1,000 Miles Per Hour With Your Hair on Fire

1000 Miles An Hour With Your Hair On Fire

I’ve often described being insanely busy as “1,000 miles per hour with your hair on fire.” Can you relate?

For many businesses, getting sales flowing again after the pandemic was an obsession. In many shops today, tidal waves of orders are swamping them to the point where it is impossible to keep up.

I’ve worked 100+ hour weeks before at a shop so I can relate. It isn’t any fun when you are sleeping under your desk, because you don’t have time to actually go home. It simply sucks.

If this describes what’s happening right now for you, or maybe it even seems like it, I want to break down some strategies that can help so that you and your team can avoid crashing and burning in the near future.

Not All Orders Are Created Equal

The first thing you should do if you have an amazingly overloaded schedule is to ascertain if the jobs that are stacked up like firewood are decent, profitable jobs.

Are you making the money you should be making?

I’ve been on the working end of that stick before, and I know how sales or customer service will say yes to just about anything. Just because you CAN, doesn’t mean that you SHOULD.

So, here’s a question for you. Do you know the profitability of the work you are accepting? Exactly. To the penny. How much is that job worth?

The reason I’m asking is that many times, those orders that aren’t so valuable could be squeezing out the orders or opportunities for better, more profitable work.

Take a Hard Look

Take a hard look at your packed schedule. Are some jobs simply better than others? Usually, the answer is yes.

Some clients are on different price matrices. Maybe there are a lot of smaller, dinky jobs that fill up your day. You could have a split of wholesale work and retail, full-price work. Don’t forget about those free samples or R&D work that gets mixed in at the wrong time too.

You should spend a minute and flag any type of work that seems like it doesn’t belong, and is less than desirable. Dig into those and find out why you are doing them.

What percentage of the over-loaded schedule is comprised of this work?

Decision Time

Here are some “what-ifs” for you:

  • What if you charged more? Some of those orders might go away, but for others, you’d increase your profit margin and keep the work.
  • What if you raised your minimums? Is your schedule filled with tadpole-sized work? Do the math. What if you raised your quantity to 48? 72? 144? 1000? What types of orders and clients would stick with you, and what would go away?
  • What if you changed decoration types? Instead of screenprinting, what if you send smaller orders to be heat transferred or digitally printed instead?
  • What if you outsourced some of the work? Instead of being late on some orders, they would be on time. Could this make a difference to you?
  • What if you said no? Take those small, unprofitable jobs and refer them to your biggest competitor. Let their schedule get packed with lame orders for zero money.

Systems and Processes

Here’s a great quote by James Clear from his book Atomic Habits, “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”

When you are moving 1000 miles an hour with your hair on fire, your systems and processes better be solid. Those halcyon days when you had plenty of time are over. Now, any error is magnified exponentially as you don’t have time to make a do-over or correction. The domino effect of that will cause many other orders to become late.

Again, it is time to examine how you handle the work in your shop. What’s working? What’s not?

The most common discussions I’ve had with clients lately with workflow seem to stem from these points:

  • Information – as in, things grind to a halt because someone has to go ask or look something up.
  • Training – as in, does your team know how to perform all tasks well?
  • Clarity – as in, do people know what success looks like in all things?
  • Organization – as in, your preparation determines your outcome.
  • Expectations – as in, your staff knows exactly what to do, when to do it, and what quality should be.
  • Equipment – as in, everything is functioning and is the right tool for the job.
  • People – as in, we have the right people, with the right attitude, and they perform at a consistent level.

When you are moving at 1000 miles an hour with your hair on fire you know if one of these seven points isn’t at the level you need it to be.

This brings us to the last point.

Solving Problems

If you don’t take care of your business, your business isn’t going to take care of you.

You can’t let things sit. Even when you are moving fast, waiting until you have some “free time” will usually only make matters worse. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard from people who tell me that they are “too busy” to make the changes or improvements to their business.

Frankly, this is why there are so many used equipment opportunities and auctions lately. You have to act with some urgency.

Feeling stuck? Need some help? You are in luck. That’s what I do. It’s my mission with my consulting business, but also with Shirt Lab.

Schedule a call here. I’m happy to talk and learn more about your situation.


Join Shirt Lab Tribe. This is a mastermind group that is focused on your success. Yeah, I know you don’t time. But what if you could learn to work half as hard for twice as much. Would you make time for that?

By the way, they say you are the average of the six people you hang around with the most. Who are you learning from these days?

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” – Plutarch

“Discipline is the refining fire by which talent becomes ability.” – Roy L. Smith

“The four building blocks of the universe are fire, water, gravel, and vinyl.” – Dave Barry

Help Support This Blog

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is MARSHALL-ATKINSON-HEADSHOT-150.png

If you like this blog and would like to support it, you can:

  1. Buy a book.
  2. Share this blog on your social media.
  3. Join Shirt Lab Tribe.
  4. Subscribe to the Success Stories podcast.
  5. Watch and like an episode on the Jerzees Adventures in Apparel Decorating YouTube series.



Leave the first comment

Talk to Marshall and get his help.
Learn More
View All Ebooks

Related Posts