Image from: http://1hjf0v2o7xfp1lwogj1zapji.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/canstockphoto13874869.jpg
Okies… so here is Part 2 of my ….err… “passionate plea” to fashion designers. If you missed Part 1, here it is:
And it really is a plea. Yes the last one was a rant because I was frustrated but I have since calmed down so now I am pleading with you.
And why am I pleading with you?!
Well first it makes our job easier of course. We have had some success stories but we need more. Second, you have to admit that constantly changing staff is a waste of time and resources for everyone involved. I am sure if you search deep down within yourselves, you cannot be a happy person but your pride perhaps would not let you admit to yourself that, perhaps, you may be the problem. Third, it costs a lot of money which can be better used elsewhere on training and retraining (on the assumption that you actually do train your staff) or at least, saving yourself the costs of a new person constantly wrecking your clothes. Then the trust issues and the stress of constantly monitoring a new person in your space can be physically and mentally draining.
Well… we know our Industry is far from perfect and our tailors are a nightmare to work with. But have you bothered to ask yourself why your tailors keep leaving you?! I can safely tell you that when 2 or 3 people sent to the same designer give us the exact same reason for their inability to work with you, then you are the problem. Yes you might feel like a superwoman (or man) but truth be told, your business is pretty much at a standstill when you do not have the right people to work with.
Here are just some of the problems we are aware of and our position on these issues. If you know you do these things, then you need to stop them! It is completely unfair and makes life just unnecessarily difficult for everyone involved.
Left Image: https://edlauber.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/assistants-to-a-seamstress_3.jpg
Middle Image: http://www.symbols.com/gi.php?type=1&id=1594&i=1
Right Image: http://riyadhconnect.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/maids-are-humans-too.jpg
1. STOP Treating Your Tailors as Your Domestic Staff!
This is TOP of the list! Your tailors are your production staff and are there to work on your clothes – NOT to wash your clothes, clean your house, run market errands, buy you kerosene (except it is for office use), pick your children up from school, walk your screaming children to calm them down or pretty much do all other odd jobs I have heard tailors complain about. We even have students who have left places they were learning for this same reason.
I do understand the need for extra hands but this was NOT the primary reason they were employed. Remember some of these tailors work on a commission basis. How can they ever meet their targets or deliver on their assigned tasks when they spend half of their day running errands?!
Even if they were earning a salary, why keep them busy working on mundane tasks that do not add to even your own bottom line much less theirs. They have families to feed! They are there to work and earn a living. Please let them work for their pay! You might think “don’t they get paid at the end of the day”?! Well yes they might but some people actually go to work because they want to learn new things and improve themselves not just to make the money.
If you need someone to run multiple tasks for you, then please get a gofer – someone who understands, ahead of time, that his/her task is not only to run around on the production floor but also act in the capacity of your PA. Some of them just oblige because they have to not because they want to. Don’t take advantage of this.
2. Pay Your Tailors When Their Wages / Salaries Are Due
Another popular one. We all know the economy is tough but people cannot work without getting paid, especially with the cost of goods and services these days. Especially if you claim there is no money, yet travel all over Nigeria for one fashion show or the other; or worse, fix your nails and your hair religiously every week – even if your 2nd half is paying for it. They will leave.
And the whole and I quote “Oja ta, oja o ta, owo alaaru a pe” that I have heard designers have quoted to their tailors seems ridiculous to me. How can you expect them agree to work conditions that state they will not get paid if there is no “business” or “work”?! No-one will! I will understand if it was part of their responsibility to bring in the work but if it is not part of their job description, then you need to do 2 things:
– Look for the business yourself and keep them engaged; or
– Convert their employment to contract and call on them when you need them.
Stop giving examples of how your husband or your sister had not been paid for 4 months or worse, telling them to be grateful they even have a job that gets them out of the home every morning. That is extremely insulting.
If there is no business, carry them along and give them a viable option or you all come up with a plan on what else can be done to make things better. No-one wants to spend money going to a place of work and not getting paid to at least recoup their costs.
A bit of a freaky picture I know but seems quite apt… From: http://www.expatsinindia.org/upload/KWQ-1442.jpg
3. Understand That Your Tailors Need to Have a Life
Do not squeeze the life out of them by working them to the bone! They also need a break. Have a resumption and closing time and stick to it if you can. If they have their work schedules cut out for them, most of them will stay behind if they know they need to catch up. They will know it is as a result of their shortcomings not because it is the norm.
Most of us hate to allow our staff go on leave. I also find it very difficult. But you know what?! It also puts you in a better position when your staff realises that they are not indispensable and work can still continue even in their absence.
Think about it?! What is the major reason people have for leaving banks, consulting firms and the likes?! Because they never had time for themselves. In the early days they might like it but as time goes on, some of them might need time to further educate themselves by going for night classes. You need to give them time to do that else they will leave for other businesses that allow them some time to themselves.
4. Control Your Temper & Complain Less
Tough to do but it needs to be done somehow… No-one wants to work in an environment where their work is being constantly bashed without even the odd thank you when they do something good. I recall a designer I was talking to who went on and on and on and on and on and on and on AND ON about her tailors that I could not even get a word in! My goodness! I was completely drained at the end of the conversation and to be honest when she was done, I came to the conclusion that that had to be the reason her tailors kept leaving.
Constantly hammering on the same thing can constitute some form of mental abuse and no-one can thrive in that kind of environment. Yes I know I have the tendency to do that sometimes especially when I have invested a lot in something but I am now learning to caution myself. It can be extremely toxic and doe more harm than good!
Yes! And please STOP beating your tailors and/or throwing things at them! Like seriously?! Are we in the jungle?! And the verbal abuse?! Please stop! I believe you run a professional business and should, therefore, act in a similar manner. You can caution your staff without insulting them, their families and 10 generations as well.
5. Above all, RESPECT THEM as Human Beings, Colleagues and Subordinates!
This, I believe, speaks of itself. Your tailors are human beings and are probably very street savvy. If you involve them in your business, I can tell you they will save you money in the long run – and this is me speaking from experience. Ask their opinions, work as a team and let everyone feel like they belong. Don’t ask them to do things you yourself cannot do. You do not have to pally them but let them feel like they also belong in that environment. Implement some of their ideas if they suggest it (even if you know if will not work) just so they feel their input is valued. It may cost you money and time but it does a lot for their self esteem.
One thing have learnt is that money is never the only motivating factor for keeping staff. And yes no-one ever has the perfect recipe for dealing with people. But these points I stated above are the bulk of the complaints I have received from tailors and I had to pass this across. Which I believe I have just done!
So what’s next?! Now that I have cleared the air, I can now concentrate on the project I am working on. Hopefully it will be easier now that designers understand what needs to be done to make it work!
Very well said ma'am. I am just about starting my business and hoping to employ tailors, I have learnt a lot from your post. Well done ma
Pleasure Olayemi. Glad the article helped.