Change is great . . . for the next guy! I was reminded of this saw a few days ago flying from Memphis, TN, to Washington, DC. I sat next to a woman who, along with her husband, provides “change management” training for the government. It reminded me how hateful the idea of change is to most of us—and especially window coverings professionals.
Why is change so hated by window coverings pros? Because so many
are perfectionists. Perfection-ists resist change even more than
others. Why? Because they want to be extra careful to do things
right. When you are learning, it takes a lot of time to be perfect.
And window coverings business owners don’t have much time.
Perfectionists are not the only ones to resist change. The stories
are legion: the Army general in charge of new weapons a hundred
years ago who could see no reason to adopt the Gatling Gun, forerunner
of today’s machine gun. He had to be replaced to get the weapon
in use. A modern day example would be resistance to computers. I
bet you know some wonderful friends who have never touched a computer,
never surfed the Internet, never used e-mail to stay in touch with
It’s easy to criticize people who don’t want to change,
but the truth is, a lot of logic is on their side. We all get into
a groove in life. It makes it easier to function. Think how long
it would take to get dressed if you had to evaluate every morning
the merits of combing your hair before you brushed your teeth. Habits
have value. They allow our minds to focus on more important tasks.
Besides, it takes time to change. We are never sure that the time
we spend learning computers will be made up by the time we save
Still, if we don’t change, we don’t grow. The question
is: What changes are worthwhile, and what changes are not? A Harvard
professor once told me a formula for change:
• Show clearly why a change is needed.
• Explain logically why the proposed change will solve the
• Devise a transition that is easy and do-able.
• Provide education, training and information about how to
make the change.
• Go back and reinforce that the change is working and those
who made the change are gaining benefit.
STAYING IN TOUCH—A BIG CHANGE
I have been working with a lot of window coverings professionals
in the past year. One of the great surprises to me is how few business
owners have a customer list. These are good business owners. They
love their customers, would probably do almost anything for them.
Anything, that is, except to stay in touch. Somehow, there is never
time to call favorite customers even once in awhile to say, “I
was thinking of you, and just wanted to call. I am so pleased with
the work we did for your home, I would like to use you for a reference,
would that be OK?”
Or to follow up with a simple mailing four times a year. As a small
business owner with no database of names, it is a big project to
send out a mailing to only 100 names. What a shame! If those names
were in a computer database, it would be easy to get a list of telephone
numbers, or a set of labels. Then a teenager or stay-at-home mom
could help get the mailing out affordably.
Or even easier, collect e-mail addresses and send a newsletter or
decorating tip once a month. You can send e-mail every month for
only pennies a name—and e-mail is more powerful! Whatever follow-up
system you prefer—phone calls, postal mailings or e-mail—make
a change to stay in touch. It will make a big change in your business.
BENEFITS NOT CLEAR
Why don’t more business owners stay in touch? Maybe no one
has demonstrated to window coverings professionals what the benefits
are. Maybe no one has shared the fact that the cost of sale is about
80 percent less than spending money on advertising. It is not the
business owner’s fault that no one has explained that, or shown
an easy way to set up a database, or told success stories about
others who have done so. And that is a shame.
I hope you will think about your own business and the people who
matter most to you—your favorite customers. Think about what
you can do to follow up with the very best ones, even if you can’t
get to all of them. Then you will prove one more principle the Harvard
professor told us: With some people a simple suggestion will do
the trick, and they will start to move. With others, you could shout,
“Fire!” at the top of your lungs on a cruise ship and
some people would stand frozen until the lifeboats were full.
If you care about your customers and want to grow, now is the time
to change. If you make the change to stay in touch, customers will
thank you for your thoughtfulness. They will buy from you more often
and refer their friends. Then your business will change, and your
dreams will come true in the future thanks to the change you made
Steven C. Bursten, is the retired founder of Decorating Den Interiors;
author of Bootstrap Entrepreneur, a how-to book on starting a new
business; and a columnist specializing in window covering marketing
and management for many years. He is president of custEmers.com, specializing
in Internet marketing to homeowners. You may request his free report:
Favorite Customer Marketing for the Window Covering Business by e-mail: