But, I want it to be perfect!Ē is a statement I have just heard from two different people in the space of four days. I have also just heard, ďI want to know the right way to do it!Ē
Both of these people were in a high state of stress at the time, although for
different reasons. One person had just miss-cut a print fabric and was having
a very difficult time forgiving herself for something she had never experienced
before. The other could not make up her mind about what education she must have
before starting her business.
If I had a dollar for every time I had heard the above statements over the years,
I wouldnít have to work for a living. I could just do what I do because
I love it!
I would say that the window treatments fabrication industry has a very high number
of perfectionists. I gauge that on the number I know and have met. I also add
that I am in a constant state of reforming from perfectionism. Wanting to give
a customer a perfectly made treatment is common and admirable. Achieving it is
Soft window treatments are made of fabric. Fabric is flawed, which is a constant
lament of workroom owners. Each kind of fabric has its own pros and cons. There
is no perfect fabric! Therefore, absolute perfection cannot happen.
If the weaknesses of the fabric or its flaws can be used so that the beauty of
the treatment is not marred in any way, does that disqualify the fabric and,
therefore, the sale? If you are skilled enough to camouflage the flaws or mistakes,
will the customer know she has not gotten perfection? The average customer does
not understand flaws and fabric much less how a treatment is put together.
I recall finding a hole the size of nickel in an expensive printed chintz. When
the designer called the vendor, they refused to believe they could ever send
out such a product and refused to replace the fabric. I was able to hide the
hole in the cascades. Will the customer ever know that? Not likely. Did I or
the designer charge less because it was not perfect? No! The finished treatment
was beautiful and the customer was thrilled.
I acknowledge that there are some customers who do expect perfection and believe
that fabric and fabrication can be perfect. If you choose to work for them (and
it is your choice!), then they must pay a higher price for the extra time required
to achieve the elusive perfection they seek.
WHAT DO I DO NOW?
Another thing that automatically develops with fear issues is stress. It might
not come about from a mistake or a decision you made, but by the fact that you
are in too deep in a project and you have become lost. You thought you could
do it, may even have had instructions, but suddenly it isnít working like
itís supposed to. Your frustration accelerates and your blood pressure
with it. The harder you try, the more confusing it gets. Yes, Iíve been
First, do not pin yourself to a tight deadline. That will only fuel the stress.
Then, when you feel your frustration level rising, take a break and just go do
something else and forget it for a while. It will be like your computer resetting
itself when it is turned off.
When you return to your project, your mind will be ready to start fresh without
the negative stress blocking the thought waves. If you still cannot resolve your
problems seek help. Online forums and e-mail lists are valuable resources and
they allow you to vent your frustrations!
MISTAKES OR EDUCATION?
We learn more from our mistakes and wrong decisions than we could ever learn
anywhere else. Why? Because we donít forget them! This is basically what
I said to the distraught lady who had cut her fabric wrong. I also shared with
her the similar mistake I had made probably 25 years ago! No, I did not forget
that mistake! Can I remember all the jobs in which there were no mistakes? Can
The fact is, if you can successfully overcome a fabrication problem to the point
that no one could see that there was a problem, then you have greater skill than
you can imagine. If the customer is satisfied and thinks the treatments are beautiful,
then you have succeeded.
Nowhere is it written that mistakes are not allowed for window treatment fabricators,
but I sure hope there is such a rule for airplane mechanics! Now, why did I say
that? Because you must remember, draperies are not a life or death situation.
If you were given six months to live, draperies would not likely be in the top
10 or even the top 100 things to do before you leave this Earth. I seriously
doubt that when you leave this Earth, you would want your obituary to say, ďFabricated
perfect draperies for Mrs. Smith in time for her Christmas party.Ē
IS IT DONE RIGHT OR IS IT A MISTAKE?
My greatest joy when I had a wholesale workroom was in the challenge of creating
what my designers could dream up and draw! Most anyone who is in the industry
enjoys a good challenge. Things never done before and for which there are no
instructions are our biggest hurdles with the biggest personal rewards for success.
Think about it. When you create what someone imagined, it could be you or a customer,
how do you know it was done right? Was it? Or was it a mistake? If the treatment
actually resembles the drawing and the customer is happy, do you doubt that you
did it right? The key words here are the customer is happy. It doesnít
matter how you got there as long as the customer is happy.
As long as you follow the Workroom Quality Standards (as set by WCAA and seen
on my Web site: www.workroomconcepts.com) as closely as can be done considering
your particular situation, then you are right. Those standards are really pretty
loose. They do not give you step-by-step instructions to create a specific treatment,
leaving the fabrication process entirely up to individual tastes and equipment
Can the rules be broken? Certainly. Certain circumstances or mistakes will dictate
that the rules be ignored. A good example is contrast lined drapery panels that
will be pulled back to reveal the lining as a decorative element. In this case,
you cannot use a double side hem and double bottom hem because the panel must
be pillowcased. To stick to the standards would detract from the effect you are
trying to create.
Is there only one right way to make the common pinch pleated drapery? No! There
are as many different ways to make that treatment as there are workrooms! Are
any of them wrong? Some likely are breaking some of the standards, but the only
person who can pass judgment on them is the customer. If she is happy, then there
is nothing wrong with the draperies.
WHY PURSUE EDUCATION?
If what you have created is deemed successful by the customer, why would you
attempt to learn new or different ways to do what you are doing? It is true that
some workrooms have trained their customers to expect certain things and not
others that may be contrary to the Workroom Quality Standards. But what about
the customers you donít have yet? They may have different expectations
because they were educated by someone else.
Most business books will advise that you stay in touch with what your competition
is doing so you can stay up with them and possibly move beyond them. I have to
admit that I never did that. As far as I was concerned I was my own competition.
I had to find ways to improve my product because I owed it to my customers to
stay on top of new products and technology.
The reality is you are not selling window coverings. You are selling time and
knowledge. You stay educated to learn to create a quality product in less time.
The more you are educated, the more you can educate your customer. An educated
customer is more likely to become a satisfied and loyal customer. When you learn
and invest in new and faster methods or technology, you can then deliver a higher
quality product faster to your customer. Education gives back more than you could
ever put into it.
Suppose you have made a mistake in a fabrication that cannot be fixed. You must
pay for more fabric out of your own pocket. For some, this is like a punishment
and helps to resolve and heal that guilty feeling. Then there is the case in
which your mistake has cost someone else rather than yourself.
One time, one of the ladies in my workroom made a serious mistake so that the
whole job had to be redone. My attitude was to just do what had to be done to
correct the situation and go on. That person was very upset with herself and
finally said, ďArenít you even going to yell at me?Ē No, I
didnít. I was being very understanding and accepting that she can make
mistakes because we all do. But when I made a mistake, I felt miserable and berated
I now have 20/20 hindsight vision. I treat myself as I had done that lovely associate.
When I realize Iíve made a mistake, I first accept that the mistake is
now in the past. I canít change what happened. I am forgiven. Then I do
what I can to correct it to the best of my ability. And I evaluate it so it does
not happen again.
EDUCATION A MISTAKE?
Besides the one case I have already mentioned, not long ago, I received an e-mail
exchange from another person who also was confused and uncertain which course
of education would be best for her. The key word here is best. Who is to know
what is the best education for each individual?
Can you make a mistake in what you choose for education? I doubt it. The mistake
is in not making a decision. Right or wrong, make a decision on something and
get started. The irony of this situation is that when I and so many other industry
veterans started in this business, there was no education to be found. Trial
and error, i.e. mistakes, was the only way to learn! No matter what education
you invest in, you will surely learn something of value. Be thankful that mistakes
are not your only resource for education.
Accept that mistakes will happen and that it is all part of the education process.
Be gentle with your forgiveness. Strive for excellence rather than perfection,
do the best you can do with the knowledge and skills you have at the moment.
That is all anyone could ask of himself. Pray for guidance toward those experiences
that will be the most beneficial to you and to those with whom you come in contact.
Now, go have a glass of iced tea or a cup of coffee and relax. ďBe still
Kitty 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 through D&WC