6 Tips for Developing Your Screen Print Business (or Any Promo Business, Really)
Kicking off day two of the PRINTING United Digital Experience, business coach Marshall Atkinson—of Atkinson Consulting and Shirt Lab, a virtual summit that took place in June—presented “Establishing Today’s Successful Screen Printing Business” on Tuesday.
Whether you’re considering adding in-house screen printing or already have a plan in the works, Atkinson had tips on how to get started that really translated as key advice for any promo business. Here are six takeaways from his session.
1. Develop a business plan.
To build a business plan, Atkinson pushed business owners to identify their ideal customer—those who truly appreciate the value the business offers—but also focused on solving those prospective clients’ pain points instead of luring them in with the lowest price. He explained that with an example of a seamless experience, like an online store with a build-in fulfillment model, for a hypothetical high school client in need of spirit wear.
“Your customer's biggest problem here is maybe that football coach or that school teacher or that principal or whatever doesn’t really have a lot of time to monkey around with apparel,” he said. “And they want to trust the professional that can build them an easier mouse trap, that can solve their problems for them so they can go back to what they really want to do, which is coach football or teach a class or run the school.”
2. Continue to hone your skills.
Whether that’s attending industry education sessions, learning new decoration techniques or investing in new equipment, there is always room for improvement, which will keep distributors ahead of the competition.
“This gives you a competitive advantage over all of the other knuckleheads in your area,” Atkinson said. “If you are the master of what you do, people will seek you out.”
3. Utilize the best technology to improve your business processes.
Atkinson boasted how technology allows businesses to do more with less, which translates into getting paid more by streamlining areas with software, equipment and processes. He strongly advised paying attention to what peers in the industry are doing to help guide your next move.
“On a scale of one to 10, are you a No. 10 rockstar or are you closer to zero where you're just getting started?” he said. “Where are you on that scale with all this stuff?”
4. Measure success and continue to build on it.
Not only should you have numbers assigned to key metrics to be able to react and change as needed, but empower your team to improve 1 percent each day. To help with those improvements, ask each employee what one thing would make their job easier.
“Let's just say you have 20 employees,” Atkinson said. “You’re going to get 20 different answers, but maybe three answers are the same. That then becomes your next priority.”
5. Find the right people.
Getting your business operating correctly and efficiently is crucial, but it’s not always so easy when it involves finding skilled labor, like screen printers. Regardless of the position, Atkinson recommends hiring slow and firing fast, in addition to having the right backups in place for when the unexpected happens.
“Right now I know everyone’s struggling with finding skilled people, but they’re out there,” he said. “And if you can’t find skilled people, you need to be growing them in the skill. So find people who are interested in learning, and constantly challenge and train them and grow them to be the people that you need to have in your business.”
6. Foresee when a change is necessary.
With many brick-and-mortar retailers faltering due to COVID-19, Atkinson insisted that business owners should pay attention to their surroundings and know when to adapt before it's too late to pivot.
“Some people made this shift already and when the pandemic hit, they were almost set up,” he said. “And other people were caught with their pants down. So, ‘keep your head on a swivel’ is really about—things are constantly changing and what are you doing about that?”
Click here to view the entire session (free registration required) or click here for more information on the PRINTING United Digital Experience, including Apparel - Direct-to-Garment/Direct-to-Substrate Day (Monday, Nov. 9). The PRINTING United Digital Experience runs from Oct. 26 through Nov. 12 and is free to attend.