Starting a business is a big achievement for many entrepreneurs, but maintaining one is the larger challenge. There are many standard challenges that face every business whether they are large or small. It is not easy running a company, especially in a fast-paced, ever-changing business world. Technology advances, new hiring strategies, and now, political changes coming with the new administration, all add to the existing business challenges that entrepreneurs, business owners, and executives have to deal with.
Maximizing profits, minimizing expenses and finding talented staff to keep things moving seem to be top challenges for both SMBs and large corporations. We have been interviewing companies from around the world to discover what challenges they are facing in their businesses. We also asked each company to share business advice they would give to a younger version of themselves.
Below is our interview with Jan David Winitz, President and Founder at Claremont Rug Company:
What does your company do?
Claremont Rug Company sells art and investment-level, antique Oriental rugs woven during the Second Golden Age of Persian Weaving (ca. 1800 to ca. 1910) from our private collection of more than 3500 pieces to a client base on five continents that includes 75 Forbes’ list billionaires. The Gallery, located in Oakland, Calif., was founded in 1980. Claremont’s collection is privately sourced by a global team of buyers/collectors who work with me. The rugs are valued in the $10,000 to more than $500,000 per piece range. We employ a “Client First” concept: customer service begins before a sale and includes a full Long-term Exchange Policy. We make “house calls” around the U.S., but do virtually no advertising, never participate in outside exhibitions or shows or in auctions. Over 70% of our transactions involve the internet and our website.
What is your role? What do you enjoy most about your role?
I am founder and president of Claremont and its primary salesperson for High-Collectible rugs and Whole Home Projects. My interest in antique Oriental rugs dates back to my childhood where I was introduced to them by my grandmother. The first “important” rug that I ever purchased, when I was a teenager, still hangs behind the desk in my office. I am passionate about Oriental rugs, their symbolism, their artistic qualities and their emotional impact. I love being able to work with clients on an educational level as well as an art advisor. And I am gratified when my clients have that “wow!” moment and are able to understand the nuances of the rugs and to develop their own artistic ethos as we work together. It is also particularly gratifying that I have worked with many clients for decades.
What are the biggest challenges in your business right now?
Because we deal only in antique art-level Oriental rugs that were woven a minimum of a century ago, the pieces of an aesthetic caliber that we require are extremely limited. We are likely the last private gallery acquirer of entire privately held collections, which include many important rugs and have been held by families for as many as five generations. For the last several years, we have consoled clients that this may be the last generation having access to these Second Golden Age rugs. When restoration is required, we obtain our wool via an exclusive partnership with a sheepherder in New England who raises the same strain of Karachul sheep employed in the Middle East in the 19th century. For color restoration, we have established a network of master dyers who have re-created the natural dye processes to reproduce them.
If you could go back in time, what business advice would you give to a younger version of yourself?
I would remind myself to follow your passion and never compromise; to treat your clients with the utmost respect; to do the same with all of your employees, and, most of all, to build mutually supportive relationships at all levels. From the very beginning, I understood that acquiring and selling art-level antique Oriental rugs was a niche endeavor. I believed passionately that the best examples were equal in artistic quality and value to many more mainstream collectibles, such as paintings and sculpture. I believed that taking the time needed to educate clients and sharing knowledge was the worthwhile approach to the business. I would remind my “younger self” that passion, knowledge and the willingness to work hard on behalf of your clients are the best “sales” tools and to employ that as your standard every day, to every client, whether you complete a transaction or not.