Changes

CHANGES-PIC

Bob Dylan said it best. The times they are a changin’.

As people, we are the accumulation of our experiences. In this industry, I sure have had many wonderful examples of that.

My career in the decorated apparel industry began by accident. I was looking for a way to pay for architecture graduate school so I wouldn’t have to take out a student loan.

I handled the design end of things, and I hired friends for the sales.  This was back before the advent of personal computers, cell phones or other handy wizardry. Art used blue-line boards, Letraset rub-down type and a lot of patience. Scaling anything required a proportion wheel and a copy center. Sales was in-person.

Everything took time.

We contracted the printing to a local shop. They created the screens using my blue-line boards with a stat camera. It was always slow, meticulous work. (By the way this is where the term “camera ready” comes from.)

About a year into that an incredible tool came on board…the business computer. That changed everything.

Direction swerve!

I taught myself how to use Photoshop and Freehand during a Christmas break. I never went back to grad school and started down a different career path.  I started work in January with that same shop that printed my shirts.

Those first steps as an art director led me down a rich and rewarding journey. I made a ton of mistakes. I learned how to manage my time. I met my incredible wife as she worked for a client. I invented projects and tried new techniques just to learn how to do them.

As my responsibilities grew, I learned how to manage people. I made some industry friends that I still cherish today.

Constant growth forced me to learn to adapt to challenges. I constantly suggested new paths to take, so I earned a promotion to vice president of operations.

That’s when the real fun started happening.  As much as I like creating, solving problems is more rewarding.

I went down a greener road towards continuous improvement and sustainability. Eliminating waste. Creating value.

Employee development and training initiatives helped set the culture tone. Setting and achieving goals became my mission. I saved that company over $60,000 in one year through our sustainability efforts. Earned them an SGP Certification too. (The first apparel decorator to do so)

Then the bottom dropped out with the recession in 2009.  Lots of shops struggled during that time. In December of 2010, one month from my eighteenth anniversary with that company, they let me go.

Devastation. Eighteen years with one company is a long time.  I felt betrayed and abandoned.

What I didn’t know was that was the best thing that could ever have happened to me.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?

I started my consulting and coaching business the next day. I started my blog. I started writing for the trade magazines such as Impressions or Printwear. I started speaking at trade shows.

Taking those lemons and making my own special blend of lemonade proved to be the catalyst I needed. My career took off as I started down the on-ramp to a longer journey.

I spent most of 2011 in shops around the country coaching and teaching. I went to Visual Impressions in Milwaukee for a two-week efficiency improvement consultation. I ended up staying for five years as their COO.  Earned them a SGP certification too. By the time I left our team dropped the cost per imprint by nine cents an impression.

Another incredible road traveled.

Involvement with Wisconsin leadership groups taught me different industries have the same challenges. Giving back to the industry brought me new opportunities and friends. Thanks to PromoKitchen, PPAI, SGIA and SGP.  Serving with these groups has taught me more than they could know.  Always learning…

I left Visual Impressions in the spring of 2016 after my five-year contract was up. Started coaching shops again. Big or small, east or west, I’ve helped plenty.

Guess what?

All that was prep work for my newest leg of my decorated apparel industry journey.

One thing that I always longed for was a great production tool to help make sense of the craziness. Something to make better decisions. That’s easy to use. That’s logic based and has powerful automation, analytics and metrics.  The “easy” button for proactive planning.

I’ll bet that you want that too.

Lets face it, there are a lot of software platforms out there, but they are all order gathering based. It’s great to develop sales.

After that, what happens? Few do much for the production end of the stick, which is where most shops struggle. If you are still at the shop at 10:38 pm and frustrated because orders have to ship tomorrow, I’m sure you can relate.

What is your daily capacity? How efficient is your production? What happens if you take that rush order for Friday? Who is the best production crew in the shop based on metrics? How can you make your shop more efficient and profitable?  How does this year compare to last year? We’re busier, but we aren’t making any more money.  What happened?

I’ve listened to these challenges and more over the years.  These questions have been at the top of my mind for quite a long time. I know they are on yours, because I hear them constantly still.

What if there was a dashboard tool that made sense of it all?

Good news. It’s coming.

This Florida guy has moved to the desert to work in Phoenix with the brainiacs with InkSoft. I’ll be coaching shops still, as I’m starting a Professional Services division. You’ll see more and better content with videos, webinars and of course my blog. But the crown jewel I’ll be championing is the Inksoft Production Manager tool.

It is going to rock.

But, it’s early. We’re starting from scratch and the development has begun.

We would love your input. What are your scheduling issues? What matters to you most? When you fire up your computer in the morning, what would you want to see first thing?

List your top challenges and send them to me at marshall@inksoft.com.

If you’d like to subscribe to the update feed for the new InkSoft Production Manager software, please click here and enter your info. As news as developments are released, you’ll be the first to know in the industry.  Get to the head of the line early.

Like I’ve been doing for the past few years, I want to help make your shop better. InkSoft is giving me a larger platform to accomplish that.  I’m here to help.  Please reach out.

Change is a good thing. I’m still on my journey!

.

Here’s what Bob says:

“Come gather around people

Wherever you roam

And admit that the waters

Around you have grown

And accept it that soon

You’ll be drenched to the bone

And if your breath to you is worth saving

Then you better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone

For the times they are a-changing”

 

Apparel Decorators Only

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http://about.me/atkinsonmarshall

8 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I’ve been holding my breath to read these words. This is a game changer. As a current, often frustrated, InkSoft customer and the President of the Marshall Atkinson Fan Club, I could cry. I am ecstatic!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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