Innovating by Skipping Steps

Have you thought about skipping steps in what you do? Yes, I’m absolutely positive that sounds completely weird coming from me.

I’m a process and procedure guy. Efficiency. Workflow. Continuous improvement. All that jazz. You know that because this blog has been filled to the brim with articles on how to do that better.

Recently I attended the ISS Long Beach Expo. By the way, it was great. But that is not what this article is about. This article is about some of the people I met and the conversations I’ve been having.

When talking to some of the attendees in my classes, on the show floor, or at the many networking functions, it occurred to me that we are not in a “business as usual” point in time.

Here are a few things I want you to consider:

New Companies Are Skipping Traditional Methods

One of the cool things about attending a trade show is meeting people. I get to ask questions, and with that comes answers. Some of which are surprising.

  • I know two companies that are using or working on AI (artificial intelligence) to help them find new customers and broaden their reach. Automagic lead generation.
  • More companies in this industry are not going into the route of having production in-house than ever before. Especially with online stores and print on demand. Brokering is the new black.
  • Due to supply chain issues with blank apparel inventory, many more people are building their own hats, shirts, and other items. Again, there is no waiting in 2022. If you can’t find it, build it yourself. Skip the supply chain and start your own.
  • In some geographical areas, finding skilled operators for screen printing equipment is impossible. Many shops are moving to use DTF (Direct to Film) transfers as their go-to decoration method. Skipping that unicorn search for a printer seems to be working.
  • More shops are utilizing Profit First, and getting 100% of the money upfront than ever before. Are you set up for this? This is skipping the 50% down 50% pay at the end to 100% of the cost of the order paid upfront. It’s working more than ever before.

Finding the Invisible

My Shirt Lab partner Tom Rauen and I hosted a fantastic mastermind event on Friday with 20 amazing industry people. We munched on appetizers, had a delicious dinner, and then kicked around many amazing ideas in a round-robin discussion.

The curated question that I brought to the event was based on this article on “Survivorship Bias.” The article goes on at length about finding the “invisible solutions” that are in front of you, but you aren’t seeing them because you are looking for a different result.

We tend to always focus on the successful things and want to emulate that in our businesses and lives. That always makes sense. But the discussion is never about failure. What went wrong? The challenges and mistakes that strengthened companies and people. Those get hidden away.

Examining failures, especially in other companies, allows you to understand how those companies grew even though at times they were struggling. Some companies didn’t make it. They aren’t around to talk about those wrong decisions.

Invisible Problems

There are invisible problems in your shop right now. This brings up three questions.

  1. Do you have the right people working for you?
  2. Are they doing the right things?
  3. Do those same people do those things correctly?

Don’t just think about your workflow processes or some hidden problem in receiving. I want you to go all the back to the starting point with what type of customer you are catering to and the work that comes in from them. What if you are working really hard for the wrong customer? Can you imagine the financial impact of that?

What if you skipped over your current customer or type of work and went after a new set that was more profitable? Could you innovate and build for that new direction?

Skipping Backward

I want you to think back to about six to ten years ago. Do you remember all the talk was about DTG (Direct to Garment) printers? There was endless debate about if DTG was going to replace screen printing. That it was different. The benefits. Challenges.

We were consumed by that discussion.

Fast forward to 2022. We are still talking about if DTG works. It’s improved. And a lot of companies are heavily invested in this equipment, especially in the Print on Demand space.

But here we are in 2022, and we’re talking about the new kid on the block…DTF. Direct to Film. This is a lot like DTG, as it is digitally printed. However, instead of using a pre-treatment fluid to stabilize the print platform on the shirt, DTF’s purpose is to create a heat-applied transfer graphic.

As Yogi Berra said, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”

Don’t Skip the Thinking Step

This year, my sincere wish is for you to innovate how you do business. I see so many businesses operate the same way they did pre-COVID. It is a whole new world now.

I’m lucky in that I get to talk to a lot of shop owners all week. Sometimes for the first time. One thing that I’m hearing over and over is the interest in Print on Demand.

Do you see these cows in the video? They are crossing the line in the road by jumping over it. They don’t know why.

It is the same with Print on Demand. People are skipping the business planning and strategy step that goes with this type of work. They are jumping in without thinking things through.

Who are your customers? What is their biggest problem? How can you serve them best? There is some strategy that needs to be fortified before you simply jump in.

Don’t skip the thinking step.

Otherwise, you are a cow jumping over the painted line in the road. Before you invest any money do yourself a favor and get some research under your belt. Write a business plan. Create a marketing plan.

Those are steps you don’t want to skip.


“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” – Abraham Lincoln

“It’s not the daily increase by the daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.” – Bruce Lee

“There’s nothing efficient about innovation.” – Simon Sinek


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Thanks!

Marshall