Looking Ahead So You Don't Fall Behind

How far are you looking ahead? Summer is ending. School is ramping up and fall sports are starting. COVID is getting scarier again. Maybe.

A few weeks ago I wrote about two trends. One was the supply chain disruption, and the other was the change in customer buying behavior.

(Licks finger and sticks it up into the wind) Yep. Those are still happening.

For the supply chain issue, it looks like it might get worse before it gets any better. Apparel distributors still have flaky stock. On some occasions, they have everything you need. Five minutes later, it’s all zeroes. Some ink manufacturers have gone on to place restrictions on the amount of ink you can buy.

I know more than one shop that is looking at buying as much stock inventory as they can get their hands on, as everyone is anticipating huge problems for fall inventory heading into the holiday crush.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…actually decorating the shirt is the easy part. It’s the logistics, organization, and all of the other moving parts that are difficult.

For this article, I thought it might be fun to pose some questions for you to ask yourself. There is no wrong or right answer here. I want you to think through these questions and see if you can formulate a plan for the rest of the year and into Q1 of 2022.

What Is Your Best Seller?

This is your bread and butter garment. You crank these out every day. Everybody loves them.

But what happens if something kinks up the hose and you can’t get the inventory?

Start looking ahead on this.

Who else makes something similar? Can you rebrand it? What third or fourth-tier vendor might have something you can use?

The time to establish an account and test their order and delivery process is now. Don’t wait until there is an order that has to ship Friday to do the mad scramble.

You want to keep your best-selling item at the top of the charts, don’t you? Start looking ahead and anticipate the problems so you can work out the solution ahead of time.

What Random Factor is Influencing Your Sales?

Out in the deep grass, there is a shadow. It is lurking. Watching. Waiting to pounce.

It could be a lion. Maybe it is a tiger. Or a bear.

Nope. It’s just the random way the world works. There could be something out there that could disrupt your sales. Like a big cat, springing to catch the smaller prey.

Can you anticipate that?

It could be COVID-related? How an algorithm affects how your Facebook ads appear? Maybe your lead salesperson is looking to move to another city?

Randomness is hard to predict and prepare for, but if your head is up and you are paying attention you could connect the dots earlier.

What Are You Learning?

Close-minded thinking might have worked when the world was stable.

Better business leaders constantly try to shove new information into their brains so they can adapt and change with the times.

How are you eating a steady diet of new information?

Do you read books? Attend trade shows? Belong to the Shirt Lab Tribe or attend live events like Shirt Lab Ft. Worth?

And here’s a tip. It can’t stop with just the consumption of the new information. Learning hasn’t really happened until you implement what you’ve digested. Getting that new idea into action proves that you’ve actually learned something.

What are you changing this week for the better?

How Are You Pushing The Market You Serve?

The one factor that makes this industry so unique is that everyone can serve different markets. Some companies are built to serve schools and businesses. Others, focus on contract decorating. Many build their business on retail or eCommerce. There’s plenty of room in the ocean for everyone.

But the ones that differentiate themselves from the others in their niche, are the shops that tend to build better sales.

They innovate more. Provide more ideas to customers. Simply put, they try things constantly to see if something new will work.

Seth Godin says that “Uncreative companies imitate uncreative companies.”

So are you a leader or a follower?

Are you looking ahead to bring new innovative ideas to the market you serve, or are you waiting for others to do that and then copy them?

What Is Your Weakest Part of Your Business?

Stop. Right now. Pop quiz time.

What is the weakest part of your business that makes you the most vulnerable?

Can you name or label the weakest part of your business? If you can, that’s great. But if you can’t, it sounds like you have a little ego problem there pal. Every business has a weakness.

While we are in “Looking Ahead” mode, I want you to start thinking about how you can strengthen that weakest link in your business chain. That is the one thing that is going to fail, and probably at the most inopportune time too.

Looking Ahead: Solving Problems on Purpose

Get your team together. Have a mini-retreat one afternoon or on a Saturday morning.

Your goal? To brainstorm and list all of the things that you need to do in order to be ready for the rest of the year and the first part of Q1 of 2022.

Just call it the next six months.

Need some starter questions? I can give those to you.

Looking Ahead Retreat Questions:

  • What is the number one thing that slows us down?
  • Pull up your order history for the past few years. What big orders or significant work came in during this time previously? Reach out to those customers now. Can you clone them and go after new clients?
  • How will disruption with key materials affect the business?
  • What process or procedure is broken?
  • What information do you need in order to make better decisions? You don’t know what you don’t know. Who has this information?
  • What are your monthly sales goals for this period? What are you doing intentionally to achieve them? How can you add another 10%? 20%?
  • For your bottom line profit, what can you do to increase that by an extra 5%-10% in this same time period?
  • Know your numbers. What does success look like? Failure?
  • What can you do right now to improve the customer experience with your company?

Let me know how your retreat goes. If you need help planning this, grab a 30-minute call with me here.


“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” – Mark Twain

“It is better to look ahead and prepare, than to look back and regret.” – Jackie Joyner-Kersee

“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wears you out, it’s the pebble in your shoe.” – Muhammad Ali


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

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Thanks!

Marshall