Originally Posted by Benedicta
Productive Strategy IBDesigns, I may also add that since you have been doing this for a long time now, you will be familiar with the average time it takes to complete a certain amount of order and shipment (depending on the influx of orders of course). This can also help you create an schedule or timetable where orders are enabled when the last shipment goes. This way, your customers/clients will be familiar with your operating systems and thus build more interactivity and relationship. Just my opinion.
Thanks, Benedicta, you've definitely got a handle on the concepts. We actually took about a year to figure out our production schedule and timetable. Interestingly, as we produced more product, we also figured out ways to streamline many processes, thereby boosting our production capacity and changing our scheduling.
Additionally, we use Excel to mimic a typical warehouse inventory system. We don't HAVE an inventory, since we make the units for each order on demand, but we still create a "pick list" and delivery date list.
We're fortunate that we have all this technical capability "in house," so to speak, being in our late 50s and having worked in corporate and manufacturing environments in the past. As such, we were able to do one of the Key Things that so many small businesses fail to do --- process analysis!
Building a sewing business at home involves processes, just the same as anything else does, in life. Cooking involves getting a recipe, buying ingredients, prep work, setting out utensils, combining ingredients, cook time, serving and so forth.
A sewing business involves:
- Tracking material, thread, needles, etc.
- Keeping materials in categorized boxes or areas
- Keeping track of each particular order and instructions
- Connecting a customer with a particular order
- Keeping a schedule of promises (delivery, etc.)
- Managing scheduled work
- Managing customer expectations
- Managing final paperwork (mailing info, packaging, etc)
- Going to post offices or other carriers
- Tracking packages (delivery confirmations, etc)
- Archiving previous orders
- Problem resolution with customers (complaints, etc)
- Financial management (purchasing costs)
- Profit & Loss management
These are the most basic processes, and the entrepreneur should know exactly how he or she is going to handle each process. Figuring out what exactly is taking place is part of the Process Analysis.
Determining what you're going to do about each process is the "process" of putting together the business.
Another important thing is to figure out several "phases" of the business. Phase 1 would be having very few orders, not knowing what's going on, and making no money. Phase 2 would be having regular customer traffic, and realizing that current process systems aren't working very well. Fix them.
Phase 3 is to have "too much business." At that point, it's important to have the correct business model. An at-home seamstress producing unique work is NOT a typical boutique business. "Grow Big or Go Home" is absolutely Useless sloganeering in this instance!
The above business is an Artist model. When Michalangelo got "swamped" with a contract to paint the Sistine Chapel, do you think he went out and hired a couple of painters? Probably not!
For the Artist, it isn't about volume. It's rather about price and availability.
That being said, in Phase 3, the business owner can do an even more detailed process analysis. Perhaps there is "piece-work" that can be farmed out to help increase production. Michelangelo might have apprentice painters to mix paints, spread drop-cloths, build scaffolding, clean brushes and so fort.
The balance between the cost of the piece worker and the increase in business is a pretty fine line. For the at-home, single-person seamstress the likelihood is that a cash basis, under-the-table system might be the only viable option.
Finally, when all else fails, raising prices can help put the business owner over the line into a decent living wage.