By Roger Magalhaes
After two years without human interaction, the International Window Coverings Expo (IWCE) was back. During IWCE, I taught two classes, participated in a few panels, learned about new products, and talked to window fashion professionals about their thoughts and concerns for the window treatment industry.
Here are five things that I learned (or relearned) during the show. Although my findings are targeted at installers, I think everyone will find them worthy of consideration.
Laser Device. During my Installer’s Toolbox class, I shared that most of the time I use a laser device to measure window openings. To my surprise, I learned not many people trust this device—and I am not sure why. Besides the fact that using a laser device gives a great first impression when clients see it, this device is very precise and accurate. This is especially true when you are measuring wide openings, tall windows and skylight openings without requiring a ladder. For these situations, instead of a ladder, what you’ll need is an extension pole and the correct device attachment. And the features you must have are a timer and the ability to select inches and ⅛" increments for the readings. Be sure to keep a fresh set of batteries and keep the lenses clean to ensure the most accurate dimension readings.
Drapery Pinsetter. At my Installation Certification class, I shared that I like to use a drapery pinsetter to place drapery hooks on panels. I again found that many in the class had never heard of this tool. Aside from the fact that this tool saves your fingers from being sore after hooking several panels, it also saves time and ensures the drapery pins are placed with consistent and proper spacing.
Social Media. By now, everyone knows that social media should be part of your marketing strategy to promote your business both to your existing and prospective clients. Social media is also a great way to “break the ice” before you meet face-to-face. After a few online interactions, when you meet in person, the client is already familiar with you and your services. Social media is also a great tool to use to continue the development of your industry knowledge and to learn about new trends, products and services. Here are a few ways you can use social media for personal/professional gain: join industry-related groups on Facebook that allow you to participate in both national and international conversations; follow colleagues and industry influencers on Instagram who regularly share tips, projects and solutions to project challenges you may have never come across; and watch how-to and educational videos and demonstrations on YouTube where my favorites are the ones offered by tool, fastener and building supply companies and manufacturers.
Best Practices. During IWCE’s Window Coverings Association of America’s (WCAA) panel discussion about the best business practices for a successful relationship among the designer, workroom, and installer, I was reminded that the most successful projects are the result of teamwork. Clear communication, shared responsibilities, appreciation for colleagues, and collaborative solutions are critical. Be sure to create a team that shares your similar core values and work ethic and watch your business thrive.
Lack Of Installers. For those in the industry, the diminished number of installers is obvious. And if you aren’t sure if this is true, just visit some of the online forums where the request for assistance in finding an installer and getting installer referrals happens multiple times a day. I can’t count the number of times during IWCE I was asked about where good installers could be found. The window treatment industry is facing a major problem in that most of its installers are in their 60s and even 70s and are retiring. The industry also hasn’t done a good job making millennials aware of the potential to make a very good living installing window coverings. The fact is that many millennials don’t even realize that there is a window covering industry. It is our responsibility to share with friends, family, high schools, and communities that we need young people to fill these good jobs. We need to offer opportunities for those who are interested in the industry to learn and get involved. The investment to become an installer is relatively low. There is no need for a college degree and someone just entering the field can start generating income in a relatively short period of time. Keep your eyes open to people who are personable, handy with tools, and willing to learn. And share with them the opportunities available in the window treatment industry.
Roger Magalhaes is the founder of Trading Up Consulting, which provides installation training for window fashion professionals. Magalhaes has more than 15 years of experience as a professional window treatment installer in the Boston area. He is also the installation instructor for the Window Fashion Certified Professional FastTrack program and is the incoming president of WCAA. TradingUpConsulting.com