Carol Wior has a lot of experience at overcoming challenges. She started her business in a garage with three sewing machines and $77, built it into a $75 million clothing design company and then watched as it fell apart and she had to start all over again.
Add to that a couple of tough recessions and you realize Wior has spent much of the past 20 years in recovery mode at Carol Wior Inc. Fortunately for her, she can still laugh about all the ups and downs.
“You can survive anything if you want to,” says Wior, the 200-employee company’s founder and CEO. “Believe me, there are times when I’d like to bury my head in the sand. Every person goes through that, especially when you start a business on a shoestring like I did. But here’s what you can do about it. There’s a solution to every problem.”
The most recent recession hasn’t completely squelched that optimism, but Wior is still very concerned about the future of her industry.
“A lot of people are using up their reserves and their savings to get them through this rough time hoping that eventually, things are going to turn around,” Wior says.
One of the most common challenges during a recession is that with everyone struggling, you begin to have customers who have trouble paying their bills. You’ve got to find a way to connect with them and work with them to find a solution.
“I have people that owe me money that won’t take my phone call,” Wior says. “That is the most infuriating thing. So I leave messages like, ‘Listen, if you don’t have the money to pay me, I totally understand. If you can give me something, give me 10 percent of what you owe me. Just a little something. I’m not going to pressure you right now. I understand it’s tough. But I need a call back. I need you to talk to me.’
“When people are silent, you don’t know what’s going on and that’s your unknown and that’s when you start to get very worried and upset. Unfortunately, people tend to do that.”
Wior feels strongly that collaboration is vital when it comes to surviving economic slowdowns. That goes both for collecting money from customers and vendors and seeking money from lenders and creditors.
“Sit down with people who won’t give you credit and say, ‘Look, you’re not giving me credit, but I want to show you why you should. Here’s what I can do,” Wior says. “Explain what you have and why you think it’s great.”
Of course, you need to do more than just tell people that what you’re doing is awesome. You need data that backs it up and shows you’ve built something worth investing in.
“If you don’t know what your figures are, your financial statements or your working capital, that will completely turn them off,” Wior says. “You need to know your financial statement upside down and sideways. You have to know the answers to all the questions they are going to ask you.”
Don’t be afraid to bring your accountant along to help with those details and also back up your proposals.
“It’s much easier for your accountant to sell you than for you to sell yourself,” Wior says. “The accountant knows the answers. They speak the same language. As a businessperson, I get very excited. I see the marketing potential and I see the design ideas. I’m all excited about that. The bottom line, the accountants can address that. If you’re going to answer financing questions, bring your accountant with you.”
The key whether you’re trying to collect on bills or add investors is to keep the lines of communication open.
“Face it straight on and attack the problem,” Wior says.
How to reach: Carol Wior Inc., (562) 927-0052 or www.carolwior.com
Have a solution in mind
You may think you’re doing your employees a favor when you offer an overly rosy view of your company’s current financial state. But Carol Wior says you’re just asking for trouble down the road.
“If people understand situations, they can handle them,” says Wior, the 100-employee clothing design company’s founder and CEO. “It’s the unknown that freaks people out.”
When your employees hear a lot of bad news outside the company, and then hear you talk about positives without anything to back it up, you’re going to leave them very confused. And that’s not good.
So don’t be afraid to talk about problems, but do so with a real solution in mind for how to solve it.
“I usually have solutions before I present my problem,” Wior says. “Have some solutions before you express the problem. Here it is. We have a big cancellation and that’s going to mess up shipping for the month. Or so and so isn’t paying us, and they filed for bankruptcy, and that’s really going to hurt our cash flow next month. But here’s what we can do about it. You get the solutions together and then your team sees you working with solutions. They don’t just see you as, ‘Oh my God, we’ve got this problem.’”