You want a shop that runs like a well-oiled machine. A shop that feels like home, and the people in it feel like family. After all, you are probably going to be spending more time with them than your own family as you build your screen-printing empire.
Keeping a shop feeling professional, but not corporate is a tall order…but it’s not impossible.
Superior Ink’s very own Dom Rosacci shares his top tips for creating an epic shop culture while maintaining efficiency and creativity. Getting a shop dog is optional…but highly recommended!
CULTURE FROM THE TOP DOWN
In any shop, there exists an invisible web of motivation. Starting with the top, the CEO or Founder next is going to be team leaders, and then the employees.
Being 100% genuine and transparent with the company’s goals and vision helps every part of that ecosystem feel like they are part of a larger purpose.
Of course, that puts it to you as a leader to actually know where you want your company to go, and what that deeper purpose is.
Being super genuine and honest with the intentions of the business gives each employee the opportunity to see if they want to go with you on that journey.
Of course, none of that is possible if you haven’t turned in your helicopter boss badge yet, taking us into a vital step for any serious screen printer.
GOING FROM A DOER TO A LEADER
Your screen printing business is your baby, so it’s understandable that you are used to doing everything. But if you want to scale and be able to focus on high-level decisions that you need to be making, you need to go further than your work ethic. So many shop owners start with boot-strapping and passion, it’s understandable that giving over the reins isn’t easy.
Dom’s grandfather used to say, “The hardest part of running a business is taking off the apron.”
That’s why it’s time to flip the switch from bootstrapping to risk-taker. And isn’t that what all true entrepreneurs are? Risk-takers? Being willing to do things that most people don’t even attempt…out of fear.
You probably don’t want to hear this, but the riskiest thing you could actually do is keep doing everything yourself.
A SIMPLE WAY TO GET STARTED
At this point, we hope you are convinced that you are where company culture begins.
Remember: If you are always stressed and freaking out, no one wants to work for you, and problems don’t get solved better because you are a wreck.
So, decide that you are going to invest in a few key people to fill key roles in your business. What are you doing that you really shouldn’t be doing?
Maybe you’ve hired your core crew, and you need to bring on more help.
The same principle applies, what are they doing that can be delegated to someone less knowledgeable or could easily be taught?
Pro Tip: Make a list of everything you are doing, then assign it a number 1, 2, or 3. Level 1- You MUST do. 2. You need to oversee, but not directly do. 3. Delegate ASAP.
FIND THE RIGHT HUMANS
There are plenty of podcasts, articles, and experts that talk about company culture, but often it comes down to the core of who you hire. This is because you don’t teach culture, culture just is.
There are some qualities that just aren’t teachable: drive, attitude, and competence. Of course, it’s nice if your new hires have a basic level of understanding of the job but anyone can be taught skills. What you can’t teach is how to be a good person.
You are looking for good humans who share a vision and want success together.
Pro Tip: Most people can walk the door and crush an interview, maybe even fake it the first few weeks on the job. To sort out those you know will vibe with your existing team, and to make sure they aren’t just putting on a good act to get hired, check references. Previous employers are often more than willing to share that information and you get a deep understanding of who that person was in a past environment.
FIRE THE WRONG HUMANS
It is often said to “hire slow, fire fast”. In a close-knit shop there just isn’t room for animosity. Of course, you do everything you can to ensure a good fit when you hire, but sometimes even with the best of efforts, a Debbie Downer sneaks in.
Of course, because you are a good human and you want to hire good humans it is equally as hard to fire good humans that just aren’t the right fit. There can be an overwhelming sense of responsibility for the person’s finances, family, and well-being.
But think about it this way; what if holding back from letting them go is actually keeping them from finding a place they are really excited about working?
Sometimes, it’s just a misalignment of goals. Our mantra at the shop is "If you aren’t happy to work for me, then I don’t want you to work for me."
It’s better for all involved to make fast decisions that lead to a happier team.
THE SYSTEMS THAT MAKE IT ALL HAPPEN
As unsexy as it sounds, all businesses operate with standard operating procedures
(affectionately known as SOPS). The goal of an SOP is that someone can be tasked with an assignment, and because it is so well documented, they can come in and do it just like a seasoned pro… first time out of the gate.
No doubt that systems and processes take time to create. However, for each hour you spend building a systematized and repeatable process you can hand off to a team member, how many hours are you getting back?
It’s an investment in your business, and it impacts shop culture because there is no guessing how things are handled. An added bonus is that the finished product comes out just like it would if you were the one who made it, pretty sweet huh?
Pro Tip: The success of your employees is directly connected to how you set them up for success. You want them to have the ability to come in without you there and be completely successful. So go overboard with detail. Include ALL steps (even if they seem common sense), and give them all the tools and supplies they need to do the job.
WHAT CREATING AN EPIC SHOP GIVES YOU
It is hard work to create a shop that people love to work in. It’s even more of a challenge to create a shop that goes above and beyond for more than just fulfilling orders and actually crushes it when it comes to a great customer experience.
This is when it’s important to think of what that hard work is giving you back. Because honestly, anybody can learn the tricks of the trade and create screen-printed merch…and run themselves into the ground in the process.
A leader, a true visionary sees that grinding it out with 14-hour days will only get you so far.
Sure, every shirt will be touched by you but at what cost?
The cost of family days, the cost of being able to take vacations or respond to life’s demands without your shop burning to the ground. Sleepless nights and grueling days aren’t a badge of honor, they are a sign of misplaced pride. And that pride will never build you a sustainable and welcoming company to work in.
You my friend are willing to do the work to build the opposite of that, a shop that any screen printer would sell their right foot to work in (okay, maybe not that great…but pretty close).
We cheer you on as you build a business that you and your team love to work in.
ABOUT SUPERIOR INK
Based in the heart of Denver, Colorado, Superior Ink embodies a vision beyond just printing and embroidery. Our mission is rooted in integrity and purpose: to challenge and transform the textile industry's norms. We're dedicated not only to craftsmanship but also to paving a path for ethical textile production, ensuring every stitch and print speaks volumes about our commitment to a better world.