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The Value of Color Samples

A Different way of thinking

Everyone has had to make their share of color samples, and most of the time we donít greet this part of the job with a lot of enthusiasm. Quite often a lot of expensive time and material go into that little scrap of wood.

Because of the high cost of making a sample, we should find more ways to get value from it, certainly more than using it just to show a color match. As I hope you will see, the lowly color sample can be a key element in adding some profitability to your finishing operation.

Making samples isnít a waste of time; itís an investment in time. If you look at from the perspective of being an opportunity rather than an obstacle, you can turn your simple color samples into a marketing and sales tool, a production aid, and an insurance policy all rolled up into one.

Your Samples Speak Volumes About You

It pays to spend some quality time when making samples because first and foremost they are a marketing and sales tool. When you present a customer with a finish sample, you are giving them a physical example of your work. This is your opportunity to make a great first impression. Make it yet another example of your high level of quality and professionalism. Realize it or not, you are being judged on more than your eye for color.  

Take good notes as you create the sample and then clearly write down the final recipe. These two simple acts are the key to the rest of this value added system. Each color that you match is a victory won, and you should have to win each victory only once. Doing the paperwork will not only make your formulas accurate, it will make them repeatable.

  Build a library of your samples and refer to it often. Even samples that didnít get approved might appeal to someone on another project, and now you not only have the sample, you have the recipe as well.

Always make ďsteppedĒ samples. They simply show each of the steps you took to create the sample. You can see the color intensity of the various layers of stains and dyes as they appeared before they were sealed or glazed over.  

 Develop a standard size that you will make all of your samples. This will make them easier to store and it also makes for a very professional presentation.

 Speaking of labels, samples give you a natural place to put some disclaimers. Design a label that contains your company name, address, logo, etc.  Then have an area where you present your explanations about the possible variations in color, grain, and anything else that you feel important. Leave space for a description of the sample and also the date. You can print these labels out and put them on the backs of all your samples. This is for your protection, and it is your most probable defense in case of a dispute.

 Donít forget to date your samples. Woods like cherry darken quickly with age. It can be difficult to recreate that dark patina on new wood. If you think that this could be an issue, state it on your label.


Custom Colors

Did you ever calculate the amount of time or material that you use when trying to match a custom color?  How about the amount of money that you have tied up in your inventory of  all of the dyes, pigments, and stain that you need to have to have on hand just to do those color matches? After looking at it from this viewpoint, ask yourself, what am I charging for custom colors, and is it enough. Custom work may be a big part of your business, so you donít want to chase it away, but on the other hand, you donít want to loose money on every custom job either. Keep track of the time that it takes to do your next couple of color matches, and actually compare it to what you charged. Hopefully you wonít be too surprised.