Chasing Rabbits


There is a quote attributed to the Chinese philosopher Confucius that reads, “He who chases two rabbits, catches neither.”  Meaning, it’s vital that you focus your attention on one primary target.

Think about your shop for a second and your customer base.

Are you chasing one rabbit, or a field full of customers hopping all around?  Imagine how much simpler and easier your business might be if you winnow down your customer base to just one type.

One rabbit to chase.

That rabbit could look or move anyway it wanted…but it’s going to be easier to hunt as the distractions of all of the other types of rabbits will fade away.  It will become your core focus.

  • The rabbit could be geography based – within one day ground shipping for example.
  • It could be a particular demographic, Harley-Davidson motorcycle riders or maybe college football fans of a particular school or league.
  • Maybe it’s a business type such as contracting to promotional item distributors or selling to resort hotels and spas.
  • What if it’s revenue based, where the minimum order for the customer is 1,000 shirts or more?
  • Another thought could be to simplify your output – what if everything you printed was a one color?  What if you only embroidered items that had 4,000 stitches or less?  How would that impact your production and costs?

The idea here is that you grow your business by narrowing your focus on one type of rabbit exclusively.  This is going to help you search for your customers and market to them.  It’s going to simplify how you dedicate resources, what trade shows to go to, even what type of apparel to source for decoration.  It will even help you decide on equipment to buy, and the types of employees to hire.  It will fine tune your operations in-house, as you will master your core processes to serve that market.

It’s all about hunting for that rabbit and no other.  It starts with defining your customer.

Imagine how much easier it will be to write or update your business plan, when you just focus your attention to a single attribute or idea.  Building a marketing schedule just got simpler too, as you now know who to think about when crafting your social media posts.

Many companies will struggle with this concept though.  “It’s hard to turn down business!” or “You can’t limit customers coming in the door!”…they will say.  True.

But think about how other businesses have succeeded when they adopted this mindset and just focused on one thing.  Think how Zappos puts customers needs first.  Or how Uber is getting people to their destinations with a phone app.  Or how Tom’s Shoes have impacted the world with their brand of for-profit cause marketing.

Being “busy” doesn’t mean you are running a good business either.  There’s no award for stress, and you have to be paying attention all the time.  Disruption is at your doorstep.  Look what happened to Kodak and the photo business.  Or Blockbuster with movie rentals.  Or how sharing and downloads affected the music recording industry.

What would have happened if they pivoted and Kodak pushed for digital and phone camera apps, or Blockbuster turned into Netflix…or the recording industry invented Spotify or iTunes?

They still would be chasing the same rabbit…but doing it differently.  You can focus on your customer, but still adapt and change.

For apparel decorators, this could mean adopting new technology, embracing different social media platforms, getting out of your comfort zone and looking at that same rabbit…but from a different direction.  Where is your blue-water strategy? 

When was the last time you even asked your customer what they thought?  What are their needs?  If your rabbit could talk, what would it say to you?

Less is More.  

Try narrowing your focus on creating the one thing your shop could be famous for achieving.  Intricate floral pattern embroidery.  Simulated process on dri-fit performance wear.  One day turns.  Multimedia apparel decoration.  Discharge or water based photographic prints.  The most knowledgeable customer service in the industry.  A line of silk pillows made from sustainable materials and decoration.  Digital photos of pets on apparel.  Sublimated athleisure wear with branded corporate logos.  Contract DTG printing for other decorators.

The sky’s the limit really.  What do you do best?  If you could only talk about one thing for your shop, what would want to discuss?

What if you channeled that energy that you are spending completing the orders that aren’t profitable, or for clients that don’t pay well, or for customers that are jerks…and pushed that effort into building something singularly and creatively outstanding?  What if you chased a different beast?

Maybe you will discover a more profitable or more joyous rabbit to hunt.


Watch an inspirational video on hunting your wabbit by Clicking Here.

“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” – Mark Twain

“That has been one of my mantras, focus and simplicity.  Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.  But it is worth it in the end, because once you get there you can move mountains.” – Steve Jobs

“Our life is frittered away by detail…simplify, simplify.” – Henry David Thoreau


  • Steven Kaleita

    Great Article!
    This reminds me of the shops I worked with, that made it big…and the ones that lost it. I’ve been in the industry since 1976. And have this saying that I’ve been preaching for many years, “When your doing what your not suppose to be doing…Your not doing what your suppose to be doing”.

    I’m passing this on.
    Steven Kaleita

  • Great minds think alike, sir. 😉 I spent a good deal of time during the Printwear Tune-Up saying much thee same, and have been repeating the mantras of ‘focus’ and ‘boundaries’ on every podcast and blog ever since. I think it’s a major part of what folks are missing in their attempts at growth.

    • Supposedly when Thoreau returned from his famous retreat at Walden Pond, he paid a visit to Ralph Waldo Emerson (who owned the property and rented it to Thoreau). “What did you learn from your retreat?”, asked Emerson. “Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.”, responded Thoreau. “Hmmm”, answered Emerson, “one ‘Simplify’ would have been sufficient.”

  • Jonathan Fine

    Great article Marshall, sharing this with our team.

  • tommystsf

    Nice job. I’ve been at this since 1987, starting with Target Graphics in my parents basement. It’s a lesson that I myself once mastered, but after your read, realize I need to sharpen my lense. Thanks for the inspiration.
    Tommy Vann

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