In the middle of last year I joined a group called Exciting Windows!
It is an organization that helps support window covering businesses throughout the United States and Canada. I am on my way to their annual conference. I am writing this blog thirty eight thousand feet over the Grand Canyon, on my way to the chilly confines of Baltimore Maryland. I hear nothing beats Baltimore in January especially for this southern California native.
This conference provides an opportunity for many different companies, both large and small, to share ideas to help each of us thrive in this challenging economy. This year marks their eighth conference, but it will be my first. This is a new experience for me and I have to admit I’m excited about it.
The people who run Exciting Windows have gotten to know me pretty well over the last eight months. We’ve worked closely analyzing Galaxy Draperies and are in the process of developing a plan to help us get to the next level of success. As many of you know, I’ve been in the window covering business for over 35 years now.
Since becoming affiliated with Exciting Windows, I’ve realized I have a lot of room to grow and improve everything we do on a daily basis. My focus has always been on our clients experience and they have shown me ways to even make that better. Not to mention all the other areas of running a successful business that I deal with on a daily basis. I guess they are pretty impressed with me, although they haven’t referred to me as “The King” yet, because they asked me to make a speech at the conference. The topic of the speech is running a successful “family” business.
When my wife, Diane, and my assistant, Anabel, heard about the topic they both broke into laughter. “Are you really going to talk about what goes on between you and your mother? “Of course”, I said. At least it will be entertaining.
I’ve been told that someone should write a sitcom about what goes on between the two of us. I am an only child and I certainly love my mother, but during business hours we’ve been known to disagree occasionally. OK, frequently and at times quite loud. We play a game called, who gets the last word and let me tell you she is a tenacious player. I’m no slouch myself.
My frustration with her comes from having to quickly bark out requests during the little time I have between visiting clients. She gets frustrated, because lets face it, she’s getting up there, and now in her mid eighties it’s too much to handle. This is the situation Anabel walked into about 3 years ago when she joined our business. She had no idea that she would end up in the unenviable position of referee. If any of you have spoken to Anabel you know she is much too sweet to be thrust into this position. Mom and I had to learn how to break old habits and become more civil to each other or risk losing Anabel. By the way, Diane was no help. She was smart enough to stay out of the way between her husband and her mother in law. But when I got home she certainly let me know about it.
The other bone of contention my mother and I have is the issue of change. I feel in order for our business to grow in the fast paced world that we live in, we must adapt with it. The drapery business is a low tech industry. When Galaxy was started we basically sold two products, draperies and mini blinds. Today, as a Hunter Douglas showcase dealer we have over 23 different products in just their line.
Three years ago I implemented a customer database management system. Oh my god, I thought she was going to strangle me. Three years later we can’t live without it. She still hates it mind you, but nothing can now get lost or should I say, misplaced. My mother’s famous catch phrase is, “I’ve been doing it this way for thirty years, why are you making it so complicated”. I try to tell her that businesses that don’t change die. We are not changing just to change. We are changing to be better. We want to be the best window covering company out there and in order for that to happen change is inevitable.
Exciting Windows asked me to include in my speech about how I got started in the family business. I found and brought with me the first tool I got when I started installing draperies. It’s called a Stanley driver. Back in the olden days when I installed drapes there were no portable battery powered drills. We did it the old fashioned way. Use a little muscle and my good old friend Stanley. I showed it to a couple of my installers and they looked at me like I was from a time where TV was black and white and there was no such thing as a remote control. See everything changes.
If after the speech anyone asks me how I made it through all this I’m going to take out an airplane size bottle and tell them about my friend Mr. Belvedere. A little ice, a twist of lime and now mom and I get along great.