Now, what are you going to do?
I say that because for months on end every business owner that I know has been praying and hoping for a sales resurgence. Guess what? It’s here.
And it’s not only here, but it is a tidal wave of epic proportions.
To make matters worse, many shops are dealing with a litany of incredible challenges. Not enough staff. Suppliers are out of stock on items. Some supplies are limited. Shipping has been disrupted.
It’s almost ironic.
Everyone has been doing their version of a rain dance and hoping that orders might start happening. But now what are you going to do that instead of rain, it’s a hurricane hitting your shop?
The Good News
The good news is that the money is rolling in. I’ve been talking to shop owners for the past several weeks and for some, they are at somewhere between 3x and 6x their normal sales for this period of the year.
For the companies that pivoted and started selling to a different revenue stream, those customers are ordering. Which is great. However, those more established customers that dried up due to COVID related reasons, are coming back now too.
Customers have money to burn and they instantly want their shirt orders completed. No warning. They need them Friday.
The savvier shops have been communicating with their customer base all along. Through emails, newsletters, and even phone calls, they have been keeping them informed of the market and what has been happening.
T-shirts, I’m sad to say, are the new toilet paper. In some instances, there is frenzied power buying so that companies have stock for their customers.
More than one of my clients has reported issues where they check inventory with distributors one moment, and the next that inventory has disappeared. If you do purchasing I’ll bet you are nodding your head in agreement.
“Yep, that happened to me too!”
How We Catch Up
As an industry this predicament won’t last forever.
The cargo ships that have been waiting offshore patiently to unload will finally dock. Critical parts that are needed to complete the machine assemblies will show up. Favorite garment blanks and inventory will be restocked.
One apparel industry insider I spoke with last week said that they feel that these random shortages could last until mid-2022.
In the meantime we have work to do.
Here are some tips that I’ve put together based the conversations I’ve had with other business owners in the last four to six weeks. This is what’s working.
The “I Need An Employee (or Three) Problem”
I get at least two or three phone calls or emails a week from a desperate production manager or shop owner who is looking for leads on key staffing issues.
They need a new screen print press or embroidery operator. Someone knowledgeable to run the DTG. An artist. Sometimes even a general manager.
I have news for you kiddo, get in line. Everyone is looking for the same people. Who is snagging the available workforce are those shops that seem to have just a little more than everyone else. Usually not all of these, but take a look at this list and see how you measure up:
- Pay over 20%-30% better than other shops in the area
- Hiring Bonus – paid on the spot
- Medical & Health insurance
- Flexible Hours
- 401k Match
- Great company culture
- Air conditioning – yes you read that right
Other shops aren’t looking for experience, but rather someone with a great attitude and willingness to show up and learn. This is what I’ve been advising as the place to start.
That seasoned vet might not be available, so instead of waiting start training.
Another key factor for many shops is investing in better equipment and automation.
Whether it is in the screen room, the shop floor, or with a sales funnel…getting more handled per day with less labor is a direction worth looking into.
Ask yourself, what is the slowest part of your process that causes the biggest back-ups? Is that keeping you from the acceleration you need to stay current with the demands hitting your shop?
What are you going to do about it?
Outsource Partners – Art
Many shops are reaching out to using an outsource team to handle significant chunks of their workload.
This makes sense as they don’t have to bring in staff, the work gets completed, and things move faster.
There is one outsourcing partner that keeps popping up on the horizon, and that is the creative team at GraphXSource. These guys have over 400 artists and are the number one resource for the industry for design challenges.
One of the biggest common challenges in this industry is the timeline for the sales to art to production workflow. You can’t print or embroider anything until the customer approves it. And that won’t happen if the job hasn’t even been worked on yet because your creative team is so backed up.
Do your shop a favor and take advantage of sending out what you can’t handle. If you call, talk to Nick Wood. He’ll get you squared away. Be sure to tell him I sent you.
Outsourced Partners – Virtual Assistants
Another factor that you should consider is the “things we never get to” category. Whether it is posting regularly on social media, lead generation, or just good ol’ accounting tasks, plenty of people put these necessary items off “until we have more time.”
But there never really is more time is there?
I’m in the same boat. I have a pile of work that I need to get handled every week, just like you. One thing that I’ve been exploring this year is outsourcing these tasks to a virtual assistant. After some research, I’m happy to say that I’ve found a company I like and I’ve brought on someone to help me. This happened just this week.
More to come on this, but what I can tell you is that I’m already very happy that I decided to start using a VA.
A question for you: What’s eating your time?
Learn to Say No
Yep. This is going to be the hardest one. And I have to tell you, I struggle with this too.
I hate it. I’m a people pleaser. Probably just like you. But, there are only so many hours in the day.
A few of my clients have been terminating the business relationships with a few of their most demanding customers. Why?
For starters, their diva-like behavior and incessant demands spike the amount of customer service, art, samples, and general hand-holding they need to push their orders through. They have made the calculations, and even though they are taking a hit on their top line sales, they feel that they can more than make up for it in great productivity and efficiency gains that they can apply to their other clients.
Plus, sometimes you just don’t want to work for jerks.
Other shops have been raising prices and also their minimum quantities for orders. Sometimes both.
Again, when you are overwhelmed with work why not wean out the customers that don’t value what you bring to the table?
Let’s say that your shop is a boat that is filling up with water. There is a hole, but you just don’t know where.
Water is seeping in. You get more than a sinking feeling…you are sinking!
It’s probably easy to start panicking. You furiously start bailing water. But it doesn’t seem to be doing anything.
Unless you find that hole and take care of that, the ship will sink.
That’s what’s going on in our industry to some degree right now. We’re all bailing water trying to keep afloat with the waves of work coming in. But, if action is taken and the source of the challenge is found and dealt with…then things will level out.
You have to find the hole in your boat and do something about it.
Now, what are you going to do?
“To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction.” – Sir Isaac Newton
“Start where you are. Do what you can. Use what you have.” – Arthur Ashe
“Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me.” – Carol Burnett
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