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Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Interesting concept - the Vocation Vacation Reply to topic
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Aaron Schnatterly




Location: New Glarus, WI
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PostPosted: Thu 29 Sep, 2005 7:53 am    Post subject: Interesting concept - the Vocation Vacation         Reply with quote

Just noticed an interesting addition to the Albion site... they're now offering a Vocation Vacation - a chance to spend 2 days "on the inside" - seeing how things are done up there, and getting exposure to the process of bladesmithing, cutlering, waxes and casting work, research, etc.

It's kind of like that fantasy baseball camp, or the auto racing fantasy camp, where you get to be something else for the duration.

Here's a link... Albion Vocation Vacation to check out. Also on the site are a wide variety of other vocational offerings - pretty neat idea, actually!

-Aaron Schnatterly
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Fortior Qui Se Vincit
(He is stronger who conquers himself.)
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Patrick Kelly




Location: Wichita, Kansas
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PostPosted: Thu 29 Sep, 2005 10:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes it is a neat idea, though a rather expensive two days when you consider that travel and accommodations also have to be paid for.

I admire Albion for wanting to spread the craft, but from a business standpoint I really have to wonder at the logic. As they have stated themselves, Albion is experiencing issues with employee retention, which cuts into efficiency of production flow due to training issues. They also seem to be experiencing a chronic backlog and delay on some sword models, as well as non-production items like scabbards, and there are items in the Filmswords division that have been delayed for years. All of these things are due to several factors, some are beyond Albion's control, others are due to a lack of organization within their business model.

Given the current state of affairs is this really the time to take on another program? How much time is that "mentor" going to spend working with the vocational vacationer when he could be working to fill backorders? How will this help increase production output? While it sounds like a neat concept I really think it works in opposition to what Albion is supposed to be doing: selling swords.

This is just my personal opinion and I apologize in advance if this sounds overly harsh.

"In valor there is hope.".................. Tacitus
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Joe Fults




Location: Midwest
Joined: 02 Sep 2003

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PostPosted: Thu 29 Sep, 2005 12:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dunno...

Albion's core business may be swords, but the business of any business is cash flow. At $399.50 per day per head with an unspecified mentor, this will generate some very nice cash flow for a small business. It is also a potentially brilliant marketing idea because it will move participants to become emotionally invested in Albion and create champions in the marketplace, just like the Round Tables.

The vacation is in the Artisian catagory and it does say it is based on mentor availability. Albion still talks about themselves as craftsmen and artists rather than production associates, assemblers, or industrial laborers. That being the case, I suspect there are still inefficiencies in their production model. If Albion is imperfectly efficient I would be surprised if this is going to slow down their production much.

"Our life is what our thoughts make it"
-Marcus Aurelius

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."
-John F. Kennedy
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Patrick Kelly




Location: Wichita, Kansas
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PostPosted: Thu 29 Sep, 2005 12:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Joe wrote:
Albion still talks about themselves as craftsmen and artists rather than production associates, assemblers, or industrial laborers.


Yes they do, and perhaps that's part of the problem. Being committed to an art or craft is well and good. However, that doesn't help customers who've paid in full on a concept drawing and continually see the sword pushed back in the production line again and again, or customers who've had stated promises continually broken, or customers who receive substandard products that should never have left the shop. In the last few days we've seen every one of these issues mentioned here so they obviously need to be addressed. These kinds of things lead to frustration and customers who have no desire to be repeat customers. How many $800.00 checks will Albion have to cash to make up for those?

Overall I admire Albion's philosophy, I really do, and I think they're good people so this isn't a personal issue. In the end I want to see them succeed more than probably anyone else who doesn't draw a company paycheck. However, let's forget all of the artsy craftsman talk and get right down to the base issue: selling swords. You can run your "craft" in a haphazard way and eventually suffer the need to look for a "job", or you can live in the real world of business and concentrate on the things that will increase production, make money, and keep the doors open. Once those issues have been focused on and addressed the more esoteric things can be considered. I just don't see this program as having a large enough benefit to be worthwhile for Albion at this point.

"In valor there is hope.".................. Tacitus
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Amy Christensen-Waddell
Industry Professional



Location: New Glarus, WI
Joined: 18 Aug 2003

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PostPosted: Thu 29 Sep, 2005 12:43 pm    Post subject: Vocation Vacation         Reply with quote

Wow Patrick - you're kind of on a roll today, huh? Wink

Vocation Vacations contacted us, and asked us if we'd like to be a part of their program. It's not something that we run ourselves, nor do we get the payment that is required to attend this "vocation vacation." We just thought it was something neat in which we wanted to be involved, and will only require a small number of days per year. They also have VVs with breweries, wineries, dog kennels... all sorts of options. It's a great idea - allows people to try something they've always wanted to do, without having to commit to a lifetime of it. I think it's ingenious, even if it is beyond my own checkbook.

It is indeed based on availability of our time, but also allows us to review any potential candidates to decide if they seem to have the capability to work here for two days. We aren't going to have them making anyone's swords - so please don't fear that a future Albion sword may be made by someone who has no experience. Cutlering will remain in the hands of our trained cutlers. Blade grinding in the hands of our trained grinders. Etc. etc.

This program is more along the lines of doing what Patrick and Nathan, and a few others, have done for free - which is spend a couple of days in the shops seeing what the life of a sword maker encompasses. We'll naturally give them a blade and some materials to work with as we show them how things are done, but nothing that we will then sell afterwards.

Hope that makes everyone feel better. Just trying to spread the love, and have some fun doing it. No need to try to read anything negative into it. Just sharin' the love guys!

Amy Waddell
President/CEO
Albion Swords Limited, LLC

I wrote to the FBI to see if they had a file on me. They wrote back, "we do now..."
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Patrick Kelly




Location: Wichita, Kansas
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PostPosted: Thu 29 Sep, 2005 1:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Amy,

Rolling downhill! Big Grin

I don't want to come off like I'm being overly critical, or that I'm engaging in a rant. I just think that you're at a point where you need to look at this type of thing with the attitude of "what can this do for us and our paying customers", not "how can we provide a service to the community" (and apparently free of charge since you don't get the money).

These are just observations, admittedly a little blunt perhaps but it's not a personal issue.

"In valor there is hope.".................. Tacitus
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Joe Fults




Location: Midwest
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PostPosted: Thu 29 Sep, 2005 4:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If Albion gets none of the cash then I agree that the whole thing is a bit silly and a distraction. Does the money go to a charity or something, or is it all strictly profit for the other company?
"Our life is what our thoughts make it"
-Marcus Aurelius

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."
-John F. Kennedy
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Jonathon Janusz





Joined: 20 Nov 2003

Posts: 467

PostPosted: Fri 30 Sep, 2005 5:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

From an HR/managerial standpoint, I could see this as a slick way to conduct an "extended interview" with possible (interested) career cantidates who may not even be actively looking for a career change. What better way to see what skills (or potential) someone has, interest in the job, and how the intangibles (like how a person will fit in or get along with the rest of the people in the company - making a "good fit" for everybody) stack up in a person to possibly grow a relationship into a career path?

Kind of an aside and probably not at all what the program was made for, but you can't deny the perks on the back end. . .
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Amy Christensen-Waddell
Industry Professional



Location: New Glarus, WI
Joined: 18 Aug 2003

Posts: 93

PostPosted: Fri 30 Sep, 2005 10:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You all raise interesting points. It's apparent that there are a lot of business minds out there. I like that. Big Grin

We are reimbursed for our time on a basic financial level, and because we provide some type of souvenier for the person to take home with them. We couldn't do it just for the heck of it, nor do I think any business could. Well, at least not one as young as we are anyway. And it is true that there is always the possibility that we wind up finding the next Albion employee this way - that'd be kinda neat. There is also a chance that Albion will be a part of the television series based on this vocation vacation business - it's sort of like a reality show where the camera crew follows the vacationer around during their two days on the job. That was kind of the clincher for us. We liked the idea before we knew about that, but when we heard that, we were pretty much sold. You can't buy that kind of press... We still have to pass a few tests before we can be in the running for that option, but there is a possibility. Happy We spent a lot of time thinking about this, and going over the pros and cons before making the decision to take part.

This may sound defensive, and I don't want it to because as you say Patrick - it's not personal. But in my efforts to not sound defensive I may not be successful. I guess I'll probably fluctuate between sounding defensive, and bragging. <chuckle>

I really just want to offer a new perspective on the situation. Some comments were made that I want to reply to - none of them are untrue, and I'm glad they were made. But I want to take a moment to respond. You see, I'm so damn proud of this company, that I'll tout its attributes to anyone who will listen, I must admit. I walk down into the production area and I swear I puff up with pride so much that one of these days I may just stand in the middle of the room and explode - which would temporarily hinder production, and probably gross people out, so I try hard not to... I go to our website and look around from time to time and marvel at what this company has become. It used to be me and Howy at our home in DC selling things made by other people, and now it's some of the most talented (and funniest) people I've ever met all meeting under one roof everyday, working hard to make the swords that Howy and I have always wanted to see available on the market. That's pretty damn impressive to me.

Yes, we are undergoing new staffing and the training involved. Yes, we have a lot of swords in R&D, and yes, it's true that not everything planned to be out of R&D is coming out as quickly as we had originally estimated. The fact that you all know that attests to the fact that we aren't hiding anything. In any business nothing goes as smoothly as one would hope - time constraints, equipment breakdowns, R&D issues, cash shortages, staffing issues, sick and vacation time... These things and more, all affect the daily routines, schedules and plans. So it does mean that now and again we will miss our estimated completion dates. We can get a sword completely finished in R&D and think we're ready to go, only to find that on a production scale, it's not cost effective. Sometimes it turns out we simply cannot make that sword for what we thought we could, but 92% of the time, of those two options, we figure it out again. So it's back to Square One. It's the nature of business - it's the nature of life. As Harlan says, "You can have it right now, or you can have it right." We want things out there when they're right, and not before.

Show me another company (and I don't mean just in swords - in most anything) who puts up line drawings of what they're going to accomplish, and then accomplishes the final product as good as, or better than, that original drawing. Show me another company who shares almost every step of its R&D efforts with its customers, and the public at large. We like the involvement, and our customers seem to as well (if they didn't we could save a lot of time, effort and webspace by not having that information on our page). It does mean that sometimes we have to tell people that we missed a deadline, but hey - it's public. If we only released the swords when they were ready, and didn't tell anyone what we were doing, then we'd be like everyone else, and people couldn't be part of the process. It would relieve people of the same frustrations we have in the delays, but it would also mean they'd miss the excitement of the creation process. (One customer likened watching the R&D process of a sword he ordered to having a child - I thought that was great.)

We may miss deadlines from time to time, but we have also gotten more swords through R&D in less time than any other company ever has. In one year we put out 27 swords! TWENTY SEVEN SWORDS! I still find amazement in that fact. In two years we have out at least 30 in Next Gens alone (i.e. doesn't count time spent on Film Swords). In the next couple weeks we'll have three new Roman swords out, and the Agincourt is going to come out on Monday. There will be five more coming out before the end of the year. On top of all of this, in the second year we have also hired, fired, lost and trained a number of people, attended four trade shows, opened a retail store, had two jousting festivals, rearranged the shops, and came up with new designs for Film Swords products, taking them in and out of R&D. We implemented new production procedures which give us higher quality finished products, and have increased our efficiency by leaps and bounds just in the last two months. Our bank, bless their heart, lent us money so we could spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on equipment, on supplies, on R&D costs, etc. to get this line launched, and our guys haven't let us down with their efforts.

The Albion staff has been working very hard, and very long, to achieve what we have achieved, and to accomplish things that we hope to accomplish in the future. They're doing something no one else in the current market has ever done, and that means that we have to figure out how to do it every step of the way. There is no manual for this kind of thing. There is no other company we can turn to, to find out how they did something. There are no sword making consultants. It's all us - our management team and our guys figuring everything out step by step, day by day. Mistakes are made, mistakes are remedied. Lessons are learned every single day. Successes are seen and celebrated.

We're glad that you're all there for it. And we thank you all for being there for it. If it weren't for you, we'd not be alive today. Life is fun.

All my best,
Amy

Amy Waddell
President/CEO
Albion Swords Limited, LLC

I wrote to the FBI to see if they had a file on me. They wrote back, "we do now..."
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Patrick Kelly




Location: Wichita, Kansas
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PostPosted: Fri 30 Sep, 2005 10:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Amy,

Your business is exactly that, your business, and I've no right to tell you how to run it.

I apologize for starting the ball rolling.

Back to minding mine.

"In valor there is hope.".................. Tacitus
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