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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.
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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!
I know this is for a legal document but it also works for this post.
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SO we’ve been working on a project for a while now. Of course we know how every designer around here complains about tailors… or a lack of. So we decided to step in to fill the gap by sourcing machinists and pairing them with designers who need their services. It seems pretty easy right?! HA! If only! So far, it has been DI-FFI-CULT!
Yes we have had some success stories but goodness the bulk of it has been such a nightmare! Yes we know tailors can be funny and granted some of the machinists’ skills can be pretty questionable. Which is fine. We are not here to certify how perfect the person is. The designer is expected to make a decision based on the sample of work the person has done in our office and is also expected to run their own tests. But most importantly, the designer is expected to train the tailor to their standards and not just throw them on the job. After all, bankers will confirm that they all get retrained when they move from one bank to the other, no matter how experienced they are.
But THAT is not even the reason for this post. To be honest, I never really involve myself in how designers choose to pass across their values and mission statements to their staff.
My MAJOR issue is what I am about to list below which to be honest really breaks my heart whenever I get feedback from the machinists we send out. It really is unfair the awful things I have heard. Yes the general idea is that tailors are a nightmare to work it and yes I agree with you. But this post is not about that either because chances are they probably won’t read this post so why bother.
I am here to please please please PLEAD with you (whether or not you source machinists from us) to remember that your employees are people as well and deserve to be treated as such. The way you treat others is a reflection of the way your business will turn out at the end of the day and if you are facing challenges, perhaps it could be because of how you treat your staff… which always sometimes comes back to bite you in the face!
Here is JUST a snapshot of the complaints I have been getting from our machinists…
1. Do NOT book an appointment if you know you will not be available!
This is pretty much a standard these days. You tell us to send the tailor to you at a certain time and then saunter in 4 hours later without an apology. And rather than attending to them, you keep them waiting for another 2 hours or worse you tell them to come back the next day. Or worse, the person is sitting staring at you forming all busy and all and you still keep them waiting when you asked them to be there at that time in the first place. Why?! How would you feel if this happened to you?! We all complain about how we are being treated at Embassies and government parastatals and at the slightest opportunity, we turn around and do the exact same thing!
Biko nu! These people we are sending to you do not have the money to spend going up and down on fruitless journeys. Yes you may forget sometimes but the least you could do is offer a heart-felt apology and if you want them to return the next day, then give them the transport fare they wasted that day. How much can that possibly be?! It really is unfair!
2. Keep Your End of the Bargain!
If you have agreed to pay the a certain salary, please stick to it! Don’t change the terms while they are working for you simply because you can. And if you must change it, give them enough advance notice, warnings and evaluations and let them know the implications of their non-performance before you change the rules.
I have often heard of designers agreeing to a payment term and when the person starts work, they never keep up their end of the bargain. They promise all sorts of juicy terms and when the work starts, zilch is done! I mean how unfair is this?!
In fact, something just happened recently that I am yet to confirm and I am seriously hoping it is not true. And I say I am yet to confirm this because I have not yet spoken to the designer to understand what exactly is going on. But from my understanding, a paid position became a non-paying internship which eventually turned into the designer asking to be paid for the internship / apprenticeship. I have not yet spoken to the designer to confirm the correctness or otherwise but if it is true, all I can think of is:
a) that was not the basis on which I was contacted to help source for the person; and
b) what if the person had resigned a perfectly good job for the hope of better things to come and this happened?” You can’t go back to your job and now you are stuck with searching for a new one.
Like I said, I have not confirmed how true this but it has happened in the past so I need to address it.
Designers you cannot put up a policy in retrospect except you have given ENOUGH ample warnings. If the person is still not performing, then please ask her to leave. You can dissolve the particular contract and ask her to register for a training with you or pay for an apprenticeship. Then it becomes a separate transaction! But don’t mix one with the other simply because you think the person does not have a choice!
3. Be Fair when Negotiating Wages & Salaries.
Please do not offer wages, salaries and commissions that do not make sense to anyone including yourself just because it is beneficial to you. We do not involve ourselves in salary negotiations but please do not offer pittance to someone, especially when you know the person pretty much “travels” to your office. We try as much as we can to find job opportunities for tailors within their vicinity. We know things are tough for designers out there so we don’t expect them to pay oil company salaries. But when you tell us you don’t mind someone who does not live in the area and the tailor also does not mind, then please have a conscience and consider the fact that the person has to take transportation, has to feed, and still have something left over to at least tend to other responsibilities.
And in the unlikely event that we tell you what a tailor is expecting as a wage or a salary and you say okay, this suggests you are okay with it. Don’t tell us you are fine with it and ask us to send the person over and then offer them less than half of what the person is asking for like you’re “pricing” fish in the market. These are people with skills and can be quite insulting.
I would understand if after you have done a test, the person’s skills are not up to par then you can renegotiate after the person sees and can confirm their work is poor which we even do sometimes after they have done their test with us. But do not offer peanuts and expect them to deliver outfits fit for royalty because they will be disgruntled – and with good reason!
4. Be Patient With Them!
Yes I know this is a tough one to do but at some point, you need to be patient. Most of these machinists learnt with blackhead machines. The first interaction many of them may have had with electric machines would have been at ours during their test and we give them time to get used to the machines before they start their test. Please understand this before throwing them on industrial machines to work with. Chances are they will bungle simply because they are not used to it. Some of them have potential, you just need to be patient.
A wise person once told me “the good employees always leave for greener pastures. The ones with limited skills are the ones who will probably remain with you for a long time”. And that is very true! The staff I wanted to fire then turned out to be one of my greatest assets. It took us a while to get there but each day gets better.
5. Don’t Try to be Sneaky! We Always Find Out!
YES! This I must say is the worst!
Offering this service costs money! We spend a whole lot advertising on various platforms, searching for tailors and running huge telephone bills contacting tailors and designers and you cannot imagine what our petrol bill is like to run these tests. We sometimes even spend time with the machinists, getting them to familiarise themselves with the machines before they even start their test and we also have a dedicated staff for this service. So yes we do charge a token fee for our services which is a mere fraction of what we spend to bring you the service.
So you can imagine how very annoying it is when a designer agrees to our payment terms, calls us to say the tailor we sent her was not good and then goes behind our back to employ the tailor! Like seriously?! On top how much?! I cannot even think of a decent word to call this so I’ll just hold my peace. You can imagine how shocked I was and how burnt I felt when the tailor we called to “console” and assure we would find somewhere else she can work told us she had already started working there. The interesting thing was she told us she left because she did not like the lady’s attitude and was planning to call us to give us feedback on how she could no longer work there. Can you just imagine?!
All I can say is please please please do not contact us if you lack integrity! I like to think I am dealing with professionals and things like this just makes my stomach turn.
I can go on and on but I will stop here.
This is pre-employment. Please please please if you are guilty of any of these, please cease and desist. You are making our work incredibly difficult and these unnecessary issues are costing us a whole lot of money! If we want to make this work and you need the extra hands, then we both need to work together to make life easier for all th parties involved!
My next post will be directed at designers after they have employed the machinists, regardless of whether they were sourced from us or not.
Thank you for your patience. And apologies for my rant!
Meanwhile, I might as well use this opportunity to market these services. If you know anyone, who knows anyone, who knows anyone who loves to sew and needs a job, please contact us. You can also call our office lines. The details are on the left side of this page.