Chamber member Dennis Williams, owner of D & S Custom Woodworking shares his business insights.

What inspired you to start your business?

I retired from the Air Force in 1990. I worked for the State Parole office for 5 years upon retirement and when I decided I did not want to pursue that as a full retirement I looked for other opportunities. My wife worked for a Real Estate Company and they always were looking for someone who could do small cabinets and repairs for their customers. I had been making furniture for our needs at home so I took up the cabinet making full time.

What services or products do you offer?

Custom Cabinets designed for the individual.

What is unique about your business?

I do only custom work. I can match the existing cabinets but every job I do is designed to the customer needs and space.

How does your business give back to the community?

When I retired from the Air Force, my wife and I wanted to see what makes a community work. We quickly found that the community has many needs that cannot be met without the help of volunteers and groups that help financially with needs. We both joined the Kiwanis Club. A member of another Kiwanis Club was an officer with the Salvation Army and we learned that most of the bell ringers at Christmas are paid. We reached out to the other Service clubs, the Rotary and Lions, and with their willingness to join the effort we started ringing bells, free of any charge, on weekends. Soon we decided that the efforts needed to expand so we approached a local business, Primo Microphones, and they agreed to take up every Tuesday. Other businesses came on board, and for 15 years we have organized groups to ring bells from Thanksgiving until Christmas at Sam’s Club. I deliver meals on Wheels once a month and am an advisor to the Kiwanis Key Clubs at our local high schools. Probably the most rewarding effort I got involved with was the T-Ball league I helped organize for special needs children. Twice a year we have 8-week sessions where children with special needs can just come out and hit and run the bases and play ball. It is the Field of Dreams for them. Owning my own business and being the only employee gives me time to help when needed. But the lesson learned is that many are waiting for the opportunity to step out and if you simply ask in McKinney you will find those willing to help.

We are also members of the First United Methodist Church and over the last 27 years, it has grown in its community outreach and world missions. They have two mission trips they plan each year. One is to Guatemala, which my daughter and I have done 5 times, and the other to Panama. There is also a vital link to Haiti and the church provides financial assistance to Grace Children’s Hospital. We are proud to be a member of any organization that reaches out to solve problems. Once again, find a cause, find a solution, and they will come.

What obstacles did you have to overcome to get where are today?

In the beginning, I had to build a reputation as a person you could trust to do a good job. That takes time. Now I have repeat customers from several years back and they refer me to their friends who need carpentry work. It takes time to build up trust.

What methods have you used to grow your business?

I have a website that displays some of my work but most of the referrals come from the fact that I provide a good product for a reasonable price. I provide the best product I can to solve the customer's problems and if I don’t feel I can do the job right, I refer them to someone who I trust to do it correctly.

What is the secret to keeping happy customers?

Work with them in the planning stages and listen to their ideas and try to build the product that they envision.

Who has been your greatest inspiration?

The customer who likes the work.

What is your most/least favorite thing about your business?

Least-Getting behind and not being able to look at new jobs as soon as I would like.

Where do you see your business going in the future?

I feel that my business is well established. I just need to keep on learning how to solve new challenges on design.

To what do you attribute your success?

My family accepting my challenge to start the business and supporting me in the process. From the beginning, I did not assume I could do everything. I sought advice from a major cabinet company, Chandler Cabinets, and they were more than willing to help me learn how to build the right way. Always keep a humble attitude and don’t assume you are the only one who can do the job. Just learn what the customer needs and do your best to make that happen.

How are you involved in the chamber and what is the effect on your business?

I have been a member of the McKinney Chamber since 2009. I belong to the chamber because I believe if you are working in the area that it is right to belong to the community agency that supports businesses.

What’s the best advice you would give a new chamber member to get the most out of their membership?

Look at the advertising and networking opportunities they offer. Get involved in the community.