Tuesday, May 27, 2008

You can pick your threads and you can pick your friends...

But you really can't pick your friends' threads. No, really. Ever tried to explain a color to someone? Tough, isn't it. And I'm not talking about the blind neighbor who really wants to know what the sunset looks like. I am truly just talking about, say, a pal on the other side of town, on the phone, who wants to know what your vegas gold thread matches. Or the one who did some t-shirts and now wants to match the t-shirt colors to a crest-sized embroidered logo but needs exact matches.

Personally, my heart kinda sinks when I get the question, "Here are the PMS colors for the design and my client wants them matched exactly."

My first thought is, well (it's a thought), I could just go out and spin some polyester right after I mix the proper colors and do a test print somewhere. That would work, right?

The answer is, um, no. Really, thread never matches ink. It just doesn't. You can take a piece of embroidery or sewing thread out in the sunlight and it looks entirely different in color than it does under fluorescents. Apart from that, it never really matches those expensive little pantone charts that are so carefully updated and handed out (or sold for lots of money).

There are close comparisons. We carry a couple of manufactured threads that provide us with reference charts. The charts are good at giving us an approximation of the color that will closely match but often, it is not exact and we have, over the past sixteen years, actually had complaints by customers who said that our thread color is way off from their own idea of the correct pantone. Some have even come in and looked at our wall of thread (over 100 colors, no waiting), and picked their own, which is always an option.

Oh, wait. We don't have every single color, either. We rarely have to go buy additional ones, but we do, on occasion, have to substitute one slightly different one, or come 'as close as possible' where necessary. But really, how many colors should one be expected to carry?

We do work hard at matching. But the very first thing we do try to do during the client education process is inform them that some compromise regarding color may be required, especially if they are doing embroidered goods for the first time. Because it just is not the same. Embroidery colors are never quite like print colors and while PMS colors are close, they are not entirely perfect. It's just the nature of the beast.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

So much to discuss

Even though I haven't been able to get much more than a post every other week, the fact is, I have a lot to say. Life and companies change with the demands of consumers, who change with the demands of their customers at such a great clip these days that it not only is hard to keep up, but it is nearly impossible to WANT to keep up.

I'll bet everyone has one of those days when they dig their heels in and say "No, I won't do it." In fact, the older I get, the more I hear that little voice in my head. At some point, isn't enough just plain enough?

The answer is "absolutely not."

What makes business interesting has nothing to do with how much money you make or how much prestige is earned by being the biggest or the loudest or the fastest. The interesting thing is that, for those who want it, there is always something new to do, something new to learn and some incentive for doing it.

As a young man, I was confused about what I wanted to do with my life. Oh, I had aspirations, most of which had to do with being rich and successful (still do as a matter of fact) but the flood of opportunities and indecision led me to conclude that I had no clear idea as to what it was that really called me. I spent money on advisors, took the tests, tried the aptitude and psychological evaluations and learned one simple thing.

At some point, the psychologist asked me a simple question. "Do you want to be an employer or an employee?"

I pondered that for a long moment. And finally answered the question.

"You're always an employee. There really is no such thing as an employer, except the company you work for. Or the customers who buy from you."

And that was what I learned. It is also the one thing that I try to make clear to employees here. We are all beholden to one single employer. Our customers. Without them, we simply couldn't make it.