Right there by underwater welders, cliffhangers and flying trapeze artists, it’s us: the champion risk-takers of the world.
Curtain ladies and gents, ever the daredevils of the window coverings industry, take on new and uncalled for risks at every turn just for the thrill of the deed, for the rush of the finished product and the scratch, scratch, scratching of someone writing a check. Yes, the mighty, the brave, the ever-ready drapery makers! We are a breed apart, a peculiar band of people who live for the adventure. It’s genetic, it’s in our blood, we can’t stop doing it.
But maybe we should stop and really think about it!
As workrooms, we often take on risk without even thinking about it. We provide our customers with services that help us attract and keep customers; however, by doing so we expose ourselves to risk. Exposing oneself to risk is a business decision, but not one that should be taken lightly.
An examination of common risks associated with the operation of a workroom will bring to light dangers that we bring upon ourselves that we don’t really realize until we incur a loss.
All of these things I list are bought and paid for by my own experiences. I hope to help others avoid loss, or at least know the risks as they take them.
• Measuring incurs risk. When a workroom takes on the task of measuring a job, it provides cheap or free insurance. For the cost of a trip charge and a little time, the wholesale client has bought complete freedom from responsibility on measurements. Coupled with the time/money lost at the worktable producing billable products, measuring is a bad risk. I have a nice little $600 ding on my record by volunteering to measure a spread. Six months later: new bed, my problem.
• Figuring yardages incurs risk unless the workroom disallows claims. Wholesale clients who make sales based on your yardages are counting on those figures to be accurate. Protect yourself by making it clear in your terms and conditions that figuring yardages is a courtesy only.
• Cutting fabrics without making certain that the fabric is free of flaws and the correct pattern and color incurs risk for the workroom. Do not be rushed into cutting until the wholesale client has assumed responsibility for the fabric accuracy.
The jobber disallows responsibility with notifications plainly on the fabric. The workroom assumes responsibility unless they take steps to pass that responsibility to the wholesale client. Workrooms assume risk when they do not insist upon a written work order from wholesale clients. Subsequently, all change orders should be in writing as well.
• Accepting payment from the end-user when a wholesale client is involved incurs risk for the workroom. If the wholesale client has no vested interest in helping the retail customer accept the product, the workroom risks pleasing two clients instead of one.
The workroom can be boxed into making changes and corrections that are not part of the original transaction in order to collect the balance due.
• Becoming involved in installations, especially when the wholesale client is not present, incurs great risk for workrooms. Not only do they risk the complete results of the product, but they risk damages to property as well.
MITIGATE OR REWARD
It’s not bad to incur risks if you know they are there and are willing to accept them and minimize them. More importantly, risk should always be rewarded. In any other profession, in any other industry, the party exposed to the lion’s share of the risk reaps the lion’s share of the reward.
Unfortunately, in our industry that simply is not the case. Workrooms traditionally make the least amount of money in the chain of events that produces window treatments and shoulder the bulk of the risk. Hedging risks is smart business. Taking on risks, but expecting to be rewarded accordingly is also smart business.
As workrooms we need to be keenly aware through analysis which activities make us money and which activities make us little or no money but expose us to great risk. Drapery makers are becoming too rare to spend time in activities other than producing products. Our money is too hard to earn to lay it on the line unnecessarily.
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