How to fail in Business - The Seamstress can't make dog muzzles?
Dr Sing Kong Yuen, BVMS (Glasgow), MRCVS

Chinese translation: Toh Wan-ting

Mrs Fleming's Golden Retriever turned his head up, put his two front paws to scratch away the size "XL" pink muzzle covering his nose and mouth frantically.  It was an attractive muzzle, made from a top quality fabric recommended by Mrs Fleming.  Mrs Fleming had asked her seamstress to make the muzzle based on samples (yellow muzzle in picture) given by me. 

Her seamstress had frequently phoned her for more orders to make blouses as the workers in her Chinatown shop were not gainfully employed. "My seamstress was willing to lower her prices for making more blouses for me. I  am a Buddhist and I don't press her prices down to the lowest." Mrs Fleming said.

She was one of those kind business women who would not maximise profitability, taking advantage of the desperation of the seamstress so that she would barely earn a profit.  She believed in a "win-win" situation.  "I don't think the Buddha taught that" I replied. "Your seamstress would have charged a higher price if her services are in great demand."

Now, I wanted the muzzles made as I found them useful when I handle fierce dogs.  In kennel cough vaccination of the nervous stray dogs at animal shelters, this muzzle type worked very well as I don't get bitten while I squeezed the vaccine directly into the dog's nostrils.

I had given samples to at least 5 Singaporean home-makers and none of them came back to me or returned the muzzles.  There was a business man who offered to make the muzzles in China at $0.80 per muzzle, but he had no track record of making dog muzzles.

The muzzles I have prevent the dog biting as there is no open "hole" in front of the muzzle.   I could muzzle the dog faster just by knotting up the two loose ends. This w
as time saving when I handle nervous cross-bred dogs for vaccination.  The ones on sale at most pet shops have a big open front and some dogs are known to bite through this hole. 

In addition, the locking clip needed time to adjust.  Big strong fierce dogs don't give the vet much time to fiddle and tighten the muzzle.  There may be a market to supply all the 200 pet shops in Singapore and the world a well designed and attractive muzzle at an affordable price. My  problem was to find a seamstress willing and able to make dog muzzles in Singapore. 

So, I asked Mrs Fleming who designs and sells blouses to boutiques, to ask her seamstress to make muzzles when I did a house call to treat the Golden Retriever's ears.   

"The new muzzle failed the test." I laughed as I took the muzzle off the dog that always barked ferociously at me whenever I made a house call. "Look, it is narrower and more pointed than the one I asked the seamstress to make. Your dog has a broad muzzle. He can't pant as his nostrils and mouth are squeezed by its constricted  design."  The dog was now happy after the muzzle was slipped off.   He had not objected to the "cheaper fabric" muzzle I had used on him as he had room to breathe. 

"The seamstress can't make dog muzzles, only human clothing." Mrs Fleming pursed her lips and looked at me across her long dining table:  "And she had cut many muzzle copies of the expensive fabric I gave to her when I had asked her to do just one copy of each of the sizes given to her."  The cloth material was expensive and the muzzle prototypes were useless. 

"It is not her lack of skill," I commented. She did
not unstitch the whole muzzle to make the mold. She unstitched half of the bigger muzzle and the other sizes were left alone."   

Not listening to and giving what the customer wants will make any service provider to lose the business to competitors and even face bankrutcy.  A rental realtor who shows the expatriate housing above his budget will have wasted his time and money showing beautiful dream houses but earning zero commission. The expatriate will ring up another housing agent to get what he wants.  A dog groomer who insists on leaving the hairs on the head and feet when asked to clip the whole dog bald will lose his customer sooner or later.  

In this case, the seamstress ought to unstitch all muzzles and study how they were made. If she could improve on the model, I would be most happy and definitely make use of her services, as seamstresses who make muzzles are a rare breed in Singapore.  She would have all my business and referrals. An a new source of revenue to keep her workers gainfully employed if I make it big globally as a supplier of dog muzzles.

To give what the customer (your boss or your cliente) wants is only possible if you are passionate about your occupation or business.  The seamstress would need to be interested in checking out how other dog muzzles are made by visiting pet shops, read up books and surf the internet to check out other models.  If there is no passion as judged by her disinterest in doing research (unstitching the muzzles) or reading up to gain specific knowledge, it was not surprising that she had to look for more business to make ends meet.   


is a Community Education project using  narrative stories. It is sponsored by Asia USA Realty (Singapore) Pte Ltd

The article" The Seamstress can't make dog muzzles?   is extracted from the book "Have Puppy Will Travel".   This article is published in Sin Pet magazine July 2004.  Pictures and the article are  ©Asia USA Realty (Singapore) Pte Ltd.  Website:  asiahomes.comFocus:  We find affordable homes for expats.   Update: 06 Jul 2004