Client: I'm a workroom sewing in my home. I do some retail business, and I also have a couple of designers I sew for. I think I need help with organizing what I'm doing and I'm not sure where to go from here.
KS: Tell me which you enjoy the most: To just sew all day long or to go into Mrs. Smith's home and help her pick out fabrics and treatments?
Client: Well, which would make the most money?
Money is not the issue here! You can make money whether you are in retail sales or a wholesale fabricator as long as you first know how to run your business.
There are two reasons why I ask that particular question very early in the initial consultation with a new client. First, it is paramount that you not only love what you do, but you must be passionate about what you are doing. As Maxim Gorky said, "When work is a pleasure, life is a joy. When work is duty, life is slavery."
The second reason is that in order to really excel at your business you must get focused. I heartily agree with P.K. Thomajan, who said, "A jack-of-all-trades is king of none."
LOVE WHAT YOU DO
If you are not passionately in love with your career, then do what you need to do to get that passion. It might mean subcontracting out part of your job or changing your job description completely. Life is too short not to enjoy and have a good time doing what you spend most of your waking hours doing. And I know many of you spend far too many hours at your jobs.
As a business owner, you have too many responsibilities not to like what you do. Yes, as the owner there are a few jobs you might have to do that you really don't like. However, your overall responsibilities and passion for your business must far exceed those annoyances. I truly believe the Good Lord wants you to be happy in the job he has planned for you.
Many of my clients just can't make the decision as to which vocation they favor. They love it all. And that is OK, if they really do love it all. However, many really prefer one career over the other, but are afraid to give up one for fear they will lose needed business. Every entrepreneur worries on some level that there will not be enough business for him or her to survive. This is natural, but careful planning can dramatically reduce the risk involved.
PICTURE YOUR BUSINESS
Imagine looking at a landscape first through a wide-angle camera lens. You see a multitude of things through the viewfinder. It would take quite some time to actually see all the details of every item in that picture. Now, suppose you looked at that same landscape with a telescopic lens. What a difference! First, you are forced to narrow down your view to just one item. Now you can see that item in minute detail. That is exactly what you have to do in business lest you stray too far off the shortest path to financial success.
Let's use another illustration. If your child is a high school student who is an avid athlete and sports enthusiast, he may thoroughly enjoy playing baseball, basketball and football. However, he has a dream of becoming a professional athlete. He envisions becoming a recognized celebrity who's also making the big money. Can he realize this dream if he continues to play all three sports, even though he may give all he has got to each sport? The reality is the odds are against this kind of success. Why? To become a master, to be considered the best, he must concentrate all his education, training and practice (and more practice) in one very specific sport. Otherwise, he's just like anybody else who happens to love sports. There is nothing to set him apart from the crowd.
THE WIDE ANGLE
Many of you will be perfectly happy working as through a wide-angle lens and doing everything. You want to do it all! You want to sell to the home owner, fabricate treatments and even install the final job. If you are truly happy doing this, and are receiving the income you need from this, then by all means keep doing it. I have to admit many highly successful people work this way.
On the other hand, your view starts getting even wider if you start fabricating on the wholesale level for other decorators or designers while maintaining a retail business. The wholesale business is a different business with different requirements and different customers. It's quite a challenge to learn what you need to learn for both areas and to fairly and adequately accommodate both, especially if you are a small or one-person business.
Whichever, retail or wholesale, is nearest and closest to your heart the other is taking valuable time away from it. That lost time might be used to increase your success and income in what you'd really love to be doing.
You may be afraid you won't have enough business without both customers, but that's probably because you don't understand how to market and sell. If you decide to eliminate one business and find you do have slack time, use it to educate yourself on marketing and selling. Then go out and market to the customers you really want. If you still have spare time, educate yourself some more and make yourself even better at what you offer. This kind of investment will more than pay for itself.
SIGHTING YOUR BUSINESS
Let's look at an example of sighting in on your target. Many of you dabble in all areas of window coverings, and if you are forced to do some soul searching you will admit a preference for retail sales or fabrication. The only reason you want to do both is because you think you can make more money that way.
There are some distinct disadvantages to doing it all. If you are going to do both retail sales and fabrication, you should do your bookkeeping and pricing differently for each business. This makes bookkeeping more difficult and more time consuming. If you are not separating the bookkeeping for both businesses, it is entirely possible that your net profit from the combined businesses is much lower than if you were only running one business. Why? Because you just don't have time to keep up on the numbers with both businesses. In other words, it's difficult to control two businesses.
A nice benefit of having only one business is easier education. By that I mean you won't have to learn a little about a lot of things. You can learn a lot about a few things. The more education you can receive concentrated in one area, the better you will be at what you do. Wouldn't increased education be more valuable to your customers and set you apart from your competitors?
ZOOMING IN ON THE SIGHT
As you evaluate your job in terms of how many businesses you really own, you might find you want to narrow your focus even further. The fact is, the more narrow and concentrated your business is, the greater its chance of success.
As a fabricator, you may want to concentrate on one specialty item—maybe cornices, pillows, or whatever you really thoroughly love doing. I know of two highly successful fabricators who do pillows. They make good money at it because they have focused on just that one specialty and they have become the best. Think about the medical industry. If you have a heart problem, wouldn't you go to a cardiologist rather than a general practitioner? And wouldn't you pay him more because he's a specialist?
If you are happy and financially successful doing it all, then keep doing what you are doing. But, if you really want to be the best at what you do and make more money, then you must focus—have tunnel vision. You must hone your skills, educate yourself, stay on top of industry trends, attend shows, network with your industry peers and saturate yourself with anything and everything pertaining to your specialty. Say "No" to side roads and distractions that sap your precious time and energy in your pursuit of excellence. The road to success will be faster because the best is hard to find. You won't have as much competition out there. You will be in demand and, as a highly trained specialist, you can ask a much higher price!
As Marva Collins has said, "Excellence is not an act but a habit. The things you do the most are the things you will do best."
Kitty Stein, WCAA, is a 20-year veteran of the drapery workroom field, having owned and operated her own business for 18 years and having taught classes on window treatment construction. Until 1990, Stein and a partner owned a workroom with nine employees. She since has opened her own smaller workroom, Workroom Concepts, that has just one employee. She also does workroom consulting, seminar speaking and is the author of Order in the Workroom available through Draperies & Window Coverings.