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December 7, 2012

Applying Lessons Learned from Woodworking to Business

By Pardhasaradhi Gonuguntla

New York, New York – Reported by Ted Teng for Elite Traveler, the private jet lifestyle magazine

I learned woodworking in junior high school in Los Angeles. Back then, it was more about learning some hands-on skills and wood projects, but some of those skills turned into lifelong lessons.

Measure twice, cut once.
All cuts made in wood are permanent. As some woods are expensive and rendered unusable if a wrong cut is made, one always measures twice, and from different points to be sure the cut is set up correctly. In business, some of our actions have irreversible consequences. It is better to assess the situation critically, from different perspectives, before launching.

Small variance in angles leads to big gaps at a distance.
In any wood framing or structure where perfect angles are critical, one relies on different reference points. For example, in a rectangular structure, rather than just measuring the corner angles, one checks to make sure the two diagonals are of equal lengths. We can often test our assumptions by using other indirect reference points.

Small scratches only show up after the finishing is applied.
In raw wood, scratches may not be as visible at certain angles. After fine sanding, we look at the surface from different angles before putting on the finishing. Otherwise we have to sand off the finishing to get it right, or accept the scratch as a part of the product. Sometimes, differences of opinion aren’t always raised when they should be. Disagreements only show up after the decisions have been made. As leaders, we have to look at the surface from different angles to get all the opinions.

Place tape over the line of cut when crosscutting.
Wood can splinter when cut across the grain. By placing masking tape over the line of cut, it will reduce the splintering. Often we have to get things done and can anticipate resistance. It is important to address or neutralize the resistance so as not let it become a bigger obstacle.

The greater the contact surface, the stronger the bond.
When gluing two pieces of wood together, we look for the forces acting on the joints when in use and look for ways to increase the contact surface area for a stronger bond. A 45-degree miter joint is a good example. In a business relationship, it is better to have multiple contact points to make sure all aspects of the business relationship are being addressed and not be overly reliant on one single person or point.

Test compound angle cuts on a piece of scrap wood.
For three-dimensional compound angle cuts, we spent a lot of time setting the machine up just right. It is worthwhile to test-cut a piece of scrap wood on the set up to make sure the end result is correct. Sometime we launch projects with impact on multiple constituents. It is best to pilot a small portion to test the fit.

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About the author: Ted Teng was appointed president and chief executive officer of The Leading Hotels of the World, Ltd., in September 2008. Taking as his motto “Preserve, Enhance, and Invent,” he seeks to honor and uphold the more than eight-decade-old traditions of the organization, while innovating to achieve greater strength and success in the future. Throughout his 30-year career in the hospitality industry, including roles at Wyndham and Starwood, Teng has been responsible for the growth of some of the most prominent brands in the world. A graduate of the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, Mr. Teng has an MBA from the University of Hawaii. Born in Shanghai, China, he grew up in Hong Kong, emigrated to the US at age 13 and became a US citizen soon after.

About The Leading Hotels of the World, Ltd. (LHW): As the largest luxury hotel collection, with more than 430 of the world’s greatest properties in over 80 countries, LHW seek out the exceptional. From grand palaces to intimate city hideaways, from ancient castles to sumptuous safari tent villages, from tropical aeries to mystical paradises, all are utterly unique and boldly independent. Each celebrates the culture of its destination, rather than trying to mask it with corporate-mandated sameness. Established in 1928 by several influential and forward-thinking European hoteliers, LHW started with 38 initial members. With an eight-decade-long commitment to providing unforgettable, authentic travel experiences, LHW selects only hotels that meet exceptionally high standards for quality and distinctiveness.

Contact: Ted Teng, (212) 515-5600;;

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