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Insight From The Work Bench


Whether your store generates a happy feeling for your customer or a bad feeling of frustration, it ultimately stems from the people running the store.

For the last 28 years of my store's existence, I've had the pleasure of working with a true professional, Judy Pritchard. Judy recently retired, and my customers were aware of her retirement for some time before it happened. Naturally, I got all the jokes of who in the world would keep me in place, and so on. Many expressed their true sadness at missing her and her incredible knowledge, and to say I'll miss her is a huge understatement! She is someone who always has the answer, is kind and courteous, and really cares for the customer. She has done every job in the store at one time or another with a focus on detail usually reserved for the owner! I threw many different jobs at her every day and she handled them effortlessly with precision.

I love when I visit other dealers and experience their "Judy" - someone who exudes empathy so clearly that all the people in the store feel it. Even the customers who pop in only for a minute or quick question are affected.

Many stores have people who infect their customers with this type of happiness… and many don't. I know of a store where customers drop off their repairs on the technician's day off so they don't encounter him and get yelled at! Unfortunately I've seen owners intimidated by their techs, like a restaurant owner held captive by the chef. The owner is so afraid of trying to replace their tech that they keep him, even though he's average at best.

Certain technicians are better left in the back shop and don't want to interact with the sales floor. If the technician is a "people person," I say involve him once in a while in the sales process. Plus, people love to get a peek into the back room! Even if they don't understand it all, it makes them feel confident to purchase from you.

Service techs who've never been involved in the sales process need coaching, of course. Proper terms, body language, and so on. With proper terms like: needle to hook clearance, shaft end play, gear tolerance, etc. and a brief, easy-to-understand outline of your service, the customer gets involved. When I am on the sales floor and share technical thoughts, explain problems, and then offer solutions to our customers, we gain credibility. I recently dismantled the tension unit of a Husqvarna Viking Designer Diamond Royale. When the unit calibrated, the sound was awful to say the least, like a rock crusher! After inspection, I realized it was just broken thread wrapped in the gears and the portioning rollers causing the problem. I love exploring new areas in a design. It is a great test of your ability. Take pictures and make notes along the way, and the worst you can do is put it back together like it was.

With just 3 years of experience, I totally disassembled the Viking 6990 to the frame and laid out each piece. When I put it back together, some things worked, but most didn't. I fought through, and in the end, it sewed perfectly. For many years, that exercise taught me again and again where to look for a solution when weird problems would arise.

Back then, Husqvarna's top tech's name was Rick. How he must have hated hearing that it was me on the phone again! Without him, I would have been lost. If you have not taken a machine down to that level, I encourage you to do so. Back then the machines just sewed and didn't do embroidery, so start with a middle model of your brand. Do it slowly and educate yourself on certain functions, certain movements, and tolerances. When you reassemble the machine, you see it like you've never seen it before.

Think of having only the top shaft in the machine. You put on the hand wheel and simply turn the shaft and it turns with too much resistance. You suddenly realize that model's hand wheel was tight on the last 4 repairs you fixed. So what could be wrong? Bent main shaft? Improperly oiled bearings from factory? Are the main shaft bearings slightly out of alignment? I find it usually to be a dry bearing or the bearings can be out of alignment slightly. I have only seen bent shafts in machines that have been dropped.

Whatever the cause, you have to fix it. As far as I know, not one person from any of my classes or anyone I've shared this idea with has done a total tear down and reassembly.

If you have, I'd love to hear your story: the problems you faced and the help you had and any mysteries that you solved.

With your permission, I'd love to share it in a future article.

Norm Himbeaugh


Norm Himebaugh
Himebaugh's Vacuum & Sewing Center








Reprinted from SQE Professional, September 2017