When I opened the door to Crystal Cabinets’ workshop in Old Town Pocatello, Coco, the chocolate lab-in-residence, greeted me as an old friend. This, I thought, is one of the benefits of self-employment: a company dog.

Coco was my first introduction to the culture Nate Crystal strives to create in his cabinet business: friendly, communicative and honest.

“I worked for other furniture builders and cabinet shops and liked the work,” he said.

However, when he saw the opportunity to make communications improvements at a previous employer, he could not convince the managers to implement his suggestions.

“My wife said, ‘Why don’t you do this yourself?’” he said.

It took about a year of convincing, but Crystal opened his own cabinet shop in the summer of 2017.

“I saw there was a high demand for cabinet making here, and a lot of the smaller jobs weren’t getting done,” Crystal said.

Today, he has excellent referral relationships with other cabinet makers in town who send him jobs they don’t have capacity to complete.

As the owner of his own company, Crystal now has the freedom to set the rules.

“It’s the people, not the work,” said Crystal.

Whether he is working with employees or clients, communicating and problem solving are top priorities for Crystal: “I want my employees to know what is happening — good or bad — and know they are appreciated.”

He wants customers to not only enjoy the result but also the process. The best part of his work is when all the listening and communication pays off.

“When I do an install and my customer is excited to see they got what they wanted, that is the best part of my job,” Crystal said.

With his experience in furniture-making and cabinetry, he has seen how much difference small changes can make in a home.

“An upgrade doesn’t have to be expensive,” he said.

He often suggests clients change the doors and hardware rather than the entire cabinet.

“Even a coat of paint can make a big difference,” he advised.

Crystal was new to business ownership when he started in 2017, so he worked with the Small Business Development Center for startup help.

“Claudia (Allen) helped me register my LLC, got me started with marketing help, and advised me on the right way to hire an employee,” Crystal said. “I recommend any one starting a business use the free services at the SBDC.”

Being a small business owner has its share of stress.

“The volume of paperwork is more than I expected,” said Crystal, who works upward of 60 hours per week.

“There’s not a lot of time to relax,” he said, so most of his free time is for family.

He and his wife Kamilla have two boys and they enjoy archery, mountain biking and hiking.

Crystal Cabinets welcomes inquiries from homeowners and contractors. To reach Nate Crystal, call 208-406-2570. To reach Coco, stop by the old town workshop at 152 N. Second Ave.

Ann Swanson is the regional director of the Small Business Development Center at the Idaho State University College of Business at 208-282-4402 or swanann@isu.edu. The SBDC is taxpayer funded to provide no cost consulting and low-cost training to any small business.