First and foremost in our shops we only have so many hours in the day. The big question that you need to constantly ask is, “What are the people in my shop doing with that time?” Are they doing work that matters? How do you know for sure?

One of the best Peter Drucker quotes used in management is “Efficiency is doing the thing right. Effectiveness is doing the right thing.”

The trick is to constantly make sure your employees are doing the right thing by setting them up for success. They shouldn’t have to choose to the right thing. It is the expectation. It is part of your culture. Do you think you have that in your shop?

If you wanted to build a company culture that emphasizes being effective, where would you start? Let’s take a look:

Above all quality and craftsmanship have to come first. Many shops land a new client because the customer’s old one couldn’t print without registration problems or maybe even hit a Pantone color consistently.

Your company culture should push quality above all things and emphasize this in all departments. It isn’t just for production teams either, as what do you think it says to the client if you misspell their name or ship someone else’s order on their shipping account number?

In your shop, what is your biggest weakness when it comes to quality? You know the answer. Why didn’t you resolve this problem yesterday?

Want to attract more long term clients? Be the go to company that can muster up highly creative ways to decorate apparel. Anyone can throw the latest meme on a t-shirt. That’s not doing you any favors.

When it comes down to it, how does your creative team rate? Are they taking you in the right direction?

Being effective with your art means marrying a great graphic, with the perfect location, on a fantastic apparel choice. Maybe there’s a funky ink technique or something dramatic about the art that sets it apart. Great designs can be simple.

Keep your art team inspired and challenge them to try something new. Get them down onto the shop floor or in the screen room, so they know how things work. Stop complacency.

One of the most difficult challenges a production team can overcome is getting off schedule and trying to get back on track. It can happen for any number of reasons, but the most common is that sales overbooks the shop like airlines do with their ticketing. There are only so many seats on the plane, yet they sell more than they have.

For printers, when the shop is overbooked that leaves us with only a few options. More overtime. Contracting jobs out. Pushing delivery dates. Saying “no” to customers and knowing they will go somewhere else to get their order printed. These are all difficult conversations.

However, if you take a look at your shop’s production history these cycles occur every year. Are you planning for this crunch early? You could go to a second shift. You could buy new equipment. You could train more staff. You could network with more contract decorators.

It is important to be able to adequately plan to scale your business with your growth. Don’t just try to stuff more orders in the production pipe and cross your fingers they will all magically get printed. Make smarter decisions earlier.

It’s an ugly word around some shops. Do you think your employees and departments communicate well? Problem solving is all about speaking up.

Doing the right thing in your shop means your workforce will speak up when something isn’t right. How many times has your staff kept quiet about that thread that always breaks, all those pinholes in the screens, computers that have to be restarted a few times a day, or event that “funny sound” the machine makes? The only way this stuff is resolved is when someone says something.

All too common is that employees are just working away with little thought as to the bigger picture. Head down. Working. Until that machine doesn’t start up and then they complain that it has been that way for weeks. How much lost time do you think this costs you if you added it up?

Even worse is the ineffective time spent when the information isn’t on the work order, or there isn’t enough to go on with the creative brief so the art team can design the image easily. Mistakes happen. Jobs are reworked and reworked with changes. People have to shop what they are doing and ask “Hey, what’s this mean?”

Emphasize communication constantly. Practice making the next person’s job easier by anticipating what they might ask.

How is your shop when it comes to learning a new technique or getting some coaching? Have you ever uttered the phrase “We’ve always done it this way.” and meant it as a rebuttal to a new idea?

Does your ego get in the way of your learning? “I already know how to do that” isn’t being effective. Say yes to learning something new, even if the idea seems like it doesn’t fit your shop right now.

For example, when was the last time you tried out another brand of ink? Maybe a different emulsion or spend some time thinking about a new press wash? Shops use the consumables they are comfortable with, and usually don’t switch. However, I know that these manufacturers reformulate their products constantly and the suppliers are always interested in obtaining new customers. Think about what a difference it would make if you found a better performing something that was actually a better deal.

Does the “we have always ordered it this way” mindset make sense now? Probably not.

Being Effective
At the end of the day, being effective will always mean choosing a better direction. To do that, you have to be willing to try different things. Some might work. Some might not.

The trick is to balance and weigh your decisions constantly so that you know for sure you are doing things at the best possible level you can achieve. Talk to your staff. Ask them questions. What’s wrong? What do they need to do their jobs better? What isn’t working?

Believe me…they will tell you.

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