I consider myself the road lizard of curtain ladies. Texans are familiar with road lizards. They have only three speeds: stop, fast and faster. A road lizard doesnít care how hot the road is. He just lifts himself higher off the gravel and sprints on down the road. Heís hard to catch, heís adaptable, and heís always going places. My hero, the road lizard.
This road lizard decided it was time to start sprinting and hunker down closer to the road this past year. This freaky economy will motivate a curtainlady to do that. Itís no time to act like a deer in headlights. Itís no time to freeze up and wait for circumstances to roll over you. Itís gravel slinging time for us road lizards. And so I did.
I stood in the road in front of my shop to get the full view of what my customers see when they stop in. I drove up and down the highway to see what thousands of cars see when they pass me by. I discovered they couldnít see me, hence more passing by than stopping by. My sign was too small, and my whitish building needed some oomph. Paint is cheaper than newspaper ads, and lasts much longer. Slow times are custom-made for sprucing up.
ALL WERE WELCOME
I decided, like many of my customers, that fixing up had to be accompanied by a party. How else would I make myself finish without a deadline?
And what a party it was. Open House night filled Plumlee Place with almost 100 guests. It was a mini-conference complete with 20 vendors displaying on tabletops. I invited every architect, top-flight builder, interior designer, decorator and subcontractor within a 50-mile radius. A mix of local vendors including home theater, carpet and hardware sellers were there alongside national vendors in the window coverings industry.
My goal was to go fishing for new wholesale accounts and use vendors as bait. It worked. We accomplished that and more. By providing a place for vendors to visit with multiple wholesale accounts, I saved them time and gas. They owe me (insert diabolical laugh here).
Vendors helped pitch in for food and certainly entertainment. They helped strengthen my business reputation in my local market. Now itís common knowledge that I write for Draperies & Window Coverings magazine and that Iím buds with people like the vice president of The Finial Co. and the president of Creative Fabrics, Inc. Even though Iím a workroom, I can have Hunter Douglas Intermountain, Metro Blind and Shade, Fabricut, Helser Brothers, and BTX Window Automation show up at a party. Seems as though I owe them as well.
The winds of adversity always shake the industry tree. Iíve been through downturns before. Downturns have traditionally been a time of strengthening my position in the market. Shaking that industry tree cleanses the market. Those who are serious and who are survivors . . . do just that. They get down on the ground and get busy. They get out into the local market and mingle one car door slam, one door knock, one business card pass, one open house event, one person-to-person contact at a time. Theyíre adaptable, fast moving and hard to catch. Theyíre road lizards.
Anybody can be in business in flush times. Road lizards prove themselves in a bad economy and scoot on down the road to be there when the economy starts humming again.
Itís time for workrooms and vendors to work together to strengthen the market. As the hub of the industry, workrooms influence designer and consumer buying decisions on a daily basis. There are ways that we can work together that will help everyone. Open house events are occurring all over the country through an Open House Program sponsored by Workroom Association of America LLC. Members tailor these events according to the market they are trying to reach. The reports we are receiving after these events are phenomenal.
This too shall pass, as economic downturns do. Expect to see stronger, more profitable businesses on the other side.
Mary Ann Plumlee is the CEO and founder of Workroom Association of America LLC , a trade association dedicated specifically to the betterment of the workroom industry. Visit www.workroomassociation.com to learn more.