Build Your Knowledge By Sharing
How many times have you offered assistance to others and ultimately
solved their problems? How many times did you come away from the
experience with a new knowledge about problem solving? How many
times did you feel really glad and fulfilled to have helped someone
Giving with no expectation of receiving is certainly a good way
to give. However, there is nothing wrong with giving for material
No matter how long you have been in the industry, helping someone
else who is in need of help is truly a gracious gift. Helping does
not have to be a long-term process. It may be for only one incident.
I have been in the industry a lot of years now and my greatest joy
was in helping and encouraging others to develop and grow in this
business. While many who were just starting out when I met them
are now highly successful, that was not always the case. One time
a woman who was beginning a program with a formal mentoring group
that was two hours from me asked if I would mentor her. I agreed
and was delighted to be able to help. I invested much of my time
to help this woman work through the program and was thrilled to
attend her graduation. Sadly she broke contact with me and did not
follow through after the graduation.
Do I regret the time I invested in this person? No! I helped for
the joy of helping and I recognize that I cannot make decisions
for others. There is no price tag on the rewards I felt from that
experience as well as the knowledge I gained in giving of my knowledge.
Would I do it again? Absolutely! In fact, I am currently mentoring
a new entrepreneur not in this industry.
There is not enough good I can say about belonging to at least one
online e-mail list in the industry. These groups truly are composed
of the more professional folks in the industry, because they know
the value of networking.
You may think you donít know enough to offer help to these
folks, but you would be wrong! No one knows all there is to know
in this industry or any other. Any little tip or shortcut that you
can offer will help not just one person, but all the members of
the group. I guarantee that you know something that could help the
others. And the knowledge, insight and wisdom you get in return
Some workroom owners are reluctant to teach their employees the
complete process of fabricating individual items for fear that they
will take the knowledge and leave to become a competitor. It happens.
However, for all the employees who do not leave, are better employees
and bring in more profit because of the training, itís worth
I believed in training the complete process and I thoroughly enjoyed
every part of it. If I had had the time, I would have taught my
employees far more than they needed for their specific jobs, just
because I believe in the value of knowledge. Cross-training employees
is more profitable and less demanding of your time as the owner.
SHARING WITH THE COMPETITION
Yes! When I started in this industry in the 1970s sharing fabrication
secrets with your local competition was unthinkable, and in many
cases still is. Then an evolution started and I believe Draperies
& Window Coverings was the initiator with the introduction of
this monthly magazine and the trade shows it produced with seminars.
We attended seminars where successful businesspeople in our industry
told us all their trade secrets. Very slowly, peopleófrom
attendees to vendorsóstarted sharing on the national level
and then it progressed to the local level. A few local workroom
organizations started and then the Window Coverings Association
of America (WCAA) started opening chapters across the country. Finally,
competitors were organizing to share and help each other!
This industry is small and the number of independent workrooms is
shrinking. Obviously, McDonaldís is not going to tell Burger
King what the next new item on the menu is going to be, but there
are far more fast food restaurants out there compared to the number
of workrooms. Only by coming together and helping each other can
we get stronger and more professional and, ultimately, more profitable.
TEACHING THE CONSUMER
While workrooms are hurting for seamstresses, there are many accomplished
sewers out there among the consumer pool. Those people would not
want to pay someone to make their draperies so they would never
be your market anyway. They would prefer to learn how to do it themselves
and will pay for classes.
If you have a fear of public speaking, this is one situation that
is not quite as fearful. That is because you do know so much more
than the consumer about making window treatments, and the classes
are likely to be small and not so intimidating. When I taught home
sewers, I had a wonderful time! They are eager to learn and you
end up learning a lot from them. Although it didnít happen
to me, some workrooms have found good employees this way. Itís
a great way to screen them!
Your local parks and recreation department and community college
would be a good place to start if you want to offer this kind of
TEACHING AT A COLLEGE
Both community colleges and universities are offering Continuing
Education classes. The instructors do not have to have college degrees.
They just have to have knowledge in a particular subject and be
willing to share (teach) it! Of course, you donít make the
same pay as teachers with degrees, but you usually can set the cost
of your class, the time and the number of students you must have
for the class to make economic sense for you. You also can set a
maximum number of students.
I suggest that you consider finding a school with an interior design
program and teaching a window treatments course for that curriculum.
I did this, and it was a very rewarding experience. At the time
I did it, there were not any published books that I could use for
a text. We have so many good books available today. Find one that
closely coincides with your philosophies and processes. No book
will be exactly the way you do things, but having an already printed
text will make your prep time much easier! Where the text differs
will give you the opportunity to teach why your way is better! Again,
you will learn so much from the class prep and from your students
. . . and you just might end up with some new clients that are already
WRITE FOR A MAGAZINE OR NEWSLETTER
While you could write for consumer magazines, I suggest writing
for industry magazines. Itís always good to help your peers
and it forces you to stay current on the industry. That alone will
give you an edge over your competitors.
Itís OK if you think you really donít have the skills
to write well. Thatís what editors are for! They dress it
up so you look good! (Except for the first article I wrote, Howard
has been dressing up my articles ever since I started writing for
D&WC. Thank you, Howard!)
I have to confess that I love to write and I love to share. It is
rare that I or any other writers get feedback from our audience
to know if we really are helping anyone out there in draperyland.
But there have been so many times when someone would see me at a
show or talk to me on the phone and say, ďHow did you know
I needed that just then?Ē
We all have our own individual knowledge, but sharing that knowledge,
whether for spiritual gain or material gain, will bring unbelievable
rewards. One person can paddle a canoe alone only so far. It takes
a crew working together to go the distance and to win the race!
Go ahead and help someoneóit will make her day and yours!
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 firm
offering educational resources 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.