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Knotty Crochet Business Project Pitfalls

tamponrollcall-hwl.jpgClear roles, clear goals and the best laid plans are no guarantee of success. This entertaining piece is posted on behalf of Laura Mappin, Founder of MetARTmorphosis. (Picture is from her web site www.bauboroars.com) Enjoy! – Kimberly
    I have lots of experience in hi-tech. I parlayed that into a crochet business. This is how it went. I hired the following people, using the following job descriptions:

    • crochet fashion designers
      • ideal candidate will have 10-15 years experience designing crochet items
      • ideal candidate will have created multiple products, each generating more than $200M profit its first quarter of introduction
      • will be overly proficient in all current crochet pattern languages, including GSC (graphic stitch crochet), ELSC (English language shorthand crochet), and GPFC (graph paper filet crochet)
    • crochet pattern designers
      • ideal candidate will have created patterns in all current crochet pattern languages
      • will have proficiency in dealing with the personality nuances of well known crochet fashion designers of our time; will have skills necessary to implement designs that aren’t actually workable
      • will have shown proficiency in turning around a sappy design into an unquestioningly profitable product; proof of this will be required in resume’
    • crochet developers
      • ideal candidate will have 10-15 years experience building crochet items using each and every crochet language known to man
      • will be adept at using crochet hooks of all sizes from No. 12 to AZ, and hooks made of materials including wood, metal, plastic, barbed wire
      • will demonstrate crochet proficiency in each language with each hook size and material during time of interview; will be responsible for bringing all tools required for this demo
      • advantage will be given to those who provide samples of past work with their resume or who will come to our office and show us before we call you
      • more advantage will be given to those who complete a scarf that looks like it came from our company and who sign it over to us when they leave
    • crochet testers
      • ideal candidate will have 5-10 years testing crochet products
      • preference given to those who wear product off hours
      • more preference given to those who test on hours and off hours and in their sleep
      • must be proficient in remedycrochet defect database
      • interview process requires testing current product; those who do very well are brought in for follow-on reviews until we’re out of product
    • managers of crochet engineers
      • ideal candidate will understand the needs and quirks of the crochet engineer and will know how to squeeze work out of them despite these aspects
      • having squeezed blood from granite is helpful and will be given higher preference
      • should have 5-10 years crochet engineering experience
      • knitting engineering, cross stitch engineering, or other fiber engineering is helpful
    • buyers of fine fibers and hooks
      • ideal candidate will have had 3-5 years crochet engineering experience and will understand the benefits and detriments of fabric characteristics as applied to the crochet manufacturing process
      • will be experts with all CutFiberInHalfLengthwiseAgainAndAgain machines and will be able to buy fibers appropriate for these follow on processes
    • support personnel
      • must understand current customer base of crocheted scarves
      • ideal candidate will have experience calming a scarf wearer on the other end of the phone or email, will understand this person’s needs, and will be able to make them happy before they hang up or send email to the CEO or some other person with an important title
      • will be able to handle calls from irate spouses or partners of scarf wearers who’ve died because of scarf
    • trainers
      • will teach people how to use and manage their crocheted scarves
      • ideal candidate will have experience with clothing training, will know how to address customers of clothing products and explain how to use clothing
      • will be adept at navigating the mine field that is wearers of fine clothing
    • HR people who understand the crochet engineering environment
      • I decided I didn’t need any of these people
    • Finance people
      • ideal candidate will know how to take a scarf that costs $3.00 and sells for $300 and make it for 7 cents and sell it for 18 cents
      • will know how to not have or get any experience talking to any of the people who make the thing
    • sales people
      • ideal candidate will know where the customer base is hiding, shopping, yearning for our unique scarves; after they find those 3 people, they’ll know how to find 50 million others who’ve never worn a scarf in their life and will know how to get them to fork over big bucks for one
      • will know how to first offer scarf for $300 and then negotiate an agreement that saves company face while giving each customer 30 free ones because the first one failed miserably
    • marketing
      • ideal candidate will understand the advantages of our scarves
      • will build marketing collateral to exploit these strengths
      • will tell customers that they can have anything they want in our next scarf release
    • CEO-types
      • ideal candidate will know how to go offshore and screw the whole thing up
      • this person will earn the directive “don’t talk to customers, you’re too rude”
      • I waited till later to hire these people

    We began on January 12th with 11 people. Throughout the hiring process, excitement grew to a palpable level. Our first meeting was a flurry of color-coded stitch drawings on whiteboards. We burned out several of those special whiteboards that print out what’s drawn on them. Our nearest office supply store learned to deliver a gross of whiteboard markers weekly. No one’s died from the fumes yet.

    We came up with our first design. Made of 8 different fibers in our new to-be-patented weave. We’d use hooks of multiple sizes. At the same time. Our crochet engineers would have to learn a new technique but the lead crochet engineer was sure it could be done. The scarf would be 2 feet wide, 18 feet long with a 4-foot fringe. Beads would adorn the fringe with complimentary pieces of metal and glass beads woven throughout the scarf.

    $100K gone first week.
    Missing a lawyer to patent the design. We’d find one somehow.
    Business plan was one sheet of paper with a few scratch marks. We’d do it sometime.
    We flurried on.

    The buyers bought fibers. The designers finalized designs. The pattern developers drew up the patterns in all the languages. The builders built.

    “Scarves are coming out different lengths,” the Test Managers reported at the Core Team Meeting.

    The Core Team Lead looked at the Development Manager. “We’re just building what we’re told to build,” he said.

    “But is this what we want?” the Lead asked, looking around to the Design Manager.

    “They should all be the same length,” he replied in a controlled voice.

    “What length is that?” the Lead asked in a controlled voice.

    “Whatever it says on the pattern.”

    “Well, it doesn’t say,” reported the Development Manager.

    “Well, it should. Why did you accept it without that piece?” retorted the Design Manager.

    “If you didn’t provide it to us, we thought it wasn’t important.”

    “Of course, it’s important. This should never happen again. You should come up with a list of items you require before you will accept a design,” declared the Design Manager.

    Steam shoots thru the Development Manager’s ears.

    “Well, make them the same length!” the Builder Managers screamed at the Test Managers.

    Managers yelled at their crocheters, “Do it the same!” Crocheters looked at each other, “We’re following the pattern.”

    In the back room, the Test Manager asked, “What size do you want it? It’s not stated in the pattern.” The managers huddled.

    This multiple hook method is much more time consuming than we thought. We’ve had to develop jigs for everyone to hold the 12 hooks while they work with one at a time. Each jig has to be built for each individual crocheter to accommodate their hand and finger sizes as well as the various fibers that are used throughout the process. This set us back 3 weeks while we found a contract builder who could do it for us. And even with these jigs, it still takes 8 hours to make a scarf as opposed to the original 3 minutes originally budgeted. We need more builders if we’re to meet the program delivery goals.

    Yes, the head designer made this estimate but he has 12 arms. They don’t call him octopus for nothing.

    “Yeah, well, he should consider if he’s designing patterns for more octopus builders or not.”

    “The glass beads are cutting the fiber and causing the scarves to unravel,” said the Test Managers.

    “These scarves are kinda long. Is this what the customer really wants?” asked the Test group. The Test Manager took this to the Program Team Meeting. “Yes, when I ask customers what they want, they ask for long scarves,” said the marketing rep. “But did you ask them how long?” asked the program manager, “Current fashion has scarves about 8 feet long.” “Quit asking, just make it,” replied Mr. Marketing. “Will you be on record for wanting this length?” “Of course, put me down however you want. Just make the damned scarves. We can’t miss our window.”

    The head Buyer happens to be friends with the head Build Engineer. They have a casual conversation over lunch halfway through the project phase. Build Engineer says, “Each scarf takes just over 3 skeins of the most expensive fiber while all the other fibers use just less than a skein. Given that we have to make sure that every skein comes from the same lot, we’d have a little less waste if we could shorten the scarf by 3 inches or so.” “Do it,” says Buyer.

    This gets uncovered right before product release, marketing goes thru the roof, and then this is what marketing uses to deny responsibility for the poor function of the too long scarves because they wanted it longer.

    Marketing guy doesn’t stand behind his commitment during program team mtg about length of scarf; says that since test & devt had to shorten length, this caused the problem; if it had been made longer, it would’ve been fine.

    Late to market

    Scarf wasn’t what they wanted anyway

    Cut glass beads around the neck area didn’t work so well. Neck injuries as well as scarves falling apart from the rough edges.

    They tripped on it no matter how many times they wrapped it around their throats.

    One wearer was killed while walking and a guy accidentally stepped on one of the ends.

    Another wearer was killed when her husband grabbed both ends, yanked, and spewed her off the edge of their terrace.

    Our lawyers blew it off.

    We redesigned, shortening it by a foot.

    It didn’t work like customer wanted

    • The warm ones weren’t warm enough
    • The cool ones weren’t cool enough
    • They looked bland, unbecoming, even ugly
    • Some weren’t long enough to be fun to wear
    • They all looked alike so no one felt like an individual
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About the Author

Kimberly Wiefling is the author of one of the top project management books in the US, "Scrappy Project Management - The 12 Predictable and Avoidable Pitfalls Every Project Faces", and the founder of Wiefling Consulting, LLC, a scrappy global consulting enterprise committed to enabling her clients to achieve highly unlikely or darn near impossible results, predictably and repeatedly. Her work focuses on keynote speaking and workshops on practical and sensible business leadership and project/program management scaled for the size of the company and the project. She has worked with companies of all sizes, including one-person ventures and those in the Fortune 500, and she has helped to launch and grow more than half a dozen startups, a few of which are reaping excellent profits at this very moment. She spends about half of her time working with Japan-based companies that are committed to developing truly global leaders. Kimberly holds a B.S. in Chemistry and Physics from Wright State University and a M.S. in Physics from Case Institute. She spent 10 years at HP working in product development project management and engineering leadership. She worked with several startups, including a Xerox Parc spinoff where she was the VP of Program Management. In 2001 she launched her consulting practice and never looked back. She holds a certificate in project management through UC Santa Cruz Extension, where she is an instructor in the Project and Program Management Certificate Program. Kimberly spends about half of her time facilitating leadership, communication and execution excellence workshops for leaders of Japanese companies committed to becoming truly global. Thousands of people have viewed the hysterical video documenting the final phase of completing her book at www.youtube.com/watch?v=KDCJBu3rdvk. You can reach her via email at kimberly@wiefling.com
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