Category Archives: General interest

Stanley’s adjusting business practices to accommodate virus precautions

CAUTION! CAUTION! CAUTION! CAUTION! CAUTION! CAUTION!

Stanley’s is taking special precautions to protect staff and customers while this COVID-19 crisis continues. This applies to the Edmonton, Calgary, and Richmond branches until further notice. The Cambridge office has been closed for two weeks at least per an Ontario government order.

These are the changes that have been implemented:

    • Face to face contact between customers and staff is being avoided. Orders and consultations are being conducted by phone or email only.
    • Staff in attendance are being limited and members are being rotated.
    • The office doors are being kept closed and orders are placed in the foyer for pickup.
    • Door handles and all other items likely to be touched in the course of business are being sanitized regularly.

Customers can boost these precautions by bringing antiseptic wipes with them and wiping down containers and boxes when they pick up their orders.

It’s a bit inconvenient for everyone but it’s in the interest of being able to service printers’ needs safely.

Government help for your business — consult your accountant

 

You don’t have to figure out the assistance programs – leave it to your accountant!

Governments in Canada, the Federal Government in particular, are offering assistance programs for businesses.

Small businesses (which would be most textile printers in Canada) are a particular target for assistance. You need to be keep abreast of these programs as they are announced from time to time.

A good way to navigate what is bound to be a potentially confusing array of programs and paperwork is to consult with your accountant or bookkeeper whose job it is to liaise between you and the government. Leave it to an expert such as an accountant to make sure that you don’t overlook any benefits for which your business may qualify.

No thanks to COVID-19, we suddenly find ourselves in confusing and challenging times, but fortunately help is available. Make sure your business doesn’t miss out. Survival may depend upon it.

 

Serving vs. selling . . . it’s a fine line at this time.

Elephants aren’t the only ones with long memories!

Businesses everywhere are responding to the COVID-19 crisis in a variety of ways. On the one hand, some are seeking to serve, while on the other hand others are seeking to sell (we won’t even mention the ones seeking to gouge because that’s a whole different topic for a different day).

It’s a fine line between the two but it’s one that may loom large in customers’ memories once this thing is over. People are nervous right now (some are terrified) and the last thing they want is to be sales-pitched—it just seems crass and inappropriate. My experience of huge, disruptive, and dangerous life-taking and life-altering situations (in my case a revolution and a flood) is that many, many years later one remembers who fell on which side of the fine line in the time of crisis.

Every business owner would do well to keep this in mind right now.

Coronavirus uncertainty? Communicate with your customers!

Some, but not enough businesses are addressing coronavirus uncertainty as it affects their customers.

Are you open for business? Are you shut completely? If so, for how long? Are you operating but on a limited scale? Customers have questions in this rapidly-changing situation and you should do what you can to keep them informed.

Tell them what you’re doing or not doing, and update your information daily. This is where your social media platforms, email, blog, and even the telephone, can be useful tools at this time. Use them.

When all this is over, don’t you want your customers to remember that during a time of confusion and uncertainty, you cared enough to keep them informed?

It’s smart business.

Coronavirus and your shop

At the time of writing, small businesses are being confronted by the potential impact of this virus beyond just the obvious health issues. Are you going to keep the shop open? Are your employees going to come to work? Are customers going to suspend their activity?

Small business owners are mostly resourceful so hopefully all our Canadian textile screen shops will survive this challenge. Here are some ideas to consider in order to be compliant with the precautions health authorities want us to exercise:

  • Artists and admin staff may be able to work from home.
  • If you’re a small shop perhaps one person (the owner?) can carry on working alone.
  • If printing grinds to a halt there is always maintenance and cleaning to be done.
  • Quiet, alone time could be used to review your business strategy.
  • Online business and mail deliveries may be an option.

Let’s not kid ourselves, if the virus situation gets much worse it’s going to be tough on shops but a bit if ingenuity and determination could help see us through.

“We can’t come to the phone right now . . .”

An answering service can give your shop a professional touch and no more missed calls.

This is so often heard nowadays: “Thank you for calling ABC Tees. We are unable to come to the phone right now. Please leave a message with your name and number and we’ll call you back as soon as we can.”

If the caller is someone trying to get a bill paid, they’ll maybe leave a message but will likely call back. If the caller is a potential customer, they’ll more likely call the next shop on their list and forget about you. People are impatient. They want a real person to answer the phone and to be assured that their interest has been noted and a communication process has been set in motion. And let’s face it, “We’re unable to come to the phone right now” sounds very much like, “We’re a really tiny rinky-dink outfit.” This doesn’t build confidence.

So, the answer? An answering service. Before balking at the cost, consider what missed calls might be costing your shop. Consider what damage to your image might be costing your shop.

 

A packaging and shipping idea that could save you money

If you have an online store selling Tees (particularly one at a time) you may be interested in a new no-fuss packing and shipping concept introduced by 3M. It’s their Scotch Brand Flex and Seal Roll.

The blue padded material comes in rolls that can be trimmed to suit the size of item you’re shipping, in this case a T-shirt. It’s self-sealing and generally very convenient in other ways too.

Before ordering in bulk you can test the material because it’s available from retailers like Amazon, Staples etc. for about $15 a 10 ft roll.

 

More about developing technology . . .

Stay abreast of technology developments.

In the previous post we became aware of new fabric-decorating technology by Epson installed at George Brown College. We used it to underscore the need to maintain an awareness of developing technologies that could affect the textile screen printing industry.

In this regard, it’s worth reminding ourselves of something Bill Gates apparently once said: “In business by the time you realize you’re in trouble, it’s too late to save yourself. Unless you’re running scared all the time, you’re gone.”

Perhaps “running scared” is a bit over-stated but certainly watching, listening and learning are important if your textile shop is to keep up with developments.

 

Keeping an eye on developing technology . . .

There has been an interesting development in textile printing at George Brown College in Toronto that deserves attention from the Canadian textile decorating industry.

It underscores the reality that given the speed with which technology is advancing nowadays, textile screen printers are well advised to keep an eye out for anything that might require them to update their technology and perhaps their business model. Being unaware of developments could result in waking up one day to find that the textile decorating world has passed them by and their business is becoming redundant.

Epson has partnered with George Brown and installed a PureColor F9370 dye sublimation fabric printer. Fabric designers are excited by the ability to design onscreen and print on fabric in blended colours exactly as designed. You can see their reaction in this short YouTube video.

If you’re in the area of George Brown College or visiting the Toronto area, you might want to ask for a demo if for no other reason than to assess how this technology might affect your textile decorating business in the longer term (or perhaps even the shorter term).

Sell or walk away?

Leaving with a bag of money at the end.

Today I’m presenting to the Bridgewater Chamber of Commerce, Nova Scotia, as part of their Lunch-and-Learn series. My topic, based on the Acquirer chapter on my book Characters Who Can Make or Break Your Small Business, is, “So, What Is My Business Going To Be Worth?”

Four points capture the essence of the one-and-a-half-hour presentation:

  1. Small business owners (in your case read “textile shop owners”) should at least consider selling rather than just closing up and walking away at the end of their business-ownership journey.
  2. In order to extract maximum benefit from an eventual sale there are things business owners should know now and should keep in mind as they proceed on their small business journey.
  3. Business owners must engage properly-qualified and experienced assistance and advice with a buy/sell process from the moment it begins.
  4. Business owners need at least a basic understanding of the principles of business valuation in order to assess the advice they receive.

This should stimulate your curiosity. You have something to think about now and some research and reading to do. It’s all for a worthwhile cause—a bag of money at the end.

The turntable mixer that can’t mix “sticky” plastisol

Look carefully before buying equipment!

A Shanghai-based manufacturer of textile screen printing equipment has been very active on LinkedIn promoting its equipment. The images and videos of presses, screen-coating machines, exposure units and a variety of other equipment are always well done and impressive.

Recently, however, they produced a video of a line-up of turntable ink-mixing machines with cradles big enough for 20-liter (5 gal) ink buckets. Interestingly-designed ink paddles were in place, cradles with interesting-looking clamps were in place, and the machines were all turning. There was just one glaring problem in this demonstration though—no ink buckets.

A number of people responded asking to see the machines actually mixing ink, 5-gallons of plastisol in particular. After some back-and-forth, the company’s sales manager responded: “Because the market here is mostly water based ink, larger barrel ink mixing with another ink dispenser, for this one can mix plastisol but not with good mixing effect. However we have many customers who ask for plastisol ink, we are checking and probably will make a prototype soon for thick and sticky ink mixer.”

The lesson here? Ask the obvious questions and attend trade shows where you can actually see equipment working and doing what you need it to do before even considering buying it.

Red oceans and blue oceans

In the last post about a shop diversifying into bags, I mentioned the book Blue Ocean Strategy and promised a little more detail about it. We’ve done this before but we’re doing it again because it’s a concept every textile shop owner should understand.

In essence it’s about moving out of intensely competitive, crowded markets (red oceans of bloody competition) into less crowded, less competitive markets (blue oceans) and making the most of them before they too become red oceans.

The T-shirt printing industry is a red ocean. If you doubt that, just Google “T-shirts” and scroll through the 1,780,000,000 (yes, that’s heading for two billion) entries. Screen-printed bags too will become a red ocean as the market created by the banning of plastic bags attracts competitors but for now it’s a relatively blue ocean when compared with the T-shirt market.

Since most markets are bound to eventually become red oceans (some quite rapidly so in our commoditized economy) an astute business owner has to constantly be on the lookout for blue oceans. This is why the book is worth reading. If reading isn’t your thing, download the audio version. But one way or another give some attention to the red ocean / blue ocean concept.

Diversifying into bags?

A recent article about a T-shirt shop that has refocused on bags got me thinking . . . More and more jurisdictions in Canada have or are planning to ban plastic shopping bags so isn’t this presenting an opportunity for textile screen printers?

It may just be the opportunity you have been waiting for. The t-shirt market has been a “red ocean” for a long time now. Isn’t it time to strike out for a “blue ocean”? Can an expected upsurge in the demand for  non-plastic bags be that “blue ocean’? It was for the shop I was reading about.

Are you wondering what the “red ocean” / “blue ocean” thing is all about? Well, you should buy or download Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne.

In any case, I’ll be mentioning this book again in the next post. It’s too important to remain unread.

Manually creating a simulated process colour separation

Robert Hewitt’s design used in the Images article.

Robert Hewitt of Red Oak Roller in the UK, has written a detailed article, “Let’s Separate”, for Images complete with great illustrations to explain how he created a simulated process colour separation using a piece of his own art.

The artists and art directors out there definitely don’t want to miss this article. Contributions of this caliber to the ongoing learning process in the industry should be appreciated and taken seriously. And even if you’re well versed in the topic already, it’s seldom that you can’t learn something new from another expert.

You can see Hewitt’s article here.

After a tragic fire — a reminder to all shops

Hogan’s Printing of Windsor, Ontario, burnt down in the early hours yesterday, 9th February. We’re very sorry to hear this as we would be to hear about any tragedy that befell a member of the industry. This one is particularly tough because it’s the second time it has happened to them in two years. We wish Hogan’s a speedy recovery.

Keep fire-fighting equipment serviced and ready.

Regardless of what the cause might have been, it can still serve as a reminder to the rest of the shops in the industry that fire is a real risk in print shops. Accumulated lint and exploding aerosol cans carelessly knocked onto dryer belts, are just two examples of known causes of textile shop fires.

The reminder here is to keep the shop clean (including hidden areas such as ventilation shafts), handle and store flammable materials with care, and have fire-fighting equipment serviced and readily available in prominent places throughout the shop.

 

Two pieces of good advice on one page

Integrating good advice to help drive your shop

The February online edition of the industry’s biggest and best magazine, Images, has two short but good pieces of business advice on one page.

First there’s advice from Andrew Langridge on In-store marketing.

And just below that is an excerpt about partnerships from Characters Who Can Make Or Break Your Small Business.

You can link directly to these pieces on page 25 in Images-magazine.com here.

 

Cyber security – setting up passwords

Help frustrate a hacker for two centuries!

In the last post on 30th January, we listed the time it takes for hackers with access to sophisticated technology to crack passwords of different length and complexity.  Now, as promised, we’ll deal with a method for setting up passwords unlikely to be cracked.

As Berthold Holm of Antares Computers pointed out in his presentation in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, weak passwords are those that are logical, recognizable and short. For example, “Rover”, “26June88”, “MaryJ!” and so forth. These can be cracked in minutes, some of the weaker ones, in seconds. Much stronger passwords follow no logical pattern, make no apparent sense, and are longer. For example, “H7q!Jyd8g0Gc” or “nM4Rgx2dQ$3o”. These are the 12-character passwords that can take two centuries to crack.

But, the big question is how do you remember such a password? Well, Berthold suggests using a sentence as a memory aid. His example is: “My dog Rosie was born in 2015 and weighs 120#”. Use the bolded characters as follows: My dog Rosie was born in 2015 and weighs 120#, and you have the following password: MdRwbi2015aw120#.

Help frustrate a hacker for two centuries!

Cyber security — passwords

Make life difficult for this character. Set secure passwords.

Two posts ago on the 23rd, we mentioned an eye-opening presentation by Berthold Halm of Antares Computers in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia. One of his topics was about password security.

The bad guys have become incredibly efficient at cracking passwords primarily by using high-speed, high-volume super computers and a method known as “brute forcing.” Passwords of 8 characters that were considered “strong” a few years ago can now be cracked in minutes. Fewer than 8 characters can be cracked in seconds.

Two things matter in setting up more secure passwords—length and complexity. And just a few extra characters make all the difference. Consider this:

Time to crack a password with just letters and no special characters:

  • 9 characters  – 2 minutes
  • 10 characters – 2 hours
  • 11 characters – 6 days
  • 12 characters – 1 year

Time to crack a password if you add a special character to the letters:

  • 9 characters  – 2 hours
  • 10 characters – 1 week
  • 11 characters – 2 years
  • 12 characters – 2 centuries

You know what you have to do to avoid becoming a victim to a growing wave of online crime.

The next post on Monday, February 3rd will deal with a method for setting up passwords unlikely to be cracked.

 

 

Your lungs will thank you

The post a week ago on the 20th extolled the virtues of PMI Dual-tack Pallet Tape. Something we took for granted and should have mentioned is that before attempting to apply the tape to your pallets, they must obviously be in new-condition clean.

If a pallet is not cleaned properly and has any substance such ink traces, cleaning chemical residue, or even a hint of dampness on it, no masking material including PMI Dual-tack Pallet Tape will stick to it. Failure to stick is more likely to be a problem with the pallet surface rather than the tape being applied.

It’s worth cleaning your pallets properly to make the PMI dual-tack Pallet Tape work for your shop—a product that gets rid of aerosol adhesives is good idea for any lungs in the shop.

Cyber security — upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 10

Make life as difficult as you can for this character.

Today Berthold Halm of Antares Computers gave an eye-opening presentation on computer and cyber security for the Bridgewater Chamber of Commerce in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia.

Before dealing with the critical issue of passwords (we’ll get to this later) he dealt with the matter of upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 10. He pointed out that while Microsoft will not provide further updates and will not fix problems and security vulnerabilities for Windows 7, technically one can still use Windows 7 for some time because everything you’re running now will continue to work. However, the key concern is security. If you do online banking or if you’re a business user, you should upgrade to Windows 10.

And when you upgrade it’s advisable to not just impose Windows 10 on Windows 7 but to do a clean installation. Unfortunately this means having to reinstall all programs. A pain in the neck? Of course it is, but the consequences of vulnerable security can be a much bigger pain in the neck.

Our post next Thursday (30th January), will address the critical password aspect of Berthold Halm’s presentation. Don’t miss it.

 

Dual-tack pallet tape . . . the ultimate answer!

Stanley’s is excited to let you know that they now have PMI Dual-tack Pallet Tape.

Why is this exciting? Because this PMI Dual-tack Pallet Tape is a brilliant answer to three long-standing printing issues: (1) consistent, uninterrupted, effective adhesion of the garment to the pallet; (2) breathing air-borne aerosol adhesive particles; and (3) getting adhesive and lint all over the equipment and floor.

PMI has a short video on their site that explains this product better than we could do here. Do yourself a favour, take just a minute and watch this video.

The answer to your pallet adhesive challenges, right? Okay, so why wait? Call Stanley’s for more information, pricing and to order: 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. 

Health in the swamp

Printing shouldn’t make you sick.

It’s a story I’ve told many times when the topic has turned to health in textile screen shops.

I was at a gathering of about a dozen or so screen printers discussing the latest developments in plastisol ink. This was some years back when it was still news that lead and Phthalates had been removed from leading brands of ink. The point being made was that printers should be pleased that ink was now ‘healthier’ to work with.

One shop owner startled us (and perhaps put things in perspective) by saying that on his way out of his shop to meet with us (this was a medium-sized Canadian shop with a two automatics and a few manual presses) he walked by the swamp where a mixture of water and chemicals was being sprayed in all directions and hung like a fog in the air. The two people cleaning the screens were in shorts and Tees and wearing none of the provided protective gear at all.

His point was that he couldn’t see why he should care about a bit of lead and phthalates in ink when his staff didn’t care about working in a fog of chemicals in the swamp. Of course we could add pallet aerosol adhesive to this argument too.

So, the question for your shop is how much do you and your staff care about working in a healthy environment where product safety and safe application matter? What precautions do you take to safeguard everyone’s health?

A 2020 resolution to read

If you plan to stick to just one New Year’s resolution let it be one to read stuff that will be helpful in growing your business and managing it better.

Business owners (and this of course includes all textile shop owners) can’t exist in an information bubble. If you’re not in touch with what’s being written about your industry specifically and business management generally in today’s fast-moving world, your business will lag behind.

Consider what Charles W. Eliot said: “Books are the quietest and most consistent of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”

Okay, so maybe you don’t like reading entire books or think you don’t have time to read entire books. Well, there’s a solution for you. Soundview has a service whereby they reduce business books to 10-minute summaries. Check them out here. 

Keep an eye open . . .

There is something that any forward-looking textile print shop owner should be aware of. It’s about bridging the distinction between textile-only shops and sign-only (digital and graphics) shops.

Until recently there has mostly been a fairly clear distinction between these two types of print shops, except possibly in smaller or rural communities. The smaller rural shop tends to do a bit of everything because the demand isn’t big enough in any one particular activity; they’ll do Tees, signs, and just about any other type of printing you might need.

However, now there are suggestions in sign industry literature that sign shops are eyeing expansion into textile printing. Consider that in a recent article, Roland’s product manager for textiles (known primarily as a sign industry equipment manufacturer) was quoted as saying: “What I hear all the time is ‘I know I have to get into fabric printing’ because it will help them with short runs or expanding into other markets.”  He was discussing multi-purpose machines being developed to print on various surfaces, including textiles.

Who knows how or even how quickly this might unfold?

A good strategy for a textile shop owner might be to keep an eye open for the other industry planning to eat your lunch.

A good example for kicking off 2020

Screen printing shops, like any other small or medium-sized businesses, can make contributions to their local communities in inexpensive but significant ways. We should all make it a resolution for 2020. Not only is it a way of exercising civil responsibility but, let’s face it, there’s a selfish reason too—it’s good for business.

Recently a great example of this was reported from Australia. The manager of a Samsung Electronics store allowed a young boy who did not have access to WiFi at home, to come by each day and access his homework assignments online using the store’s equipment and WiFi. Someone became aware of it and told the world of this act of kindness.

It needn’t cost much in time or money to make a contribution to the local community in this way. But it could be a win-win for everyone and everything involved—the recipient, the donor, and the identity and morale of the business.

What can your shop do along these lines in 2020?

 

The critical importance of the pre-press area

The focus of the “Swamp’s” job!

Often disingenuously referred to as “the Swamp”, the pre-press area is critical to the quality of the print.

But don’t take my word for it, instead click here and spend a few minutes reading Tony Palmer’s article , Pre-press Pointers, in the November issue of Images Magazine. Tony is an expert with 30 years of experience who now consults to printers under his company name, Palmprint Consultants.

You’re never too experienced to learn something new about a critical aspect of a successful print shop. And, just as an aside, when you read the article notice the image of the “Swamp”—organized and clean as a whistle!

Interacting with your suppliers

Maintain good relationships with your suppliers.

Your suppliers are among the key holders to the success or failure of your shop. How you interact with them, and they with you, must be carefully managed to maintain amicable relationships.

This month Images Magazine included an excerpt from the “Supplier” chapter of Characters Who Can Make Or Break Your Small Business. You can see it by clicking here and, while there, page through the rest of this excellent online magazine—you’re bound to learn something new.

Textile screen printing outgoing technology?

Ever since direct-to-garment digital printing came along we’ve been hearing that textile screen printing’s days are numbered. D-to-G promoters like to claim that screen printing is cumbersome, messy, noisy and on the way out.

Well, If ever there’s a visual argument for why the imminent demise of textile screen printing as a viable garment decoration technology is greatly exaggerated, then this must be it . . .

Oval sROQUE oval printers handling 20 colours and with 20 flash cure units.

Mass production textile screen printing technology is not going away anytime soon.

Image credit: Jorge Fernandes, SROQUE MTL SA, via LinkedIn

Showtime again!

Set aside January 10th and 11th for the National Imprint Canada Show at the Toronto Congress Center.

Okay, so this show is not as big as say, the Long Beach Show (which we highly recommend for textile garment decorators), but it’s the biggest in Canada. And if you’re in Ontario, particularly the GTA, you’ll need a really good excuse to not attend.

More than a month ago they already had over 120 confirmed exhibitors with a promise of “thousands of new products and cutting edge ideas.” If you’re in the textile decorating business (screen printing and other methods), and particularly if you’re new to the industry, you need to attend. It’s at shows where you’re exposed to the most in the shortest period of time.

Some shows are better than others, but it’s seldom that you can say a show wasn’t worth attending at all. Even just one new concept or idea can make a huge difference to your business.

So mark this one on your calendar (it’s just a month away) and attend with an open mind.

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.