|A systematic approach|
|Taking the plunge|
|See for yourself|
|Irons in the fire|
"Once in a while we'll get some tire kickers and those are the people we try to avoid," he says. "We advertised in the local newspaper for a while and we were getting a lot of calls from people who were also shopping at Home Depot and Lowe's, and that's not really our market. Usually I'll tell somebody when they come in here our price point starts where Home Depot leaves off."
Ward has done work for a local icon, Banana George. George, 94, is a retired banker who achieved a measure of fame as a barefoot water skier. The man claims bananas are the fountain of youth, and markets himself in yellow by wearing that color everywhere he goes. He drives a yellow car and lives in a yellow house. The kitchen Ward worked on had a yellow countertop with white cabinets.
In 2007, A Ward Design grossed close to $1 million, which was drastically higher than the previous year's $600,000. Ward says he's dying to reach that million-dollar mark - a goal he likely can count on. There is little competition, and often the smaller cabinet shop owners in the area will refer him for more intricate work.
"Some clients show us a floor plan and we ask them what they like and don't like, and we build their project pretty much site unseen. I'm always a little nervous until they say they love it. So far, we are batting a thousand."
See for yourself
Ward outgrew his first shop in 2005 and bought a cluster of buildings with 28,000 sq. feet. He uses 6,000 sq. ft. of the space for the shop and leases out the rest. The facility is the former Cypress Gardens Water Skis plant, and is more than adequate for company growth.
"When I get a new client, or if they're a referral and have never met me, the first thing I do is get them out here to the shop. I think a lot of people have a stigma about whether what we're building is going to meet their expectations. We like to show off our capabilities."
When he moved into the shop, he sold his panel saw and upgraded to a computer-controlled Holz-Her beam saw.
"The saw cuts so accurately; it's within several thousands of an inch." he says. "We actually do all of our cutting and measuring in millimeters. The metric system is so much better than our imperial system. I'm disappointed we didn't convert over like we were supposed to when I was in grade school."
Ward calls his Weeke CNC router, purchased in 2006, a "dream machine that has taken our shop to a new level." It is absolutely the "cat's meow," he says. "We used to use a line drill to drill our cabinet sides with 32mm system holes. With the Weeke, we can drill holes anywhere we want."
The shop floor also features a DISA dust collection system with Nordfab Quick-Fit ductwork, ALUP screw drive compressor, Cosma brush sander, Col-Met spray booth, and M.L. Campbell finish products.
A majority of commissions are done in cherry but more recent ones have been built in walnut, teak, ash and alder. Ward's current Florida lumber suppliers are A & M in Orlando, Quality Plywood Specialties in Clearwater, and Dixie Plywood in Tampa. Ward out-sources wooden components such as corbels and appliquÃ©s from a variety of manufacturers. Old, worn and distressed finishes are part of the company's logo.
As for his employees, Ward says they're the best group he's had.