October '16

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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Page 28 of 102

24 || P R I N T W E A R O C T O B E R 2 0 1 6 profits, become ill from fatigue, or something more serious. Start talking about year-end orders now. Yes, it is just the begin- ning of October. No, you do not have to talk in terms of "Christ- mas." Ask your customers to start thinking about what they might need "by the end of the year." This is a much broader statement and includes their annual corporate gifting needs, their "use up my budget" purchases, and their holiday gift needs. Inventory gets tight; plan for it. The industry wholesalers are running a business, just as you are. They have planned their inven- tory through the year, and they are trying to run their inventory down at the end of the year, just like you are. It is how business works. This impacts you more and more the later it gets in the year, and it may get harder and harder to find all the items you need in required sizes and colors to complete orders. If the goods are not sitting in a warehouse when your customer needs them, you are not going to be able to get them. As you invite your customers to start thinking about their year-end needs now, explain that the sooner they get their order in, the better the odds will be that you will be able to get all of their inventory. We had one customer that needed several hundred shirts every year in early December. They gave them to their employees to wear to a company event they held annually. Missing inventory for this job was not an option. After two years of frustration due to lack of inventory, I finally convinced this customer to order and pay for the shirts no later than Oct. 1, with a guaranteed delivery date for the complete order no later than Dec. 1. It changed a frustrating order into a straightforward and even more profitable order, as I was order- ing the entire inventory from one wholesaler in one shipment. I was no longer paying to ship in the extra-smalls and smalls from Supplier X, getting the medium, large, and extra-large shirts from Supplier Y, and then hunting around desperately to find the remaining pieces and paying top dollar for them, plus shipping. It is true that some embroidery professionals work all year and then plan to make "the real money" in the last quarter. Manage your expectations and your customers' expectations about what is possible and what you are willing to do so that you can still have a life that you want while meeting your customers' needs. We discovered that many year-end corporate orders needed to be paid for by Dec. 31, but that the customer did not need to receive the completed order until sometime in January. Ask your customers what they need, when they need to pay for it, and when they need to receive it. If a customer is demanding a deadline that requires you to miss a family or social event, charge them for the rush fee or say that you cannot meet that schedule, but propose an alternative. It is your business. You get to decide how hard you want to push yourself, how late you want to work, and how much or how little you are willing to give up to make the deadlines for your customers. If you do not actively and intentionally manage this time of year, you may look back and realize that the price you paid personally to meet their demands was much higher than you realized. STITCH SOLUTIONS

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