Resolutions Through the Year

Re: SOLUTIONS

Starting Off on the Right Track

 I wonder if making resolutions is a worthwhile concept. If something happens and we don’t meet the mark, a sense of guilt or failure can follow. So why not make a list of yearlong goals and solutions and work on your business in 30-day bites. (That’s how you eat an elephant, you know…one bite at a time.)

Here are some suggestions for the first half of the year. So not to overwhelm, we will send out the second half of the year in the spring.

 JANUARY

 January is a slower month for most embroiderers. This leaves time for cleaning and overhauling machines, putting all the things away that have been hauled out in the haste of filling holiday orders, organizing and re-organizing the thread rack and backing bins, and refining the floor plan.

Work on your website or start one if you haven’t already.  If you are just getting your feet wet in this arena, you can start with a digital brochure that will allow your customers to be “on the same page” as you discuss styles and colors on the phone. Work on it every month and by the year’s end it will be much more than you imagined.

Lynn Rhoades of LCD Embroidery in Tennessee has a good business tip. “I am going to try to pull all of my tax information together so I am not doing taxes at the last minute.”

 Stitch some Valentine samples to stimulate orders. If you have mixed media capabilities, add some rhinestones, sequins, printed backgrounds and more to stimulate interest. People are spending less so offer more, working the clients you have while enticing new ones.

If you have a display window it is time to highlight January with a hint of Valentine’s Day to help the customers plan ahead.

January is Clean Up Your Computer Month (really!) so spend some time defragging, scanning, and organizing your graphic and stitch files. This leads to efficiency in production.

If you pay your sales tax quarterly, January may be one of the months that you file.

 FEBRUARY

 This is a good month to schedule a bi-yearly checkup from a qualified technician to keep your machine running in top notch condition.

Once you have the machine tuned up and detailed, consider a trade or selling your way to a newer model. This can lead to more efficient production. Cindy Fitztgerald of All-U-Wish-4 Embroidery & Promotions, Texas says that 2012 is going to be her “streamlining year.”  She wants to focus on the processes and products that will bring the highest revenue.  She has taken steps to upgrade her heat press to a quick change model, and her printers and cap press to units with smaller footprints. “This will free up space in my shop for more staging, packaging and shipping areas.  The good news is that my old equipment is in good shape and I have been able to recoup a lot of my original investments.   That is making it easier to upgrade to new equipment.”

Speaking of new purchases now is the time to make plans to attend some trade shows this year. Check out the NBM shows at www.nbm.com  and make plans to attend so you can not only browse the latest equipment, but also take advantage of the show specials and the educational opportunities.
Now that your machine is clean and ready, why not run some new samples to freshen up the walls, windows and display area in your shop. No matter how large or small you should always rotate and replace so your customers have new things to consider at every visit. 

If you are learning to digitize this is a good time to sew samples and display your progress. If you have been punching for a while, work on some designs that are dear to the hearts and occasions of your community. Showing the possibilities can lead to sales. Your Valentine samples are up so check the calendar and be ready for St. Patrick’s Day, Easter and forward. This is National Wedding month, so if this is a niche that interests you, prepare some samples to show what you can do.

MARCH

Many business license renewals are due in March, before the tax deadline so it makes sense to have your numbers ready in advance. Paying penalties is wasted money.

Spring is on the way and it’s a good time to think about some networking avenues. Check out business clubs in your area and pick the ones that give you the best return on time and monetary investment.

This is Employee Spirit Month so consider having some contests and special lunches or other awards and rewards for any operators, digitizers and more that keep your business humming.

March is also National Umbrella month so put some brollies embroidered with school mascots or local business logos in your window or hang them in your shop proper to stimulate sales and give-away ideas.

If you are interested in award jackets or school uniforms, this is a good month to put your oar in the water with athletic departments and the schools that require uniforms. If you are new at this venture, it is better to get your name and bid in early.

  APRIL

Taxes.  When you surface on the other side of the 15th, take a deep breath, work on that website. How about registering for the NBM show on deck for next month? Make sure you get lots of snazzy business cards ready to share with other embroiderers. Make a shopping list of things you want to see at the trade show. Be sure to check out new thread colors, any innovative backings or fabrics that are being offered and new hoops and clamps to make your embroidery life easier.

Get some fresh, new designs ready for Mother’s Day in May and Father’s Day in June. This is a great time to display some shirts with eye-catching designs for grandmothers and grandfathers as well. Consider  putting together some gift baskets near the checkout area that will appeal to gift givers, always including embroidered items and showcasing whatever other decorating processes you offer.

Use April and May to gear up with graduation gifts and sizzling summer wear. Don’t be afraid to make some “speculation” shirts that customers can buy on impulse. Spending any downtime making stock for sale will show off your talents.

Quarterly sales tax obligations may fall in May in your state. I have learned to get every ounce of help I can from my Outlook calendar and consistently make entries that will alert me in plenty of time for any deadlines.

MAY

Will we see you in Dallas for the NBM Show? May 10-12 kicks off the year for an opportunity to visit hundreds of exhibits and attend educational seminars.  If not, consider registering for the Indy show in June.

Early in the month (or start in April) if you like embroidering on ribbon, why not contact the local florist and see if you can coordinate with school-specific ribbons for prom corsages?

Lynn Rhodes reminds us to get in touch with the athletic director at the local schools to see what their needs are for the coming school year. (See how important it is to think ahead?)  “Ask them if they have any particular needs for the next year so you can research any new offerings. Don’t forget to touch base with the new PTA board at your local schools so you can development a relationship with the new person in the spirit wear role. The previous year’s leader may no longer be in that position due to a child graduating or just a change in volunteers.”

Don’t forget the local t-ball and Little League teams if this is one of your niche interests.

JUNE

June 21-23 finds the NBM show in Indianapolis, Indiana. If you didn’t make it to Dallas, register

Finish up all your graduation gifts. Be sure to prepare some catchy Fourth of July bags, caps and duds for the picnics and celebrations that are part of the fabric of this holiday.

How’s your website coming along?

I like spend some time on the tax receipts for the first half of the year so I don’t feel overwhelmed by receipts later on.

Call your favorite tech to schedule your second machine checkup for the year. Fresh needles and a clean machine make daily embroidery schedules a joy.

JULY-AUGUST

 You are busy with summer orders, but don’t forget that Back-to-School is the name of the game as summer spins out its days.  Be sure to get your fall sample garments out so your customers can gauge sizes and see the color selections for the season.

Many states and cities sponsor tax-free sales events. This is a great way to draw customers in with a perceived “discount”.

According to the Chase’s Calendar of Events, there are days set aside in July to celebrate horse radish, hot dogs and ice cream.  Stitch up some picnic totes made from durable house screening (more on that next month) filled with a tablecloth and napkins stitched to match!

Lots of family reunions take place in the summer months so think about some generic shirts to which it would be easy enough to add the family name. This is a great time to combine your heat transfers, screen printing and direct to garment capabilities with your embroidery. Dream up several catchy designs and send out an announcement to that mailing list I am sure you are creating at every opportunity. Plant the seed and watch it grow into a nice order.

 SEPTEMBER

 I have to tell you that this is Be Kind to Editors and Writers Month. Jus’sayin’!:)  (Hugs to Emily!!)

It is also Happy Cat Month, and we all know the pet lovers are crazy about anything that will showcase their furry friend. Digitize some nice cats and dogs, or use the stock designs in which you have invested, and stitch some samples to whet your customers’ imaginations and appetite. I had great success with a shirt embroidered with a dog or cat with the words “life without (picture) would be a mistake.” Customers often ask for the name of their pet to be added to the mix and that fatten up the bottom line.

It is also the time (already) to start thinking about the holidays. Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas are on their way!

Get some samples and idea brochures out there for Veteran’s Day and don’t forget to approach any political candidates to provide shirts, caps and more for their campaigns. I once did a “congratulations” shirt for my favorite candidate and the picture taken on the night of his victory was on the front page of the local news section of our paper. Nice PR for my shop!

This is a big election year. With the Presidential election looming ahead, it’s time to get some of that enthusiasm turned into snappy shirts that will show off your creativity.

The NFL opens and if that is not an invitation to design and stitch some great football shirts, I don’t know what is! Generic shirts that don’t step on the toes of trademarks or logos are a way for fans to celebrate. Remember the class reunion shirts? Same thing here—design some shirts that can have the embroidered favorite team dropped in and you’ve got a mixed-media masterpiece that shows your customers you have more than one trick up your (embroidered) sleeve.

 OCTOBER

 This is Shameless Promotion Month, Strategic Thinking Month and Update Your Resume Month. That’s a lot to think about. It is also Subliminal Communications Month so I say stitch a gorgeous design on a sweatshirt with the name of your shop worked into the mix. Be a little less subtle and embroider on the back, “Like this shirt? Love my work? I can create happenin’ things for you!” Don’t forget to add your phone number and/or web address.

More and more people are decorating for Halloween. Embroidered banners and seasonal shirts that cover the gamut of holidays are a great way to showcase what you do.

And then there’s Christmas…it’s never too early to start the Christmas rush. And, if you are a savvy stitcher (no dates on those seasonal items), you can bring out the unsold items from last year and recoup your investment.

 NOVEMBER

 This is a great time to sell any of the speculation merchandise you created that might not have sold and clear the way for new ideas and samples. This is Positive Attitude Month and Cheryl  of Calabrese Contracting, exhibits this well with a great idea for the holidays.  “I have a sale the week before Black Friday. I email my customers with photos of my specials-while-supplies-last. Most are onsie items that are no longer available. Some of them are leftovers, often customer’s I-changed-my-mind orders. My customers get a good deal and I make room for new stuff before the giant holiday rush!”

This is also Self-Promotion month…we shouldn’t need an excuse to promote our business but here’s an opportunity to put it center stage. Wear a shirt with “National Self-Promotion month across the front and your business info on the back. Stitch some divine designs up and down the sleeves to show what you’ve got!

The infamous Black Friday falls this month. Spend any down time throughout the year getting gifty goods ready and advertise your Black Friday event. Last year a Black Thursday was added and there is also a day promoting Internet sales. Be ready for it all. Once you have a happy client, they will think of you every time there is an event, a friend opening a new business and you will find that word of mouth is the best friend you ever had.

 DECEMBER

 Work, work, work to get the orders out but don’t forget to leave time for your own holiday festivities and family. I have met so many shop owners who set a deadline earlier each year because they have learned the hard way that the extra money they can earn on last minute orders or production after, say, the 15th of December, won’t ever make up for the memories lost. This is also National Write a Business Plan Month and that’s a great reminder…if you don’t have one, get to work. It not only serves as a tool to borrowing and expanding but helps you keep your finger on the pulse of your business so you can judge your progress.

 ALL ALONG THE WAY

 There are many unusual celebrations such as Humorists Are Artists Month (March) and Happiness Happens Month (August). These and 12,000 other listings can be found in  Chase's Calendar of Events, featuring special days, weeks and months as well as holidays, historical anniversaries and festivals. Don't let an opportunity pass by for showing what you can do. You never know when that next big client is going to see what you have done and decide you are just right for their big project.

If you don’t find an event that suits you, make up your own. Every town, city and county has things that are special to that specific place. Work with folks to do fundraisers, raise awareness of local tourist attractions and festivities and fairs. Your bottom line will thank you.

Don’t forget to put sewn samples on the wall and in a book in any reception area. Place a sign-up book near your check-out area and send out email sales and updates to your growing mailing list.

Consider making some coupons to include with each order as a lagniappe (an unexpected gift ) to encourage them to come back and spend.