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February 9, 2010

The Ingredients of Success: Unique to each business

‘Every dress that leaves here must be perfect to our capacity’: understanding the ingredients of success

This is another installment of thoughts and takeaways from our conversations with designer and entrepreneur, Selia Yang. We are focusing on Selia as a part of our inFOCUS series and are excited for the culminating soiree at the end of the month.

In addition to the focus on Business Direction and Goals (Selia’s decision to go bridal), we really admired Selia’s very clear understanding of the ingredients of her success and what ultimately matters in the way she runs her business.

‘Every dress that leaves here must be perfect to our capacity’:

Like all small businesses, Selia Yang feels the 24 time crunch. There is always a lot to do and a limited number of hands on deck. We are always interested in how entrepreneurs task out roles. What they do themselves and what they hire others to do.

As the business grew, Selia knew she needed other people and staff to help support the business. She hired her brother to be in charge of manufacturing and her sister-in-law to run her east village showroom. This primarily left the roles of designer, pattern-maker, and fitter for Selia herself (in addition of course to holding CEO-type functions and all the other marketing, promotion, vendor relationship necessary to make Selia Yang as successful as it is!)

It is interesting that Selia has maintained the role of fitter for so many years. It creates quite a different experience from purchasing any other gown. Imagine…the actual designer of the dress takes the time and effort to make sure that it fits exactly the way it should on YOU! While Selia does love the customer interaction and enjoys the fitting experience, these aren’t the reasons that she participates in the fitting process. To date it has been important to her to maintain her role as dress fitter, despite the many other things pulling for her attention, because of the critical role that it plays in the outcome of the process. Selia told us that “no matter what people pay for a dress, when the dress leaves the store the customer needs to love the dress and to have loved the experience. It needs to be perfect to our capacity.”

Selia has wondered whether her participation in the fitting negatively impacts the perception of Selia Yang the business. Does it make the business seem smaller than it is? Less serious? Does it make the designer seem not as important? I, for one, felt exactly the contrary. I was honored that the designer took time out of her day to make sure my dress fit well and beyond that, it clearly demonstrated to me just how much pride Selia took in her work and her business. It enhanced the experience for me for sure, and of course it allowed me to meet Selia. Forgetting that I am an entrepreneur, who obviously has a great deal of interest in “the woman behind the business”, I believe that affinities and loyalty is strengthened when customers get to know a business in a more personal way. I’m willing to bet most customers felt as I did.

However, recognizing that her plate is only going to continue to get fuller (especially with the launch of the wholesale line), Selia has been training a fitter to take over these very important responsibilities. And being Selia, of course she didn’t just go out and hire someone who has credible experience and let them loose. Instead, she has had someone trailing her and observing all the fittings for months. Only after they have seen months and months of work and hundreds of dresses will they able (maybe!) to fill Selia’s shoes.

This got us thinking about how important it is to be clear on the ingredients that make your business a success and how businesses can set themselves up to ensure the desired outcomes.

What are the parts of your business that are most sensitive, that ultimately make all the difference, and really serve as the ingredients for our success?

How is your business set up to protect these ingredients and ensure your desired outcome?

How can you better protect them without taking on more yourself?

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