Changing the Game: How to Be Different

Changing the Game: How to be Different

How is your company different?

I’m serious. Think about this for a second. How hard is it really to print, embroider, or decorate a shirt?

All around you is competition. What separates your shop from those other knuckleheads?

This article is written to get you to ask tough questions about what you do to develop a better plan for moving forward. The answers probably aren’t tucked away neatly in a paragraph here. But, rather, they will exist once you start noodling around with some strategic concepts and bold moves.

Let’s take a look.

Rethink The Game

It doesn’t matter how long you have been in business or who your core customers may be. You probably have some customers that are highly profitable and always at the top of your sales ladder.

On the other hand, I’ll bet you have some turkeys clogging up your production schedule too. You know, those jobs that leave you scratching your head as to why you are bothering with this type of work?

Step One: Discover and Elevate Opportunities

Right now is probably the absolute best time to be in business with a mindset that is focused on discovering new ways you can help your customers.

You see this all over in other sectors. Three years ago would you be able to wheel up to a grocery store and have them put a dozen bags of food in your car after you’ve ordered online? Who would have thought that major motion pictures would debut on television first, and then move to theatres?

Customer behavior and buying habits have changed. Now more than ever people want convenience and even more frictionless purchasing. Everything is different.

With your core customers have you adapted to this? What have you changed or discussed either internally or externally with stakeholders for doing business differently?

Take a minute and round up a group of leaders that you trust. Your staff, your customers, your suppliers, and other business leaders. Start a conversation about the opportunity seams that are out there. What isn’t working? What drives people crazy?

If you could reimagine how work should take place, what would it look like?

Caution: If you think of yourself as a “Screenprinter” or an “Embroiderer” then all of the answers will be filtered through that lens. Try “Problem Solver” or “Entrepreneur” instead.

Step Two: Innovate

To have different results, you have to do things differently.

Can you project what the norm might look like two or three years in the future? What might seem weird or difficult now will be the status quo somewhere out in the distance. By taking a hard look at your business practices now, and thinking about how you can serve your customers differently in the future maybe you can discover a new pathway.


  • Decoration Methods – What might make more sense than how you are doing it now?
  • Consumables – Are there better or different products on the market?
  • Technology – How are you embracing new technological changes?
  • Substrates – What changes in apparel will be coming?
  • Customers – Are there new or better customer segments you should be pursuing?
  • Employees – How will changes in the talent pool affect your business?
  • Equipment – What new developments with equipment will make the biggest difference in the future of work?
  • Software – What software can you use to solve more problems with fewer people?
  • Automation – How can you auto-magically do work?
  • Data Collection – You can’t manage what you don’t measure.

Innovating means that you are constantly trying out new ideas. This is how your business learns.

Growth comes with failure.

You’ve heard of a “Hall of Fame” before. What if you celebrated with a “Hall of Failure” and could look back on the innovation attempts and what you learned from them? These are the stepping stones to a pathway to better success.

What would be in your Hall of Failure that you could celebrate?

Step Three: Pick a Lane

The best and brightest in the decorated apparel industry practically all have one thing in common. They have chosen a path for a specific type of customer.

If you want to succeed you can’t be a generalist. You need to be a specialist. That is what is different usually. Folks that try to be all things to all people don’t get very far.

But what if the difference between you and your competition is that your business was laser-focused on solving your customer’s biggest problems? Your effort and innovation drive is geared toward helping them succeed.

It’s ok to start at zero. Right now, you might not even have a customer or a lane to choose. Do that research. Talk to the stakeholders around you. Develop ideas and see where they go. Kill as much as you create.

Keep moving forward by elevating how you are different. Try building that.

Who wants to be like all the other guys anyway?

“Insanity. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Unknown

“In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.” – Coco Chanel

“Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects.” – Will Rogers

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Marshall Atkinson also shares exclusive blog content at Supacolor makes The World’s Best Heat Transfer and provides tips, inspiration, and other resources designed to empower professional garment printers.

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