“We are so busy!”

I keep hearing the same thing from nearly everyone I’m speaking with these days. And while it is fantastic to ride the lightning and feel the impact a big influx of orders can bring to your business, there is a downside to that too.

For some, that avalanche of orders exposes the weaknesses in your shop. That’s what this article is about. Not the fantastic feeling you get when your sales are setting records.

But the “Oh No!” feeling you get when you realize exactly what is ahead of you. Let’s explore and talk about that kind of “Busy.”

Time Doesn’t Stand Still

First, let’s state the obvious. There are only so many hours in the day. Everyone on this planet has the same amount. Twenty four.

You have that amount of time until the next day starts and precisely 12:01 am.

So, when is that deadline exactly?

As there are only a certain number of hours each day, there are a few things you should consider with how you spend them when you are “Busy.”

What Is Your Time Worth?

How are you using the time that you have? Better yet, with the time that you are actually using, is the work that you are accepting worth it? Meaning, are you working like a dog for pennies or dollars? What actually are you agreeing to with the orders you are accepting?

One way to think about this is what you value each piece of equipment per hour. For that hour of time, how many hundreds of dollars are you making? $300? $500? $1000?

I’m not joking.

Let’s take March on as an example. Can you total up all of the jobs that you produced on one of your machines? Let’s pretend that for our example shop they printed 60 jobs that totaled $51, 243.82 worth of sales for March for Press 1. Those were the jobs that were scheduled for that press.

Looking at the employee’s hours for March, that press was actively being used for 153.27 hours of production time (not the total number of employee’s hours, just the time that the crew was using the press)

153.27/$51,243.82 = $334.37

What If

So that press produced work at $334.37 an hour for March in top-line sales. But what if the company targeted better customers?

Ones that understand the value and creativity that the shop can bring. Maybe ones that absolutely love the increased personal attention and problem-solving. Fewer tire-kickers.

If instead, we focused on customers that fit that target, the shop could build pricing around a $500 per hour level. 153.27 x $500 = $76,635.00.

That’s a $25,391.18 difference. For March. For the same amount of work.

What if that percentage difference was true for your shop for the entire year?

Describe Busy

So, let’s think for a minute. As my friend Mark Coudray is so fond of saying, “Are you busy being busy or busy being profitable?”

If nothing in your business changed except you dialing in your customers to ones that value what you bring to the table better, that could drop more money to your bottom line than practically anything you do.

How much time are you focusing on the types of orders you are accepting? Do you sometimes feel that you are an order taker like in a fast-food drive-through? Don’t be surprised when your customers think you are a commodity when you treat your work as a commodity.

Focus On One of These Three Things

If you want to stake out a higher class of customers, you may want to rethink your business model into one of these three categories.

Operational Excellence

Top-of-class shops can demand higher prices and are more profitable because they are masters of their craft. When people search you out because of your badassery, then you know you’ve made it.

These shops are so busy because the best customers want to work with the best shops. Their quality, on-time scheduling, creativity, and reputation are unmatched.

Product Leadership

These shops stay busy because they are on the cutting edge of everything. New techniques, creative ideas, and trends start here.

They fail. A lot. They are always learning and growing.

Customers want to work with them because they offer something different that can’t be matched somewhere else. Their uniqueness keeps them busy, and highly profitable.

Customer Intimacy

Shops that build or offer a one-of-a-kind, intimate, personalized experience are always in demand. Nobody does business with their enemies. These guys are all about customer interaction.

Businesses that are built on catering to the needs and demands of their customers are always on the rise. For that personal experience and intimate relationship, there is a core segment of customers that will happily pay for that.

The Challenge of “Too Busy”

Finally, there are some things that shops routinely suffer through when sales escalate and the busy meter goes through the roof.


In every department when there is a bigger than normal amount of work, it is human nature to try to hurry up or feel so much pressure that stupid mistakes start happening.

Make sure as a leader that you consistently let people know to slow down a little and double-check their work. If you are so busy you feel the need to hurry up, imagine the stress you are going to feel if you have to do it over.

Make sure whatever you are working on is correct, then go to the next task. Don’t assume. Double-check.

Not Enough People

One of the biggest challenges that shops in this industry face today is the lack of trained staff.

One of the most overlooked departments in any shop is the Receiving department. A few years ago, your staff may have been able to keep up with their workload.

Today, it is a different story as the inventory is no longer coming in with a single shipment. It is not uncommon for the garments to arrive in three to six shipments. This exponentially increases the amount of work required to check everything in.

Has your staffing and training level for your Receiving team increased in the past year? How many jobs are on for today or tomorrow and you can’t start them because the inventory is still marked as a PAR or NO in your system? The goods for some of the jobs on your production schedule may even be in the building, but you don’t know yet as nobody has touched them.

Do your shop a favor and start increasing the staffing level of this critical department.

Cash Flow

Another big item that should be addressed is cash flow. One of the issues that I’m routinely hearing from too many shops is that they are insanely busy, but can’t process all of the orders as they are waiting to get paid for the work they have already produced. The money from one is buying the garments for another.

Stop this. Immediately adopt the position that your customers have to pay 100% of the money for the order when they place it. Don’t go the 50/50 route, or Net30, or Net10.

You are not a bank.

Have them put it on a credit card. If you are worried about the fees, make a price adjustment when you quote to cover that extra percentage.

Focus your effort on the customers that pay you. It is ok to say no to people that don’t want to work within your rules.

You got this.

“Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

“When you are asked if you can do a job, tell ’em, “Certainly I can!” Then, get busy and find out how to do it.” – Theodore Roosevelt

“He not busy being born is busy dying.” – Bob Dylan

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