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Handyman Letter
December 1, 2000

IN THIS ISSUE:

1) The entrepreneur in the rear-view mirror is closer than he appears... a message from the Natural Handyman.

2) Hello and thank you to Websites and publications that have recently linked with or featured The Natural Handyman

3) What's new at Naturalhandyman.com

4) Q&A with our readers

5) LINKMEISTER's Corner

6) "Pass the hammer, would ya?"... NH's readers speak out!

7) Featured in the Natural Handyman Bookshop...

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1) THE ENTREPRENEUR IN THE REAR-VIEW MIRROR IS CLOSER THAN HE APPEARS... A MESSAGE FROM THE NATURAL HANDYMAN

One of the most difficult things about self-employment is also one of the most liberating... no one kicking your derriere out of bed in the morning! Both successful and "road-killed" businesspeople know how easy it can be to cancel an appointment... or not even make any... when no one but yourself really knows. Yet successful entrepreneurs continue to wake up with no prodding and manage their hectic days without any leather-masked whip-cracker to motivate them. Who are these people?

Before I took the reins of my working life into these now-calloused hands, I had read a number of books on the characteristics of a successful businessperson. Frankly, I didn't find myself fitting neatly into most of them. The sad truth was that by paying attention to their supposed wisdom, I delayed my personal "Independence Day" by almost 8 years!

Many DIY business books stress the necessity of having certain personal characteristics... in their view leadership ability, communication skills, and self-confidence being three of the most critical. However, if you have never been in a management position or never worked independently before, you might not even know you had these qualities! So the covert message is "Forget self employment... it's not for you!"

Then, they speak of the qualities valued amongst businessmen and women... job experience, competitive spirit, organizational ability and a strong drive to be the best in your field. Some writers insist that an entrepreneur needs to be almost obsessed with his business and willing to spend as much time and energy as necessary to succeed. Some are nice enough to point out that this can put an unimaginable stress on family and friends, sometimes leading to.. shall we say... unpleasantness.

After reading these qualities, I became even more fearful to leave the security of a regular paycheck, rather than being inspired to strike out on my own. So what went wrong? Why could these purported experts get ME so wrong? It took me a few years to figure it out, and it is sooooo obvious that I am ashamed to admit it. It's simply because they don't know me.

Me. Or you, if you will. Like many writers today, the authors gleaned their information via the rear-view mirror... a.k.a. 20-20 hindsight... by studying the qualities of successful people and then acting as if their observations were equivalent to insight. But amidst the statistics and personality profiles they failed to recognize that (1) success is relative and (2) that the rewards of self-employment are also relative to the individual.

Everyone does not want his or her business to grow to mammoth proportions, even if the opportunity is there. Everyone does not want to have many or ANY employees! Everyone is not interested in nutcracking, cutthroat competition with their peers. (In fact, any contractor can tell you that having amicable relationships with competitors often leads to more work, not less.) Everyone does not have the desire to work such long hours that they never see their kids play the flute in the school band, or miss out on those things that give their life fullness and meaning.

There are thousands of successful small business people who have found comfortable niches where they can make their work fit into their life. They will never be written about in the Wall Street Journal but by all standards they are indeed successful. And most of them were probably not dumb enough to read any of those darn books!

NH

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4) Q&A WITH OUR READERS...

Q. My front door does not lock properly. Our builder returned and made some sort of adjustment a year or so ago but the problem has recurred. The deadbolt works, but the regular entry latch doesn't seem to catch all the time. How can this be fixed?

A. This is a problem that is peculiar to owners of new homes. This is happening because your new home is in a state of flux. Wood framing is drying out, the foundation is settling... in other words things they are a-changing! Aside from the more obvious manifestations, such as mysterious cracks appearing in walls, odds are ALL of your doors have changed from their originally installed condition. Of course, the doors that no longer work correctly will get your attention first!

The changes in the door frame have caused the door latch to hit the strike plate rather than entering the hole in the plate, preventing the lock from working. If you look at the door from the hinge side when it is almost closed, you can see how the latch aligns with the strike plate. It may be above or below the centerline of the strike plate depending on how your house has settled.

There are two ways to do this repair, depending on the severity of the misalignment. Small errors can be corrected by first removing the strike plate and then enlarging the opening enough to allow the latch to engage. Holding the strike plate in a pair of Vice Grips or in a stationary vice is helpful when performing this repair.

If the settlement is severe, though, this repair won't work since you might have to file off so much metal that you would hit the screws that hold the plate onto the door frame! Not a good plan! Instead, you will have to relocate the strike plate on the door frame either higher or lower. This will require some wood filling and painting to restore the frame to it's original condition.

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Q. We live in snow country. Though the windows in our house have double-insulated glass, I would like to add a little more insulation value to some of them... particularly the ones in the den where we spend so much time. I have insulating curtains that I close in the evenings, but I don't want them closed in the daytime. Is there such as thing as "interior" storm windows?

A. There definitely are! There are two general types... temporary or permanent. Temporary storm window kits use flexible plastic sheets which are attached to the inside of the window frame using a special double-sided tape. Installation is easy. The plastic sheet is first trimmed so it is slightly larger than the window. The double-sided tape is applied around the window frame and the plastic is pressed onto the tape as neatly as possible. Then, a hair dryer is used to shrink the plastic to a taut, almost invisible film. Finally, the excess plastic can be cut off. These storm windows seal remarkably well provided they are installed properly and, if your budget is tight, they are an efficient and economical weatherseal.

Permanent interior storms are made from rigid plastic sheets, and are attached to the inside of the window frame with special strips that allow them to be installed or removed as needed. The cost is, of course, much greater per window than the temporary kits but they can be used and reused for many years, making them a better long-term investment. Keep in mind that you must have a place to store the windows in the "off" seasons... a consideration for people who don't have lots of storage space!

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