Five Minutes

You Have Five Minutes - Marshall Atkinson

How long does excellence take?  Sometimes it can stretch out for hours or days, but on the other hand sometimes it’s just a few moments of your time.  We’re all “busy”, but are we too busy to do the right thing?  Are we too busy to spend five minutes on improvement?  What can you make better?

Here’s a brainstorm dump on things you can do in your shop in five minutes that just might make the difference between ok and freakin’ awesome.

  • Just after lunch double check your system to make sure all the jobs that have to ship today, are looking like they are going to make it.  Find something?  Get up out of your chair and go ask.
  • Pick up the phone and call a customer and thank them for their business.
  • Scoop up all the used cones of thread or buckets of ink and put them back where they belong.  These should be organized on a shelf by color, or number for easy retrieval.  Don’t have that organized?  Well, that’s not five minutes of work…but extremely needed.
  • Walk out onto the floor and watch people work.  Take notes on what doesn’t seem to be working perfectly.
  • Send a donut probe down the dryer and check your temperature.  Is it dialed in correctly?
  • Stop and talk to that new guy or gal you just hired.  Ask them questions about how they like working here so far, and about their lives.
  • Find a newly printed or embroidered job and go through the stack holding up each shirt.  Inspect for quality and craftsmanship.  Check against the Work Order.  Make sure you do this in front of the people who produced the job.  Teach them what you are looking for.
  • Pull a few screens off the rack and check the tension.
  • Say Thank You to your staff at the end of the day when they are leaving.  Don’t just sit in your office.
  • Pull up your system and look ahead for the next few days.  All art approved?  All inventory received?  Any problems that stick out, follow up.
  • Clean something.
  • Go to Amazon and order a book.  Here are three I would recommend – Seth Godin “What To Do When It’s Your Turn (And It’s Always Your Turn”), John Spence “Awesomely Simple”, Mark Devine “The Way of the Seal – Think Like an Elite Warrior to Lead and Succeed”
  • Put an order in your system for something you don’t know how to do and schedule the work.  Waterbase, discharge, silicone on polyester, applique,  puff embroidery…whatever it is.  You know, that technique that you want to try that scares you.  The scary part is good.  Kickin’ it’s butt is even better.
  • Take a pic of something interesting from your shop floor.  Post it on Instagram and Twitter.  I’m trying to do this at least once a day, and have gotten great results and even some new customers out of it.  Click here to see what I’m doing.
  • Talk to at least one of your staff about trying out a new job in your company.  What interests them?
  • Call your local utility company and request a free energy audit.  They will send someone to poke around your building and give you a grocery list of things you can do to improve your energy usage and lower your annual spend.  This is the first thing I always recommend for people who start their sustainability journey.  The low hanging fruit tastes delicious.
  • Go for a walk.  Just down the street and back.  You’ll feel better when you get back.
  • Double check to make sure that everything that shipped yesterday, was invoiced today.  Send invoices electronically, not through the mail.  You’ll save on postage, and your customers clock starts ticking sooner.  I’ve talked to some shops that only invoice at the end of the week.  Protect your cash flow always.
  • Do something on social media.  Like, comment or share a post from a current or a potential customer.  Social media isn’t about you, it’s about your customers.  Being social is about engaging other people, don’t just talk about you all the time.
  • Write down the biggest problem you have with your shop on a piece of paper.  Why is it such a challenge?  List a few things.  Schedule a meeting to discuss with your staff about resolving it.
  • Go to the SGIA website and investigate becoming a member.  This association has one purpose, and that’s to make your company stronger.  Access the brain trust.
  • Walk the floor and help someone with their job.  Whatever it is.  Ask them what they need to be able to do it better, faster or with more quality.  They will tell you.
  • Double check the preventative maintenance logs for your equipment.  Are they up to date?  Forehead slap if you don’t have one.
  • Walk the floor and look for safety issues.  The most common in our industry are extension cords uncovered or untaped, wet floors, leaning pallets, debris or trip hazards, and staff lifting things incorrectly or not using personal protection devices.
  • Register for that trade show this year and book your plans.  Take a few classes.  Trust me you won’t regret it.  Meet new people and network.  Broaden your horizons.
  • Turn off lights or equipment not being used.  Better yet, find another few minutes and install a motion detector to do it for you.
  • Come in five minutes early.  Get a jump on the day.  Start with the most difficult task.  Knock it out of the way.
  • Leave five minutes early.  Meet somewhere for dinner.  Play with your kids.  Walk the dog.  Go to the gym.  Go see your Mom.  Life is not about work all the time.
  • Pull up Word and start writing how you got into this business and why you love it.  Spell check it.  Create a WordPress account and post it with a picture of your shop.  That’s your first blog article.  Absolutely don’t worry if anyone will ever read it or like it.  Just birth the baby.  Write another one next week.  That’s how this blog got started.

Your turn.  In the comment section leave an idea that you do in your shop in under five minutes to drive excellence.  It can be anything.  You know you want to!


  • Do something on social media. Like, comment or share a post from a current or a potential customer. Social media isn’t about you, it’s about your customers. – Definitely going to start doing this more.

  • Love reading you articles!

    I understood you work in contract print shop. Don’t your customers mind making their jobs public on Instagram? I run contract printshop as well. And 90% of our customers say no when we ask to use pics of their jobs on our webpage.

  • Good article with great ideas. How about give someone a compliment. Takes 10 seconds

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