Last year I spent Christmas with family in Cape Town, and during my time off obviously plotted incessantly for global domination. Before heading back to work in January I remember thinking to myself:
“Well Benjamin, you’ve certainly considered every angle and prepared yourself for every conceivable eventuality…none-the-less there will certainly be some curve balls, so just sleep with one eye open”
Well…first day of work in 2019 Olga tells me she’s expecting and will need some time off…and the rest of the year was just one continuous disaster! From loadshedding to the vat increase, not to mention the Moody’s downgrade… by October I’d had to let everyone go, halve my salary and put an indefinite freeze on any new work.
At least I know I wasn’t the only businessman in tears by the end of 2019, and at least there were
Five things I Learned from Six Years in the Fashion Business.
1. Quitting is not loosing
I learned this lesson as a teenager and I find it increasingly useful as the complexities of my life proliferate. The amount of time and money we’ve invested in certain plans, or people, often deter us from facing the fact they just aren’t working. Instead of sinking more resources to plug the gap between what is, and how you dreamed it would be, I’m a fan of cutting your losses, learning your lesson, and moving on.
2. Tough clients are Golden
Last year I met Mr F from Liberia, who asked me to replace the collars on some shirts he’d had made in Abidjan (Cote d’Ivoire). First attempt: Benji this is not quite perfect. Second attempt: Benji you need to focus. Third attempt: Benji you’re not listening to me…
I was besides myself with panic!! On each attempt I looked more and more closely at how the original collars were made, searched through all my manuals and every corner of the internet to find a method which could produce a collar sufficiently perfect for Mr F.
On the fourth attempt, drowning in sweat, I finally achieved a “Benji this is perfect” and that was just the beginning of the saga with Mr F. He proceeded, in sets of ten and twenty, to have me replace the collars of over 80 custom shirts!!
This is just one story describing how particular some clients are, and it’s worth satisfying them because they push you to improve on a skill you thought you had mastered.
3. A stitch in time saves nine.
It’s a really appropriate mantra in tailoring, because neglecting a task when it’s due will increase your workload later on. Last year I learned just how easy it is to think you’re saving time by skipping that one stitch, and that it’s not always clear when you get to doing the nine stitches, that they’re caused by you skipping the one.
Clarity comes with having space to observe and reflect. And not taking the time to think things through is itself a skipped stitch that’ll cost you in the future.
4. Excellent service has multiple facets
Listening attentively to clients has taught me that there a numerous aspects of a good service, and they’re often culturally specific. Ease of contact, politeness of communication, excellence of product and reliability in delivery are just some of the important factors, but the list is as long and variable as there are cultures in the world.
Questioning my clients on their experience helps me constantly improve on every aspect of the service, making the process as smooth as possible. Not only does this make for happier clients from a diversity of backgrounds, but also means that a dropped ball here or there (like a culturally specific faux pas) is just a small chink in a long chain of excellent service, which can more easily pass unnoticed.
5. So long as you have a plan you’re fine.
It’s only when you run out of plans that you need to start stressing, and it was at such a point that I arrived in October 2019. I felt I had tried and retried every possible means of growing the business beyond a home-industry, and failed at every attempt.
Even the very best plan is worthless unless it adequately engages with current reality. If not it’s a vision, not a plan, and it’s easier to confuse the two than you’d think.
And so on with 2020!! I can’t thank you all enough for your support over the years, and I look forward to continuing to serve you in the future.
If you’d like to keep up to speed with what’s fashionable do check out my facebook and instagram feeds, and you’re always welcome to drop in every Thursday between 8am and 8pm, or get in touch (firstname.lastname@example.org / 073 345 1779) for an appointment.
I’ve been writing these blogs each year since I began the business in 2014, and if you’d like to see what the Benjamin of the past thought about the fashion industry, you can go here.