Itís already happening. People are coming into the workroom industry with a home sewing machine and a computer. I canít tell you how often I receive e-mail messages from people who suddenly find my Web site (www.workroomconcepts.com) via a search engine. They either are or want to be ďmaking draperiesĒ as a business, but had no idea there is a whole profession in this industry out there! They also do not know how much further advanced they are than some workroom veterans who refuse to use a computer.
Just a few short years ago, I never would have thought Iíd
be recommending my clients get a computer before an industrial sewing
machine. Iíve been encouraging this now for some time, and
Iím getting just as much resistance as I have always gotten
when I suggested an investment in industrial sewing machines. Industrial
sewing machines are definitely important, but computers will give
you far more benefits that will enable you to be a true professional
There is no place on Earth you can find more window coverings education
than what is on the Internet. There are a few trade schools across
the country, but there are no four-year degreed college courses
for us to take. Even if there were, the how-to information and the
vendor resources on the Internet would surpass that.
Yes, it does take time to surf the Net as does any educational experience.
Just pretend you are taking a ďrealĒ class and set aside
one night a week as your class night. Spend that time researching
drapery workroom information on the Internet.
There are forums, chats and e-mail lists on the Internet where you
can interact with other owners of workrooms. (You can find a link
to some of these on the Frequently Asked Questions page of my site.)
Some are free and some are by subscription. You will find that those
who participate in these avenues of interaction are more than willing
to help you along.
If you join one of these groups, do not feel intimidated because
you are so new. Just announce that you are new and if you donít
understand how to do something, just ask. You will be made to feel
We now have software programs available that can enable you to estimate
the more commonly made products. Yes, you will have to take time
to type in all the prices, but in the long run, it will save you
If you have a computer, you must have a good accounting software
program. When it is time to do taxes, you will want to kiss that
computer for giving you all your numbers in a few seconds! Be sure
to talk to your accountant to see if he has a preference as to which
software you might need.
Computer software also can enable you to plan your workroom schedule
and easily change it if necessary. If you also do retail sales,
I strongly recommend a Palm Pilot or other hand-held planner. They
are far more convenient to carry with you, and they talk with the
software on your main computer so your schedule stays in sync.
Right now, my main computer has been down almost three weeks. I
canít tell you how much I miss the computer planner software,
but I could never have survived without my Palm Pilot.
KEEP UP WITH TECHNOLOGY
Iím sure you already are aware that computers and software
alike quickly become obsolete. It seems that almost daily, more
and more computerized capability is becoming available. Unfortunately,
along with all the wonderful, good things that this technology brings
it also enables the darker side of life to use it as well. It takes
greater education on our part to protect ourselves from computer
Please donít let that ominous statement be a deterrent, but
rather an incentive. The sooner you start getting educated in the
computer/Internet world, the less you will have to learn all at
one time later. Itís a given that we always will have changes
to which we will have to adjust. The learning curve is scary simply
because it involves change and it takes time to change. The longer
your wait the more frightening and the greater will be the learning
You will find that dealing with your clients (and your friends)
via e-mail will be far more convenient for you and for them.
The largest percentage of the industry has accepted the fax machine
as necessary to do business. I remember back in the early í90s
when one of my clients informed me she had acquired a fax machine
and that I would have to do the same thing to keep up. She was right.
Now e-mail can save even more time.
There are two great ways to use the Internet for marketing. First,
you can keep in touch with your customers more often. When you learn
something new or find something that you know will interest them,
you can quickly let them know. Some businesses like to do a newsletter
for their clients, but you donít have to do that to stay in
touch. Keep yourself foremost in their minds so next time they will
call you first.
Second, and you may not want to accept it, but having a Web site
and an e-mail address is prestigious, especially for a retail business.
It signifies that you are indeed with the ďnowĒ generation.
It also provides a way for you to showcase your work with photographs
for potential clients.
I discovered quite a while ago, that I personally look for a Web
site whenever I read an interesting ad. I have to believe that others
are like meóI will look up the Web site before I will pick
up the phone to make a call. If there is no Web site address, I
am 75 to 100 percent more likely not to make a phone call. If there
is only an e-mail address, I might pursue that.
TAKE A CHANCE
I started into the computer/Internet world kicking and screaming
and Iíll continue to kick and scream every time I have to endure
one more learning experience. I do not like having to learn new
things, especially software. However, I know there is no option
if I am going to stay in business.
I will forever be indebted to a dear industry friend who told me
back in the mid-í90s that I didnít have a choice at that
time! She insisted I had to be on the Internet because of my business.
The fact is, I cannot run my business without this technology.
Yes, my business is different from yours, but every business in
this country must come to the point of using a computer and the
Internet to save time and to become more educated. No, it doesnít
guarantee success, but the alternative is much more likely to lead
to failure or just getting by the rest of your career. Take a chance.
You never know, it just might make your life a whole lot easier
and more enjoyable.
Stein, CWP, WCAA past board member, is a 26-year veteran of the drapery
workroom industry. Having owned drapery workrooms as one person and
as a company of nine, she is now president of Workroom Concepts, a
consulting firm offering educational resources to the industry on
its Web site (www.workroomconcepts.com).
Her experience in the window covering arena has contributed to her
success as a business consultant. A professional speaker and writer,
she has authored several industry products including Order in the
Workroom, The Price List, Workroom Specifications and Price Your Work
with Confidence, available through D&WC.