Here we go again. One more designer that wants to start a workroom . . . Last year, I wrote an article on educating your clients (see D&WC, October 2003, page 51). Well, I think it is time to get down to some nuts and bolts and discuss some specifics.
The designer that motivated this topic happened to grow up around
a workroom so she knew more than most about the innards of fabrication.
She had construction expectations that she assumed were a given.
The workroom did not construct to her expectations and there was
no communication from the workroom regarding its standards. Consequently
the designer felt a strong need to be present almost daily in the
workroom to be sure her requirements were followed.
Most of you probably would love to have your clients spend a day
with you to see up-close just what knowledge and time is needed
for window treatment construction. You would want them there so
they would have a better understanding of your value—not to
be telling you how to do it. And you certainly would not want a
client checking on you daily! You are the professional. It is up
to you to present the parameters of your business in a way that
develops trust. The way to do that is to develop standardization
and standardized processes. This does not mean mass production.
It means organization!
Some of you are immediately turned off because you don’t believe
in a price list. A basic price list is essential to you. By basic,
I mean covering the most simple construction methods of all the
standard fabrications that you offer. It’s used as a starting
point. For instance, you start with a basic board-mounted swag and
then you go to trims, poles, raised, etc. You must have a base to
start with to know you are making money, and then build from there.
This benefits you.
For those of you who don’t like to provide your wholesale clients
with a price list, consider their position for a moment. When you
are in sales, your time is just as valuable as your product. The
more time you can save in selling, the more sales you can make.
Therefore, if you can close a sale on the first appointment, then
that saves you time to spend on making more sales. Your clients,
who have no pricing to go by for workroom labor and have no experience
working with you to have even a reasonable ballpark figure, cannot
close a sale on the first visit. They have to consult you first
and wait for you to provide an estimate.
I admit that providing estimates and no firm price list does give
you much better insurance that you will make money. This is especially
true when you haven’t seen the fabric, which could raise the
price. But consider providing a basic price list—explaining
that the prices are only estimates. Work some numbers and provide
some idea of what percentage range of increase the client can anticipate
for add-ons: trims, interlining, difficult fabric, etc.
The fact is, when you are starting with a new client, the first
thing she will ask to see is your price list. Many designers already
work with estimate-only workrooms so not having a price list may
be fine, but it is still one of the ways they begin to qualify a
potential new workroom. You must be prepared to address this issue.
I considered myself very fortunate to have had the clients I did
who worked from my price list. It saved me much valuable time, but
occasionally I did some special estimates. However, in order for
my clients to work from the price list, they had to know my construction
techniques and the calculation formulas that I provided. Yes, this
is where my product, “Workroom Specifications,” came from.
Had the workroom that the aforementioned designer used had such
a tool and taken the time to explain it, the designer could have
been assured that all the fabrication would be done appropriately.
Creating specifications is a major task for some people. I know
one workroom that continually tries new methods for even the most
basic treatments. It’s always important to be open to new ideas,
but you must settle on one method that gets the job done efficiently
and with good quality. Go with that method until you have a very
good reason to modify it. Otherwise you will never get fast at what
you do and be able to make more money doing it.
Let me add that new workrooms must experiment at first in order
to learn. When you have finally settled on a method that is dependable,
then let that become your standard.
COMPANY RULES FOR ORDER PROCESSING
Have a system for checking in your orders. Make it consistent, no
matter if the designer brings you the materials or has it drop-shipped
to you. Here is a very minimal list of the process I used. Take
these ideas and interpret them the way that will be most beneficial
and efficient for your business.
1. I received the work orders on my own custom work order sheets,
which I provided to the decorators. Even if you fill out the work
orders yourself, this is a must for accuracy and minimal mistakes.
The work orders may or may not accompany the materials. Whenever
I received a new work order, it went into that decorator’s
folder on the right side of my desk in a standup file. This let
me know there was activity with that client.
2. Fabric/trims, etc. were logged in on a special form that went
into the client’s folder. All specs about the materials were
entered on this form. The folder was then put on the right side
of my desk.
3. All fabric, etc. was tagged on the end with the decorator’s
and customer’s name, and sometimes with the room it was for
along with a swatch of the fabric. The fabric was then laid under
the table in that decorator’s section.
4. When I had folders on the right side of my desk, I looked to
see if there were work orders or only materials received. When I
had all the work orders and materials for a job, then the folder
went to the standup file on the left side of my desk. It was then
a ready-order. Note: Instead of standup files taking up valuable
real estate on your desk, you might want to use multi-file pockets
that hang on the wall.
5. I allotted one day a week to go over the ready-orders. I checked
them for yardage accuracy, made work tickets and posted the orders
on the calendar. Work tickets contained the relevant information
for fabrication that would be attached to the item from the time
it was cut until it was finished.
6. The work orders were placed in a box at the cutting table in
order of priority to be fabricated.
7. Cut work was placed on the proper shelf for the day of the week
when it was to be fabricated. An alternative would be to hang the
work over racks or on hangers in order of priority.
8. All the time spent on a job was written on a sheet of notebook
paper that accompanied the job. This was later calculated and logged
into our timings book for later evaluation. These records determined
our pricing and our employee evaluations.
9. When a job was done, the paperwork was placed in a designated
10. When all parts of an order were completed, the paperwork was
taken to the office and the bill was created and put with the finished
work. All work was C.O.D.!
This is a very simplified progression of work through my workroom
when I had employees. When I returned to working by myself it was
even more simplified, as I did not have the room for the whole process.
Neither could I produce the same volume as with employees, so many
steps were more simplified or eliminated.
The point here is structure! If you interview a new prospect, take
the time to go over all of the above. Explain your specifications.
Explain your requirements for a ready-order and how you determine
fabrication deadlines. Take the time to ask your prospect if he
or she has any special requirements as far as construction. You
might be able to accommodate them, but maybe you will have to up
charge to do so.
The time for complete open communication is in the very first meeting
with a prospect. If you are prepared, if you have a recognizable
system in place, if you clarify all your procedures and your fabrication
techniques, if you take the time to listen and answer questions,
if you point out all the features that you offer that turn into
benefits for your client and their customer, then your client will
have confidence and trust that you do indeed know what you are doing.
You are a professional! Let it show! Then your customers will be
more receptive to your professional prices!
Editor’s note: Kitty Stein’s products can help you
with the processes mentioned in this month’s article. “The
Price List” is customizable fill-in-the-blank price charts;
“Workroom Specifications” is based on the WCAA Window
Coverings & Home Furnishings Standards; “Order in the Workroom”
has many forms to help with the order processes. All are available
through D&WC [(800) 537-4271; www.DWC online.com] or at: workroomconcepts.com.
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