Episode 74 – Your Most Costly Mistake – What 20 Years of Observation Taught Us

May 2, 2018

This Episode

Mark Stephenson & Marc Vila

You Will Learn

  • What you should train YOUR CUSTOMERS on to build loyalty and margins
  • Where you can get Training and just how cost-effective it is
  • When it’s worth it to spend on training and where you might do DIY

Resources & Links

Episode 74 – Your Most Costly Mistake – What 20 Years of Observation Taught Us

Show Notes

Have you ever put together furniture from Ikea or Walmart? Not following the directions… and ended up having to take off 10 pieces because you missed a vital step? It’s a classic human behavior… we DONT read instructions.

Subaru of America Inc. has been struggling with this problem since it noticed consumer complaints about vehicle quality beginning to rise a few years ago.

“We scratched our heads trying to figure out why,” said Joseph Barstys, manager of customer relationships. “As we further explored why, we realized it wasn’t so much that things didn’t work but that customers didn’t know how to work” their vehicle. In fact, it turned out, 1 in 5 calls to the Subaru call center involved a question answered in the owner’s manual.

Tony Sweers, the product quality engineer for Canon Information Technology Services, noted: “It appears that when a lot of people see that an 800 number is available, they find it much easier to call than to sit down and read the manual.”

A poll by Gadget Helpline, a tech support hotline discovered that a full sixty-four percent of men and twenty-four percent of women calling for tech support had not even bothered to read the manual.

So now that we know people are very unlike to read the manual, watch the videos or take the training…. we need to make a case on why it’s so important.

1. You can literally break your machine the first hour you have it
– This is commercial grade equipment. They are all very powerful, very fast, very versatile…. when an embroidery machine is running at 900 stitches per minute, think of how fast that is… 15 stitches in a second.

2. It will take you more time to “learn on your own”
– Our training was designed with a user experience in mind. Teaching certain things first due to their importance in the process. We make sure you learn to ride a bike before trying to ride it w/o handlebars or popping a wheelie. If you try to do it on your own you can waste a ton of time by trying to learn things out of order. Imagine it like math courses… first, you learn basic bath, then algebra, then calculus… they build on each other, on purpose.

3. It will cost you money
– If you don’t use equipment properly. You will ruin shirts, waste time and lose customers. It essentially happens all of the time. People who are ruining shirts and lose $$. You try to do something w/o reading instructions, you get frustrated, you waste time… and end up losing out.

4. You are more likely to give up
– It’s an event that happens all the time in life. If you walk into a restaurant and they don’t greet you for 3 minutes… your entire meal is tainted. You judge the server more harshly, you watch the clock on the service, you judge the food more harshly. Compared to having a very nice person greet you immediately… then you are more likely to forgive the chef for forgetting to put extra olives in your food.

5. Blood pressure

– you are almost guaranteed to be frustrated and overwhelmed.

Not getting trained can lead you to a bad start. It can lead you to frustration. It can ruin your experience as a new business owner. You are more likely to give up if “you don’t know how to use your equipment”


Welcome to the Custom Apparel Startups podcast, your best source for information, news, tips and tricks to get you off the ground running, and earn success with your custom apparel decorating business. So, get ready to soak up some knowledge!

Now, here are your hosts, Mark and Marc!

Mark S: Hey, everyone! Welcome to episode 74 of the Custom Apparel Startups podcast! My name is Mark Stephenson, from ColDesi.

Marc V: And this is Marc Vila, from Colman and Company. Today, we’re going to talk about your most costly mistake, so the biggest mistake that you can make in your business, and what 20 years of observation has taught us. What we have observed, from having 20 years of experience in the business.

Mark S: Yeah. It’s this institutional memory that we get to draw on, from ColDesi and Pantograms and Colman and Company, and all of the people that we’ve talked to, to help get started in the custom apparel business, as well as the businesses that both of us have started in the past.

I think that this is probably one of the – I say this a lot – probably one of the more valuable episodes, if you actually do it, if you actually do it.

Marc V: Okay, well, I can’t agree with you any more, on how valuable it is. So, I figure I’ll go with a little tease into it, and then go from there.

Mark S: Okay.

Marc V: You go to like Ikea or Walmart, or something like that, and you buy a piece of furniture. You take it out of the box and you look at all of the pieces, and you’re “I got this.” You start putting it together. You get maybe 19 pieces in, and then you realize that this one piece should have been put in 17 steps ago.

So, you have to disassemble the entire thing, or attempt to jam it in, and break it.

Mark S: No, that’s not what happens to me. What happens to me is I inevitably put in one shelf upside down. That happens every single time.

Marc V: So, why is that? It’s because you didn’t read the manual. You didn’t read the instructions. You didn’t follow the proper training techniques on how to put together this piece of furniture. You think you’re – not that you’re not smart enough to do it on your own, but everything was designed to go in a certain order.

When they built this and they disassembled it, they said “The way to put it together is this way.” If you put it together the wrong way, it’s going to end up, now you hate Ikea or you hate Walmart, and this piece of furniture just stinks. “I hate it! Now it’s crooked, and it’s a piece of garbage. I shouldn’t have ever bought it from there!”

Your experience was destroyed, and really, a bit at your own fault.

Mark S: That sounds so much like some of the first tech support phone calls that we get at ColDesi. Somebody gets their equipment. They get it on a Thursday. They set it up and start trying to work with it. By Tuesday morning, they’re on the phone saying all of those things.

“This thing is terrible! It’s a piece of crap! It doesn’t work. It’s too expensive. I wasted all of this stuff!” That is really the completely self-serving motivation, why I wanted to do this particular topic.

Marc V: Yeah. And again, I’m going to agree with you. I’m just going to agree with everything you say today. But for real, though, when really thinking about this, and observing the industry for years, we see it everywhere, and it’s not just our equipment. I see it with software, folks going in there and taking this attitude, which is appreciated, because I do it.

But this attitude of you learn as you go, your mistakes teach you.

Mark S: Yeah. “I’m a DIY guy.”

Marc V: Yeah. And I am. I’m a DIY person myself. I do a lot of things, learning as I go. However, what I have learned myself over the years, from being such a DIY person, is that if I would have not watched all of the videos on how to lay tile and how to properly butter them and mix them, and the timing – if I wouldn’t have watched the videos and studied all of that, and dove right into it, as I’m doing it, I’m like “I would not have done it this way.”

I would have wasted time and money.

Mark S: So, two things. The fact that you said “butter the tiles” makes me think you did not watch any videos.

Marc V: I did! Just like these, I put these bricks up. And the trick with laying brick is you’ve got to butter the brick the right thickness.

Mark S: These are panels, folks. These are panels that are hot-glued to the wall.

But obviously, we’re talking about training. What we kind of want to do is draw the line between what you do as an entrepreneur and as an apparel decorator, and other professions.

So, if you are getting onto a plane, do you want your pilot to be the kind of guy that just kind of, he knows how to drive? “So, I can figure this out. I’ve watched the movies. I’ve played the simulators. I can do this.” Do you want that for your pilot?

Do you want your surgeon to have the operator’s manual next to you, while he’s doing surgery? You don’t even want an electrician to come into your place, and have YouTube up on his phone while he fixes your fuse box. That’s not acceptable.

Why do we think that becoming an entrepreneur is somehow less of a skillset? One of the reasons that we came up with the Custom Apparel Startups podcast is that there are skills that you guys out there need to be trained on, you need to know, you need to be thinking about, before you get in business, and as you grow your business, just like any profession.

Just like putting together furniture, just like laying tile, just like being a pilot. All of these things are, honestly, they’re just as important. Because while if a pilot doesn’t know what he’s doing, of course there’s a disaster. But if you get a big piece of equipment or a small piece of equipment, and you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s going to be a disaster, equally as bad for your business, and your personal life, too.

Marc V: Yeah. What I had thought about it, and why this is important, because we’re not just going to talk about training on equipment and software, but we’re also going to talk about training on entrepreneurship. And also, about training your customers on how to do business with you.

Mark S: Yes.

Marc V: These are all things we’re going to cover. They’re so important. The vision on why I want you to continue to listen to this podcast, because what we had thought is are you going to want to listen to a podcast about lecturing me on why I should train?

Mark S: You should get training!

Marc V: But this is why. Envision this, because this is going to be true of your business that you have, and your life experience, is you go to a restaurant. You walk inside. It seems like a pretty good place. You’ve heard the food is good. You sit there for maybe two minutes, and nobody greets you.

So, you’re standing there or sitting there, kind of in the lobby area. People are walking around, and nobody says anything to you.

Mark S: I’m already upset.

Marc V: You’re already upset, right? And if it doesn’t happen in like 15 seconds, people get bothered. So now, you sit there for a minute, two minutes.

Mark S: Americans.

Marc V: Yeah, there you go. So, two minutes go by. Finally, somebody comes up. “I’m so sorry!” Immediately, you are enraged. I wouldn’t be, but plenty of people would be.

Mark S: I would, I would.

Marc V: Enraged, on fire! Now, you scrutinize every single thing. Now, you’re looking at the glass. “There’s a spot on this!” You’re looking at the server that comes up, and “Look how long it took to get the drinks! This cocktail, look how weak it is!” You scrutinize everything.

Mark S: That’s true. That’s very true.

Marc V: You’re on the wrong foot. Now, your entire experience can be ruined, and you’re going to be unforgiving of everything else beyond that. Compared to if you walk in, as soon as you walk in, boom! “Hi! Welcome! Thanks for coming. We’re so happy! Here, have a seat!”

Then, you come in and then you get your appetizer, and maybe it’s cold, or maybe they forgot to put something on it. You are more likely to be forgiving.

Mark S: You’re in a good mood.

Marc V: You’re in a good mood, yeah. That’s what we’re talking about with training for you and your customers.

Mark S: Yes. It’s that initial experience. It’s you having a good initial experience, and you being able to provide your customer the same.

Marc V: Yeah. So, if you have not purchased any equipment yet, and you’re listening to this, researching, I want you to take this as a lesson, to say “I’m not going to make the mistakes that others have, by attempting to take a $30,000 piece of equipment, or whatever it costs, and break it the first day, because I didn’t pay attention to how to use it.”

But also with your customers. You’re going to train your customers on how to place orders with you, how your business operates, how to pick a good shirt. It’s all about success. So, this is another podcast about being more successful.

Mark S: We should have called it that, “The podcast about being more successful.”

Marc V: Okay, sure. We can rename it.

Mark S: Let’s stick with episode 74.

Marc V: Okay. So, where do you want to start, here?

Mark S: If we can, I would like to start with the self-serving stuff, for ColDesi and Colman and Company, because – I’ll just give you some anecdotal evidence. We did a survey in Custom Apparel Startups yesterday, and we got some pretty good response. We let everybody know that we were working on a new topic, about training, and for them to share any feedback, their experiences before and after.

What we got was really interesting. We did get a group of people that said “I think I learned more by making mistakes, and trying to figure out the answers.” But my favorite was the most popular answer, one of our customers typed this in; “Training opens the doorway. Hard knocks reinforced learned lessons.”

What I like about that is that it starts with training. This is strictly anecdotally, but in talking to our support technicians, getting ready for this, and when I say support technicians, these guys are more than that. They talk about peoples’ businesses all of the time. And we’re talking about direct-to-garment printers and the Digital HeatFX system.

You see the samples on the wall, back here. We’re talking about embroidery machines and cutters. Everything that we do gets funneled in to these tech support folks that do a great job. And all of them that I talked to said that about 80% of the issues that people have, that stopped their business cold, caused them to pick up the phone and call us, and wait for an answer, is something to do with training.

It’s either they never took the training, they didn’t understand something about the training, or it was just a training refresher, because they hadn’t been to training in three years. Or it was a new employee that had never gotten trained on the equipment.

The worst case scenario, and the ones that are always hit hardest for all of us, are the people that do like we said in the beginning. They’re the ones that will get a machine, and never get trained, and just destroy a DTG printer.

Or they’ll go through $500 worth of Digital HeatFX Laser EZ Peel paper, just trying to figure stuff out. And just getting angrier and angrier. Now, there’s really no excuse for us, because all of our products offer some kind of free training.

Everything from a cutter comes with training, all the way up to a direct-to-garment printer, you get training. We have online training courses now, that you can take after hours, that are very comprehensive, that even have sections in most of them, how to avoid these common mistakes.

So, there’s no excuse for not taking training, but people don’t.

Marc V: Yeah, so often.

Mark S: And it costs them time and money in their business.

Marc V: And heartache and stress. And it’s not just about this equipment. It’s everything that has to do with your business, being an entrepreneur. If you decide to do your own financials, and you’ve got QuickBooks or FreshBooks, or one of these softwares, they have some little training videos, or a manual or something like that, that you can take to properly learn how to navigate the software.

So often, people don’t do that.

Mark S: True.

Marc V: Now, they’re making mistakes in their finances. There are small business associations and things like that will offer little classes, or they might have videos or books, or whatever it might be, that you can learn how to properly file your business with your state. The state will even have, probably poorly written, but an instruction manual directly from the state.

And folks don’t read that. They fill out the information incorrectly, they send it off to the state, and then it gets rejected, because they didn’t fill it out correctly.

I have some techie friends, and they have a saying.

Mark S: He is mine, too.

Marc V: Yeah, way further out than me. They have a saying, “RTM,” or the vulgar version, “RTFM.” I’ll let you guys look that up, if you choose to. Basically, what it means is read the manual. Because what they find is that most of the phone calls that they get have to do with somebody who just didn’t read the instructions.

I did some Google searching, just to kind of further ingrain this, because I found it really fascinating. I jumped on Google for like half an hour, and I found a couple stories that I liked, that I wanted to share.

One of them was Subaru. Subaru of America, they had customers complaining that they didn’t know how to operate their new vehicles. They had changed a lot of things in how the vehicles worked, so customers traded in a Subaru, got a new one, couldn’t figure out how to operate it. They changed the wipers, and all of that stuff.

Mark S: If you’ve never in a Subaru, they are slightly different than anything else you’ve sat inside. So, it’s not an intuitive kind of arrangement, if you’re not used to it.

Marc V: Yeah, it’s slightly different. What they found was – this is a quote that I saw here. “We scratched our heads, trying to figure out why. As we further explored why, we realized it wasn’t so much that things didn’t work, but customers didn’t know how to work them. In fact, it turned out that one out of five calls to the Subaru call center involved a question that was answered right in the owner’s manual.”

So, 20% of the calls were just “How do I turn on the blinkers? I can’t figure it out.” And they came up with a solution to help put that better in front of peoples’ faces.

Another one I saw that was interesting, it was Gadget Helpline, was the company. They’re a tech support computer type of a helpline. They found that 64% of men and 24% of women that were calling for tech support had never read any of the instructions or manual. So, averaging that, close to half. Half of the people don’t even look at the instructions.

You have to humble yourself, I think, to actually do it. Also, don’t get caught up in being just the so much “learn as you go,” because this is commercial equipment and commercial software you’re buying. You can break it.

Mark S: Yeah. I can look in the CAS group right now, on Facebook, and I can find a dozen posts for people that are asking very simple questions about equipment. The first question that everyone that’s been there for a while will ask those people is “Have you been to training yet?” Because all of those questions are answered in training.

Going online, that’s another strategy that people use, that don’t want to go to training. They’ll run into a situation during a job, their first or second job. Then, they’ll go online anywhere, and they’ll type in the question “I just made a mistake on my vinyl. How do I remove it?” Or “I just bleached my DTG shirt with black in it. Why did it do this?” Or “I just printed something. I just applied Digital HeatFX transfers onto this Spandex thing that I’m going to wrap around the balloon.”

All of those things would have been covered in training, if you would have taken it. So, I think one good thing is to make this as painful as possible, for the people listening.

Marc V: Okay. You’re doing well.

Mark S: Here’s the pain that I want to give you, because we hear this. The pain is that you’re going to spend $7,000 or $10,000 on a Digital HeatFX system, which is a terrific piece of equipment. It includes a white toner printer. You can make transfers that you can apply to polyesters and to cottons, light and dark fabric. You can apply it to hard goods.

And the following things typically happen, even though there is free online training that you can take any time you want. People will get this, look at it. They’ll have seen the demonstration videos. Of course, we know what we’re doing, and we’ve done it 1,000 times, on this shirt, with this design.

Marc V: And we’ve been trained.

Mark S: They’ll do that, and we even give you paper to use, so you can make a few mistakes while you get trained up. But, no. They’ll get their printer on a Thursday. They won’t do the training or schedule training. By Saturday, they’re on an internet group somewhere, and they are complaining, because it doesn’t work, because they can’t get it right, because they can’t get the peel correctly.

The heat press isn’t right, the paper doesn’t work. They’ve got a job that they had to do, that they pre-sold, before they got their printer, and they were expecting to be able to use it the day after they got it, without training.

By Monday morning, even though we’ve never heard from them before, since they got their printer, they’re already angry.

Marc V: They’re on fire.

Mark S: They’re on fire! Why? Because honestly, they didn’t take the training. So, what happened? They wasted three or four days. They wasted $50, $75 worth of supplies. They may have lost their first customer, and their best customer.

Or they got a job out, and they didn’t do something properly, so the prints don’t wash well. They didn’t pick the right shirt. So, all of these things that you have to be trained on. You can’t get your idea out into the world, in exchange for money, unless you know how to accomplish the steps [inaudible 19:25].

Marc V: You’ve got to know what you’re doing. So often, seeing this from a bird’s eye view, looking down, we see oftentimes, the same things come up. Somebody will say “This vinyl washed off of my shirt.” Okay, I can tell you it’s probably just because of temperature or pressure on your heat press. You didn’t press it down hard enough, or you didn’t heat it up enough.

Then, we ask this question, and they turn around and say “Oh, yeah. I turned up the pressure. It’s good now.” Well, the instructions are in the box. There’s a video on how to do it. How do folks miss this? I don’t want people to miss it.

It also has to do with software that we don’t even sell, for example, like graphics software. Folks will get Adobe Illustrator or CorelDraw, or something like that.

Mark S: Which is hard!

Marc V: Which is hard to learn. You can spend $100,000 getting a degree in how to use these, and then the folks that come out of school will say “I still don’t know how to do everything in it.” They are so complex, and they involve so much, that people only need to learn how to use portions of it.

Mark S: I just want to say right now that I would have to get a really good scholarship, to go after a $100,000 degree. I’m just going to say that.

Marc V: I am not trained in that. However, I know enough to be dangerous. I know enough to frustrate myself, and say “I can’t get this to work.”

Mark S: That’s a good example, because we see that in the groups, as well. They’re asking what graphics software they should buy, to accomplish this. Then, the next question, a couple of weeks later, is invariably “How do I use this? Where do you get trained? What do I do next?”

Or they’ll come from a publishing background, so maybe they’re really good at doing CorelDraw for, I don’t know, magazine covers. Or maybe they designed comics, or maybe they used Illustrator for something completely different. But when it comes to t-shirts, it’s a different animal.

So, it’s not just getting trained. Just because you know how to run a laser printer, just because you know how to run an inkjet printer for vinyl or commercial purposes, does not mean that you know everything that you need to, to run a direct-to-garment t-shirt printer properly. Just because you can run a color laser printer does not mean that you know how to make a t-shirt, with a white toner printer.

There are levels of skill and specificity that are really important.

Marc V: And I think when you are going to invest in new software, whether it’s graphics software or FreshBooks or QuickBooks, or whatever it is, if you’re going to buy a new camera, because you do a lot of video for your business, if you’re going to get whatever it is, it doesn’t matter what it is.

One of the first decisions you should make is taking a look at “How am I going to learn how to use it?” Make that decision first, or get that knowledge first, before you make the decision, is what I meant to say.

When you look at this, say “Okay, well, should I get FreshBooks or should I get QuickBooks?” You go and ask online. All that matters to anybody is what they already own, right?

Mark S: Yeah, that’s really it.

Marc V: So, if somebody owns Corel, they’re going to tell you to buy Corel.

Mark S: I know we talked about this in another podcast, but there’s that tendency to want to justify your own past decisions. What embroidery machine is the best one on the market? It’s the one that I bought. It’s always the one that I bought.

Marc V: Yeah. So, that question is moot. Also, just because six people answered, and three of them said one and three of them said the other, it’s such a small group of people. That answer doesn’t matter.

What matters, really, is what software can I buy? How am I going to learn how to use it? Do they teach it in a method that I’m comfortable with? Is there a local training class at my community college, that I can take? Because that’s what I like to do.

Is there a really good online course that I can pay for? Because that’s my preference. Are there a lot of YouTube videos, that show that the software has a great user manual? And you like user manuals. Learn all of that first, because learning how to use something is the most important tool you can have, and it’s the biggest mistake you’re going to make.

Because when you don’t know how to use something, it immediately sucks.

Mark S: Yeah. So, we already talked about the bad stuff. The bad stuff can be equipment related, it can be software related. Like these poor folks that come onto the group and say “I’ve just spent the past four and a half hours trying to figure out how to remove this blue background from a .jpg file in CorelDraw.” If you would have been trained, that’s like three seconds.

Marc V: If you go on and you take a CorelDraw training course, there are courses that are only like eight hours long, four hours long anyway, to learn the basics. So, that four hours you spent, trying to tackle one task and never completing it, you could have gone through half of a training course or a full training course. So, you can spend more time.

Like that one comment you had read, where someone said about training, “It starts with the training, but then the experience is where it kicks in,” I agree. The purpose of training on anything, the reason why training programs are often developed are not only to reduce the number of support call-ins – I’m not talking about our business, I’m talking about everything.

But it’s also because it’s important to learn and do things in a certain order. In school, they teach you basic math, then algebra or pre-algebra, then maybe geometry and trigonometry, then calculus. Then, after you learn calculus, maybe you’ll learn organic chemistry, at that point in time. You can’t jump into calculus without being able to do basic math.

It’s true of apparel decorating. If you learn the printer, say a direct-to-garment printer, you pre-treat the shirts before you print them. If you don’t know what that means, go to dtgprintermachine.com, and you can watch videos. But you treat the shirt before you print it.

If you learn the printer, and you’re a master of it already, but you never learned how to pre-treat, none of your shirts are going to come out good.

Mark S: Right. Nothing you do is going to be right.

Marc V: Yes. It’s all in order, on purpose. For one, it often starts with learning how to properly set up a piece of equipment, and having instructions on there that say “Don’t do this yet,” because if you do this first, you have a possibility of damaging your equipment, or whatever it might be.

Mark S: Let’s put the shoe on the other foot, and let’s imagine the experience when you get a piece of equipment, you’re starting a new business, and you take the time and get trained properly. You read the manual, and you’re not trying to print the job the day you get the printer. You’re making sure that your customer is going to have the best experience.

You know you are perfectly comfortable with the equipment, after the training. By the way, the other self-serving part – I’m in charge of self-serving today. The other self-serving part is that if you do this, you’ll have much fewer support calls.

You won’t be calling because “Oh, my embroidery machine, I hit a hoop,” or “I don’t understand why this stitch isn’t stitching out right,” or “What kind of backing do I do for this?”

For all of the ColDesi and Colman and Company products, you can take the training as many times as you would like. So, you can come back, you can stick that USB course in, if you get training videos with it. You can go online and take the self-paced training classes as often as you want to. So, if you don’t get it the first time, you can do that again.

A couple of things. First of all, when that happens, when you take your training and you’re comfortable with your equipment, and you’re successful right out of the gate, from our perspective, what happens is that you are happy with the equipment, and you are happy with us. That’s the first thing. So, we get great reviews.

The second thing is that you are more successful. You are happy with us. You are more successful. So, if you start off with an embroidery machine and you’re doing well, and you got trained up, and you know how to use the equipment and the software, when you want to do bling, what are you going to do? You’re going to call us.

When you want to go into the promotional products business and you want to do UV, you’re going to call ColDesi, because you’ve had all of these good experiences that we provide to everyone, if you only take advantage of it, as opposed to the reverse.

Marc V: Yes. I wrote down a few things here that I wanted to break down. Then, I want to talk a little bit about training customers, because I think that’s important.

Mark S: Absolutely. That’s where you’re going to make more money.

Marc V: That’s where you’re going to make more money, absolutely. I kind of put just four key points here, and Mark added a fifth one, if he wants to share it. These are the dangers, if you’re thinking about getting new equipment. Even if you own one piece, and you’re investing in your second or your third or your fourth piece of equipment for your business, I want you to consider this for the future.

For one, just because it didn’t happen the first time, does not mean that you won’t – like the first machine I got, I learned on my own. But that doesn’t mean that you won’t make mistakes the second time. It’s okay to kind of go back and re-think your thoughts.

One is you can literally break your machine, the first hour you have it. This doesn’t matter if you buy a tractor or a direct-to-garment printer, if you buy something commercial. Chances are you’re not going to break a toaster, the first time you get it, because a toaster is designed that anybody can use it. It’s kind of got the design.

But when you buy something that is commercial, like a commercial chainsaw or a tractor, or a DTG printer, -.

Mark S: I’m sorry. I can’t get my mind off of how I would use a tractor. I live in a townhouse, in town. I’m just thinking, “There’s a tractor parked in my driveway. Why is it there? I have no idea.” But the training…

Marc V: The point is, any time something is for commercial use, there is also an inherent danger involved that the equipment is breakable, because it’s a commercial grade of equipment. That’s why certain chemicals for cleaning a household are not sold at Walmart, even though you can buy them from a commercial cleaning company. It’s because if you don’t wear gloves with this, you will actually burn your hands.

Mark S: And if a piece of commercial equipment does break or go bad or have issues, it’s normally pretty expensive.

Marc V: Yeah. They’re expensive to fix, compared to if you just blow a tire on your car.

The second thing is it typically takes you more time to learn on your own, meaning the number of hours spent, because you spend frustration, frustration, you stop, you pause, you have to start over. Just like building the furniture.

The third thing I wrote is that it will cost you money, because of the lost time, because you could mess something up that you were preparing for a customer. You can’t deliver an order on time, or you tell somebody no, because you’re still frustratingly trying to go through how to learn your equipment or software, or whatever it might be.

This could be true if we’re just talking about the QuickBooks type of software. If you don’t learn how to use it, then it could cost you money, because you do your taxes wrong.

The last one is more, I don’t know, existential, or larger to think about. But you’re more likely to give up; folks who don’t go to training on anything, whatever it might be. We had a really, really nice camera for here. You know this story.

Mark S: Oh, yeah. Good story.

Marc V: We had somebody who really never wanted to use this camera. It’s a beautiful camera. It’s a Canon HD. It’s got a bunch of letters and numbers. It was not cheap. It’s got a big, huge lens.

The argument was that the phone took just as good of video as this camera. It was like, you never learned how to use the camera. So, the first few times you used it, you got frustrated. You never got the video right. You wasted all of this time shooting video.

Then you would pull it out and the lighting was all messed up, or there was no audio, because you never read the instructions, watched the video, learned how to use it.

Mark S: Took the time.

Marc V: Now, there is a $600 camera, or whatever it was.

Mark S: $1,100.

Marc V: $1,100! Okay, there you go! An expensive camera sitting there doing nothing, and a mobile phone is being used to record a piece of video. All it took was, when somebody else picked it up, it took a couple of hours.

“Let me figure it out. Well actually, to change the audio, you do this and this. To change the video settings, you do this, this and this.” Then, boom! You’ve got a whole world of things opening.

So, you are more likely to give up, because you think that it’s not as good or it doesn’t work.

Mark S: Honestly, if this is you, you probably did not make it to episode 74 of our podcast. You probably didn’t make it. But the way that this translates in the custom apparel world often is somebody that is working full-time or most of the time, and they start a custom t-shirt business on the side.

Maybe they were doing something before with a piece of consumer equipment like a sewing machine or a Cricut cutter, or something like that. They finally got a piece of commercial equipment. They have limited time in the evenings to use it, and they never bothered to take training on it, because they kind of know what they’re doing. They already know.

So, they’ll try for 30 minutes at a time or an hour at a time, whenever they have time. And it just never happens. Sometimes, the equipment will be blamed. But other times, their dream will just peter out. That really is the most unfortunate thing, because somebody doesn’t take the time to learn and train up front.

They just might lose the steam, lose the momentum that caused them to start a business in the first place. That would be the biggest crime.

Marc V: Yeah, you lose momentum. That’s really it.

One thing, to go further on why training is important, is about training customers. Right? You can allow your customers to go rogue and do what they want, or you can get them into your system. When they’re in your system, they are more likely to be successful.

At Colman and Company, for example, we have an online store and we have a phone number, a hotline you can call. Those are the preferred methods for ordering something. Either call it in or order it online. If you order it online, it kind of goes through the system efficiently. If you call in, then our folks on the phone will input it into the system.

However, we still have some customers that will email us an invoice. So, it’s something that needs to be printed out and looked at. They’re not even using our part numbers. They’re using a description that’s wrong. We have to call up, and they’re upset, and we couldn’t reach them that day.

Mark S: They’ll send an email, “I need 12 spools of blue thread.”

Marc V: And they send it to somebody who is out sick. So, it’s important that when we talk to our customers, we say “Hey, either call in or go online and order.” What we’re doing is we’re training our customers to order in the way that is going to be best for them.

If they email it in, and someone is on vacation, the order is not going to get placed, possibly. Or if they email it in, maybe the email doesn’t get looked at for an hour, and they missed the cutoff time, where if they would have ordered it online. So, we try to train our customers, “Hey, to get the best experience from us, do one of these two things.”

You need to do the same thing with your customers. If they are going to text you, “Hey, give me four more of those shirts,” well, was that the proper way to communicate to you? Now, you might be just happy to take the money, but you should say “Hey, I’m really happy to do that for you. Do me a favor.”

Whatever your system is. “On my website, there’s the order form. Here’s the link. Go there and fill it out, so I don’t make a mistake,” or “Email it to me,” or “I’m going to email you this form. Fill it out and send it back to me.” However it might be, whatever your system is.

Mark S: Right. That’s one training piece, just like – I’m going to keep going back to this self-serving part – we train our customers on how to use our tech support department. You can call the 800 number or you can fill out a support request, or you can email support@ColDesi.com.

If you don’t do that, if you call in, if you email a tech support person directly, because they happened to give you their email, or if you email your salesperson, things are not going to happen as efficiently.

We don’t train our customers to do that necessarily for us. We train them to do that, so you will get the best result. So, when you’re talking to your customers, if it’s order processing, what you are really trying to do is not make your life easier, although you will. You’re trying to make sure that you get all of their orders right, and that you get them on time, so they will have the best experience.

Marc V: Yeah, because if they text you and they say “I want four more of those shirts,” you might think “Oh, yeah. The last order, I did pink shirts for them, with this logo on it, and they were all larges. They just want four more of those.” So, you make four more large pink shirts.

Mark S: “Oh, no! I didn’t mean the pink ones or the large ones!”

Marc V: “No, I meant the other!” So for one, there could just be little miscommunications. Others, there is forgetting. They didn’t think “Oh, sizes!” So, you might assume they’re all larges. Then, it turns out that the customer didn’t.

Mark S: Then, you’ve got two larges. You’ve got five emails and three texts.

Marc V: So, it’s important. That’s why online ordering forms or a system, you train your customers to go into a system. That means you never forget something.

Mark S: I’ll tell you the other side of that, and this is kind of the positive revenue side. If you listened to our podcast on upselling, one of the ways that you upsell is actually to train your customers.

So, if you get the opportunity to talk to your customers on the phone or in person at the shop, or at an event, it’s important to talk to them about the things that you have as an advantage, which is “It’s the quality of the shirt.”

Say “Look, these are what most people provide. But for an extra $1.50 or $2 a shirt more, look at the difference! Look at this higher quality. It’s a heavier weight shirt or it’s more breathable, or it’s a slightly newer style I think you’ll really like.”

What you are really doing is you are training them to think differently about the garment. Now, when they go to everybody else, they’re looking at what this is.”

Marc V: What shirt is it going on?

Mark S: What shirt is it going on? “Is it going on the cheapest $3 shirt that I could find, or a nice Bella Canvas?” Or something like that. That’s important. If you are training them on the value of an alternative placement or on wash instructions, or on bundling deals. “Let’s get a cap with your shirt.”

You are training them every time, to look at the quality, to find out what else you should be getting at the same time. A more educated consumer is going to benefit you guys financially, just like it benefits ColDesi and Colman and Company.

Mark V: Yeah. And it gets me thinking that you are training them to treat you as their consultant, in the end. On the highest level, what you are doing is you are training your customers to follow your lead, because you are the apparel expert.

All they know is that they want to order some hats or some shirts. This flows all the way down to equipment, and all the way up to the end user. It’s not just a hat. It’s not just a shirt. There are thousands of styles of shirts and of hats. There are tons of ways to decorate them.

It’s really important that you become this consultative approach to your customers, where you say “Okay, what is the shirt going to be used for? Why do you want it? I know budget is important to you. Why is that? Oh, it’s because it’s for a charity run, and then afterwards, the shirts are going to be, people can use them for whatever they want. Oh, okay.”

So, it’s for that. “Oh, no. These are shirts for my IT technicians that are going to be going out to visit attorneys and Doctors in their offices, to repair their computers.” “Well, you definitely don’t want the cheapest shirt. You want to look like the classy folks that come in.”

Mark S: Yeah. It’s one of the answers to “You know what? I can buy a custom shirt from the screen printer down the street for $8 apiece.” Your response can be “You know what? Yes, you can. Let me tell you why you don’t want to. Let me train you on why you don’t want to.”

We do that all of the time in two stories. We do that all of the time in Custom Apparel Startups, or on our Digital HeatFX group. First of all, we’ll get someone that says “I bought X from someone else, and I really need to know how to heat press this.”

Well, you didn’t get any training with that. That’s why you’re struggling. That’s why you’re going to waste paper. It’s the $8 shirt. It’s the screen printer down the street.

We run into that with color printers all of the time. The Digital HeatFX system is a professional system. If you do it right, you’re going to spend eight to ten grand on it. Well, you can get a sublimation printer for $300 or $400, really cheap. So, we get that all of the time. “Why is this unit so expensive, versus this one?”

“Well, let me train you on what the differences are. Let me make you better informed. When you buy that printer, you’re going to get a box, and you’re going to get a piece of paper and an instruction manual. When you buy our printer, you’re going to get an online training class and free tech support, and a year of extra support. You’re going to get all of these other things with it. Is it valuable to you?”

That’s the same approach you need to take with your customers. It’s all based around making sure that you get trained, and that you train your customers.

Marc V: That’s how you turn around and sell more, and you upsell, is by helping your customers be trained to come to you to learn. They’re not shopping for just the price. They’re not shopping for just “I just need shirts made.” You have to get them out of that mindset, and get them into the mindset of “I need to get the right shirts for what my business is, for what I need, for what I’m going to do. I need to decorate them the right way.”

Is embroidery the right solution for them? Is screen printing the right solution for them? Whatever it might be. Then, go deeper into that and ask them the questions. Say “Okay, you said you can get t-shirts for $8. Mine are $15. Let’s go ahead and let me look at the scenario for you. How many are you ordering?”

“Okay, you’re going to order 60 shirts. Okay, very good. Are you ever going to need to reorder these? Is there a possibility that you’re going to need to order small quantities in the future?” “Yeah, I probably will need to do that.” “Okay. Would you prefer to be able to have multiple colors in this design?”

You start talking to them about what your equipment can do. Maybe in the end, the answer is no. “Okay, then this is the right solution for you or that is that right solution for you.” Maybe the answer is “Actually, after thinking about all of that, your solution is better for me.”

Mark S: Great.

Marc V: “Why? Because I didn’t think about that I needed a better quality shirt. I didn’t think about when I need to reorder shirts in the future.” Also, they’re really just going to appreciate the fact that you did help to train them on understanding custom apparel.

Mark S: And I’m sure you can think of examples of this in your kind of consumer life. We went to purchase a refrigerator, recently. We are a frugal family, so we found a cheap fridge online. We had some delivery problems, and we were looking at another one.

So, we actually went to a local home improvement store yesterday, and we ran into an actual salesperson. We were looking at the inexpensive model, and we could see it was kind of cheap, and we weren’t really turned on by it. Then, he says “Come over here and look at this one.”

What were the differences? He explained all of the differences in it. He told us why this was this way, and what the better warranty was, and look, these adjustable shelves are important. “Do you use a big water jug, or anything like that? Do you need water in the fridge?” He just took us through this whole thing.

It was worth an extra $100, to spend on something, which that was a 15% or 20% bump in what we were spending, just because somebody trained us on what to look for and what the differences were.

Marc V: More times than less, it’s not “I’m really disappointed that we spent the extra money on this good microphone.”

Mark S: Right.

Marc V: More times than less, people are disappointed because they didn’t buy enough, they didn’t buy good enough. That happens in the apparel industry all of the time.

Folks, they go buy the cheapest shirts that they can find, because that’s kind of the mindset that they think they should have. Then, they’re dissatisfied because they shrunk or they didn’t wash well, or they’re uncomfortable, or they don’t fit nice.

Mark S: I’ve got “I’m starting a t-shirt business with heat transfer vinyl. I bought a Cricut. I’ve got an order for 35 shirts. I’m going to get out of this business, because it took way too long, for the money I made.”

Marc V: “I spent all Saturday and throughout the night, until 3:00 AM, making 40 shirts. There’s no way I want to do this.”

Mark S: “I bought a used direct-to-garment printer from 1987. It gobbles ink, and the print head is busted. This direct-to-garment thing just doesn’t work!”

Marc V: Yeah. There’s a right way to get into things. All in all, I think we’ve covered what this topic is.

Mark S: Yeah. Training on what you buy, and training on what you sell.

Marc V: It’s important. Remember, it’s not just about what we do. It’s about everything in your business. So, if you are going to be getting into online advertising, make sure that you learn how to do it properly, so you don’t waste money.

Mark S: Find a training class, before you spend that $100 gift card.

Marc V: Find a training class or watch videos, or read the manual, whatever it is. That goes with everything. I think that this lesson is if you take this out of your entrepreneur life and into your personal life, it’s going to make you happier, too.

We find that customers who go through training, customers of ours, business owners who train their customers lead happier businesses, more successful businesses. They enjoy doing it more, and we know them longer. They don’t give up.

When we talk to our really experienced customers about “Hey, let me ask you a question. How do you take orders? How do you do this?” They are very strict on how they do things. “No, I tell my customers that this is the way that we have to do it.” And the same thing we said; it’s for them.

It’s for me, but it’s also for them. Because in the end, if you’re making t-shirts for somebody and it’s for an event that’s happening on Saturday, if the shirts don’t get delivered that day, in the end, they are the saddest. You’ll be sad, because you upset a customer and you didn’t make money and all of that, but in the end, you’re going to have your next customer come up soon.

But for them, their event isn’t as good as it was. Their charity event didn’t go off. They didn’t have the shirts that they needed for the company picture, and all of that stuff.

Mark S: So, my last couple of commercials, before we close out.

Marc V: Alright, go for it!

Mark S: My last couple of commercials are that I want to remind everybody that if you buy a new direct-to-garment printer, a new embroidery machine, a rhinestone machine, a spangle machine, a SpangleElite, if you get a cutter system from us, if you buy a white toner transfer printer from us, if you buy a piece of equipment from us, from ColDesi and Colman and Company, there is some free training involved.

If you don’t take it, and it costs you money and costs you time, that’s on you. We’ll do our best to make sure that you are informed and that you have that available.

If you’re out there shopping for equipment, and you’re looking at the difference between Bob’s Fax and Copy Machine online retailer, to buy a piece of equipment from, or you’re looking at buying from somebody like ColDesi and Colman and Company, or any other value-added distributor, and there are some good ones out there.

Pay attention to that component. Because you will save more money in training, in free training and in good support, than you will those few dollars, when you buy your initial piece of equipment.

The other thing that I will say is because of all of this, our motivation in starting the CAS podcast was training on small business. It’s training on marketing, that you’re not going to find anywhere else. We’re doing a couple of things.

For our customers that have purchased our equipment used, on the secondhand market, from someone else, we are implementing a paid training program and a warranty program, that we have never had before. You’re going to love it!

It’s going to be self-paced training. It’s going to be very reasonably priced, and you’re going to want to do it if you buy a used Avance or a used DTG printer, or something like that. You’ll be much better off.

We are also going to have some courses on the CustomApparelStartups.com site, about business and software training. We are about to relaunch the “How to Get Into the T-Shirt Business” course, which has a lot of marketing training on it. And stay tuned for some graphics software training, as well, which we are very excited about.

There are all kinds of ways that you’re going to be able to save money, with both of those programs.

Marc V: The reason that we do all of that, and we spend the effort on all of that, is because the longer that we’re in business, and the more customers we deal with, the more we realize that help is needed. And we want you to get the best help we can.

We want you to have that same type of philosophy with your customers. Overall, it’s going to make for a better experience for you, and a better experience for your customers. And you are going to be more successful than the shop down the street, that doesn’t do it right.

Again, that doesn’t matter whether it’s operating their equipment correctly or doing their taxes correctly. Because if they’re doing their taxes bad, they’re going to go out of business, too. So, it’s all of that together. It’s everything encompassing in your business, from equipment to software, to running your business.

Learn how to do things properly, and you are more likely to be successful. I think that’s just the bottom line.

Mark S: It is. Also, taxes are on Marc Vila’s mind, because it’s April 18th.

Alright! Listen, thanks for paying attention again, everyone. This has been Mark Stephenson, from ColDesi.

Marc V: And Marc Vila, from Colman and Company.

Mark S: You guys have a good business!

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