A few weeks ago, one of my consultation clients caused me to do more homework than I have ever done before for a consultation. In recent years, I have required my clients to send in homework before the consultation. Part of that homework is to make a list of questions. This person had two questions that no one had ever asked before and perhaps all should have. The questions were:
1. What are the three most common mistakes for workrooms?
2. What are three traits for success (other than not doing the above
Iíve encountered many mistakes and many successes, which I
have passed on to clients as needed. While I have written many articles
for this magazine on how to be successful, I never tried to be so
concise as to put success and mistakes into such few elements.
As I made notes and struggled with this, I found that I could not
confine either list to three items. This article will answer the
first question and next month Iíll answer the second one.
1. Lack of self-confidence. I donít know if you can
officially call this a ďmistake,Ē but for most of my career
it has been the No. 1 handicap to success.
This industry has been heavily populated by women. In most cases,
men excel in leadership and confidence and up until recent years,
women have lagged far behind. Thankfully, Iím seeing a change
in recent years. This is due to women who have had a career in another
field and are dependent upon a certain income. They have mentally
adjusted to the I-can-make-money mind-set with no reservations.
They come into the window coverings industry because they enjoy
sewing or decorating, but they also expect to make money.
Expecting to make money is a key phrase here. Yes, you may dearly
love sewing, but putting a value on something you love doing is
tough for many in this industry. For some strange reason, too many
believe that expecting to be paid well for something they love to
do is absurd. Quite the contrary is true.
God gave you talents to make a good living for yourself. The fact
that you love what you are doing is the sign that this is exactly
what He planned. God is like human parents who send their children
off to college to learn a career that will support them. Would your
parents not want you to support yourself by making good money?
2. Lack of working capital. Because sewing or decorating
is an easy business to start with minimal investment, many never
get beyond that minimum state. Many of us, myself included, started
out using only a home sewing machine. That is perfect to get started
and to test the waters to see if you like this career, but after
the initial try-to-see-if-I-like-it period itís time to get
Having a cushion to support yourself as you face the unknown is
so important. Without it, you can become easily distressed and depressed
from not being able to support yourself. This could lead you to
quit before giving it a fair chance.
This is a very transient industry. Businesses come and go constantly
and this is one of the reasons why they go. A new business owner
cannot possibly know all the shortcuts and possible problems to
expect. Besides education, experience is a necessary part of growing
any business. You cannot pay to get experience. While the experience
of others is invaluable, your experience is going to be one-of-kind,
custom tailored to you for your particular needs and those of your
3. Inadequate business management education. So you love
sewing and you are good at it, and you have a business license.
Thatís a great starting point, but you have to know how to
run the business!
Do you know how and where to advertise? Do you know how to efficiently
get your work done on time? Do you know what paperwork you need
to provide for business accounting and taxes? Do you know what software
you might need to make you faster? Do you know how to network effectively?
Do you know how to set goals to be sure you are on target with your
income? And on and on . . .
Sewing is just one part of your business. If you place your future
success in that knowledge only, then expect to do a whole lot of
4. Not identifying and targeting the correct market. Nobody
has the whole world as his or her market. Not even Bill Gates! As
inexpensive as computers have become and as necessary as they have
become to some people, there are still those who cannot afford one
or see no value in having one. As popular as cell phones are, some
people will never have one.
You are offering a service that, unfortunately, is still not recognized
by the general population. You are so special that most people go
into the local big box outlet for ďcurtainsĒ and they
have no idea that their experience there is nothing like what you
The key words here are most people. Most people either cannot afford
you or, even if you presented them with a novelís worth of
information, they would see no need for what you offer. They are
not your market! Most people are not your market!
Yes, there are enough other people out there who are more worldly,
have more disposable income, recognize quality and want your service!
You have to find them and you have to be willing to do what you
have to do to close the sales. If you are not willing to work with
these other people, then you have a problem.
5. Not pricing correctly. I bet you knew this was coming.
I made this a separate listing, but pricing is closely tied to marketing.
If your pricing does not match your marketing, then it isnít
going to work. If you price yourself above the market, or if you
give away the elephant and keep the peanuts, then youíve made
You have to determine the correct price that will make you a reasonable
income for what you offer to your customers, and the price has to
be fair to both of you. The quality of your work must match the
price; i.e. donít charge for the speed of machine-sewn work
when you do hand hemming instead.
There are many facets to pricing correctly. Do not expect to get
it perfect every time, and do not expect that it will eventually
get easier. I have never found anyone who thought they had tamed
this beast. Itís part of business.
If you need help with pricing, look in the D&WC Bookstore for
my book, Price Your Work With Confidence, available online at www.DWConline.
6. Expecting profit too soon. Any successful business is
going to require that you put time and money into it to nurture
it and help it to grow. Even a new lawyer, fresh from college, excelling
on the bar exam and planning to immediately start his own practice
has to pay his dues.Whether itís his business or yours, it
will take three to five years to start making a reasonable salary.
This time span may have changed a little with popular access to
the Internetís world of information. More obtainable education
may have had a positive effect but, again, experience is also a
With the exception of those who are already experienced or start
with a good franchise, everybody starts at entry level. Itís
like starting to work after high school without a college degree.
However, if you take the time and money you would normally spend
on one year of college in any other field and invest that to start
a business, then you are going to be way ahead of the game.
There is a lot of meat here and I do not have the space to elaborate.
Iím sure Iíve covered these topics in more depth in past
issues of this magazine, so do some research on the D&WC Web
site. Did you find anything here that needs a bit of attention in
your business? What can you do today to initiate positive change?
Donít let me keep you. Go get started!
Kitty Stein, CWP, WCAA past board member, is a 29-year veteran
of the drapery workroom industry. She has owned both retail and
wholesale drapery workrooms as one person and as a company of nine,
and she is the founder and past owner of Workroom Concepts, a consulting
to the industry. Her experience includes professional speaking and
writing for two industry trade magazines. She currently owns Kitty
Stein & Co., which supplies industry vendors with the industry-specific
products she has authored including Order in the Workroom, The Price
List, Workroom Specifications, and Price Your Work with Confidence,
available through D&WC.