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Plan to Succeed: Advice for Newcomers

Get your business off to a smart start by determining goals and what it takes to achieve them upfront.

One of the most common mistakes screen printing newcomers make is not taking the time to plan for the future of their business. Time is money; but, a brief investment early on may keep you from wasting time and money as a result of poor decisions.
Whether it’s buying the wrong equipment, underpricing, or a target market that doesn’t play to your strengths, taking a hard look at where you want your company to be and the path toward getting there will net you the biggest return of any investment you can make.

Get educated.
No matter what your reason is for getting into garment decorating, you’ll be more comfortable and run into fewer problems if you start by getting a basic knowledge of the industry and its components. Without it, you won’t be able to make sound purchasing or marketing decisions, or even know what questions to ask.

Educational resources include: manufacturer-sponsored classes and workshops, trade shows and seminars, industry organizations and programs, videos, and other online offerings. Just seeing equipment in action introduces you to terminology and processes, as well as the capabilities and limitations of the specific machine.

Hands-on workshops provide the opportunity to gain an understanding of how each element of the process works in practice and what you’ll need to consider when integrating it into your operation. Attending educational sessions also provides the opportunity to learn from instructors and network with other printers, including those outside your geographic market.

Know thyself and build on that knowledge.
In setting up your business to succeed, it is critical to take your resources—both capital and human—into consideration. Knowing what you have to work with is essential in setting and achieving your goals. Just as you have to have the right equipment, you have to have personnel with the skills and personality traits to do the job. This starts with self-awareness.

A successful screen printing business requires someone with an entrepreneurial core, someone with technical capabilities, and someone who can manage—kind of like what Michael Gerber put forth in “The E-Myth Revisited.” For the most part, people are strong in one or two of these areas, but not usually in all three. It is smart to determine your strong suits and hire to the areas that you lack, keeping your weaker areas in mind to create a well-rounded team dynamic.

Don’t buy solely on price.
As a general rule, it’s smart to purchase the best technology you can afford. When you’re talking about equipment, this doesn’t necessarily mean new, but while it may be tempting to buy used, you have to factor in things like service, support and warranties, as well as the fact that you don’t know how the machine’s been used.

Plus, you’re going to find way more efficiency in newer equipment. For instance, today’s gas and electric dryers are insulated better than they were even five or 10 years ago. On presses, there also are more options in terms of single vs. three-phase, instead of primarily air driven.
There’s just so much new technology out there that can pay off many times over, especially if you’re going to be in this industry for a while. Keep the old adage “Buy nice or buy twice” in mind when weighing cost vs. benefits.

Don’t underprice.
Just as you want to get what you pay for, make sure your customers pay a fair price for what they’re getting. Start-up shops, especially on the manual side, are prone to underpricing their work. They often feel pressure from friends, competitors and customers to be price aggressive; if they succumb to that, they tend to price at a such a low rate that they don’t make any money.

Screen printing is volume driven and a long game. It takes patience and a true understanding of the processes to develop realistic pricing for your specific shop. You have to know what’s involved in the process the way your shop does it, to accurately price.

If you try to set your prices based on those of another shop with its own systems and culture, the result won’t add up. You’re talking different businesses with a different set of dynamics, and that makes for a different equation. It’s important to figure out where you need to be price wise.

Sound pricing starts with knowing your actual costs, including supplies, equipment, overhead and labor. It’s important to identify each step in the process and how long it takes to perform it for a specific type of job. Even the smallest variable, something as simple as changing the type of ink, impacts time and costs.
This doesn’t apply only to production. Oftentimes, people look at printing speeds and output rates, but neglect to factor in the time spent on client contacts, which they should. It’s harder to quantify the cost of time spent on things like phone calls and emails vs. the cost of ink or electricity, but not taking the intangibles into account can skew your costs and eat away your margin.

Pricing based on timing is an interesting way to start developing your matrix. After you have some experience under your belt, you want to have relevant data to create a true matrix, which will make it easier to quote jobs on the fly. But in the beginning, you really need to know how much time, start to finish, a job takes.

Begin with the end in mind and don’t be afraid to invest in your business.
If you’re serious about succeeding and building a business that will grow and provide jobs for people years down the road, begin with that in mind. Purchase equipment and hire people that will enable you to get off to a good start and support your company’s growth. Set goals and develop time lines for achieving them and PLAN. Otherwise, you might find yourself spinning your wheels and not getting anywhere.

Charlie Veuleman,
Ryonet Territory Sales Manager

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