Framebuilder Survey Analysis: Full-Time Builder & Business Demographics

Having completed the basic analyses for all builders, I want to run back through much of the same material – but this time narrowing the focus to “full-time builders” only.

Why the scare quotes?

Well, what constitutes a “real”, “full-time” or “professional” framebuilder is a touchy issue – one for perennial debate in forums, at tradeshows and other venues. In fact, I find it an interesting enough question (who “counts” as a builder?) that I’ve been interviewing builders and have been drafting a paper on this very topic! If you want to talk about it, drop me a line!

In this survey, I cast the net as widely as possible, including anyone who is offering product for sale that they were fabricating in the U.S.; I see this as a survey of “commercial framebuilders“. I made no effort to (initially) filter out respondents based on their experience, their output, their working hours, or whatever other criteria one might apply in determining who counts.

That said, I did ask respondents if they viewed themselves as “full-time” builders, figuring that their own perception of both time spent on building as well as the centrality of building in their own lives and identities was a useful indicator.

I thus turn next to an analysis of those commercial builders who also self-identified as building full time.

There were 59 builders who reported working full time on framebuilding, though 2 of those builders didn’t complete all of the questions – so there will be some missing data in there.

With that out of the way, I’ll quit with the scare quotes and I’ll also save myself some extra typing by referring to these builders using the “FT” moniker!

One Point on Comparison Before We Get Started:

You might think that comparing the results from FT builders with that of all builders might make sense…but there’s a problem there: “all” builders also includes all of the FT builders! The more relevant comparison will be between full-time builders and part-time builders, which is another step I’ll have to be working on in preparing a final report. I would suggest interpreting the following results not in comparison with the prior analyses for all builders, but simply as information about framebuilders in the U.S. working full time.

Regarding the personal and household demographics of the FT builders in my sample:

Age Range: 25-74

  • Mean: 47
  • Median: 45

Gender: 100% self-identified “male”

Racial Identity (a self-reported, open-ended question):

  • White/Caucasian: 96.5%
  • The remaining 3.5% were spread across multiple categories, but won’t be specified here to keep respondents anonymous

Education (highest level attained):

  • Doctoral degree: 3%
  • Masters degree: 7%
  • Bachelors degree: 50%
  • Some college: 19%
  • Community college: 7%
  • Trade School: 2%
  • High school: 12%

Children of any age?: 36% of all FT builders

Are there children currently in your household or your financial responsibility?: 28% of all FT builders

Of those with children of any age, the number of children total:

  • 1: 55%
  • 2: 30%
  • 3: 15%

What is your marital/partnership status?:

  • Married/formally partnered: 83%
  • Divorced, separated, widowed: 5%
  • Single, never married: 12%

Let’s also run through the business demographics for the FT crew:

How long have you been building bikes overall?

  • Mean: 19 years
  • Median: 15 years

What is the age of your current business?

  • Mean: 16 years
  • Median: 11 years

Do you currently carry liability insurance? 95% answered “Yes”

Does your business have other owners (in addition to the respondent)?

  • Sole owner: 95%
    • 5% have 2 owners

Do you have any employees (apart from owners)?: 22% answered “Yes”

  • Of that relatively small group reporting any employees:
    • 62% have no full-time employees and have one or more part-time employee(s)
    • 38% have any full-time employees, with only a single builder reporting more than 1 full-time employees

Where are your customers located?:

To what extent do you rely on the following sales channels?:

Some thoughts on this overall….

Again, we have to be careful to not compare these FT results too directly to the full sample, given that the FT builders were included in those earlier analyses! A few things I’d note from above, not that they aren’t obvious from the tables:

  • FT builders have been doing this a while (median of 15 years).
  • FT builders have a high marriage rate, which is worth keeping in mind when we get to the livelihood and household income analyses.
  • FT builders do not have many employees – the vast majority have none, and even those that do have some employees only have part-timers.
  • Although local customers are a significant sales channel for some, my read of this is that FT builders are selling a great deal to non-local customers and into regional/national and global markets. A surprise for me is that 64% of FT builders report “some” global sales.
  • The majority of FT builders are selling direct to consumers, though I’m a bit surprised to see that 41% report some sales through dealers.

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