In the Filipino culture, there’s a saying that goes…
(Translation: If you don’t look back from where you came from, you won’t get to where you’re going.)
For me, it boils down to reflection and gratitude… As a person, a professional, and an entrepreneur, those are the guiding principles that I live by. I try not to forget the people who helped me along the way. At the end of every project, it’s critical for me to pause and think about what went well and what can be improved. Every little encounter leads to the next opportunity which gets me closer to my goals.
So, as I kick off this new year (and before things get busy), I took some time to reflect on my learnings from last year. My intent is to be better prepared to plan and steer the business this year. Here are my thoughts:
Always be grateful for your customers.
When my customers are not nice or just plain mean, I try to just smile and still provide the best customer service I can. I don’t know the circumstances they were facing at that time. I don’t know the demons they were fighting before they interacted with me. I do know that I will do everything I can to make their user experience a good memory so that they remember me when someone asks them for a referral.
Everyone has their own circle of influence. Word-of-mouth remains to be Embroiderrific’s #1 form of advertising. Since we don’t have a brick-and-mortar storefront, we rely primarily on customer referrals and on our online presence. But once our customers know about us, they keep coming back. This to us is the best advertisement. (BTW, contact us if you want to hire us and need references.)
Standardize your processes then create checklists.
During the first couple of years in the embroidery business, Embroiderrific catered to custom work. As our online business picked up, we received more online orders and we identified products that are popular. At the same time, we received contracts with other customers for their branding requests. Soon after, we collaborated with some of our logowear customers on event embroidery projects. We would bring our equipment on site and perform custom work. Through our evolution, we developed standard processes for how we run our business (standardizing inventory, production, logistics and delivery). One of most helpful things we implemented were checklists. We have checklists for how to receive inventory, how to create/apply a heat print and how to embroider items. Using checklists for “to do lists” or “things to bring” alleviated stress and allowed us to stay focused on the big picture. It helped me to not forget things like charging my Square reader before a big show!
Learning to pivot is a critical skill. You CAN teach old dogs new tricks.
We all have examples of “Adapting to Change”, especially during COVID. Shutdowns, mandates and social distancing created challenges all over the world. In my neighborhoods, we saw many businesses struggle and shut down for good (tutoring, hospitality and retail – among many others). Sports activities were cancelled. When our school partners were required shut down, they had to find a way to deliver education to their students remotely. Remote learning created a challenge for Embroiderrific as well, because our customers saw no need for school logo wear during quarantine. In an effort to both maintain and nurture our relationship with our school partners and survive as a business, Embroiderrific worked with our schools to develop low cost, hand-made facemasks that the schools could sell to their student families.
Create a “Charge It To Experience” expense line in your financial statements.
“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.” – Oscar Wilde. When I managed an auction company in Subic Bay, I had a mentor who called the process of learning from mistakes my “tuition fee”. There are some things that can’t be learn from school. They need to be learned through first-hand experience.
Every now and then, we run into this when we provide a quote on a service or product we’ve never embroidered on before. Once, we provided a quote but with the supply chain issues, raw material prices increased right after we have a signed P.O. At another time, we didn’t charge enough for a job that took us twice longer than planned. Well, we just had to remember what we need to adjust for next time, charge it to experience, and move on to the next job. No need beating ourselves over it! At least now, we know better and can modify our plan.
Having a good support system is crucial to your success.
Last year, we came up with some new product and service offerings. When we think we’re ready to go but before we actually flip the switch, we found it useful to bounce off these ideas with friends and family.
Our network is a great (and free!) source of feedback and of help that we can tap into. Some of us have over 1,000 friends on Facebook or Instagram. Ask them. You just have to preface it that you want them to be brutally honest. You don’t want them to tell you what you want to hear. Just a reminder if you’re using social media: Unless you want them publicly posting their thoughts, you may want to request them to PM or DM you.
If you have yet to build good support system, it’s not too late to start one.
With all the surprises we’ve seen these past couple of years, who knows what this new year brings? All we can do is remember the lessons we’ve learned these past few years, move forward and be prepared to face the challenges that come our way.
Here’s to a great year for all of us!