I believe that "Kitty Stein, CWP" has far more perceived clout and respect than "Kitty Stein." In the last few days, my husband, who has a bachelor's degree, received yet another credit card offer from a college he had attended. This piece of junk mail was a bit more attractive as it addressed him as Dr. Harris Stein! If this college had conferred and honorary doctorate degree upon him, they hadn't bothered to tell him!
Don't you think those two little letters "Dr." say a lot? They mean that person (exclusive of my husband, of course!) has studied and worked years to gain that title. Yes, everybody knows what those letters mean, but they didn't know until someone told them!
PRIORITY VERSUS PROFESSIONALISM
Many of us are moms, whether we have small children or adult, married children as I do. Our children learn by what they see us doing and not by what we say. Over the last 25 years of my career, I was just trying to run a business as best I could, with my emphasis on professionalism. Now, my adult children are telling me what they learned by my example. My son told me of one particular thing he learned from me that he emulated in his business and that brought him success. Of course, I was more than pleased, but I also was amazed. In all my years of business, it never occurred to me that my children were watching and learning.
Just because your family and their needs take priority over your business does not mean you can handle your business unprofessionally. It doesn't matter if you work five hours a week or 60 hours a week, if you are being paid for your work, you must manage your business as professionally as possible. To do that you should become as educated as possible.
I suspect that those of you who are parents have visions of a college education for your children because you value education as an important tool. You expect your children, no matter what their ages, to do their best in everything they do and to do what is required to make them more valuable. The more valuable they are, the more income they can make. Maybe your children will not grow up to own businesses, but no matter what they do, they should give it their all and do the best job they are capable of doing. If you have not given them a superior work ethic—that intangible education that only parents can give—then they are not to blame.
"Be the best you can be. If your job is a rag picker, be the best rag picker you can. And if you get finished early, go help someone else who is not," says Wally Amos, the founder of Famous Amos cookies.
Our industry does not have a four-year degree program to prove to the world that you have mastered what you are supposed to know. On one hand, it is sad that our industry is not taken that seriously. Although if each of us worked at it, that can change. On the other hand, you have a piece of cake before you with the icing on it! For the cost of lunch out once a month for a year, you can belong to the Window Coverings Association of America (WCAA), which is constantly bringing you educational opportunities.
For a few hundred dollars—not the thousands your children's education will cost!—you can be certified by WCAA as a Certified Window Treatment Consultant (CWTC) and as a Certified Workroom Professional (CWP). As such, you can use the CWTC or CWP logo in your business and the letters after your name. The former is for those who do retail sales and the latter is for workroom fabricators. If you do both, that's even better!
I had three years of college when I got married. My husband has been after me for years to finish my degree—just because! To me, it had no value for what I do. I own my business, and I certainly can't go any further up the ladder there. Recently, my husband told me of an ad he heard on the radio for a college giving credit for life experience. I decided to investigate because if I had enough experience not to have to take classes (for which I had no time), then it would be a nice thing to do. Well, I had far more "life" credits and college credits than they required, but I would still have to take some classes from them to get my degree. The cost? $15,000! Yes, three zeros! That BA degree would not begin to do me the good that a certification in this industry would do.
Doesn't a few hundred dollars sound like a bargain?
WHAT THE LETTERS MEAN
I agree having letters after your name and a multitude of logos on your stationary, business cards and brochures isn't self-explanatory to your customer, but you shouldn't expect it to be.
There are two things to remember here:
1. Acronyms, logos and certificates of accomplishment are impressive no matter what they mean. Really look at all the certificates that grace the walls of your doctor's office. Aren't you impressed with the number of them? Do you know exactly what they mean? Do you care? The fact that they made the effort to continually educate themselves is what matters to you, and the same goes for your business.
Display all acronyms, logos and certificates on your business literature, your walls and in your portfolio. Be sure your customers see them.
2. It's up to you to educate your customers as to what each of the acronyms and logos mean. Explain the material you studied in order to pass the test and become certified. Explain that WCAA is the industry association dedicated to education and integrity in business. Show them a copy of the WCAA mission statement, and let them know that as a member you are bound by that statement.
If all WCAA members and certified professionals would explain these letters to their customers, we would quickly get to the point where an explanation would no longer be necessary. Customers not only would recognize the acronyms, but look for them when calling a window treatment professional.
My son recently purchased a new home. I gave him and his wife orders that they had to have custom window treatments! I even offered to give them the names of some WCAA members in their area. They said they were not in a hurry and to wait, and so I did. Shortly afterwards, my son called me to brag that they just had a window treatment consultant come to visit. He was all excited because they were doing what I had "requested." My first question was, "Was she a WCAA member?" His response, "I don't know."
He was a bit disappointed that I wasn't more excited about their progress, which had been minimal as they had no furniture yet. I insisted they had to work with a WCAA member and gave them names of those I knew close to them in case their first consultant was not a member. If we don't make an issue of being a WCAA member, or a CWTC, or a CWP, then it will have less meaning.
You have a bargain before you. Education in the form of WCAA membership and certification is available to everyone in the industry. Take advantage of it. Make it work for you. "For whatever a man sows, that he will also reap." (Galatians 6:7) If you sow the seeds of education and educate your customers about how knowledgeable and professional you are, you will reap their trust—and their business.
Educate yourself and your customers—and not just for you, but for the industry and, more importantly, for your children.
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.