Itís that time of year when most of us want to clean up our act and do better or be better in the New Year. Sometimes, we tend to take on ďnormalĒ goals, e.g. more customers, increased gross sales, hiring employees, etc. because itís expected. Weíve been conditioned to believe we need certain things or we need to do certain things. There is nothing wrong with going for the normal stuff, but you might be more content going for a different goal.
I recently talked with someone whose vision for her company was to always remain
a one-person operation. She was just getting ready to start her business and
had a waiting list of customers. She mentioned that she needed to know how to
market. I reminded her that she is only one person and with a waiting list. Word
of mouth might be all she would need.
Sometimes the goals/projects/jobs we want to do are a bit ahead of where we are.
This lady had no idea how fast she could produce work and, therefore, no realistic
idea of how long it would take to fill the needs of her waiting customers.
LOOK AROUND YOU
Before you start making goals, observe where you are right now. What does your
business look like to you? How does it look to someone looking in your window?
Is your workroom clean? Well organized? Everything in its place?
When I had an operating workroom, on the last workday before the Christmas holiday
I, or our employees, cleaned the workroom from top to bottom. Itís amazing
what you can find that you forgot about! Not only was a clean workroom needed
for better operation, but it was mentally refreshing, too.
When you walk into an environment that is clean, well organized and with lots
of free space, i.e. tables are bare and the floor space is uncluttered, you become
more energized. You will have a better outlook and you will work faster. On top
of that, your customers will feel much more comfortable and have more confidence
that you are in control.
As you clean your workroom, get rid of those things you will never use. Send
your old swatch books and fabric scraps to some quilters, or maybe the kindergartens
and preschools. If you have gadgets and tools you have not used in years, pass
them on to someone who will use them.
Be sure to include cleaning your desk, inside and out. There is nothing like
a totally uncluttered desktop to motivate you into doing your paperwork.
As you sit back admiring your new environment, make a commitment to do certain
clean-up tasks bi-weekly or monthly. The more often you clean up, the less time
it will take. Put this task on your planner for the year and try to stick with
I often suggest a time analysis to help you understand exactly what occupies
your time. Itís the same as the dieter writing down everything he or she
eats for the day and week. It can be a real eye-opener in many cases.
For one week, write down exactly what you do all day every day and how long you
do it. Make it fun. Before you start, write down what you think the results will
be. Then see how close you are with your results.
Analyze your week. What do you need to stop doing? What do you need to add? Maybe
some free time for yourself? What changes would help you bring in more money
each week? What problems do you see that you need resolutions for but donít
have at the moment?
While a time analysis is annoying to do, it is an excellent way to bare some
problem areas that have cost you valuable time. Because we do things from habit,
we donít always question the validity of what we are doing. Even saving
seconds matters. Seconds quickly turn into minutes, which turn into hours, which
eventually turn into more income.
Think about those eternal seconds you spend waiting for your computer to do something.
Those seconds amount to quite a bit of time, donít they? In fact, maybe
you need a more powerful computer with more RAM or maybe a faster Internet connection?
MAKING YOUR WORKROOM WORK FOR YOU
Have you taken your business as far as you want it to go? In other words, you
donít want to hire employees or maybe you canít. Your location or
the critical lack of seamstresses may mean you just have to dig in and make the
best with what you have. Even if you donít want an additional person, in
most cases itís still possible to make more money in other ways beside
raising your prices.
The first place to start is with your work flow. Make sure you are not doing
any more walking, talking, or moving of materials than you have to do.
Draw a rough floor plan of your workroom. Then draw in your movements for every
job you do, i.e. making panels, receiving shipments, etc. If your shipments come
in one end of your space, but you store the fabric at the opposite end, then
you are making extra steps, not to mention carrying extra weight too far. If
itís possible, move the storage area close to the door.
Look at everything you do in your workroom with this same kind of eye. You should
even look at your desk and office area this way. Think convenience, because it
is also efficient and profitable!
TOOLS AND EQUIPMENT
I just talked with a lady who has made window coverings for herself and for friends,
but is now thinking of making money by doing the work for a new designer. I asked
her what equipment she had. Then I had to tell her that her domestic sewing machine,
while the zigzag function was an asset, was going to be too slow and she would
not be able to make good money using it.
I could tell that she really had not looked at her intentions as a serious businessójust
as something to keep her busy because her kids were getting older. (I know! I
wanted to scream, too!) Even though we are desperate for workrooms, I may actually
have talked this lady out of going through with her idea.
Any tool or machine that will make you faster and not hurt your quality is worth
the investment. Any machine that will eliminate the need for an additional employee
is like gold! Take the time to learn about the tools and equipment out there.
Read the ads in our trade magazines and go to trade shows. Search the Internet
and get involved with at least one industry forum or e-mail list. (You can find
several listed and linked on the Frequently Asked Questions page of Workroom
You must have a high-speed industrial straight stitch machine. Depending upon
the type of work you do, a serger and blindstitch may or may not be essential.
Industrial machines are as good used as they are new when buying from a reputable
dealer, and they are much more cost effective. There are other machines beyond
sewing machines that can make you more efficient. When you have a range of prices
on machines, the higher priced ones are likely much more efficient.
Look through home sewing and quilting magazines and catalogs. Many of their tools
and gadgets can be used in a drapery workroom. And by all means, invest in good
You also need to consider ergonomics in your workroom. In other words, you need
to make your working area and your position in it as easy as possible on your
body. Despite popular belief, fabricating window treatments is physically demanding
work! Consider investing in an electric rotary cutter to replace your scissors
and hand rotary cutter when cutting multi-layers. This particular tool is ergonomically
correct and far easier on your hand than scissors or the hand cutter.
Here again, make a commitment to be aware of what your body is telling you. Determine
what is causing you bodily stress and then do what you have to in order to correct
the problem. Also, be aware that maybe all you need is a good nightís sleep
Itís a given that every business must have a computer and Internet access.
The first piece of software you must have would be for accounting. Very few of
us like paperwork. When you have mastered accounting software, you will wonder
how you managed without it.
Not long ago, I did an article about industry software (see D&WC, June 2004,
page 56), but I failed to emphasize one thing. If you are not somewhat computer
literate, i.e. know how to use a word processor, how to save files and move files
around, how to use and understand Windows Explorer, then you will have an extra
long learning curve for any software.
I am currently taking a digital camera class that also teaches how to use imaging
software. Out of eight to 10 students, two of us know enough about computers
to comprehend the instructions quickly. The others are having a tough time. Here
again is an example of those who skipped learning to operate computers to invest
in a digital camera. While the novice can take pictures with the digital camera,
she knows nothing of how to save photos from the memory card to the computer
or to a CD. Thus learning the imaging software is even more troublesome.
By the way, a digital camera makes a great tool for documentation and creating
Get familiar with using your computer and using the Internet. You have to. Thatís
where a phenomenal education awaits you and thatís what will at least keep
you even with your competition and at best set you apart from your competition.
Computer and Internet knowledge is now! The longer you put off learning, the
farther behind you will get!
RESEARCH AND PLAN
The intent of this article is to remind you of some things, even simple inexpensive
things, that could make a major difference in your business in the coming year.
Youíve just come through a busy season. Take time to reflect on how you
did itóliterally. Determine what you need to change for efficiency. Then
read the trade magazines and get on the Internet to search for the right solutions
for your needs. Plan how to acquire the things you need. Thatís the backbone
of goal-setting. But, before you do that, go clean up that workroom!