Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: Baby Steps For Quilts, Inc.

Before I say anything of such immense importance (you know how I roll), I wanted to wish you a very Merry Christmas.  I hope all your wishes come true and Santa brings you all the gifts that you asked for.  I hope a couple people actually have a moment to step away from the eggnog to read this blog.  Speaking of which, I don’t think I have ever even tried eggnog. Maybe that will go on my bucket list for 2017.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand.  I have been in withdrawal lately.  From what you might be wondering? Come on and get your mind out of the gutter!  I am not that kind of guy. In any case, I have been in withdrawal from blogging about Quilts, Inc. and the Quilt Market conundrum.  So here goes.

I was utterly shocked to have received an email recently from:  Quilt Market & Festival.  The email read:

A BIG thank you for being a part of our shows this year!  Wishing you a MERRY CHRISTMAS and the HAPPIEST OF HOLIDAYS!

This is progress as I don’t recall ever getting an email like this from Quilts, Inc.  Perhaps they are trying to get in touch with their customers. Or maybe they are realizing that they need to be a little nicer.  In either case, hopefully this is the first of much progress to come in 2017 because you all know that we need it.  Fingers crossed!  Or maybe not.  We will have to see.

On a personal note, I wanted to thank all my blog readers for being so loyal.  I hope that I have been able to keep you fabricly entertained throughout 2016.  I hope that you continue to hang in there with me in 2017 as I know things are going to get C-R-A-Z-Y like this industry!

Regards,

Studioe Scott

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: Yes! Blog Recycled

As I recently promised, I am going to recycle some of my older favorite blogs.  This is great because, as the year winds down, I am running out of subject matter to discuss.  But really, I am just getting too tired and absolutely cannot wait for Christmas vacation.  I too get tired.  All that being said, this is a great blog to get you thinking about changes for 2017. Maybe it is time to turn in to a Yes (man or woman). No!  No!  No!  That dirty little word has be driving me crazy lately because I have been hearing way too much of it from people that should be saying YES!  YES!  YES!  I am hearing this from suppliers, vendors, publishers, employees, reps and so many others.  I just don’t get it.  I am not sure if the people are just being lazy or that it is just their nature, but from me, I can promise you a YES!  99% of the time.

What kind of business practice would it be to say NO?  A stupid one in my opinion.  The thing that bothers me even more is that when I ask “why not?” the answer is really nothing more than a really lame excuse.  I could live with a legitimate excuse.  I am not big on excuses though and typically ignore them because all they are is excuses.  So in my quest for yes answers, I relentlessly press the NO-sayers to try to get them to a yes answer.  I end up hearing more excuses and it makes me consider whether I want to continue to do business with a NOer (someone who always says NO!).  Who really needs it when I can probably easily find someone else that will say yes without a fight?

I frequently get calls, emails and letters with all sorts of requests and like I said, 99% of the time I say yes.  To say yes is rewarding.  People are sometimes shocked at the lengths I will go to in order to make something happen.  But this is an amazing quality and this will make people want to continue to work with me and continue to do business with my family of companies.  You would truly be surprised how often I get thank you emails, calls and letters.  People even stop me at quilt market and say, “you were so kind to have done so and so.”

Without harping on my successes of being a yes man, I have one simple request:  stop saying no! and start saying YES!  YES! YES!  You too will be thanking me as it is never too late to turn over a new and simple leaf like this one.  You will be proud you did.  Am I right or what?

Yes Man Scott & Studioe

Tales Of Fourth Generation Textile Executive: Thanks To All You Road Warriors

Karen Montgomery is my favorite writer for Fab Shop News.  Her articles are so practical and are very relevant to the pulse of the industry.  In fact, I find her article subjects to be similar to the topics that I like to write about in my blogs….stuff that relates to shop owners rather than consumers.

Recently Karen wrote an article called “Become A Savvy Buyer, How Green Is that Grass?”  What I absolutely loved about this article is how Karen steps up to defend the extremely challenging job of being a sales rep. Unlike some other shop owners out there, Karen is promoting the respectful treatment of the road warriors.  Road warriors are people too and they deserve R-E-S-P-E-C-T! What she writes in the article is very honorable and I love that it is coming from her, a shop owner, rather than myself, someone who is not a shop owner.  They are smart, hard working and brave to work such a tolling job.  They really do deserve the utmost respect, so please consider giving them some extra love in 2017 as it is never too late.

As Karen puts it, how green do you think the grass is on their side of the fence?  Unfortunately, it isn’t that green, but the sales reps enjoy what they do and they do it with pride.  Do they love being away from their families for such long periods of time?  Do they love staying in strange hotels/motels? Do they love being alone for so long?  Do they love driving for long periods of time in all kinds of weather conditions?  Do they love the food that they eat while on the road?  Do they love when they drive 200 miles to find out the shop owner forgot about the appointment?  Do they love that they don’t get to do the daily tasks that we take for granted because we are at home?  The answer to all these questions is a resounding NO!

Rather than rehashing her entire article, I just wanted to say how appreciative that I am for all the road warriors out there that work for my various companies.  I know that your job is not easy, but nonetheless you do it with your head up and I rarely hear any complaints.  I try to compliment you all as often as possible because it isn’t likely anyone else does, but I do appreciate you all so very much.  So let it be known that I value each and every one of the sales reps that sell Jaftex fabrics.  You definitely don’t hear it enough, but you should know that you are important.  You matter.  You are awesome for having the guts to do what you do everyday because it isn’t easy.  So without belaboring the point any further, THANK YOU SALES REPS FOR A JOB WELL DONE, A GREAT YEAR AND FOR YOUR LOYALTY!  Wishing you all a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah & a very Happy New Year!  May 2017 be filled with larger orders, fewer cancelled appointments & orders and safety! Cheers from my family to yours!

Sincerely,

Jaftex Sales Reps’ Biggest Fan!

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: 2017 Motivation

Dear Quilt Shop Owner,

I am well aware that the fabric business has not been easy lately and is definitely getting more challenging and competitive each and every year.   So for the first time, I wanted to give you a pep talk to try motivate you to put the past behind you and put your best foot forward in 2017.  What do you have to lose?

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You might be asking, what the heck does this guy know about running a quilt shop while he is sitting at his desk in New York City? This is definitely a valid question and the answer is that I am an observer looking in from the outside who deals with quilt shop owners on a daily basis, I am a business person who understands retail, I have my ear to the ground listening to what people are saying and I visit many shops on an annual basis.  So, I see enough from the outside to be able to observe and comment, but not too much where my judgment is clouded.  I have given this much thought and suggest you take 5 minutes to listen to a fresh perspective.  You never know, this could go a long way for you in 2017. Don’t forget that I am on your side and want you to be as successful as possible because if you are successful, I too am successful.

fresh-perspectiveBefore I get in to the crux of the discussion, I wanted to say that only you, the quilt shop owner or manager, can make things happen.  In order to make things happen, there has to be a desire and a plan.  If you don’t have the desire, you might as well stop reading.  I want to take a moment to explain the desire and the plan through an example.  I have one blog reader that probably comments on every blog that I have written…which I really appreciate.  So I randomly emailed her and suggested that we meet in person.  Why not, right?  She was definitely a little shocked to hear that I wanted to meet her.  She lives in Ohio and I live in New York.  We spoke several times by email and had no luck setting up an appointment.  But, lo and behold, the opportunity arose where I happened to be taking a trip to Ohio.  I contacted her and we made it happen and had a great time.  We both gave a little, we had the desire, we were patient and eventually we had a plan.  We made it happen and you need to do the same.  Yes YOU!

make-it-happenSticking with the make it happen mantra, you need to be motivated to make changes.  Change is hard to embrace sometimes, but change is good. It is hard for people to get out of their routine and this is coming from a guy who is a creature of habit, so I know first hand.  It is especially important to engage in change now when the world is changing so fast that it is hard to even keep up.  What once worked year after year may now be an outdated concept.  Many a business has perished for not changing with the times.  Jaftex, for example, might not even be in business today if my dad and grandfather didn’t have the foresight to get out of the manufacturing business at the right time.  That manufacturing business has almost entirely disappeared from the US.  Moreover, nowadays with major disruptors like Uber or Amazon, there is no resting on your laurels because one day you could wake up and it is game over. No one wants that to happen to them.

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Without further ado, here are my motivational bullet points, so take them or leave them.  Hopefully some will actually help you in 2017.  Sorry that this blog is a little longer than normal.
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  • Reflect on the past.  You should try to take some time to reflect on the prior years’ wins and losses.  This should be an annual ritual since self reflection is so important.  Analyze what went wrong and what went right. Don’t forget that the numbers don’t lie. How can you make it even better the next time?  How can you cut your losses on your losers faster?
  • Do more of what is working and less of what is not working.  This goes hand in hand with reflecting on the past.  So here is a good example of this.  Go through your vendors and see who you are having the most success and the least success with as far as sales of their fabrics.  Then, you should buy more of Studioe (I couldn’t resist) and less of the other guy’s fabrics.  See what happens.  Maybe you will learn that for some unknown reason that you have a huge Studioe customer contingency that you weren’t aware of.  Another example would be if you had particular success with a certain licensed designer like Elizabeth Isles who designed Natural Wonders, By The Sea & Mariposa Meadow.  In this case, maybe you buy 2 full collections of the newest line and promote it out in a big way.  Perhaps  you will even reorder the line several more times thereafter.  Maximize it!  Capitalize!  At least that way you are taking a calculated risk, rather than making a not very well thought out business decision.  If it works the second time around, great. If not, maybe there is no trend, but at least you tried to make a smart business decision with some data to support it.

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  • Maximize the use of your computer systems.  If you have a pos system or some other computerized inventory system, you need to maximize the functionality of your system.  Sales data is valuable data if analyzed correctly and carefully.  Make sure to look at the owners manual for your system and take advantage of all the functions that it offers.  Determine which metrics are useful to help you achieve your goals.

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  • Think outside the box.  I know that this is so cliche, but there really is validity to thinking this way.  Don’t think like everybody else.  Challenge yourself to come up with novel and inventive ideas that will generate sales.  This also means that you shouldn’t be doing what everyone else is doing because you need to differentiate yourself from everyone else.

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  • Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.  Back to the motivation again and yet another cliche.  If you want it bad enough, you will make it happen and you will make it happen today.  If it means making sacrifices, you need to realize it and make sure that you are ready to make those sacrifices. Nothing is very easy anymore, so if you aren’t ready to step up your game, maybe it is time to get out of the game.  Work is work, it is not play and sometimes it isn’t fun, but if you make calculated sacrifices, they should pay off in spades.  Get yourself pumped up and excited about what you are going to do and just do it.  It is just like what the Nike people keep saying…just do it.

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  • Try new things.  Don’t keep having the same boring display that you have had for as long as you could remember.  Mix it up.  Redecorate the place. Move things around.  Try a new contest or event.  Don’t be boring.  Make people want to come in to see all the exciting changes and all the excitement that everyone is talking about.  Create the positive vibe and the positive buzz.  Only you can make this happen.

stick-to-the-plan

  • Make a plan and stick to it unless forces tell you otherwise.  It should be crystal clear what everyone’s role is with respect to the plan.  Don’t make a sloppy plan, make sure to cover all the important details carefully.

weakest-link

  • Get rid of the weakest link.  I hate to say this and find out that people are getting fired, but in every company there is one person that is just coasting by or bringing the rest of the team down.  Every year you say that you should be firing them, but you never pull the trigger.  Stop this bad habit and pull the cord.  Did you know that each year Goldman Sachs fires a percentage of their weakest employees?  This is an admirable Fortune 500 company.  Don’t you think that you too can learn from them?

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  • Talk.  Talk to other shop owners, sales reps, customers, business owners, pattern makers, magazine people, etc.  Listen to what they are saying about what is working for them and for others in the industry.  This is certainly a good reason to attend quilt market where there are so many of your contemporaries to chat and socialize with and most importantly, learn from.  If you get one valuable take away from talking and listening to others, that was well worth it.

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  • Read.  Surf.  You should be reading as many relevant quilt magazines as possible and you should be surfing the internet often.  If you are not embracing the internet by now and all that it has to offer, you are not changing with the times and you are shooting yourself in the foot.  I hate to keep eluding to this, but if you don’t know what’s going on on the internet by now, maybe it is time to realize that your time has past and you can’t keep up with the new “new.”  Some magazines publicize their rankings of say the top 10 shops each year.  Take a moment to look at the social media that these top shops are executing. It is free and you can learn tons from others.  This isn’t stealing.  Take someone else’s ideas and tweak them to make them your own for your own circumstances.  So much out there on the internet is free, so if you don’t think that you can be innovative, be creative and resourceful instead.  We all have our strengths and weaknesses so just deal with what god gave you and use it well.
  • Look to companies for ideas.  You should be speaking with sales reps and the in house staffs of companies.  Ask them about inspiration that they might have to offer.  For example, many companies have free projects for consumers and shops to use.  If you are not using them, you should.  Ask if the company has a trunk show.  These are just a few examples, but if you just ask, maybe you will be surprised to find out what is available and how companies are willing to help you.

be-patient

  • Wait for deals and ask for deals.  Many companies offer different specials at different times of the year.  For example, the Blank Quilting Corp. (a Jaftex Company) has a Blank Blog Bonanza.  This is a monthly special for shop owners.  This is great for the shop owners and great for our company too.  Ask your rep how many bolts do you need to buy to achieve a discount, free freight or what have you. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.  So it never hurts to ask.
  • Remove the roadblocks and the negativity.  If someone or something at work or at home is distracting you with negativity and is holding you back from giving 110%, you need to deal with that.  I need you at full capacity to make the best out of 2017.

bad-habits-stop-bigst

  • Break bad habits.  Many of us keep saying to ourselves something like this, “I have to stop smoking, or I have to stop playing candy crush, or I have to stop going to sleep so late.”  The problem is that we don’t stop doing it.  Figure out what your bad habit is and create a plan to put that bad habit behind you.  Take a moment to see how much time this bad habit is cutting in to what could be a very productive day.  When the bad habit is gone, you will be proud of yourself and amazed at how much it was keeping you from achieving.

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  • Get inspired.  Get out of the store and get to a mall or shopping center.  Go window shopping and look for creative ideas that you can use to make your shop window or display stand out.  Consider bringing some of your team members as everyone sees things differently and lots of fresh ideas could be generated this way.  This will be time well spent.  You just can’t live in a bubble or a vacuum.

take-care-of-yourself

  • Be healthy and take care of yourself. Make sure to get enough sleep, sun, water and exercise.  Eat well, watch your alcohol intake, smoking and caffeine.  It helps your daily performance so much if you are on the top of your game and feeling good.  Personally, I get my butt up at 6 am several days a week and hit the gym.  It helps so much to get me through my day with a good mindset.  Do what works for you, but make sure to be smart and not over do it because you can’t afford to hurt yourself.

have-fun

  • Have fun!  Life is short, so when it is all said and done, you should make sure that you are having fun.  If you hate your job, you need to figure out how to move on to something that you enjoy.  When I joined my family business about 12 years ago, it was because my body could no longer handle the stress of trading stocks.  The day that I stepped away from the trading desk, all my stress ailments went away and it was like a rebirth. That was not fun, but I made a change and am having lots of fun now.

Thanks so much for listening to my advice and pointers to a successful 2017.  I hope that I hear from many of you late in 2017 saying how you took any bits or all of my advice and it changed your life.  I wish you all much success.  GOOD LUCK & GET GOING!

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah and Happy New Year!

Your Friend,

Scott Fortunoff

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