WCAA offered several panel sessions led by panels made up of WCAA board members as well as WCAA members. As the board member representing workrooms, I participated in two sessions—one of which focused on profitability. The moderator and my co-panelists represented larger businesses ranging from having several employees to owning two stores. Therefore, I directed my presentation primarily to the small, one- to two-person operation. It's not that what I had to say didn't apply to larger businesses. I believe that what I said should be the foundation for any business, but it's especially important for new and small businesses.
I would like to share my thoughts with you.
1.Make God the owner of your business.
Isaiah 48:17 says "I am the Lord thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way thou shouldest go." You couldn't ask for any better guidance and support in anything you do. I personally believe God owns Workroom Concepts and I am the employee. I call myself President because it impresses humans, but I know my place. I truly believe (as it says in Philippians 2:13) that God is always helping me fulfill his plans for his business.
2.Commit your business to supporting you comfortably with a retirement investment.
Because many workroom owners have a spouse who is the main support of the family, many do not think it is necessary that they should concentrate on making a supporting income. First, this is risky thinking. None of us know what tomorrow will bring. I've had too many recently divorced moms contact me asking how they can now make enough money to support themselves. I know of one lady, 70 years old, who had a workroom employing two. She had severe health problems that caused the amputation of her legs. She had no retirement income. We all must prepare for an unknown future.
Second, if you don't make the income you deserve for your special talents and education, it affects the whole industry. Unless we as an industry make an income that's close or comparable to the technology industry, we will never attract the younger generation to consider a drapery workroom or decorating as a career.
3.Do whatever it takes to build up your confidence and believe in your value.
This industry is dominated by women who were raised to be nurturers, i.e. not to be paid for taking care of someone. Most women who enter this industry have no background in business or confidence that they deserve to be paid for a product they produce that they themselves cannot afford. It is essential to believe in your value. Practice daily affirmations, read books, listen to audiotapes and practice believing that you are the best at what you do.
4.Hire an accountant and have an attorney with whom you can consult if you need to.
The biggest mistake most workrooms make is not having an accountant who is willing to explain the numbers to them and guide them to the next step in their growth.
Every workroom and decorator needs an attorney to draw up and/or approve the contract that they will always use with their clients. This assures accurate communication with clients and protects them in the event that litigation becomes necessary. A good attorney also will guide you as to whether litigation is necessary, and he will offer insight into your growth plans.
5.Know your numbers!
By that I mean know and understand overhead, salary, and profit and their relationship to each other. Know what you have to do with these numbers to make the income you need and deserve. They will also enable you to price correctly to make a profit. (See D&WC, August 2000)
6.Educate yourself in business management.
Even though you may be a one-person business, it is just as important that you know how to manage a business. Even if the idea of franchising is an absolute non-consideration, you should run your business as if you were going to franchise it. I believe that every business owner must read "The E-Myth Revisited" by Michael Gerber before ever considering going into business.
7.Invest in professional tools and equipment and concentrate on efficiency.
Not only will your clients have more respect and confidence in you as a businessperson, but you will be able to produce and sell much faster. This means more profit!
8.Educate yourself in self-improvement.
Most of you never hesitate to buy a book on fabrication or beautiful window treatments, but education on improving yourself—your attitude, your professionalism, your time management, etc.—is even more important. It helps you to win your customer's trust and close the sale.
Learning about the latest technology and investing in it will show your clients that you are in business to stay and that your are trying to make yourself as efficient as possible in order to save them money. Within the next few years, you will need to have a Web site or some presence on the Internet in order to win your customer's respect. If they respect you and trust you, they will pay the prices you need.
9.Understand your market and narrow it down.
Not everyone is your customer! You must understand and be able to describe your clientele. What are their jobs? What do their homes cost? What cars do they drive? What community clubs and charities do they get involved in? What are their ages? If you are a wholesale workroom, you must know to whom your clients are selling. If their clients can't afford a markup on your prices, then those designers and decorators are not for you.
Learn to pre-qualify your potential clients and customers. Don't waste your time with bargain hunters. You are selling a luxury product!
10.Learn to sell!
Read books. Listen to tapes. Attend sales seminars. Learn how to read your customer. Learn the difference between features and benefits. Learn to identify what each customer wants and fulfill that need. Practice selling. Know exactly why you are different and better than your competition and pass that along to your prospects.
11.If you consider hiring, educate yourself on what is required to have employees.
Employees mean taking on more responsibilities and expense. Be prepared to become a manager. With every new employee you hire, you will permanently give up some of your sewing and sales time. When I had three sewers in my workroom, I became a full-time manager. If you are not making a good salary and profit as one person, you are not ready to hire.
12.Set goals, plan and work your plan.
Write down your goals on paper. Just writing them down on paper starts the subconscious working on your goals. Plan exactly how you expect to achieve the goals in a step-by-step format with estimated dates of completion. Then get started today on achieving those goals.
When you get sidetracked, and you will, get back on track as soon as possible. Just because you have had to delay a goal a little longer than you planned does not mean it is unattainable. You just have to keep at it, a little at a time, until you get there. Then celebrate your achievement and set another goal!
These are not difficult steps but they require time and dedication on your part. If you want badly enough to achieve success and profit, you will find time to take these steps.
If you can't commit to following these steps, then don't put yourself through the agony of trying to run a business. There will be more agony because you aren't following the steps. Charging for your services means you are in business and you are committed to doing your best. Either do not charge for your services and enjoy your hobby, or follow these steps to success and profit! The choice is truly yours!
Special Note: I would like to thank all those angels who were at the D&WC: A Whole New World show who graciously helped me get around or offered to help in so many ways. Your caring and generosity meant so much to me! God bless you all!
If you have any questions or comments about this article, previous articles or any topic of interest to workrooms, please contact me at:
Draperies & Window Coverings
666 Dundee Rd., Ste. 807
Northbrook, IL 60062-2769
Fax: (847) 498-0231
Web site: www.workroomconcepts.com
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 and Price Your Work With Confidence.