Whether you’re a fabricator for the marine, automobile, commercial or residential markets, Steven Wayne, owner of Southern Stitch Canvas and Upholstery LLC in Gulfport, Mississippi, says many of the same rules apply. According to Wayne, business success comes down to four basic things: skills mastery, excellent communication, judicious customization and customer education. Wayne’s shop works across markets and does a wide variety of canvas and upholstery projects for vehicles, restaurants, boats, casinos, homes and more.
“It’s really about knowing your customers, spending time with them, listening to them, presenting options based on their goals and then guiding them to the right solutions,” says Wayne. During a presentation on advanced upholstery techniques, Wayne discussed both his successes and failures and attributed the failures primarily to a lack of communication. “Careful communication prevents surprises—for both the customer and the fabricator.” He recommends using visuals such as small physical models as well as digital representations of the project. He is a recent and enthusiastic convert to digital tools such as Proliner 3-D digitizers, SketchUp and Rhino 3-D modeling.
Wayne says his shop does a lot of custom projects and they’ve learned to know when to say no. “Nobody likes to turn business away, but when you’re busy and you know that a project will require more work than the customer wants to pay for, or what they’re looking for will be expensive and ultimately a poor investment, you just have to be honest and tell them.” He recommends being careful about pricing in order to strike the right balance between delight and value.