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”.

Tension: not enough of it in many shops

Tension occurs in screen-printing shops from time to time (from, you know, looming delivery deadlines, misprints, colour errors etc.) but the tension I’m referring to should be there all the time. It is, of course, screen tension.

Properly-tensioned screens are an essential part of quality prints. We all know this but it’s not difficult to find poorly-tensioned screens in textile shops. Some shops don’t have a tension meter and even some who do cannot put their hand on it immediately if asked. And quite often if they can show you their tension meter, it needs re-calibration. How would you feel about the professionalism of your doctor if he or she didn’t have an essential item of equipment like a functional stethoscope?

So, do you have a tension meter? Do you know where it is? Do you use it daily to ensure that the screens in your shop are properly tensioned before using them?

All four Stanley’s branches can help you find or fix a tension meter: Edmonton 780 424 4141; Calgary 403 243 7722; Cambridge 519 620 7342; Richmond 604 873 2451.

Careful how you treat potential customers (or don’t judge a book by its cover) . . .

Here are two lessons about judging a book by its cover taught to us by car dealerships.

Recently a potential customer visited her local Audi dealership in the town in which she lives about 60 kilometers outside Toronto. She was interested in an Audi 5Q.

The salesman did something you’d think even a rookie salesman would know not to do—he judged a book by its cover. Consistent with his generally condescending manner, he asked the lady something he’d probably never ask a man—did she work or was she a “housewife”. He seemed to make the assumption that attractive and blond meant being some man’s trophy wife.

The potential customer, a surgeon, bought an Audi Q5 but from the Audi dealership in the next town 25 kilometers away. It turns out that the first dealership has a reputation for the kind of attitude shown by the salesman. One wonders if management has any idea that some potential customers are willing to go 25 kilometers away rather than deal with them.

This brings to mind a similar incident that took place in Calgary many years ago when the owner of a big graphics shop was interested in a new Acura. He went to the dealership at lunch time in his work clothes which had ink smudges, as one would expect when printing with large screens. The sales staff ignored him (again, judging a book by its cover) and he ended up buying a new Acura from another dealership in the city where he was treated with the courtesy a customer should expect.

Does your shop have a policy about not judging a book by its cover?

Aluminum pallets and soft top rubber

Easy . . . just peel, stick and trim.

If you have aluminum pallets or are thinking of buying aluminum pallets, talk to Stanley’s.

Stanley’s can get you not only the pallets but also the soft top rubber that many consider essential for aluminum pallets. Peel and stick rubber sheets are quick to install so if you burn a pallet during a print run, you can change it on the fly with very little down time.

A perfect fit is assured by buying the sheets slightly bigger than your pallets and then trimming the overhang off after sticking the sheets down.

Call one of the Stanley’s branches for more information on aluminum pallets and peel-and-stick rubber tops.

Edmonton 780 424 4141; Calgary 403 243 7722; Cambridge 519 620 7342; Richmond 604 873 2451.

Ranar presses and dryers

The next time you need a new manual press or a dryer, keep in mind that Stanley’s offers Ranar equipment. Ranar’s line is particularly appropriate for manual shops and home-based printers.

Ranar has been designing and manufacturing quality low-cost equipment for textile printers for over 35 years. They’re based in Southern California just north of Long Beach which means that Stanley’s can easily ship your equipment order from there to anywhere in Canada—they’ve done so many times for Canadian printers.

Ranar’s full range can be seen on their website. For more information about how Stanley’s can help you locate the item of Ranar equipment best suited to your needs, give any one of the four Stanley’s branches a call: Edmonton 780 424 4141; Calgary 403 243 7722; Cambridge 519 620 7342; Richmond 604 873 2451.

“Memorable customer service”—does your shop measure up?

Not the face of memorable customer service.

I think it was Tom Peters who liked the term “memorable customer service” when talking about what made companies excellent. We can assume that “memorable customer service” is the type of customer service that encourages loyalty in customers. Who wouldn’t want more memorable  customer service, especially in world so full of truly indifferent and crappy customer service?

So what does it take? Well, first and foremost it’s top-notch communication. This simply means being able to communicate the information about your shop’s products and services clearly and precisely and in a polite, caring and engaging manner.

Sounds simple? Then why do so many businesses fail to put people who can do that on the front lines with customers?

Keep your mumbling, short-tempered, grumpy, ill-informed, indifferent, and rude employees away from any customer contact and watch for an increase in the number of returning customers looking for more memorable customer service.

13 million tons a year!

Comfortable and fashionable.

13 million tons a year. That’s what Americans throw away in Tees and jeans according to CNN quoting a PBS report. This equates to 85% of the clothes they own. We don’t have figures for Canada but it’s likely to be something similar per capita.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that much of the discarded tees and jeans can easily be upcycled into new-looking outfits.

Frank and Oak is one brand that has become known for leading the charge on sustainable, affordable fashion. Now they’re focusing making clothing for men and women from post-consumer waste. They salvage worn out jeans to create new garments and in the process use 79% less energy, 50% less chemicals, and up to 95% less water than standard jean production.

Customer feedback claims that these garments are soft to the touch, comfortable, and popular. At $85 it may not be quite as “affordable” as claimed, but its ecological attributes make a strong case to buy them.

We mention this to reinforce the idea that our industry has to do something about its reputation as one of the world’s worst for water pollution and unnecessary waste.

Has your shop joined the drive for a more responsible industry yet? Have you reviewed your printing processes for ecological  considerations? Every little step in the right direction helps. And if you’re smart about it, you can use responsible manufacturing and printing to differentiate your shop from the competition.

Setting up a home-based print shop? Do you have the power?

You don’t need the frustration . . .

This could save you a lot of expense and frustration . . .  Before you buy equipment (particularly a conveyor dryer) for your home-based print shop, check that you have the power to handle it.

If you have to spend money on upgrading your home’s power it might change your plans for a home-based print shop. So here’s a plan:

  1. Check on the power requirements of the dryer you intend buying.
  2. Consult an electrician to make sure that your current power set-up can handle the dryer.
  3. If you have to upgrade your power set-up, get an estimate of cost.
  4. Taking the cost of upgrading your power set-up into account, re-examine your business plan to make sure it still makes economic sense.

Don’t end up like a would-be home-based shop owner in Calgary who recently found out that his power set-up couldn’t handle his new dryer after it was delivered. You don’t need the frustration.

Employees . . .

Employees . . . One of the challenges of running a shop.

Employee management is one of the tricky aspects of running a shop, in fact, of running any small business.

Hiring, paying, directing, supervising, and firing can all be stressful and take up a lot of the time of a business owner. There are ways to do these things properly and there are resources that can help in this regard.

This is why you might be interested in this month’s Images Magazine excerpt from Characters Who Can Make Or Break Your Small Business. You can find it by clicking here. And, as always, while there, enjoy the rest of the online magazine.

You can purchase the book for $24.50 here.  

Keep the shop clean!

Clean routinely—it makes business sense.

A textile print shop is a dust magnet. The fibers from the garments take to the air and settle everywhere. The ideal solution for the sake of everyone’s health (they’re breathing in the airborne fibers) and for safety (fiber build-up is highly flammable) is an air cleaner.

But besides the health and safety issues, a dusty shop gives a poor impression of the business.

It’s true that nobody particularly likes to clean but if it becomes routine to remove dust and wipe down the equipment even every second day or so (say a half hour at the end of the day on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays) it’ll probably be all you need.

It’s a good practice for many reasons.

Re-tagging

Check to see if the label can be removed and the fabric isn’t too rough to print on.

Many clothing lines like to remove the manufacturers’ material labels and brand garments as their own with screen printed labels. Most manufacturers know this and make their labels easy to remove, but some don’t.

This is why it is important to do a little work before agreeing to screen print labels for a customer. You want to be sure that:

  1. The manufacturer’s cloth label can be removed without damaging the garment or leaving a stub (this happens if the label is sewn under or into the seam); and
  2. The material on the inside of the shirt isn’t too rough to screen print on.

 

Ribbed garments and other risks

Ribbed. Perhaps better to decline.

Sometimes in business one just has to turn down a job even though it may seem counter-intuitive.

Just like in any other business or profession, one may occasionally be asked to do something that carries with it a risk to reputation and possible losses, in other words, a downside greater than an upside. At times like this, keeping in mind the upside/downside imbalance, it can be smart business to decline the “opportunity.”

One such “opportunity” in textile screen printing can be ribbed garments. Here’s the problem . . . it’s not that you can’t print on ribbed garments, it’s that afterwards when it stretches when it’s worn, the unprinted valleys between the ribs will be visible thus making the print unsightly. On the press the garment is not stretched as it will be when worn so ink doesn’t make it down into the valleys. And besides, while you probably could take special measures to get ink down into the valleys, is your customer going to pay you enough to make it all worthwhile?

Sometimes it’s just smarter to decline certain jobs.

 

Fibrillation!

Fibrillation!

Fibrillation has probably been an issue for as long textile screen printers have been printing. It’s not to be confused with the identical medical term, though sometimes it’s so frustrating that it may feel as if the printing fibrillation can lead to the medical fibrillation.

If you’re new to the industry, fibrillation is when the fibers on the garment stick up through the print to give it a “faded” look. This might be fine if you’re trying to create a worn, faded look but it’s just annoying when you’re not. And don’t think it’s a fabric quality issue. Ironically the “better” the fabric, for example nice soft brushed cotton Tees, the greater the fibrillation issue can be.

Over the years various fibrillation solutions have been used. One effective measure is a clear first-down screen to “glue” the fibers flat but the downside of this is a heavier print. In more recent times it seems that most printers are using a screen with exposed emulsion but no image as the first screen in the printing sequence to press the fibers down. A harder squeegee blade, flooding with a bit of clear base to provide lubrication for the squeegee, and extra pressure is widely used.

There are solutions to fibrillation, the trick is just to find the one that works best for you and the print you’re trying to achieve.

Textile screen printing’s image problem

Portray a professional image and boost your business and the industry.

Pinterest and You Tube are beginning to annoy me! Both are guilty of promoting the idea that textile screen printing is nothing more than a craft activity anyone with a kitchen table and a few rudimentary bits and bobs (wooden frame, squeegee and some ink from Amazon or eBay) can do.

This does nothing for textile screen printing’s image as a legitimate, technically-challenging, occupation and significant contributor to the fashion and clothing industry. Image is important in establishing legitimacy (and hence the right to be rewarded appropriately) in the minds of the buying public. Wouldn’t we be more resentful of the fees that our dentists charge if Pinterest and You Tube were full of demonstrations of how to do your own extractions with just a kitchen chair, a pair of players, and a few Tylenol?

So, let’s do something about boosting the image of our industry. If every shop put forth a professional image and conducted business accordingly, it would help offset the hokey impression widely promoted in social media. In any case, a professional image is good for individual businesses by promoting confidence in customers.

 

A big shift to organic materials and renewable energy

Organic materials

It might be a slow process but our industry’s steady transition to organic fibers is happening and is, as usual, being led by the big and influential players.

Just as Nike, Adidas, Converse and other major sporting goods manufacturers drove the transition to non-Phthalate, non-PVC plastisol inks, major retailers are driving the organic fiber garment transition.

For example, Inditex, a Spanish-based clothing retailer with 7,490 stores worldwide (847 in the U.S. and 47 in Canada mostly under the ZARA brand name) has set a target of 90% organic materials in its clothing by 2023. In addition to this, the group aims to have 80% of its energy consumption from renewable sources and its use of plastic shopping bags will end next year.

What is your shop’s plan for joining this drive to organic materials and sustainability in our industry? It might be worth considering, not only as the responsible thing to do but, if promoted properly, it could be a marketing feature.

A miser can’t do marketing

Misers aren’t good marketers.

Giving stuff away—even small gift items—has been a long-standing marketing tactic. And with good reason; people like receiving stuff not just because of the item itself but also because of the gesture. Giving and receiving are good feelings that can plant the seeds of a mutually beneficial relationship.

This is where misers make the mistake of false economy by saving pennies and potentially losing out on dollars. Here’s a case in point . . .  Last week in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia at a business presentation the presenter handed out worksheets to the fifteen or so participants for completion as part of the presentation. Then, in anticipation of some people not having a pen with them, he handed a pencil to each participant. That was good. What wasn’t good was that after the presentation he went around and retrieved his pencils.

First of all, he looked pretty cheap recovering pencils worth a few pennies but, more importantly, by not handing out pencils with his company name and contact information on them for the participants to keep, he missed a marketing opportunity.

Miserliness is not a good quality in a marketer. What does your shop do to subtly market itself with inexpensive gestures?