none of the names strike you as the right one, then go back to brainstorming and repeat the steps until you come up with a name that does.
6. Google it. After you find your name, run a search to see if anyone in your area is using it. If not, then you have found your name. Congratulations!
Tip #2 Register Your Business and Prevent Problems
Registering your business with the state helps prevent problems. You will get a tax number so you can pay state sales tax which will prevent state audits and also allow you to keep track of your sales for your federal return. Not only does this make your business official, it also ensures the name you have chosen isn't already in use. While this sounds scary, it's really a simple process and will only take a short amount of time to complete. The fines and penalties for not registering can be steep, so save yourself some trouble and get registered.
1. Grab a pen or pencil and notepad. To find out how to register your business, the Small Business Administration will help you find out what you need to do in your area. Although many municipalities and states offer online registration, you may need to write down information needed to process your application, so be prepared.
2. Visit the Small Business Administration online. Not only will the Small Business Administration be able to provide you information about how to register your business, they have step by step instructions and suggestions to make starting your business a breeze.
Tip #3 Get Noticed, Get Calls and Get Paid
Now you have your name and have officially entered the business realm, you need to get your name noticed and start getting clients. This sounds like a giant undertaking, but it is important if you want to get clients. Even if you already provide wood to some loyal buyers, to build your business it is critical to get noticed. There are a number of ways you can do this, and most of them are pretty simple.
1. Order business cards. This is the most basic and time honored way of introducing your business. You can order them online or from a local print shop. Online providers often have fantastic rates and a plethora of designs to choose from. You are sure to find one that represents you.
2. Purchase a card holder. Business cards are only effective if you give them out so purchase a card holder and keep it with you.
3. Hand out your cards. Give cards to family and friends to get used to the process. When you are out and about, strike up conversations with prospective clients. If you see someone buying an expensive bundle of wood at the store, approach them and give them your card. Tell them how much money they will save buying their wood from you and thank them for taking your card.
4. Create online profiles for your business. Never underestimate the power of social media. If you aren't familiar with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, do your research. An online presence allows you to reach more people at a rapid pace. But don't make the mistake of creating your Facebook page and letting sit in cyberspace.
5. Make regular posts.
6. Invite friends to like your page and ask them to share it.
7. Post pictures of happy clients. Showing them with their delivery neatly stacked to show your potential clients how great your service is and how you can benefit them.
8. Check for messages and respond quickly to maximize its effectiveness.
Tip #4 Select the Type of Wood to Sell and See Profits Roll In
Deciding what type of wood your business is going to sell will determine your clientele. Are you going to sell logs or split wood? Are you going to sell certain types of hardwoods or soft woods? Maybe you want to sell all of these options. Whatever you decide will determine who you are going to target with your advertising. This decision may also impact where you acquire your wood.
1. To sell split wood, use hardwoods. Split logs will most likely be burned in a fireplace or woodstove. Cut the wood to correct length before splitting. Avoid soft woods that will coat a chimney in creosote, increasing the risk of fire.
2. To sell logs, stock both hard and soft wood. Before delivering the wood, make sure you know how your customer will be using it. For outdoor burns, soft woods like pine are good as they burn hot and fast. For customers burning in a fireplace, cut the wood into the appropriate length and discourage burning soft wood.
Tip #5 Secure Your Wood Source and Keep Your Clients Happy with a Steady Supply
Perhaps you already have an endless supply of wood, but if you don't, you need to find a reliable supply. There are many different options available to procure your supply. The following steps will aid in you in your quest to find the wood to keep your customers warm from fall through spring. Remember, your clients may not order during the summer, but you will still be working to keep your product in stock and ready for delivery.
1. Purchase wooded acreage. If you already have land, then obviously this is where you will find your wood. If not, consider purchasing wooded lots. Owning wooded acreage ensures you have a steady supply of wood for your customers and as you cut, you can plant new trees. Today's buyers will pay a premium for "green" wood. Not green as in not cured, but green as in sustainable.
2. Rent wooded acreage. If you aren't in a position to purchase your own wooded lot, look into finding one you can rent for the wood. By replanting what you cut, you assure the owner the value of the lot will remain.
Tip #6 Turn Wood Waste into Quick Cash
One man's trash is another man's treasure and so it is with discarded tree waste. Tree services, cities and individuals are always discarding cut limbs and felled trees. Strong storms, tree death and simple tree trimming creates a mountain of "tree trash" and with a bit of sleuthing, it can be turned from trash to cash.
1. Contact tree services and discuss claiming the cut trees and limbs. Although many tree service companies use chippers and shredders, some simply truck the cut branches and felled trees to a forestry dump. You may be able to negotiate to simply haul off the cut trees and build a nice supply for just the cost of gas.
2. Collect fallen branches from homes after storms. For many homeowners and tenants, collecting limbs and fallen branches in the aftermath of strong storms is a headache. By offering to load and haul them away for free, you not only get free firewood, but you also do the resident an enormous favor. Remember to leave your card so the next time they are dealing fallen branches, they will give you a call.
3. Collect free wood from the forestry dump. Forestry dumps are treasure trove of free firewood. Many cities use forestry dumps to dispose of branches, limbs and trees. Not only do cities use them, but tree service companies and individuals do too. The forestry dump will turn these into mulch and burn them, so visit often to collect wood before this occurs.
Tip #7 Tune Up Your Truck So You Don't Get Stuck
The vehicle you use to deliver your wood is an important tool for your business. Keep it in tip top condition to avoid possible breakdowns. However, unforeseen issues can and do occur, so make sure you always have a backup plan should the need arise. Here are some things you can do that will help prevent getting stuck on the side of the road with a full load.
1. Keep your fluids checked and topped off. It's basic but it's important. Make sure your truck has the right amount of oil, brake and steering fluid and antifreeze.
2. Take your truck in for regular tune ups. Don't wait until you're stuck on the road to take care of potential problems. Take your vehicle in for regular servicing. Normal wear and tear happens, and you will at some point need to replace things such as brake pads, belts, tie rod ends and so on.
3. Perform trailer inspections at each use. Keep an eye on the wheels and lights, making sure the tires have the right amount of tread and the lights are working.
Tip #8 Be on Time to Ensure There is a Next Time
Nothing is more unprofessional than being late or not showing up at all. Likewise, showing up too early is also a big faux pas (false step). In short, don't do it. Do your absolute best to arrive at the time your client has requested. People lead busy lives and make their schedules to keep things moving smoothly, so respect your customer's time and arrive right on the dot.
1. Plan your departure. Don't run around at the last minute, loading wood and hooking up your trailer. Be ready to go long before you need to leave.
2. Leave early. Leaving early allows for any obstacle that may prevent you from arriving on time. This step may require you to pull off to the side of the road before you arrive to ensure you are there exactly when your client requests, but it allows you time should anything unplanned occur, such as roads being blocked by slow moving farm equipment or road construction.
3. Call your client in the event the unforeseen occurs. Even with the best laid plans, things beyond your control can still derail your arrival. If the worst should happen, call your client immediately and apologize. Hopefully your customer will understand and you can reschedule the delivery.
Tip #9 Get to Know Your Clients for Long Term Relationships
Building your clientele isn't just a matter of making a list of people that buy firewood. It involves building long term relationships and nurturing them just as you would friends and family. A client who is personally invested in what you do will be a long term customer.
1. Buy a notebook specifically to record client information. You can purchase this at any drugstore, big box or office supply store. Don't skimp; get a nice bound book that will allow you to record all the information you need. Even though you can create this in a tablet, you need a hard copy too. While you may decide to transfer the information to electronic format to use daily, keep up your hard copy.
2. Write down basic client information. This information will include names, addresses and phone numbers. You may also want to keep email addresses for easy communication. You may find you wish to offer clients specials and sending offers via email is one of the easiest ways to communicate.
3. Ask questions when meeting your clients. Get to know your clients. Ask about their families and their hobbies. Write down as many details as you can so when you see them again, you can converse with them. People love to talk about themselves, so don't be afraid to engage them in conversation. Building relationships is easy. Simply ask how their son did at his last ballgame, or if the last fishing trip was successful. Keeping details in your book helps you remember who they are, and helps you bond with your clients. Having this type of relationship with your clients makes them more likely to remain long term customers.
Tip #10 Keep Safe while Woodcutting with Protective Gear
Not enough can be said about keeping yourself safe. Protecting your eyes and hands may not sound like a big deal, but once you experience an injury, you will never go unprotected again. Not only is protective gear affordable, the protection it affords is priceless.
1. Buy protective eye wear. There are many different styles available but you don't want open glasses. Sawdust and wood splinters will be flying so you need a goggle style to keep your eyes safe.
2. Wear gloves. As with the eye protection, the right pair of work gloves will protect your hands from splinters and should the worst occur, may stop your chainsaw from hitting bone.
3. Dress accordingly. You want your clothing to protect you from the splintering projectiles you are creating. Clothing by Carhartt is constructed to provide this protection.
Tip #11 Cut It, Split It, Cure It, Stack It and Be Ready to Fill Your Orders
You need to get your product stocked and ready so when your orders come in, you will have plenty of wood on hand. Not only do you need to have it prepped, you need to be able to load your orders quickly so having your wood organized is highly recommended. Not only do you need to have it ready, you need to keep it protected.
1. Cut your wood. This sounds like a "no brainer" because it is. You got this.
2. Spit your wood. There are many methods used in splitting wood. Visit this blog on The Art of Manliness for some suggestions if you don't have this figured out yet.
3. Stack your wood. There are also many different methods of stacking wood. Mother Earth News is a great source with images that will help you determine the method that works for you.
4. Cure your wood. Fresh cut wood is considered green. Burning green wood results in lots of pops and spitting, releasing a lot of creosote and smoke. In short, don't sell green wood. Curing wood is done by leaving it out in the air or by kiln.
4. Protect your wood. Although wood needs to cure, it also needs to be protected from rain and snow. The easiest way to accomplish this is to cover it with an inexpensive tarp and keep it secure with bungee cords.
Tip #12 Price it Right and See Sales Soar
Find out what your competitors are charging. You can meet their price, but you don't want to charge more than your competition since you are just starting out and haven't built a reputation yet. If you can afford to price below your competitors, you may be able to get a leg up, and win over some of their clients.
1. Make a list of competitors. Write down your competitors' names and numbers, leaving a couple of inches of space between each one.
2. Call your competitors. Ask them what their prices are and what that includes. Do they stack it along with delivery, or do your competitors have their clients pick up their own orders? Write down prices and details to help guide you in setting yours.
3. Understand cord pricing. If you need help understanding cord pricing, Chainsaw Journal has an excellent blog explaining it.
4. Review the information gathered and set your price. Once you know what your competitors are charging, and what services are included, it will give you a guideline on how to price yours.
Tip #13 Get the Word Out and Build Your Business
Simply put, advertise. There are many effective ways to get the word out to your community about your business and you are only limited by your imagination. Following these steps and suggestions will help you inform your community about your service. Decide what works for you and make it happen.
1. Post notices on community bulletin boards. You can find community boards at shopping centers, community centers and other public places. You may be able to post at your local hardware stores too.
2. Advertise on your local TV and radio. Meet with advertising representatives to see if this type of advertising is right for you.
3. Remember to Use Your Social Media. You created your business social media accounts for a reason. Use them. Don't under estimate their power to reach potential clients.
4. Team up with local chimney sweeps and fireplace sellers. Offer to hand out their business cards to your clients and ask them to do the same for you. Word of mouth and recommendations are a strong source of new business.
Tip #14 Give Away Kindling and See Your Kindness Returned with Repeat Orders
Many people forget that starting their fire often requires kindling. Many forms of kindling can be found for free and often exist as a by-product of wood splitting and cutting. Giving out free kindling is a small act of kindness that can reap big rewards in the form of return business. Plus, it will set your firewood business apart from your competitors.
1. Gather kindling from your scraps. You should create kindling with your business.
2. Bundle your kindling. Gather your scraps into bundles.
3. Offer your clients free kindling when you deliver their order. Either decide how many bundles you are going to give or let your customer decide.
4. Find other kindling sources. When you give away kindling, you will need a steady supply.
Tip #15 Make Quick Work of Your Wood Prep with the Right Tools
Cutting and splitting wood is hard, labor intensive work, but with the right tools you can make it easier on yourself. Don't skimp on your tools. Buy the better brands, ones known for endurance. They may cost a bit more, but they will last much longer.
1. Research the brands you are considering. With internet access, it is easy to read online reviews regarding product performance, but some reviews are written by writers, not actual consumers. Discussing the brands with your local dealer often offers better information.
2. Buy your wood cutting tools. You will need at least two chainsaws in case one is out of commission. You will also need wood splitting tools. A fantastic log splitter is the Split Second Log Splitter. It makes quick work of a labor intensive process.
3. Keep several sharp chainsaw blades. You are going to be cutting a lot of wood, so to keep on track keep several sharp blades on hand. Then all you need to do is simply change them out when they get dull, allowing you to keep going full steam. Sharpen your blades when you are not cutting or send them out to be sharpened.
The Take Away By following these simple steps, you can build your firewood business into a profitable proposition. It's a lot of work, but clearly if you are thinking about opening a firewood business, you are up to the task. Don't get overwhelmed by this information. Take it step by step and soon you will be an old pro. Remember, as I said at the beginning, no one ever got anywhere just thinking about it, so get up and get at it. Start right now with step number one.