Sunday, January 8, 2017

New Year Sale, New Tool Fail?

Craftsman, the long-standing tradition of the tool world, was sold to Stanley Black & Decker for 900 million dollars. Somehow, this amount seems smaller than I would have thought, but then again, I am not up to speed on the tool brand values today.

What is in question is the lifetime warranty that was given to all Craftsman tools. Apparently, this warranty has been tested by the consumer in perhaps not-so-honest ways. Turns out people were out looking for Craftsman tools in the world, whether in the trash can or at a garage sale, and returning them for new tools. In some cases maybe even reselling those shiny new tools for cash! I have to say, having a product in the market that resembles cash is pretty impressive. Craftsman obviously upheld the reputation and warranty of its product.

Now with a change of ownership, leadership, and most likely market strategy, how will this warranty hold up? It has already been modified in 2014 to force a return to same store it was bought in, and as we know, nothing is forever, right? What will be right for the Craftsman brand will be to elevate itself from the outdated shelves of Sears, reinvent itself for the market as a stand alone brand, and build trust back with a consumer that is aging out of the market, but still tinkering. For Craftsman, a more difficult task will be reaching the newer, younger consumer that most likely doesn't know a box end from a crowfoot, nor do they work on their car as we once did or build a mini-bike from parts at the junkyard.

Craftsman can do well to stay clear of Stanley B&D on the shelf, too. Should it become diluted as those brands have, they may have a problem. Craftsman must look to differentiate itself from those competing mass market brands, which the warranty often did, but now is in question. Since you still can't find top-shelf tool brands like Snap-On or Matco on a store shelf, Craftsman should be able to find a position above big box house brand darlings Kobalt and Husky fairly easily, and split the sales channels into a hybrid somewhere between hardware store and tool truck.

Have to admit, I am a bit sad to see this news. I have always owned Craftsman tools. They are, or were, a symbol of DIY homeowner value and efficiency, and a well-stocked garage of Craftsman was admired. Today, in a our 'just go to Harbor Freight' disposable lifestyles, we do not value these items near as much, nor do we learn to use them as well as previous generations. A true 'craftsman' is almost a rarity, although the 'maker' movement is spawning thousands of newly invigorated folks looking to earn their badge.

Starting the year off, I have to be optimistic that this new deal will return Craftsman to what it once was, and restore the brand to respectability that it once held. Or, will it be another victim of shareholder value?

Friday, November 18, 2016

We Quit Maker's Row...

Today I made a painful decision. I canceled LUSB's subscription based service to Maker's Row. In the beginning of this often admired platform, I was a fan. I believed it would be a wonderful bridge between brands, makers, and manufacturers to explore each other and build strong partnerships. While I am sure this occurs through Maker's, we have decided that the platform does not meet the needs of our customers. If you are wondering why we are no longer hanging out there, the reason is simple - We can work with you directly, without a filter, and with greater clarity. We'll rebuild our site soon to allow for similar interaction.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Moving On

I didn't write since June. I just had little to say, both professionally and personally. While this is a 'company' site, it is at the core still an extension of me... sometimes...

I am motivated by political rhetoric, so this week was like a shot in the arm. While I will refrain from opinion, I will comment on the hangover and the reaction that has so far been disgraceful. Both sides are arrogant, selfish, and anything but open minded. I am saddened to watch people, children even, attacked for their beliefs in either direction. I am saddened that an amazingly clear, transparent, and relatively free of fraud election concludes, and that is a symbol of what the free world can be, is marred by violence and immature hatred. We display open elections that for the most part, almost anyone of age can participate in. We still see less than desirable numbers at the polls, but a fervent and determined statistical group of folks make their best effort to determine the outcome. Sometimes, we lose the fight we fought. Sometimes, we win that fight. Either way, I always walk away from an election feeling a sense of pride that we CAN hold such an election. Can you imagine if you lived in a country where this wasn't the case? I mean, don't you kind of take this for granted? You do. I do, too. But every four years I appreciate it once again, then that passionate feeling fades over time until the next election arises and I can revisit such a passion.

What happens next? Transition, for everyone. Anxiety. Fear. All normal and expected, however I suppose some handle all of that emotion better than others. Be patient and remember that you just experienced something that some in this world will never experience, an open election of their leaders.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Absence, again...

Well, I took a long while to collect my thoughts here.

Over the last few months, various projects have swung through the office and left an impression on us all. Of particular note, some new product launches and few missteps on our part. Here's some of the skinny on both topics:

A new series of products has arisen supporting the overland market. For those not familiar, we might describe these enthusiasts as eager outdoor folks that can blaze their own trail and do not need a campsite to spend a night in the woods. A well equipped 4x4 and provisions for an extended period of time allow these adventure-minded humans to live outside the norm of conventional woodsy exploration. We were unable to launch at the NW Overland Rally this weekend in Plain, WA, but we will launch this fall for sure.

We choked on finishing our packaging this weekend for the BluefigU Learn to Sew Kits. Best laid plans fell flat with just a bit too aggressive launch date. For now the old packaging will have to do. But we did get the UL CPSIA testing approved for sale!

Those famous Pelican and Storm cases (hard, plastic, durable) snap-lock sealed cases are awesome, but they sure are expensive. This fall we will have many popular sizes available in semi-rigid fabric cases made of 1000d Cordura Nylon. Look for those on our site.

Saw our friends at Adventure Wagon in Tualatin launch their awesome Sprinter van conversions. These vans are awesome and will be showcased at the Mercedes dealer in Seattle soon.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Spring Moss & Fruit Flies & Products Anew

Somehow, some way, moss grows on my driveway. Each year I pressure wash this greenish layer of slippery slideyness away and coat the concrete with some measured amount of liquid detergent that won't harm anything it touches but somehow keeps moss away? Is that in essence damaging something in the environment? Well, whatever, I do it each year with a hope of getting it to last for more than 6 months. I am let down each and every year. Tomorrow morning I will make my pilgrimage to the front stoop to survey the extent of the creeping low-lying flora that I must battle. Armed with my trusty Briggs & Stratton 4.5hp pressure washer and some slickers below the belt, I will undertake 3 hours of soggy sabotage of the green mile, working the wand in routine movement to leave a clean and fresh pattern for the coming seasonal changes...

As the moss finds it's moving truck arriving tomorrow, we will no doubt soon see those pesky tourists known as the fruit fly moving in. When I lived in California I do not remember the influx of this micro-winged flying element of extreme irritant. The fruit fly has yet to show me a redeeming quality. Not once have I seen one knock at my door politely to come in. No, they hitch hike into my world on the back of some dying fruit I recently purchased at the farmer's market in town. The master of avoiding capture and death, these little tiny vermin know just how to push my buttons and send me into a tailspin. I have prematurely begun covering the fruit in the house. I am vigilant in making sure no standing water resides outside. I citrus wash the drains. I may have even placed some vinegar traps out. It is war, I declare...

Both of these circumstances give good reason to put your thinking caps on. What device or product would make both of these issues less daunting? How could we create something to remedy such trials? Necessity is the mother of invention, indeed. This is why we create and develop and build and repeat until we get it right. It is the American dream, sort of, to be able to devise such utility that can relieve and destress our daily lives, and bring these creations to market and share with success...

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Academy Awards and College Tuition

I seldom see a new movie. This year, however, I saw 3 movies as they came out in theaters - Star Wars, Mad Max, and I think Star Wars again. So ,technically, I only saw two. Since both of those movies may only win for effects or costumes, I will once again refrain from viewership and hold fast to my streak of probably 10 years of not watching. Funny thing is I love movies, I just don't get around to seeing them that often unless my kids drag me to one. Speaking of kids...

It is college tour season with my son. He graduates in a few months and will be off to his next academic adventure. This weekend we saw Gonzaga University in Spokane. Seemed like a great school and environment. He has some hard choices ahead of him... And I have to find hidden treasure under a rock somewhere. I can see why folks think Bernie's free college sounds good, and I cannot argue that access to education should not have to compromise one's future as it is intended to better secure it.

When the older boy is a senior in college the younger will be a freshman. Double the expense. Double the trips back and forth. Double it all. Double the FAFSA headaches. Oh, and can I say whoever created the FAFSA calculator was from another planet? Basically, if you have a middle class job, you better get a second middle class job to pay for your children's college, or allow them to bear the responsibility entirely. It might also help to 1. Search for hidden treasure; frequently 2. Have a ginormous bake sale; 3. Win Powerball.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A Collision of Culture

I had a wonderful chat today with a colleague that works in the product development world. We were chatting about culture and how the US can be somewhat obstinate and bullish in approach to foreign markets in many ways. How we work with, within, and with whom in a foreign country should be a lesson in learning about the foreign culture, and less about how we tend to wish to impose our will on it. While we tend to have honest & good intentions, we can sometimes overstep our welcome and come to find frustration in the process. As a result, we may walk away angry at a culture that we could not change to our liking, therefore finding fault in the culture we sought to have assist us.

Case in point - China. I have now been moderately invested in working with Chinese factories for almost 20 years. Each factory has their apparent working model, but few are aligned with the western ideals we work within daily. Our standards, impressions, and intentions are different. Not wrong for either culture, just different. We tend to see things differently and therefore perform differently, and of course have different expectations overall.

The resounding theme here is 'different.' I repeat, that does not mean one or the other is wrong! It simply means that in order to work together in some display of harmony, we must learn to recognize, and respect, our differences. Experience allows us this luxury and wisdom, however, so many of us, including myself, begin the process attempting to force our will upon others and end up disappointed with the result. Ultimately, we have to look long and hard within ourselves to ask the tough questions - Did I truly research what to expect? Was I thoughtful and deliberate in my approach and preparation? Could (or will) I do more to make the experience better for both? How will I learn and manage the relationship to work for both parties?

Working in a foreign country can be taxing and difficult. It is a wonderful opportunity for personal and professional growth that should not be underestimated. There is tremendous value in successfully navigating the global market, and for most, a rewarding experience is often the end result, if you are willing to do the hard work and be patient with the process.