I’ve been “lurking” as the Internet lingo goes. While not having much time to participate, I have been hearing what the industry is saying on the Internet. The slow economy now is hitting most of the workrooms, whether they are wholesale or retail. Fear is prevalent. “What if business does not pick up soon or again?”
Many, although having little work, have been unable to make themselves do the
work they have. Enthusiasm has been drained. I hope that by the time you read
this, things have turned around and you are able to utilize some of these ideas
in preparation for the next “down time,” as there will surely be
Everything we experience in life has both good and bad points. Fortunately, we
have the freedom to choose how we react to anything. We, humans, cry at both
weddings and funerals. Doesn’t it make sense that we can also choose to
rejoice and enjoy the extra time we have in a slow economy? Yes, you can refuse
to participate in the blues. It may take a major effort, but it can be done.
IT’S NORMAL TO SLOW DOWN
A common malady is that when you do not have enough work to fill your workday,
you slow down in productivity and procrastinate. This is normal human behavior.
We all tend to expand what we are doing to fill the time available. As dedicated
business owners you feel guilty because you are not making the best use of your
time. Maybe. Maybe not.
If you have been working long, hard hours to keep up with work and barely stopping
to breathe between work and family, then you certainly are entitled to slow down.
Your body has overcome your mind and is taking some much-needed rest.
Instead of feeling guilty, take time to do some thinking. “Thinking is
the hardest work there is—which is probably the reason why so few engage
in it,” said Henry Ford.
First, make the “A” list of things you have wanted to do for a long
time—things that aren’t absolutely necessary but would make you feel
better and be able to enjoy your job more. These are things that you actually
would enjoy doing as well as the benefits they would bring. It could be organizing
your files, cleaning and organizing your workroom, trying a new idea, making
new samples, etc.
Now make the “B” list of things you know you should do as a good
business owner, but which you really don’t want to have to do. This might
be devising a marketing plan, designing a new brochure, researching new vendors,
hustling business, etc.
As you make these lists, you may need to break major projects into two or more
tasks. Prioritize each list. Now make your master list by taking the first task
in the “A” list followed by the first task in the “B” list;
now, the second in the “A” list and the second in the “B” list.
Follow this on down until you have finished your Master Task List.
What you’ve done is to make every other task one you would enjoy, i.e.
your reward for doing the previous one. Starting with the “A” list
is the reward for doing this exercise.
You only get to work on this list when you finish your entire customer’s
work, i.e. you are putting the dessert out there for when you finish dinner.
Now for some ideas for your lists, in case you need a little help.
Analyze your business from the inside out: For this task, you really need to
get serious and look at the whole picture of your business. Ask yourself some
questions to find out if you really are happy with what you are doing from your
perspective as the owner.
1. Are you happy with the clientele you have? Have you been making yourself work
with some people who are difficult customers? Maybe it’s time to fire them
and that kind of customer.
2. Are you ready to move up the ladder to a higher end customer? If so, how will
you go about attracting those customers?
3. Are you happy with the type of work you do? What do you like doing the most?
How could you plan your business so you can do more of it?
4. Is there anything you would like to add to your business? If so, what research
would be required to determine its feasibility? Maybe just gaining more knowledge
of what you already offer would be the best addition.
5. Why am I so fearful when work slows down and what can I do about it? One answer
to this dilemma is to start saving as a cushion in the down times. Decide what
you think might be the greatest length of time you might be slow and put a dollar
figure on what you would need in additional income for this period. This then
will be your goal for an investment plan that would draw interest. Make your
investment fairly easy to get to when needed without penalty.
Analyze your business from the outside in: What does the customer see? We are
so often wrapped up in what we think the customer wants that we sometimes forget
that we really don’t know what the customer sees. Take some time to step
back and look in the mirror at you and your business.
1. Listen to your voice message on your phone. How would that make you feel hearing
it? Do you sound enthusiastic and genuinely pleased that someone has taken the
time to call you?
2. Visualize how you appear as you drive up to your customer’s home and
listen to what you say when she opens the door.
3. Look in the mirror. What does your customer see when she opens her door to
meet you for the first time?
4. How do you think you make the customer feel?
5. As you visualize your appointment with your customer, is she easily able to
see why working with you and your company is better or more special than any
As an exercise to sharpen your senses, examine the photograph of the tree branches.
What do you see? Look at it closely. Is there anything there that you might be
missing? We’ll come back to this later.
Research new suppliers: Unfortunately, I’ve been hearing that many of the
window coverings businesses are having some problems with their vendors. Plan
time to research possible new vendors. The Internet is the logical place to start.
Join at least one e-mail list or forum to learn from others’ experiences.
You can also go to Draperies & Window Coverings’ Web site (www.dwconline.com)
and go through the online directory.
You also could join Window Coverings Association of America (WCAA) and research
its industry partners. You also could join a local WCAA chapter to network with
Update your samples: For the workroom, having time to play and create new ideas
is a real luxury. Try new patterns. Create your own designs and update what you
may have already. We often forget that samples will look a little weary over
time. Creating new samples and doing them in designs that are more attractive
to higher end customer can be a tremendous marketing aid.
Plan an ongoing marketing strategy: This is probably going to be on your “B” list
as few people have a good marketing background. Marketing is how you make yourself
and your business known to potential customers.
One idea to tackle this task is to make a list of 20 ideas of how you could market
yourself. Put anything and everything on this list, even outlandish thoughts
and ideas. Bazaar ideas sometimes have a fine grain of real potential. Now study
the list and find five things that you think would be great ideas and list them
in priority. Now make plans to tackle the first idea.
Give yourself an IDT Day: Have you never heard of this? It’s an “I
Deserve This Day!” Just take a day and do whatever it is that you truly
enjoy doing to relax. And do not feel guilty! You are a business owner with a
great responsibility on your shoulders. You deserve a day to chill out and recharge.
That’s why you are the boss. So you can give yourself a day off!
Getting the picture: Did you find something special in the photograph? It takes
pretty good eyes and maybe a magnifying glass to see them, but there are mulberries
amongst the leaves. Rather well hidden don’t you think?
Don’t be like the mulberries. Make your specialties very obvious and lovely
so your customers have no doubt that you are the only business they will want
to work with. Mulberry pie anyone?
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 both the retail and wholesale window covering arenas 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