Monday, September 9, 2013

Keep an Open Mind About Change

As individual business owners, policy makers and employees, we must keep an open mind about changing to meet the needs of our respective employees, customers and employers. No longer can we continue to produce the same products at the same prices and expect to stay competitive while meeting the needs of our customers.

Today, more than ever, the customer knows what to expect with embroidery. He has seen it used for many years. Ten years ago embroidery was new and the customer mutely took what was available. Today, embroidery is everywhere on almost everything, and the quality is the very best. We are now dealing with a very knowledgeable clientele and we must do so accordingly.

Look what the equipment manufacturers are selling these days. Aren't some of these items ones that we were wanting some years back when we were customers? These manufacturers have listened to their customers and today, more than ever, are producing equipment to handle the needs of embroiderers. The accessories and all the other sideline items embroiderers need are now available. Thread, hooping tables and even hoops for shoes are now available. Punching equipment, once thought to be only the computer genius, is now manufactured for the beginner and is used with a great deal of success.

When many of us get started in business, we look all over the internet to information we need. After a time, and with a certain amount of success, we become complacent and no longer keep up with the new products, equipment and items being produced. We seem to fall into a comfortable niche and stay there until something like an irate customer wakes us up by storming off. By then it's too late and we must again start looking in the magazines to discover all the wonderful items being produced by newer companies with newer methods, products, equipment and accessories. This does not mean that you have to purchase all new equipment to stay competitive.

However, being informed of trends, new products and methods of producing these items will be essential in the future. There is now and always will be a place for the small in-home embroidery shop with less formal staff structures. However, larger shops will find that employees have greater demands for health and dental insurance, and other benefit packages that have been available in the past from only the very large companies and now expected from almost every employer. The industry is changing gears. For the past few years, second and third gear was sufficient. Now you've got to get into overdrive if you expect to make it into the future with a good strong company.

Make every effort to keep informed with what is available in the market. What kind of embroidered products are being produced and what kind of customer is buying them? When was the last time you went to the local mall and looked at the products being sold? Did you see T-shirts with 10,000 stitches on the front selling for $60? Did you see caps with logos and designs selling for $25.95? These discoveries can be major eye openers. People are willing to pay kind of money for a T-shirt with a 4-inch embroidered design.

When is the last time you spoke with another embroiderer in your area? Talking to the competition does not mean that you have to give away your company secrets or discuss your customer list. It is always good to remain friendly with your competition so you can call them when you need help-or when you can offer them help. You may run into an unresponsive person, but you might also discover a real friend and fellow embroiderer willing to discuss common problems and solutions.

When was the last time you contributed to an industry web forum or blog with a helpful production shortcut or hint on making a task easier? Taking the time o pass on your experience will also get you more involved in learning and trying new things.

Get involved with the industry on the convention and conference level, too. Many embroiderers start going to conventions because they needed to find products and equipment. After a few years and all the equipment has been found, interest in attending as frequently can decline. What these folks many not realize is that they are missing the potential exchange with other embroiderers. Just talking, listening and learning how they have made their businesses work can give you many new ideas.. Meeting these people can be an invaluable tool. Not only are you likely to become friends with many of them, but you will also learn many valuable lessons. Even a beginner can teach you something if you listen.

The embroidery industry, like any business or industry, is getting more sophisticated all the time. We must keep informed of the latest news, products and to succeed. Getting involved and extending yourself is a sure way of keeping informed.

Friday, August 30, 2013

10 Tips for Successful Business Calls

  1.  Identify yourself with your name and your company. Playing "guess who?" (even with people you know well) is unprofessional and wastes time.
     
  2. Tell people how you got their name. Whether from a mailing list, phone book, or friend, people feel more at ease when this information is offered.
     
  3. Smile into the phone. Believe it or not, people can tell if you're happy, angry, disappointed, or disinterested over the phone.
     
  4. Ask if this is a good time to talk. If not, arrange for a convenient time to return the call. Remember, phone calls, no matter how anticipated, interrupt the work day.
     
  5. Make notes before the call and take notes during the exchange. Scripts tend to sound artificial. so just look over three or four questions or points you want to cover. Always write down the name of the person you're talking to and verify the spelling.
     
  6. Vary the volume, tone, and speed of your voice. Forty percent of accurate communication lies in the tone of your voice, and you have to compensate for the I ck of body language and facial expression to convey your message.
     
  7. Choose your words carefully. Again, in the absence of body language, words playa more powerful part in communicating the message. Be specific, and briei when talking on the phone.
     
  8. Divide your phone calling into manageable chunks, say five or 10 calls a day, so you're not overwhelmed (and discouraged) by the task.
     
  9. Under promise, then over deliver. As you wrap up the call, tell the client what you're going to do, and how and when you're going to do it-then do it! ''I'll get those sewn samples to you by the end of the week, and I'll e-mail the quote to you by tomorrow."
     
  10. Say "please" and "thank you" a lot. Good manners never go out of style.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Word of Mouth Marketing for Your Embroidery Business

Word-of-mouth exposure can mean the difference between the success and failure of any business. That's why the connections you make by becoming personally involved in your community can be so beneficial; the more you do, the more people will start talking about your company. Opening yourself to opportunities in your own backyard increases your exposure, which always increases your odds for new business opportunities.

Networking within your community is an easy, inexpensive, yet extremely powerful marketing tool. You never know who is in need of embroidery services, just as you never know who knows who. And because the retail business is especially dependent on referrals, being visible in your community helps promote your products and services.

The following suggestions are sure to generate positive remarks about you, your embroidery and your company. But these tips are only starting points, because the list of possibilities is limited only by your imagination. In fact, it's usually the more creative and more outlandish ideas that get people talking!

Hold a sidewalk sale to improve
your products' visibility
  • Hold a sidewalk sale once a month, and display some of your merchandise on racks or tables outside your shop. You could even hire a barker to stand on the comer and tell passersby about your business!
  • Donate a prize (embroidered polo shirts, custom digitizing, a free monogram, etc.) to a charity auction or other philanthropic event. (Carefully weigh the "presentation" options, however: While a gift certificate will bring the recipient into your store and possibly spur additional sales, the exposure may be more far-reaching if your embroidered item is viewed at the event.)
  • Hold an open house and exhibit your most impressive embroideries, either framed or in attractive displays. For an extra-chic touch, hire models for the event, and instruct them to mingle with customers, describing the embroidery they're wearing.
  • Team up with a local department store to sponsor a fashion show (held either in the store or in the mall area of the shopping center) and feature embroidered apparel and accessories. Themes such as Back To School, Here Comes The Bride, Happy Holidays and Summertime Fun have wide appeal and are sure to attract a crowd. (Many shopping centers and large department stores have special events committees that work on fashion shows and similar attractions. Your interest and willingness to participate will be much appreciated.)
  • Partner with an antique shop and dry cleaner to co-sponsor a community seminar on heirloom embroideries where to find them, how to assess their value, how to preserve them and how to create unique heirloom pieces. You can also invite the vendors that provide you with table linens, christening gowns, bridal accessories and religious products to participate in the event
Sponsor a local sports team and provide
custom uniforms
  • Sponsor a local recreational sports team (little league baseball, corporate bowling, college intramurals, etc.) by providing the players and coaches with embroidered uniforms, gear bags and/or jackets.
  • Invite local sewing groups to tour your shop and learn about the latest technological advances in sewing and stitching. Ask your machine rep to speak at the event to lend industry perspective and answer technical questions. (Your rep may even be willing to help defray expenses, because this is a business opportunity for him, as well.)
  • Send embroidered apparel to local celebrities (TV talk show hosts, news anchors, sports heroes, government officials, etc.) in hopes they wear and mention your "gift" on the air or in public.
  • Offer free tours of your shop to school groups, retirement centers and special interest clubs, then give each visitor an embroidered sample (and your business card) to take home. 
  • Allow a community group (Boy Scouts, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Overeaters Anonymous, etc.) to hold its after-hours meeting or event at your shop.
  • Donate your damaged goods to local needy organizations (homeless shelters, centers for battered women, children's hospitals, clothing drives, etc.). Not only is this a tax write-off, but it also rids your storeroom, attic or basement of potential fire hazards.
  • Take part in as many local events as possible (food drives, craft fairs, parades, charity walkathons, etc.) and always wear an embroidered outfit to the event. Be sure to take along a stack of business cards, too!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Making Sense of Thread Tensioning

Knowing how to fine-tune tensions is probably the single most valuable skill an embroiderer can master. Many embroiderers look for a benchmark to use to know when tensions need adjustment, but there is hardly a hard and fast method to developing an established procedure. It should be a goal for everyone in a production facility to share a common concept of proper tensions and employ similar techniques to go about achieving those concepts. The question is, however, how do you adjust tensions? One way would be simply by feel, or just by trial and error. Perhaps your machine technician recommended a technique to you and it is all you've really used.

The perfect tension


To visually check tension settings, the "H" test is a generally accepted standard. The "H" test consists of sewing the letter "H" in one-inch tall column stitching on all needle bars. When sewing is complete, turnthe hooped fabric over in front of the sewing head that produced it. The tensions are set properly if you see one-third bobbin thread running down the center of the column with equal thirds of top thread on each side of the bobbin thread. But what if you see something else?
Now it gets interesting, the tensions aren't textbook perfect, so what is the best way to begin to balance them? Which should you adjust first, the bobbin or the top thread? When adjusting the top thread, do you start with the tensioner, or the pretensioners? You need a plan.

Bobbin case


We begin to balance the tensions by setting a proper tension on the universal element that affects all needle bars, the bobbin case. First, make sure the case is clean by checking for lint or waxy residue between the tension plate and the top of the bobbin case. If it's dirty, clean with a business card, or use the thread itself like dental floss, being careful not to spring the metal. Resist the temptation to blow the lint out-this could deposit damaging saliva onto your bobbin case.

Now place the bobbin into the case and thread the case normally, but leave the thread out of the pigtail. Dangle the bobbin case by the thread end and lightly flick your wrist. The case should descend a couple of inches by its own weight. If it drops far, tighten large adjusting screw on the bobbin tension plate by turning it to the right. If it doesn't drop far enough, loosen this screw by turning it to the left and repeat the test. If you are using a tension gauge, set the bobbin case between 25 to 35 grams.

Pretensioners


After you have adjusted the bobbin case, begin tensioning the top thread using the pretensioners. Some machines have only one pretensioner and one tensioner, but most have a tensioner and two pretensioners. The top pretensioner is sometimes called a thread guide rather than a pretensioner.

There is a simple method that can be used for setting the pretensioners. Actually, it is really more a method of testing whether the pretensioners are working, i.e. having any effect on the thread.  By doing this test, you will see if your pretensioners are not working properly.

To illustrate, try removing thread from between the tension discs on both pretensioners. Next, remove the thread from the needle and pulled a length of thread through the presser foot. As you pull on the thread, the disc in the tensioner will turn as it should. Then, continue to pull on the thread, and place your finger against the spinning disc of the tensioner. The thread will continue to slip around the disc in an uninterrupted flow, except now the disc no longer turned.

The point of this text was to show what happens when the pretensioners are having no effect on the thread. Now replace the thread between the silver plates of the pretensioners and pull the thread through the path as before. This time, when you place your finger on the spinning disc, it will stop turning, and the thread will not slip through the disc. Now, the pretensioners are having an effect
on the thread.

In practical terms, to see if your pretensioners are doing their job, leave the pretensioners set as they are, remove the thread from the needle and pull it through the presser foot. Place your finger on the spinning tensioner disc. If the thread flow stops, the pretensioners are doing their job. If the thread continues to slip around the restricted disc, adjust the pretensioners until it stops.

Most embroiderers have been advised at some time to never touch their pre tensioners and adjust tensions using only the tensioner and the bobbin case. Technicians figure that if the pretensioners are working, leave them alone and work with the ten sioner to achieve a proper balance. While this is a good point, there are some exceptions.

For one thing, seeing any tensioner post protruding far past the plastic knob is a nuisance to many embroiderers. Rather than cranking the tensioner knob so far down, many people would rather adjust a bit at each pretensioner, as well as at the tensioner. Overtightening any tensioner flattens the spring inside over time, thus diminishing its ability to affect the thread.

There are times when the pretensioners are having some, but not enough, effect on the thread. For example, if the tension disc is not spinning smoothly, adjust the pretensioners slightly and feel for a smoother pull. Play with this for a few minutes, and if you still aren't satisfied, check the felt pads on the tensioner. If they appear deteriorated or sticky with oil residue, replace them. You can cut new ones from a similar weight felt if you don 't have spare pads on hand.

Tension discs vary with the equipment brand, but there are basically two types available. One kind is metal and appears to be two windowed sections pressed together.  The other type is a solid piece of plastic.

The metal type has more natural "grab" because of its two-piece construction. The plastic type has more of a tendency to allow thread to slip on the rotary disc. For this reason, some technicians recommend going around this disc two and a half times, rather than one and a half times. The theory is that this extra wrap helps to pull the rotary disc around.

Troubleshooting


When examining the reverse of your work, keep the following rules in mind to isolate the root cause of your tension imbalance.

Bobbin thread is narrower than one-third. If this symptom is exhibited on all needle bars for a particular head, the bobbin case is probably adjusted too tightly, and the thread is not flowing out as it should. If you see too little bobbin thread on only one or two needle bars, the top thread is possibly too loose on those needles. If the bobbin is too tight and the top is too loose, a bird nest can result.

Bobbin thread is wider than one third.  If this symptom is seen on all needle bars, the bobbin case probably needs tightening. If it is seen on only one needle bar, that needle's top thread may be too tight or hung up in the thread path.
Test your skill and these methods by intentionally misadjusting your tensions, and use these guidelines to get things back in order. Before long, you will have developed a feel for proper top and bottom tensions, making it easier to adjust tensions while running a job.