Whether you are a longarm quilter or an art quilter, you face competition. It can be in the form of other entries in a show or other artists competing for the same client or job. How do you handle that competition? In the current issue of The Professional Quilter, Mindy Wylie took a look at competition from the longarmer’s point of view. Here’s an excerpt:
It’s not unusual at all for there to be more than one longarm quilter in one area. In fact, this is pretty normal. But why do we feel it necessary to compete with each other? I realize that in this tough economy every single potential customer is very important, but why can’t we all just get along? We all want world peace, right? Sounds like a beauty pageant, doesn’t it?
Well, it is in a weird kind of way! We all bring our own special talents to our business, just like beauty pageant contestants. So, customers choose which longarm quilter they will use based on those talents. Why can’t they use different quilters for different quilts depending on the quilt? In that case, we all win!
So the question now is how to eliminate the competition aspect between longer quilters. That’s a very good question with a very simple answer. Communicate! It would be very easy to pick up the phone and call the other longarm quilters or invite them all to lunch to discuss it. No need for hostility or anger or jealousy. You’re all in the same position, so why not work together?
I started a longarm group several years ago. Six of us sat around a kitchen table. Some of us had met before, some of us had not. So we chatted and became familiar with each other first. We had some snacks and drinks and relaxed. When it came time to start the meeting, the first thing I did was to tell them all to look at the other people in the room. I said that these are your new best friends, not your competition, but your friends. Who else has batting or that particular thread when you run out? Who else understands exactly what you’re going through? Your other friends don’t understand your job, but these people do. These friends have the tools and gadgets you want to try out before spending your money on them. They might tell you not to even bother or they may tell you that you absolutely must have it! What happens when that fabulous tool falls to the floor and smashes and you’re only halfway through the quilt? Your new wonderful friend who told you it was a must-have just might let you borrow hers. Or you can wait a week or so for a new one to come in the mail. Your choice, but I’d rather run across town, borrow the tool, get the quilt done and get paid.
In my group, we were able to borrow thread, batting, wide-backing fabric, and many other things from each other. We were able to combine orders to meet wholesale minimums and reduce shipping costs. We referred customers to others whose waiting lists were shorter or did a particular type of quilting well or carried a specific brand of batting the customer wanted. None of us ever lowered our prices to try to undercut the others, but occasionally when business was a little slow we might run a “sale” or a special deal. It’s a win/win situation for the group and the customer.
How do you work with your competition? Please share below.