December '19

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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Page 18 of 68

1 6 P R I N T W E A R D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 9 1 6 P R I N T W E A R D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 9 EMBROIDERY Stitch Solutions J e n n i f e r C o x Going the Distance TRAINING FOR BUSINESS SUCCESS M any people have made the comparison that running a successful business is a lot like training for a marathon. You can't just show up at the starting line on race day and ex- pect to finish, much less win the race. In order to be competitive, you need to prepare, plan, and train so that you have the endurance necessary to finish the race. Unfortunately, running a successful business also requires that you have the skills of a sprinter as well as the skills of a marathon runner. It is about endurance. It is about being able to change direction; to pivot. It is about being able to identify when you need to pace yourself and when you need to pull out all the stops and go full speed. Building and growing a successful business takes time, planning, and lots of effort at a variety of levels. To help with your training, here are seven strategies to help you grow your business. Use these strategies and, much like the well-trained runner, you will come out ahead. FOCUS ON YOUR CURRENT CUSTOMERS It is tempting to chase new business. We always hear that to build a business, you must at- tract new customers. Is it worth the effort to attract new customers if you have a tough time keeping the customers you already have? Your current customer base needs tending in order to maintain it. Check in with them at least once a quarter by phone or email. Don't make this conversation about "buy my stuff," either. Instead, make the conversation about how they are doing and how their business is doing. If they men- tion a situation which you could help them with by the way of some branded apparel and products, let them know you have a few ideas that might be of interest to them. Set a time to get together soon. Some of our biggest customers became so because we were not always in the sales-y "buy my stuff " mode with them. STEP OUTSIDE YOUR OFFICE You may feel like you know your business inside and out. You have confidence that you know what is going on in all aspects of your business. If you have employees, I suspect that you might know less than you think. If you have been "in your office," it is time to get out there in the thick of the day-to-day operations. When you are working the register, interacting with staff, and loading and unloading orders, you can notice things that are going right and those that are not going as smoothly as you would hope. It is tough to grow a business if you are not seeing what is going on in it. GET OUTSIDE YOUR BUSINESS If you do things the way you've always done them, where do you get the opportunity to evolve and grow? It is very easy to get busy at work, get jobs done, and call it a day only to repeat this routine day in and day out. Where will you get a new idea for a design or know how to answer the next customer that asks, "What's new?" Take the time to connect with the world outside your business on a regular basis. Meet with other business owners in your community occasionally at a business gathering. Attend an industry trade show to see the new products, col- ors, fabrics, equipment, and design trends. Even time spent online looking at your customers' websites to see what is happen- ing in their businesses is time well spent. SET CLEAR GOALS What is your definition of a successful business? If you have not set any bench- marks, how will you know when you have achieved success? One member of NNEP, DC Caldwell of the Mad Hatter, laughed when we were talking about how he measured success in his business. He has been in business for more than 20 years, and he said, "My defi- nition of success is that I have the ability and the freedom to make it up as I go along, so I guess I am pretty successful!" Will you be successful when your business hits a certain dollar amount in annual sales, when you pay yourself a cer- tain wage, when you complete a certain number of orders, when you have a cer- tain number of sewing heads, when you hire staff, when you move into a retail location, or what? Only you know what success looks and feels like for your busi- ness. If you have staff, you need to make sure that your team knows what your goals are. When everyone is moving for- ward together, you will achieve success!

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