We often get asked how to go about finding and building the right team for a screen printing business. This blog post comes from a book we are publishing later this year on the business of screen printing, and looks into how we handle this subject, of what it takes to build a team as well as two of the companies we interviewed for the book, Forward Printing and Custom Ink.

Ever since I was a little kid and my parents introduced me to Amway/Free Enterprise I wanted to work for myself, I didn’t want to be someone’s employee; I wanted to control my own destiny. The word “Employee” just never sat well with me. I always thought, “If I’ve never wanted to be an employee, why would I want to have employees?” One day in a management meeting I went around the room and gave my management team a series of statements.

“TJ thanks for being my employee.” Or “Shawn thanks for being on my team.”

“Brandon, you’re really stepping it up as an employee and making us a better company.” Or “Jason, you are really stepping it up as a teammate and making a stronger team.”

Then I asked, “Would you rather be an employee or a team member?”

Every single one of them said, “team member”. And thus, so it became that at ScreenPrinting.com we do not have employees we have team members.

Honestly, it has been a bit of a hard transition. We are engrained to be and manage employees from the day we enter the workforce. I’m not just talking about language here; I am talking about how we interact, treat, and develop the people that we rely on to grow our business. For me, changing the word employee, though it is just a word, starts the conversation. Changing the language changes the thoughts. And changing the thoughts changes the interaction, and ultimately the outcome.

So it’s been a process of transitioning from the inside out. We changed our Employee Handbook to a Team Member Handbook. We talk about our team as team members, and when someone says Employee, we correct their language. When I meet with our team members, I tell them, “You don’t work for me, you work with me, I am not your boss, I am your teammate.”

Is it perfect? Hell no. Team members have a lot more freedom than an employee does and sometimes that can backfire. A poor team member can hurt the rest of the team if they choose to, but the team also has the right to invite them to leave. A good leader doesn’t tell their team what to do, they give them a vision and asks the team to help them accomplish it. The team then finds the right team mates to fit the roles that will allow them to accomplish the goal.

Finding and building the right team is one of the hardest things to do when you’re building any business.

Here are some tips to help you build a team that makes you love your business:

1. Make sure you understand your “WHY”.
When you are looking at bringing new people into your team, their “WHY” should be the same as your business. If that isn’t aligned, you won’t be working toward the same vision, and a team that is unaligned is working against itself.

2. Be patient when choosing your team members.
Start the interview process by casually getting to know them and have them interact with the team they would be working with every day. Let the team do the questioning and vetting. If they pass the team’s approval, get to know them personally. Break bread with them and their significant other if you can. Understand what they value, where they want to go and be sure it aligns with your vision. If you have the opportunity to do a working interview, do it. See if they match the pace and style that your team runs at, if they care about quality the way you do, if they care about the process and the product the way you do.

Custom Ink on hiring and finding talent:

“We have very, very thorough hiring practices, and we’ll spend hours and hours with each individual that we hire beforehand. Some of that is interviews, some of it is having them do exercises that simulate the work they’re going to do. Some of it is having them shadow someone who is performing that same job so they can see for themselves what the job really is. In all cases we’re looking for people that have not only the ability to do a good job, but also share our company values, and have a good attitude. We’re way more successful doing that than if you did a more conventional ‘one hour interview and the make the decision’, hiring process, and we do that for all roles.”

3. If you can’t find experience train it.
The best screen printers that I know don’t hire screen printers, they higher people who are passionate about screen printing and train them in the skills of screen printing at their company. They end up with some of the best teammates you can get. No bad habits. No hoarding of knowledge. First, find people that fit your values and train them on what you do.

Forward Printing on hiring screen printers:

“First of all, we hire with zero experience. A lot of times we feel like experience brings…Superstition. Certain ways of doing things that they’re used to that don’t really jive with the way we do things. We have standard operating procedures for everything; we’re looking at the person. Are they cool? Do we like them? Would we like to hang out with them after work, or things like that? Are they smart? Do they have the ability to learn?”

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