Upsurge in online scams targeting the industry

Everybody in your business must be able to spot this guy!

Online scams seem to accelerate at this time of the year as we approach the holiday season. It’s interesting though that some are now targeting the textile screen printing industry directly.

Some are general and express an interest in wanting a quote for “your products/services” but some are quite specific by asking for a quote for “10,000 shirts with the print ‘Peace on Earth.'”

They’re usually easy to spot because of unusual requests, bad spelling and grammar, and unusual email addresses. They often ask which credit cards you accept and also mention that they’ll arrange their own shipping. Who knows where it would lead if you answered the questions and provided the information they ask for? One thing is for sure though; it won’t lead anywhere good.

Now, as a shop owner you are probably aware of this and know how to handle or ignore it. But, and here’s the big question, do all of your employees?

It can’t do any harm to have a quick chat with them about this from time to time just to make sure that nobody inadvertently gets taken in by one of these online fraudsters and costs your shop money.

Slow period stuff to do – sharpen squeegees

How did you get such a sharp print!

A publication by Fimor notes that, “Just because a squeegee prints with no major visual flaws, doesn’t mean that the image has not changed between the first and last print. This quality difference may be acceptable to the printer, but not to a customer looking for uniformity from print to print. Furthermore, some image flaws (often mistaken as symptoms of mechanical problems) may actually be related to the squeegee blade and not the printing equipment.”

This is good information that draws attention to the often-overlooked importance of the squeegee in the printing process. And they follow it up by pointing out that replacing a squeegee blade can be 5 to 50 times more expensive than simply sharpening it.

So, as we enter the slower period of the year for most textile screen printers, it would make sense to make a date with your squeegee blades for an inspection and sharpening. And you can do this up to 50 times before you have to replace the squeegee. If you don’t have a squeegee sharpening machine, find out who offers a sharpening service and get it done!

Stanley’s holiday closing dates

The holiday period – time to put the feet up and relax!

The crew at Stanley’s want you to know that they have enjoyed serving you this past year and that they appreciate your business.

And as we get ready to head into the new year, they also want you to know that they welcome inquires about new products or technologies in the industry at any time. If they don’t know the answer right away they have a great selection of brand-name manufactures from whom they can get answers quickly.

In the meantime, if you’re going to need supplies in the December-January holiday period, please keep in mind that all four branches will be closed from noon on Tuesday the 24th of December until Monday morning, the 6th of January. 

If you are going to require a courier delivery, please check with the Stanley’s office in your area well in advance of the holidays to make sure that a courier service will be available closer to the 24th.

 

Pricing—something to think about

What am I going to do with my pricing?

Textile screen printing is a competitive market, particularly in the bigger centers. One view is, as Beth Buelow puts it in her book The Introvert Entrepreneur: “There is truth to the idea that if your prices aren’t low enough, people won’t buy.”

However, then she goes on to point out: “But that’s not the only truth. There’s also the possibility that:

  • If your prices are too low, people will devalue your product; can what you have to offer be good if it’s that cheap?
  • If you start low and train clients or customers to expect low prices it’ll be difficult to raise them later.
  • If you start higher, you can always offer discounts later.
  • You’re starting with low prices because you have doubts about your value. If you doubt it, others will as well.
  • You can find a mid-range of price points that stretch both you and your customer in a positive way.”

How much thought have you given to your pricing in your particular market? And are you pricing to reward yourself adequately for the effort you have to put into your shop and the risks you have to take?

 

Hitting targets with sample Tees

I loved that Tee you sent me. Thanks! Let’s talk about what you can do for our upcoming golf tournament.

I just read a post on LinkedIn titled, “Why losing money on a sale can be beneficial.” It’s about a small soap producer that has found that sampler kits, while a loss leader, actually generate profitable business. This got me thinking.

If a textile screen shop printed sample Tees, packaged them one at a time in an attractive tube or box (take a lesson from Apple) and sent them with a note about their shop and why their design work, printing, and customer service was superior to targeted potential customers . . .

The package and contents would of course have to be superior and eye-catching or the concept wouldn’t work. Significant potential customers like corporate PR departments, retailers, event organizers etc. would be good targets. And if it doesn’t work at first, repeat periodically until it does (in advertising repetition is essential).

You’re hesitating because of what, the cost? Oh, come on! You know how low the cost of tees and prints are on a batch of samples printed in slow times would together add up to a pretty inexpensive and potentially hugely effective form of promotion.

The key condition though would be quality work of course.

Your shop can’t exist in a bubble

He said: ” The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.” If Mark Twain were still with us today I’m pretty sure he’d say “man or woman” and just “man,” and would agree that by “good books” he also means digital books and articles.

You may not like reading or have the time to read, but neither you nor your shop can afford to exist in a bubble cut off from all learning. Nowadays there are other ways to access information if you don’t like reading books—You Tube, audio books, and blogs are some examples.

It’s less important what your preferred way might be to access information, ideas, or concepts than it is to make a point of actually accessing information.

The burglar and his buddies

Your shop is under constant threat from people looking for opportunities to rip it off in one way or another. This is unfortunately true of any small business—it’s just a fact of life and you ignore it at your peril.

This is the topic of the excerpt from Characters Who Can Make Or Break Your Small Business  in the November edition of Images Magazine. It’s a must-read and can be found by clicking here.

And while there, cruise around Europe’s premier textile decorating magazine—it’s not only entertaining but informative too.

Stanley’s has Apolan squeegees

Stanley’s is pleased to announce that they now have Apolan squeegee blades for both textile and graphics printers.

The range of profiles and durometers is extensive. There’s a squeegee for every requirement including special squeegees with a composite soft edge/rigid shaft and a fiberglass insert.

The Stanley’s staff at all four branches can tell you what you need to know about Apolan squeegee blades and help find the ones best suited to your needs, both standard and special.

Cal any of Stanley’s 4 branches and ask about Apolan squeegees: Edmonton 780-424-4141; Calgary 403-243-7722; Cambridge 519-620-7342; Richmond 604-873-2451; or call Alfred Gunness directly at 416-832-3162. 

Because Monday’s suck!

Here’s a great attention-grabbing idea to demonstrate how a bit of creative thought can charm customers and encourage loyalty.

Chester, Nova Scotia (image credit: Marinas.com)

The village of Chester, Nova Scotia (population of entire district, just over 2,000 people), has a car wash with a single do-it-yourself bay and two standard coin-operated vacuums.

So here’s what’s different, creative and charming about this village car wash . . . On Mondays the vacuums are free (they return your coins). Customers love it.

The free-vacuums-on-Mondays concept was introduced by the owner “because Mondays suck!”

So what creative ideas can you introduce to charm customers and differentiate your shop from the competition?

If you already use one or more creative ideas to charm your customers, let me know at michael.best@michaelbest.ca and we’ll give you some coverage by posting it here.

What’s technically possible doesn’t always make sense

Question whether new technologies make sense.

A recent exchange of views on LinkedIn demonstrated how announcements about “technological advancements” shouldn’t just be taken at face value. It’s a good idea to put them through the “does-it-make-sense?” filter.

For example, an industry consultant was encouraging the use of direct-to-garment printing in conjunction with screen printing (as part of the production cycle). He called it “digital embellishment” and demonstrated with a print.

Here’s some of the conversation that followed . . .

Skeptical printer #1: “Is slowing your production by 1/2 worth the digital print?”

Consultant (backtracking a bit): “The pure digital ran at 160 per hour, the digital embellishment only added ten seconds to the existing print. How the technology is applied is subjective. If it doesn’t fit your model then it’s not the solution you are looking for.”

Skeptical printer #1: “Yeah, right!”

Skeptical printer #2: ” Yeah, ROI (return on investment) not there . . . Could have used 4 color process to achieve the same thing.”

The moral of the story? Question everything to see if it makes sense. Ask if it’s necessary. We live in an age of technologies in search of applications as opposed to the more sesnsible approach of applications in search of technologies.

Ink and pallet solutions to nylon jacket frustrations

Why did I take this nylon jacket job!

Printers have been known to turn down print jobs involving nylon jackets because of the production-unfriendly hassle of dealing with the waterproofing treatment associated with many of them. On top of this, some are multi-layered garments that provide an unwanted multi-coloured registration challenge.

Nowhere is it written that every print shop should take every job that comes through the door—in fact, in some cases it can be smart business to avoid jobs that don’t meet your criteria for economically or technically viable jobs. But, if you do want to accept a multi-coloured print job on a multi-layered jacket, there are three things you should keep in mind (two technical, one financial).

First the two technical things . . .  You must remove the water proofing treatment from the print area (rub with Isopropyl Alcohol) and then you should use a plastisol ink developed for nylon substrates (this usually means mixing in a catalyst to facilitate adhesion). To overcome the registration issue with multi-layered jackets you can use a special platen that holds down all four sides of the print area and keeps the surface taught.

Now the financial thing . . . you must be compensated for the extra work, so price accordingly—it’s just good business sense.

Money, health and pallet adhesive.

I shouldn’t have to wear a mask just to print Tees!

By now it should be well known that a quart of water-based pallet adhesive (available from Stanley’s for about $33) will do the job of 36 cans of spray adhesive (cost of about $420). So from a purely economic perspective it’s a mystery why anyone still uses spray pallet adhesive.

But there’s another aspect to consider—printer’s health. Aerosol sprays by their nature put airborne particles into the air for anyone close enough to breathe in. This means that anyone using aerosol pallet adhesive should at least wear a mask.

Stanley’s will soon have a pallet tape that will also be an alternative to aerosol . An announcement will be made here. In the meantime though, the downside of aerosol adhesive shouldn’t be ignored.

The angry printer and the spot remover gun

I want another spot remover gun!

An angry printer called the spot remover gun manufacturer to ask for a free replacement of his gun “that wasn’t working.”

The manufacturer’s rep replied that obviously if the gun wasn’t working and it was still under warranty, he’d replace it right away. And then he asked, as one would expect, what the problem was.

The angry printer beat about the bush a bit but eventually admitted that he’d used a water-based cleaning fluid in the gun (not the recommended solvent-based cleaning chemical) and that the spray mechanism had gummed up.

So the manufacturer’s rep said that he wouldn’t replace the gun because the warranty was voided by the use of the wrong fluid, but if the printer sent the gun back he’d repair it free of charge. After some more angry responses from the printer the rest of the story emerged—he couldn’t send the gun back for repairs because he’d thrown it on floor and smashed it to pieces.

The manufacturer’s rep said that he obviously couldn’t replace the gun free of charge but what he could do was recommend an anger management course.

The moral of this true story? Use the right chemicals for the right job in the right equipment. And a quick side note . . .  if you’re using a spot remover gun be sure to ventilate properly.

Emulsions in winter

I’m cute and all that but don’t put me in charge of your emulsion!

It’s that time of the year again when we need to remind printers that, unlike plastisol ink and most cleaning chemicals, emulsions are destroyed by freezing.

The components separate when frozen and the emulsion cannot be restored to its original state no matter how much or how vigorously you mix it.

This is important to know because freezing can happen quickly in the Canadian winter. Forget that bucket in the vehicle overnight or ship emulsion in winter by non-heated shipment (not all shippers or couriers offer heated service), and it could be lost.

Take no chances. Even if you receive a delivery of emulsion by what is supposed to be a heated shipment, check the contents before you sign the waybill. This advice is based on the experience of once taking delivery of 2 x 55 gallon drums of emulsion frozen solid on what was supposed to be a heated truck.

Equipment maintenance – is it time?

Clean and good as new.

It’s not the most fun you can have in a screen shop but neglect this task and it could cost you money and downtime. And that will definitely not be fun.

We are of course talking about equipment maintenance. Manual, automatic, old, new, big small – it doesn’t matter. Equipment needs to maintained. This means regular cleaning, lubricating, part replacement, and anything else a particular piece of equipment needs to keep it in as close to new condition as possible.

This doesn’t just make operational sense, it also makes financial sense.

So, how’s your equipment maintenance schedule looking?

Is staff training worth it?

Walking out with your training investment.

Recently there was a post on LinkedIn about a conversation between two executives that went something like this:

CFO: “What if we spend this money on training the staff and they leave?”

CEO: “What if we don’t spend the money on training them and they stay?”

This conversation should resonate with shop owners who have struggled with this dilemma in the textile printing industry. You spend time and money training someone to print to your standards and then they leave for another shop or to open their own. On the one hand, you can’t run your shop with untrained staff but, on the other hand, the train-and-leave routine can be frustrating and costly.

So what’s the answer? Well, there isn’t an easy one except to suggest that if you run a great place to work where people are well trained and encouraged to stay, you’ll have a better chance of recovering your investment in training.

How much have you invested in redundant ink inventory?

Mixing the exact quantity of ink required for a job.

Your accountant probably expenses all your ink purchases which means that ink left over from long since completed jobs has no value in your books. But, in reality, any redundant ink colours in partially-full buckets never likely to be taken off the shelf again, represents cash.

If you do a count and apply an average mixed-ink price to the total gallons, you may be in for a bit of shock. This will represent cash that you could have sitting in your bank account instead of on your redundant ink shelf.

Smart shops use at least one of two obvious ways to overcome the cash-tied-up-in-redundant-ink problem. Some use both.

The first is to offer a standard, limited-choice ink chart to customers so that you’ll never have one-off colours that you’ll never use again.

The second, and probably most efficient way, is to mix all colours in house and only in the quantity needed for a particular job. Wilflex’s mixing system with its supporting and precise software makes this possible.

Ask Stanley’s about Wilflex’s mixing systems and stop investing money in redundant ink.

Another black eye for the Canadian clothing industry

We need to balance ethics and profit

When a member of the garment industry (of which we textile decorators are part) receives bad publicity, we should take note and learn from it. Our industry is already known as one of the biggest soil and water polluters, we don’t need our reputation further sullied by questionable business practices.

MSN.com recently reported that while Lululemom launched a partnership with the UN to reduce the stress levels and promote the mental health of aid workers, things are not so rosy at one of their manufacturers in Bangladesh.

Aside from the reports about ill treatment and harassment of workers, this is perhaps the most startling line in the article: “Some labourers are paid 9,100 taka a month ($142) – less than the price of one pair of their (Lululemon) leggings, which can sell for as much as $158.”

We all have a responsibility to our industry to do business ethically. After all, who wants to work in a disreputable industry?

May we mention special effects, again?

If you look back through this site you’ll notice that at about this time each year as the slower winter season approaches, we raise the matter of special effects.

Why? Because while special effects will never be your core activity, it has the potential to add to both your reputation as a skilled shop and your bottom line.

It does however require that you practice , experiment and become skillful at special effects printing. And what better time of the year to have some fun and invest a few hours in this but the slower winter season?

So here’s an idea . . . go through the past posts on special effects printing (just type “special effects” into the search box) then call Stanley’s for the materials you’ll need (special emulsion, high density ink, special effects inks etc.) and add a new dimension to your shop’s skill set.

Thinking ahead to selling your shop—stuff you should know now.

The Acquirer as depicted in Characters Who Can Make Or Break Your Small Business.

The October edition of Europe’s premier textile decorating magazine, Images, includes an excerpt from Characters Who Can Make Or Break Your Small Business. This month the topic concerns selling your shop and the fact that it’s never too soon to be planning for that day.

You really shouldn’t miss this read. Invest just a few minutes in this excerpt and the chances are that you’ll be much better off when the time comes to sell.

You can find it by clicking here. And while there, page through the online magazine—it’s full of interesting stuff relevant to our industry.

School is back . . . Sports are starting . . . Where’s your shop?

Hey, don’t you guys think our numbers look great?

Schools are well and truly back and sports and other uniform-related activities are getting going. This adds up to printing jobs for textile screen shops.

Numbering and names are one common application but there are others such as school and team Tees and hoodies with logos and images, both printed and embroidered.

Is your shop getting its share of this huge market? Like any other lucrative market it’s not going to come looking for your shop, you’ll have to go looking for it. Then there’s always the possibility of creating a market by offering items the school may not have considered.

Some door knocking, cold calling and creative marketing may get your shop’s foot in the door for a share of this business. Working to become established as a school’s go-to supplier and printer could be effort well spent.

 

 

An interesting angle on website construction

I attended a website workshop today in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia sponsored by the Bridgewater Chamber of Commerce.

The underlying message was the same as we have been urging here for years—every small business, in our case, every textile screen shop, should have a website. Period.

Even if your shop doesn’t do business online, a website lends it credibility. It’s where suppliers, lenders, investors, potential customers and other people who influence your business success go for information. By all means, participate in various social media platforms if they can be used to promote your business, but it’s ultimately a website that signals that you’re a business to be taken seriously.

But in addition to making this point, the speaker, Liam Tayler of SME Business Solutions, had an interesting angle on website content—it should mirror the business plan. And, of course, the overarching design consideration to be kept in mind is the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid).

Your shop simply can’t afford to not have a website. And the old expense excuse is no longer valid because nowadays an effective website can be built and hosted inexpensively.

Sell your shop, don’t just walk away . . .

Don’t just shut your shop . . . Try to sell it.

I occasionally hear the sad news that someone has decided to close up their screen printing shop and retire or do something else. It’s sad because with a bit of planning a few years in advance and some effort near the time of wanting out, they could probably have something worth selling, find a buyer, and walk away with a nest egg.

This is true of many small businesses when the owners haven’t taken the trouble to research the possibility of selling their business, especially if it’s profitable. That profit usually represents something a buyer will pay for. There are however things you need to know and you should make every effort to research the topic. A good place to find out most of what you need to think about would be Characters Who Can Make Or Break Your Small Business, but it’s not the only source; there other books, articles, and people to consult.

You built the shop, you deserve to benefit from selling it to the next owner.

Offensive hoodies.

A recent series of hoodies shown at a New York fashion show caused outrage. The hoodies, each with the name of a well-known gun massacre at schools in the United States in recent times, also had what appeared to be bullet holes.

Notwithstanding the explanations offered by the designer, it’s hard to see how any reasonable person could not have expected a widespread negative reaction. This requires no explanation but it does raise an interesting question we’ve asked before . . . What would you do if asked to print what you’d regard as potentially offensive material on a garment? Would you hesitate to associate your business with such a print?

It may be a good idea to think about it a bit and formulate a policy in case you ever run into such a situation.

What your customers think of you

What are they saying about your shop?

How many of us answer a server that the food is good when we should be telling them that it’s underdone, overdone, cold, or just plain horrible and not worth the money? Most of us smile and say that it is okay even as we vow to ourselves never to eat here again! Of course if a third party asked us after we’d left the restaurant, the truth would be told.

Well what if it were not a restaurant but your print shop we’re talking about?

How would your customers describe your shop if asked by a third party when you’re not in the room?

What would they say about your pricing or your technical expertise? What would they say about how they are treated? With friendliness, helpfulness, and respect? Would they say that you seem to appreciate their business and seem to make an effort to encourage them to come back? Would they feel that they’re getting value for money, in other words, a good balance of quality and price?

Something to think about and work into your business model if you care about repeat business.

Customers

The September edition of Images Magazine includes an excerpt from Characters Who Can Make Or Break Your Small Business. The all-important topic is “customers”.

You really shouldn’t miss this read. Invest just a few minutes reading the excerpt in Europe’s premier textile decorating magazine and the chances are that you’ll be better informed and pick up a few ideas you can use. You can find it by clicking here. 

You can buy Characters Who Can make Or Break Your Small Business for $24.95 here.  

 

Alfred Gunness joins Stanley’s

Stanley’s recently announced that Alfred Gunness has joined the team. As many Canadian printers will know, he brings a lot of industry experience gained from a combined 38 years serving Nazdar Canada and Saati Canada customers.

Alfred will be based in Ontario but will be available to share his training and experience with Stanley’s customers across the country. He may be contacted though any of the four Stanley’s branches or directly at 416 832 3162.

National Imprint Canada Show

This is a reminder that the 20th National Imprint Canada Show will be in Toronto on January 10th and 11th, 2020. You need to know this for two reasons . . . One is so that you can consider exhibiting and the other is to make sure that you mark it on your calendar to attend.

Industry shows are an important part of your calendar if you’re serious about staying up to date and advancing your business.Only printers not serious about staying up to date or advancing their business should neglect seeing and being seen.

 

Take the business seriously . . . Use the cleaning chemicals designed for the job

Perhaps if I used the cleaning chemicals designed for the job I’d improve my prints.

This is particularly important to know if you’re new to screen printing.

New businesses of any kind are usually under budget constraints and a screen printing business is no different. This is why it’s tempting for new shops to cut corners on costs. We often mention ink in this regard but other consumables such as cleaning chemicals are also important.

You know what I mean, right? There’s a special degreaser for degreasing screens before applying emulsion but dish-washing liquid soap is a degreaser too and a less expensive, so what the heck? Same for good ol’ cheap Varsol instead of the chemicals specially formulated for removing plastisol from screens when reclaiming them.

Don’t do it! If you’re going to take this business seriously and put out quality work into a competitive market place, use the right chemicals. Screen degreaser is much stronger and thus more effective than dish-washing soap. Specially-formulated ink removers work well, do not leave an oily film, and are not half as environmentally nasty as the cheap stuff.

Your materials all impact the quality of your work. Talk to Stanley’s about the right chemicals for the job: Edmonton 780 424 4141; Calgary 403 243 7722; Cambridge 519 620 7342; Richmond 604 873

 

 

“Water” doesn’t automatically mean “safe”

Water-based textile screen printing can produce beautifully soft prints but presents it’s own set of challenges quite different from those of plastisol printing. Although plastisol ink is the overwhelming preference of the industry, many shops can do both, depending upon circumstances and customer demands.

“Water” doesn’t automatically mean “safe”.

The thing though is not to be fooled into thinking that “water” implies environmentally friendly. All kinds of nasty chemicals can be suspended in water. This is why we’d rather see water-based ink manufacturers promote their product on its printing merits rather than exaggerating its eco-friendliness in comparison with plastisol inks.

For instance one water-based ink manufacturer claims as follows: “As a compound, water-based ink is much more gentle on the environment than plastisol ink. It simply doesn’t contain any of the toxic chemicals of its plastisol counterparts (no PVC, no phthalates). Instead it’s comprised of naturally occurring substances.” This is a gross misrepresentation of the truth. You only have to examine some water-based MSDS to know better. They also fail to mention that plastisol inks free of PVC and Phthalates have been available for years.

So, by all means, use water-based inks but check the MSDS and don’t be fooled into thinking that “water” automatically means “safe”.