Need A Life?

Here’s How To Get One

I’m often told by framers how difficult it is to find good employees. They can’t understand why the people they hire perform their jobs and treat customers differently than they want them to. That’s why I talked about the necessity to have a company manual in my February article. A manual spells out how you want things done. It provides consistent guidance for the direction you want your team to go. When you combine a detailed manual with ongoing score keeping that gives your team consistent feedback on their ability to reach company goals, you’ve got a very good chance of reducing the stress that comes with getting things done through other people.

If you have those things in place, I commend you- you are ahead of 90% of small businesses today. However, I still don’t think that is enough for our industry. Having a detailed company manual and a system of feedback for goal attainment is still not enough when you are selling a custom product. Because designing and producing a custom product is much more difficult than selling merchandise you stock for customers. It involves way too many variables to be left to chance. That’s why you need a sales training program.

Designing and producing a custom product involves way too many variables to be left to chance. That’s why you need a sales training program.

What is a sales training program? It’s a written instruction on the philosophy your company has regarding design and preservation standards. Am I saying that a creative designer who has several years of experience combining materials to enhance artwork and personal memorabilia needs to be “instructed” in design theory before they bring their talents to your clients? You bet I am. I am saying that everyone who designs for your clients must agree to adhere to the basic design principles and the standards you have established for ensuring that these valued items will be framed in a manner worthy of your professional reputation.

Don’t know what I mean? Don’t like the idea of having “rules” that limit creativity? Then I would bet you are destined to remain the popular choice for everyone who comes in to frame. I also bet you will constantly be looking at the things your team designs with thoughts about ways you could have made it better. I bet you haven’t had more than two days off together for a long time. I think that’s why so many in our industry give up on growing though others. It’s just too hard. I don’t agree with that- I just have found that it takes even more training and instruction to develop a consistent product in this industry than in most.

That’s why I believe in the need for a sales training program for your team. What is inside a good sales training program? First of all, it’s NOT a document about customer service standards – you’ve already covered that with your company manual. Instead, the sales training program covers the details of the philosophy you have regarding design. Don’t think you have a philosophy? You do, you just have never challenged yourself to put it in writing. You have a firm belief about mat width and image size. You also believe there is a relationship between mat width and frame width. Besides proportion and spacing beliefs you also have a starting place for determining mat color selection and an idea of when to use a dark or light top mat. The point is that if you are successful in attracting clients to your business for your design ability, you have adopted some very basic guidelines that you use when designing. You also have strong ideas about when certain materials should never be used. Beyond design you have developed standards for protecting and securing the valuables you frame. You have learned over time what your customers expect from you and what they don’t want to see.

YOU know these things, but that’s not enough. Recording the basic design philosophy you use to satisfy customers and create a proper product is essential to ensuring not only a consistent shopping experience, but the ability to have your designers do their job without your constant input. A learn-on-the-job environment where you dispense constant feedback during the sales process to team members undermines their credibility and tells you clients that you are the only one with the answers.

Begin by writing down the process your mind goes through when starting a design. Do this for many different projects, so you can include instruction for various types of designs. Try and incorporate the correct terminology in your instruction. Proportion, spacing, rhythm, hue, tint, tone, shade, focal point, complementary and analogous colors – terms like this are important to use in the sales process- teaching them to your team develops the professional standards many clients expect from independent custom framers. If you haven’t been using correct terms or you need brushing up, this is a perfect time to research basic terminology and use them in your new program. Nothing is more revealing to a knowledgeable client than a designer using the word tint when shade is the appropriate term. It does matter. Once you’ve created your sales design program, you need to teach it. Have your team practice using the design process you have outlined for them by talking themselves through the process as they design (practice only- not in front of a customer). Have them use the correct terminology when they explain their process. The result will be a consistent, professional service which is available from every designer in the company.

Want to be able to take a vacation and not worry? Do you want to find time for actually managing your business? You must put these tools in place so that your team has what they need to continue with the same level of service you offer. Unless you provide these programs, you are always going to be tied to the basic elements of your business. It’s a ton of work to do all this. But the alternative means never being satisfied with the performance of others and that becomes exhausting. It leads to burn-out and ultimately a loss of passion for what you do. Create the system for allowing others to excel in your business and you’ll allow yourself to enjoy what you do for a long time.

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