November '15

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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66 || P R I N T W E A R N O V E M B E R 2 0 1 5 Jennifer Cox is the president and co-founder of the National Network of Embroidery Professionals (NNEP), a professional organization for apparel decoration busi- ness owners. NNEP supports the success of NNEP mem- bers with best practices, ideas, sources, solutions, vol- ume-buying benefits, and services. Cox was recognized as a Top 50 Small Business Influencer and Community Choice STITCH SOLUTIONS B Y J E N N I F E R C O X Leader by Small Biz Trends in 2013, is recognized as one of the industry's "Most Creative Thinkers," and repeatedly ranks in the top 40 on the industry's "Power List." Reach her at or go to Embroidery Business T he pace of business, life, and change has accelerated to the point that it all seems to go as a blur. That's at least how it feels to me, particularly as the end of the year looms. Run- ning a business at this accelerated pace is tough, and even down- right risky if you do not take the time to occasionally slow things down to make sure you know where you are, where you want to go, and what you need to do to get there. According to world-renowned business trainer Tony Robbins, "A business plan is no longer enough to plot the future of your business with any certainty." He goes on to advise that what you need now is a business map. "Different from a business plan, which will likely be obsolete in five years, a business map helps you close the gap between where you are and where you want to be," says Robbins. WHERE AM I NOW? To design an accurate and useful map, first you have to under- stand where you are; and by that I mean knowing what business you are really in. The obvious answer that most apparel decora- tion business owners default to is, "I am embroiderer," or "I am a screen printer," but I beg to differ with you. Our customers are not walking around in their undies—they own plenty of clothing. We are in a different business completely—as apparel decoration professionals, we are in the business of brand-building. As Robbin says, "Knowing what business you're really in means having a deep and thorough understanding of your customer and the value they gain from you." Once you have a clear understand- ing of the business you are really in, it is much easier to determine where that puts you on the map. This makes it possible to decide where you want to be by the end of the month, end of the quarter, end of the year, and even in five years. The next step is to decide what it is going to take to get you from where you are now to where you want to be. WHERE AM I GOING? If we only see ourselves in the business of providing clothing with a bit of thread, ink, or sparkle to our customers, we are making it very easy for our competition to blow right past us. If you see yourself as a branding partner that supports the growth of your customers, suddenly you are much more than just the person try- ing to sell that customer some shirts. Looking at your business and your customers' businesses from this broader perspective opens up all sorts of opportunities. When your customer sponsors a hole at the community golf outing or fundraiser, help them promote their brand and the event with event-specific logoed apparel, towels, and headwear. When a cus- tomer reaches a milestone or is recognized by the Chamber of Commerce for something they've done to support the community, your customer should definitely be wearing logoed apparel during that photo op. HOW DO I GET THERE? How do you get on the inside track so that you are aware of oppor- tunities? Connect with your customers and ask them to add you to their press release distribution list. As a branding partner, it makes Where Are You Going? Plotting your business map

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