After listening to Episode 96 you should have a great insight on your competition. Chances are there are many custom apparel shops in your area, but only a few seem to be direct competition.
Holding tight to your business structure and running a great business should put you on the path to leading the pack. These include:
- Mastering your craft
- Having awesome customer service
- Delivering orders correctly and on time
- Balancing the right price for the right product
- Have a solid sales/marketing plan
The above are essential to leading the pack of your competition. If you are lacking in any of the above, spend the time and effort to take things to the next level. (you can try listening to more podcasts first, as we cover all of these topics)
However, sometimes its not that simple. What happens when the competition is so much better at all of the above?
For example, imagine you own a small donut shop. You make some delicious glazed donuts and people line up every morning to get their coffee and breakfast.
One day a new donut shop opens up. They:
- Are in a parking lot easier to get into
- Have brand new automated machines which means less staff cooking, and more to serve customers
- They have new coffee equipment that lets them whip up lattes at 2x the speed
- They are priced better because everything is less work for the staff
- And.. you tried the donuts…. they are really good.
How do you compete with this? You notice your line is shorter and profits are down. You cant lower pricing, you can’t serve customers as fast.
This story can be true of any business, how do you handle if your market seems saturated or the competition in your niche is beating you across the board
You have some choices to make that involve:
Rebranding, Restructuring or Reinvesting
Rebranding – This involves changing the look and feel of your company. It can involve a complete name and style change, or just an overall look to help appeal to your demographic.
Reasons to Rebrand:
- You are selling to too tight of a vertical / niche market and need to expand
- Only selling spirit wear but want to open up to corporate
- Only selling ladies dance apparel and want to offer sports apparel too
- Your message and business don’t match
- Your company is Tampa Embroidery – but now you offer UV printing and t-shirt transfers (in fact that might even be more than 1/2 your business)
- When people are looking for you, they might make assumptions about what you do.
- Your style/name/message seem dated in a sea of modern competition
- Which one of these granola bars would you buy for kids
Restructuring – This is when you change the way your business operates. It can involve any facet of the business.
Reasons to Restructure:
- Need to improve sales force
- More salespeople, or new salespeople, or ANY salespeople
- Production methods are inefficient
- Alter the flow of production, tracking of orders, etc
- Removing product offering
- You might offer engraving, but the machine is old, slow and you aren’t making much profits
- Changing the pricing structure
- Focus on pricing that brings in larger (or smaller) orders
- Going ONline – or focusing locally
Reinvesting – Putting more money into your business to revamp it. Taking from profits and putting back into the business for the sake of growth/maintaining business.
Reasons to reinvest:
- You’ve got old equipment that doesn’t perform.
- Slow machine
- Breaks down
- Quality of the product is down
- You’ve got old technology
- You are using a transfer style that was in its peak in the 90s
- You are still loading embroidery jobs with tapes
- Your computer is running windows 98
- You don’t have anything new to offer or different than the competition
Obviously, we are a bit biased because we are in the machine business, but we hear about companies reinvesting consistently. The results are amazing. We have embroidery companies who see the value in offering UV prints. We have companies running a 20 year old embroidery business than realize no one local is offering bling.
Reinvesting is one of the ways long standing companies stay on top. Bringing in new technology and new structured for the business to outpace the competition.
Be sure to build a plan and make changes like the mentioned above after you’ve determined one or all of these are necessary to win.
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 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 here to talk about beating the competition. This is the second in the series on beating the competition.
Mark S: Wait, wait! This is the re-episode.
Marc V: This is the re-episode. It’s about rebranding, restructuring and reinvesting, if you need to.
Mark S: You really have to have listened to episode 96, to get the full effect of episode 97.
Marc V: Essentially, what happened is you listened to episode 96, and you’re evaluating your competition. Then, you kind of are realizing one of a couple of things. You’re learning a lot, but I think you’re learning one of two things; that you’re kind of alone in your niche, in your vertical market. You’re kind of alone. You’re the only person in town that’s really focusing on corporate wear or spirit wear.
Or you’re realizing that everyone is doing spirit wear, and everyone is doing embroidery, and everyone is around your price range, and everyone is around your delivery time. You realize that you’re in a crowded space, and maybe there are some things to do differently.
Mark S: Right. I just want to make sure that you’re not using this introduction, where we talk about what happened in the last episode, as a substitute for listening to the last episode, and actually going through the exercise. Don’t assume, because that’s one of the points of episode 96, was not to assume that your competition is beating you, just because they exist.
The point of episode 96 was to identify your competition, to shop them, to learn about them, to catalogue them, and then look at your own business in comparison.
Marc V: And it’s a step by step.
Mark S: It is.
Marc V: It’s a step by step, so go through them.
But now, we’re at a point where we need to, I guess, make a decision of what we’re going to do next.
Mark S: Yeah. You know what the real competition is, what they can do, what they can’t do. And you know about your business, too. So, that’s where we’re starting.
Marc V: What we’ll say here is that if you realize that there’s a little bit of competition in the area where you work, there’s a few people that do some of the things that you do, which is probably most likely, in a lot of cases. You’re going to realize there’s a couple businesses out there that might directly compete with you in some ways.
There might be one that’s a little bit of the most direct competitor, and then, there’s going to be a lot that, although they might make t-shirts or embroidery, as well, they don’t sell to the same people you do.
Mark S: Yeah. They’re not in the same world you are.
Marc V: If that’s the case, we kind of say hold on tight to your business structure. Keep running it the way it does, but focus on being the best in all of the little categories.
Mark S: I like that a lot, because if you’ve already got a good business, and you thought there were some great competitors in the area, and you found out you’re really doing pretty well, I wouldn’t just give yourself a pass at that point, and sit back and say “I’m done.” You’ve done all of this work. I think you can take what you’ve learned, and really hone in on your existing business, and emphasize all of the areas that you should.
Marc V: Yeah. Don’t immediately start to change things quickly, because some competition pops up. Or you’ve done the exercise, and you realize “Oh, wow! There’s a lot of competition. I’ve got to do something different.”
Well, hold on. If you’re in business and you’re doing well, and you’re in a growth period, especially, then what you want to do is master your craft, is the first thing we listed. Have awesome customer service. Strive to be the best in customer service. Answer the phone good, nice emails, friendly to people, say thank you, deliver orders correctly and on time, have a good system to do that.
Balance the right price for the right product. It doesn’t mean being the cheapest or most expensive, necessarily. It just means the quality and the price is right. Then, have a solid sales and marketing plan.
Mark S: I like all of those. I especially like them, because I could take this right now, and apply these same steps to ColDesi. This is almost a list of a regular exercise you should be doing, anyway.
“What else can I do to master my craft in making custom apparel? Do I have the best customer service?” Fortunately, we do. So, we can move on.
Delivering orders correctly and on time, we’ve got an amazing record of that. Balancing the right price for the right product, that’s always something that we’re looking at, to make sure we’re competitive in the market. And we don’t so much have a solid sales and marketing plan, as we do some great sales and marketing things.
That’s really, to be honest with you guys, that’s really the way it is. But we should have one.
Marc V: And your business should have all of these things. So, the beginning point is if you listened to 96, and you’ve made some determinations that your business is – things are okay for you. Then, focus on these, to continue to make them better.
Now, on the other side, sometimes it’s not that simple. That’s actually the simple solution.
Mark S: Yeah. You may find, when you did your competitive analysis, that somebody is actually kicking your butt in a specific area, that you’re losing business for a reason. Or you may catch somebody early, that looks really good. We’ve done that a few times, where there’s somebody brand new in the market that’s just doing a great job, and we’re like “Okay, we’d better pay attention, and maybe make an adjustment.”
Marc V: Yeah. This is when it’s time to get into the re-episode; the rebranding and restructuring and reinvesting, is because you realize that some troubled waters could be ahead.
Mark S: I’ve got to stop here, and just kind of talk about one of the stories. We talk about stuff like this all of the time, from the Facebook group. Recently, we had a mid-sized screen printer, and I’ve used this example before. He’s been in business for 20-25 years, complaining about all of the people that have Cricuts and home machines, that is impinging on his business.
This is an exercise in realization that you can’t do the same thing for 25 years. This is an exercise that you’re going to have to do. What we’re talking about right now is whether or not you have to do it now, not whether or not you’re going to have to do it.
Eventually, you’re not going to be the only one doing cheer glitter vinyl on site, at school events. Wherever you are, eventually you’re going to run into somebody. Your market is going to get more crowded. You had a drug store, and they opened up a Walmart and a Walgreens. You had a donut shop, and they opened up another donut shop.
Marc V: Actually, the example we kind of made some notes on is that you own – again, they’ve been in business a long time – you own a small donut shop. That’s something easy, I think, to relate to.
Mark S: How did you know I owned a donut shop?
Marc V: I Googled you!
Mark S: Vegan donut shop. It’s terrible!
Marc V: You would do that. So, you make delicious glazed donuts. You’re famous for it. There is a ton of people come up there and line up every morning. Every morning, you have a ton of people getting good coffee and good donuts. You’re the staple of the town.
Then, one day, a new donut shop opens up, not too far from you, right down the road. You can see them. They’re in a better space. Traffic is easier to get in there. They’ve got this new automated machine, so they can produce donuts faster, with less work. And more people, the employees, are helping customers.
So, although it’s the same amount of people in there, the line is short. They can get in and out quicker. They’ve got new coffee equipment. Lattes, twice as fast as you can produce, and it’s the same quality. Their prices are better, because they can produce faster. There’s less labor involved.
Then, finally you try the donuts, and they’re really good!
Mark S: Which sucks!
Marc V: What do you do? You’re losing money. You see your lines are getting shorter. You’re making less money. It’s hard, because they’re beating you in everything that we listed above.
Mark S: And I’ll be honest. This is common for if you’re in kind of a technology business, and things move very fast. If you spent $50,000 on a screen printing setup 15 years ago, it may still work, but somebody could have spent $2,500 on a cutter, and done great work that they can turn around faster. They have lower overhead, so they can charge less.
So, sometimes these latecomers, like this new donut shop, sometimes they have a big advantage, just by being late.
Marc V: Yeah, by being late. This equipment didn’t exist when you opened up your shop.
Mark S: Right.
Marc V: This story, although a simple one, is true for all types of businesses. You’ve heard about the small towns with Walmarts coming in. Radio Shack used to be a huge company. Then, you pop in Best Buys and Amazon, and then it’s like you don’t really go there anymore.
Mark S: No. You get bad cell phone plans at Radio Shack, and one cable!
Marc V: Yes, exactly. So, you’ve got to figure out what’s next. You see that you’re in trouble. If you have an embroidery shop, and you’ve been doing embroidery for 20 years or ten years, and a new shop opens up, and they’ve got newer, faster, better equipment, more employees, a better location, the prices are right, everything is lining up. You’re realizing “This competition is real, and they’re beating me in all of the craft.”
Maybe their embroidery is even better than yours. They could be beating you in a lot of things. You have to figure out “What am I going to do?”
Now, if all of the things we listed in the beginning; your craft, your delivery time, your customer service; if those are all three out of five stars, step one is do that. If you feel you’re already at five out of five, like I feel that donut shop was – I was picturing it as they were super friendly, everything was great, everyone loved it – they were five stars across the board, but this other place was chipping away so much.
Now, you have some choices to make, and it’s rebranding, restructuring and/or reinvesting. We’re going to talk about each one of those; what they mean, and whether or not it’s going to be right for your business.
Mark S: I like that. You know how much I love branding.
Marc V: Yeah, it’s fun.
Mark S: Branding is great. It’s a great conversation to have. I like the way you put it, though. It really is just the look and feel of your company. What you may do is you may look at that new donut shop across the street, and it’s like one of the new McDonald’s versus the old ones.
The new McDonald’s, they look like a really nice Starbucks. They’ve got the wood paneling on the walls. It’s this brick and glass building. It’s not like the old style ones.
Is your business that old style McDonald’s business? Do you have the old neighborhood donut shop look and feel to your business, where the new people across the street are all shiny and 25, and shop at Abercrombie and Fitch?
Marc V: Yeah. The fat hasn’t been building up on them.
Mark S: They don’t eat their donuts! They just sell them.
Marc V: It’s true! When you’re talking about the branding, this is when you walk into – like we have Publix Grocery Stores here, and they do this really good job of branding, which is -.
Mark S: Amazing!
Marc V: The look and the feel and the colors that you see, the smells that you experience. They do all of this on purpose. If you walk into a Publix in the morning, you’re smelling fresh bread being baked, and that’s on purpose. They could bake their bread in one location, and ship it. No. They want their customers to come in there and get hit with that smell, and different things like that.
So, the branding is all that look and feel. If you have a shop, especially if it’s one where people walk into, and there’s no color scheme anywhere, it doesn’t feel like anything.
Mark S: Maybe you are a traditional screen printer or an old style mass embroiderer. You’re a shop, but you’ve got a retail space. You’re used to it being okay for people to walk in and basically they’re in the screen print room, with the table set up. That doesn’t cut it anymore, maybe.
Or maybe it’s the other way around, and you are an embroiderer that’s got a really homey feel, that’s got doilies everywhere, a lot of pillows, and that’s not the image that you need to project.
Marc V: Yeah. You want to kind of keep up with what’s going on in your branding, if it’s important. And this could be online, what you bring online, how you look. Even things down to, like your logo is not going to make or break your business, and we’ve talked about that. But if you look at companies like Pepsi, for example, and if you just Google Pepsi logos over time, you can see how the logo has changed with just kind of the overall theme of the world.
Mark S: Right. Think about it from your own perspective, as a customer. Let’s say you’re picking a restaurant. You either drive around, you’re looking for a place to eat, or you’re looking at pictures online. What kind of a restaurant are you going to pick? You’re going to pick one that feels like you.
If I’m going out to dinner, I’m not looking for white tablecloths and wine, and some fancy guy standing there with a towel over his arm. I’m also not looking for a McDonald’s or a Sub Shop, or something like that.
You’re going to attract people that are like you, or like the image that you present. So maybe, if you’re seeing a shift in business, and a new company is in your area that’s getting more business, maybe they’re appealing to a larger demographic or a more current demographic.
You could just look at your space, if it’s retail or if it’s on the web, or even how you present yourself at a market or a show. You may just look and say “You know what? I’ve been doing this for ten years, the same way, and everyone around me is changing. The busy booth is set up differently than mine is.”
That will lead you down this rebranding thing, to say “You know what? I guess the blue collar embroidery business is not working as well as it used to.” Or “I guess the do-it-yourself kind of approach isn’t working how it used to. People want something cleaner.”
Or maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe you’ve got the pristine business, with the glass countertops and everything. And the guy that’s making all the money has his printer out in the lobby, and asks the customers to help him dry the shirts.
I don’t know what it is.
Marc V: It’s so dependent on who you’re selling to. There are plenty of places out there who have been making, say the t-shirts for the local high schools and middle schools, and stuff like that, for 20 years, all over the country, that have been doing that. If a new place opens up, and they walk in, there’s couches for kids to sit at, maybe they have some retro video games set up, or something like that.
Then all of a sudden, kids are going there. When the moms and dads come in, they’ve got a Keurig coffee machine for them to make their own little coffee or something. All of a sudden, it’s like that’s part of the branding and the feel of the environment.
That’s why I always think there’s a lot of definitions of branding, but it’s really just “How does it feel to interact with this company?”, whatever it is. Whether it’s just looking at a logo, reading a letter, or going to their shop.
Mark S: You can kind of think about it as if your business was a person. What would they look like? How would they sound? How would they dress?
Marc V: Here are some reasons to rebrand. We’ve kind of covered a little bit of it already.
You’re selling in too tight of a vertical or niche market, and you need to expand. You are used to doing small business type of – you do things for all of the plumbers and the A/C companies and the landscaping companies in your area, and those smaller companies are becoming less and less. There’s a lot more big businesses coming out, that are in your area, and they get all of their apparel from corporate.
It’s hard for you to get into that account, so your market is shrinking in your area. There’s maybe large companies, less small business owners, in your area. So, you might need to expand your market out. Expand it to that spirit wear, as well. Expand it to more corporate wear.
Maybe the small businesses are less blue collar and more white collar, in your area. Maybe tech is growing in your area, and they want nice clean polos and laptop bags, and things like that, and you’re still selling just plain cheap t-shirts that are throwaways.
Mark S: Yeah. Or I’m going to take the opposite. Let’s say that your area is going more urban, and it turns out that rather than doing corporate work, if you were doing custom bags, custom sneakers, custom caps, then your business might grow a little bit, with that rebranding.
Marc V: You look at that, and then you change the feel. We made a couple of these examples. A few episodes, we talked about, I think it was a dance company trying to sell to a hockey league, or something like that. If that’s the case, you still want to sell to both. You might want to rebrand your organization, to talk about all fitness and sports type of a thing, that will fit everybody.
Mark S: I like that.
Marc V: You’re widening out your brand. Or you tighten your brand in. You’re just going to focus on kind of that urban, cool hip-hop type of a look, and you’re going to dive in and just focus on that. You take your company from just “Johnny’s Ts” to “Johnny’s Urban Ts and Wears.” Squeeze it in.
Whatever it is, if you’re selling to too tight or too wide of a market, move that out, and adjust your look and feel. That could mean changing the name of your company. It could mean just changing your logo, and look and feel of how all of your art works, and how you answer the phone.
Mark S: The sample products that you give out, or that you show on your website.
Marc V: It’s also when your message and your business don’t match. We have some customers that have been buying from Colman and Company for – since before Colman and Company existed, they’ve been buying embroidery supplies. Now, they have embroidery, DTG and UV printing. Most of the business that they have is DTG and UV.
Mark S: But it’s still called like “ABC Embroidery.”
Marc V: Exactly. At that point in time, if somebody is looking for a UV print or custom – whatever they might customize on a UV printer – toilet seats? Or whatever it might be.
Mark S: It’s a popular application.
Marc V: I gather it is. If they’re going to be looking for you online, they’re going to skip over you, because it’s “ABC Embroidery.” They’re going to make an assumption.
Mark S: That is a great point. I just want to interject here that we understand that most of you got started in this business because of a specific passion, a passion for a vertical or niche market. Not many people go into the custom apparel business just kind of unemotionally deciding “I’m going to make custom t-shirts, because it seems like the best opportunity and the most profitable thing that I can do in business right now.”
No. Their kids are in cheer, and they love it, and they want to do bling. Or they do home embroidery, and they want to expand. Or they do arts and crafts, and they want to do vinyl.
So, we understand that this is a change. But part of this process is looking at your business strictly as a business. If you need to change the name or you need to change the logo or your product mix, then that’s a formula for success. The willingness to do that really kind of depends on whether or not you’re going to be in business in ten years.
Marc V: Yeah. I was just thinking we should probably do an episode one day, of the steps to doing that. The steps to changing your business from one to another. Are you going to write that down?
Mark S: I’m not going to be able to read it, though.
By the way, if you are looking at us on video, look! Marc Vila got tired of me having to write CAS on the Styrofoam cup, so I actually have a CAS cup! Thank you very much!
Marc V: I gave him an official mug.
Mark S: I appreciate it! So now, mug production and close-up magic, two of Marc Vila’s favorite talents.
Marc V: I keep forgetting to bring my magic trick.
Mark S: Thank you! I appreciate that.
Marc V: Okay, the last one, we’ve mentioned already, but the last one under reasons to rebrand is your style, message or name just is dated, amongst a sea of modern competition. If you walk into your place and it’s got old carpet, or you look at all of your Facebook posts, and all of the art you’re doing, and you’re still using stock art from 15 years ago.
Mark S: If you say “My website has been doing great for ten years,” then you need to change your website.
Marc V: Yeah. Just shop around online, and look at what other websites look like, and you can get a feel of what the modern look is. If yours is way off from that – .
By the way, this is only after you’ve done episode 96, as a reminder. Don’t just start changing things, because you think you should. You’re looking for opportunity, because you’re missing something, or you’re losing, or there’s a potential decline ahead.
Mark S: You know what? Share this episode with people outside the business, outside of this business. Because I literally just had lunch with the President of a company, who I’m having the same conversation with.
“Are you actually losing any business to competition?” “Um, I assume so.” “Why do you assume that?”
Don’t think this is just you, or just for custom apparel. Everybody goes through the same thing. If you don’t listen to episode 96, don’t assume anything, and make changes in episode 97.
Marc V: I agree. I printed a fun example here.
Mark S: You did!
Marc V: Yeah. These images will be on CustomApparelStartups.com, on episode 97.
Mark S: Will they? That’s awesome!
Marc V: I don’t know. I mean, I’m not going to do that.
Mark S: You should! I didn’t know Carnation made Breakfast Bars!
Marc V: You can hold it up.
Mark S: I will.
Marc V: I’ll let you hold that one up. It’s kind of just the idea of old versus new branding. You’re in the grocery store, you and your kid. You’re going to pick out some breakfast bars for them.
You see this box, which I don’t know how well you’re going to see it on camera, but if you go to the website, you’ll see a fuzzy image. Then, next to it, you see this box.
Mark S: For some reason, they’re both still in black and white, though.
Marc V: It’s because I didn’t use the color printer.
Mark S: I didn’t know if that was on purpose, if you’re recommending we just do black and white packaging.
Marc V: No, no. The coloring is even better on this, too. But more so, this is something that’s from the 80s. The packaging, it just looks simple and bland and old and boring. If somebody saw that, “How long has this been on the shelf?”
Mark S: And it’s by a company that used to have name recognition, which is Carnation.
Marc V: And then, there’s Jif. This one is called Carnation Breakfast Bar, Peanut Butter and Granola. Which is fine, right? But you’re shopping with your kid, and you want them to be just as excited to eat this breakfast bar, because they don’t anything in the morning. M&Ms will be the only thing they’ll eat, unless you offer something.
But they see Jif Power-Ups Chewy Granola Bar. It’s got a cool animation on it. This one’s just got kind of a flat chocolate on top. This one, they squiggled the chocolate all messy.
Mark S: It’s a great example.
Marc V: It’s the same exact thing, basically. It’s granola, with some chocolate splashed on it. But the branding of this one just really took it up.
And organizations like this, Jif and all of these companies out there, they’re constantly having to move around this grocery aisle space, to capture peoples’ attention, to look like they’re new and fresh and fun and interesting, so you want to keep buying it.
So, just take a look at your branding, as well, which is the name of your company, and it’s everything, how you do it. Even the invoices and the sales orders that you hand over to people, if they’re really dated, maybe give it a new fresh look.
Mark S: I agree. So, rebranding. That was rebranding.
Marc V: That’s rebranding. The second re- is restructuring.
Mark S: And these are reasons to restructure.
Marc V: Yeah, reasons to restructure. But first, what is restructuring? Just any real change with how your business operates or acts.
Mark S: In the first part, we were really talking about how your business kind of looks and feels. That might be a change. Now, we’re on the operations side, really. That’s what restructuring is.
Marc V: So, reasons to restructure, and then kind of the answers are almost implied:
You need to improve your sales force. You look at your competition, and they’ve got salespeople out there that are smart and savvy, and seem to know what they’re doing, and your sales force is just somebody who kind of works for you sometimes part time, and that’s it. Or just somebody who hasn’t done well, but they’ve worked for you for five years. In the past year and a half, they’ve done nothing for you, but you keep them on board, because of loyalty and “I care about them,” and stuff like that.
But you might need to restructure that. Either they need to change, or maybe you guys need to not do business together anymore.
Mark S: I think that’s a great point, because if you’re using actual salespeople, then it’s easy for them to become complacent. It’s easy for them to be the same face that people see, that they’ve told no to for three years, that they’re still going to say no to.
You could make kind of a digital equivalent by looking at your approach to emails and social media messages.
Marc V: Sure, yeah. If you’re the salesperson, or if it’s a husband and wife team and the wife sells, or stuff like that, you get a mirror. But really, what you do is just go take a training course.
Mark S: That’s a good idea.
Marc V: Read some books, take a training course, try to refresh yourself.
Then, you develop a new sales plan, a new sales tactic, a way that you sell. That’s a way of restructuring. You reading a book and writing out a new plan, and acting on it, you’re changing the way you’re doing business.
Mark S: I like that you say that you might need any salespeople. Maybe you’re in a business that does not have salespeople. No one else is, when you did your competitive analysis. That may be a key for you, that you’ve never done before, to hire somebody to go and scrounge up business for you. That’s a great option for making what may be a quick change to the face of your business.
Marc V: Yeah, that’s great!
So, your production methods are inefficient. If you are just noticing that your shop is a mess, you’re always scrambling to be organized, things are in piles everywhere, you’re not as efficient as you can be. You read online “How does somebody make 20 of these in an hour? I can only make eight!” We hear that stuff all of the time, all of those sides, in everything we sell.
Some people are so much faster, and they have the same exact equipment.
Mark S: I’ve been into these businesses, and I can tell you which one is faster, just after I walk into the shop.
Marc V: You can tell, just by looking at it. So, if you feel you’re inefficient, if you can tell you are, and again, you’ve got to look in the mirror on this one, then you can fix that. Look how to restructure things.
Maybe you know people that are in other businesses, that could show you how they do it, even if it’s not embroidery or t-shirt printing.
Mark S: Yeah. Production methods is very important, because by improving your production methods, you may be able to produce more garments per hour, which is far more profitable. You may be able to operate with fewer people, which adds money to the bottom line.
You can deliver things potentially faster, which might give you the edge over the competition. There’s a lot of good reasons to go through this exercise.
Marc V: Also, the part of what we had said in the beginning; delivering products correctly and on time. So, it could also improve your accuracy, reduce the amount of mistakes you’re making, by having a process flow for that.
If you listened to the episode with Mark Biletnikoff, what number was that?
Mark S: I don’t remember, but he’s got a beautiful shop.
Marc V: 70s, 80s. He gives a lot of information. It’s somewhere in the 70s or 80s. It’s with Mark Biletnikoff, and we talked about a t-shirt shop. He kind of just says some basic things, which aren’t that groundbreaking. It’s not like he invented something.
Mark S: It’s not new, but it is good.
Marc V: It’s doing things right, which makes him run a fantastic business.
Mark S: Agreed. While we talk, I’m going to look it up, because it’s really important.
Marc V: I’m going to talk about something else, while you look it up.
Removing a product offering could be restructuring your business. I put an example here. You might offer engraving, and that’s how you started your business. Then, you added a bunch of other stuff. You do a bunch of apparel. You still kind of do that engraving, but the machine you have is from 1993. It breaks a bunch. It doesn’t work very well. It’s really slow. It’s not very efficient.
You’re not getting that many jobs from them. They’re taking up a bunch of time. You don’t make that much money on them. It might be time to cut that loose, and just say “I’m not going to do that anymore, and focus more time on the things that are more profitable for my business.”
Mark S: You should absolutely do that. It’s a triage that we should do more at ColDesi and Colman and Company. There are things that just take up space in the warehouse, and they don’t sell anymore. Or you’ve got an emotional attachment to a set of products, because you’ve always sold it.
Or you’ve got three customers that are left, that have been buying it for 15 years, but it causes you a lot of extra effort, and money tied up in inventory. Taking a fresh look at that is a great move.
Marc V: Yeah. There’s plenty of organizations that are like that, that started with something, and that’s where they are. They hated to let it go, but they just knew it was the time. They weren’t prepared to do that.
Do you have an episode number yet?
Mark S: It is episode 86. “What success looks like in DTG printing and more.”
Marc V: Okay. Episode 86, then. Check that one out, if you are interested in that production method.
Hopefully, if you’re listening to this episode, you’ve listened to them in sequential order.
Mark S: That never happens.
Marc V: I don’t necessarily do that, either, but it’s a great idea to listen to them all.
So, removing a product offering. Then, it could be changing your pricing structure, so focusing on pricing that could help you bring in smaller orders or larger orders, or something within a different range. Or rather than having a fixed pricing, you have some sort of dynamic pricing, or the other way around.
You can look at your competition, what they’re doing, when you’ve done the analysis. You might make a decision to say “My pricing just doesn’t line up with the way other people do it.” Maybe it’s more confusing. You can make some changes to that.
These are all things you could do to restructure.
Mark S: I just want to say that’s not to say that you’re looking for ways to charge less. You may be looking for ways to charge more, and set yourself apart.
Marc V: Yeah, exactly. The pricing structure might just be you’re going to create a better quality garment, and you’re going to be more expensive. Then, in your branding, you’re going to go ahead and move your brand more upscale, put in your logo or your branding some subtext of “Premium t-shirts only.”
Mark S: “Not that cheap stuff the other guy sells.”
Marc V: Yeah. There’s too many things to really give examples.
Then, you had mentioned going online or focusing locally.
Mark S: Yeah. If you have identified, let’s say you’re in a local market. That’s your niche, is “I do business in Tampa, Florida, with people from Tampa, Florida, that do Tampa, Florida things.” Maybe that local niche is what is getting more and more crowded, and your competitors aren’t that great online. So, maybe you want to try to develop a more online or ecommerce-based business, than the local fairs and markets and events business.
Vice versa, if you find yourself doing most of your business online, and you’re getting bigger competition coming in, or area competitors that are beefing up their websites, it might be affecting your business. Then, you may decide to do something more local, like hiring a local salesperson or doing those shows.
Marc V: Part of restructuring, which goes along with that, which we didn’t make notes on, but would be how you do marketing or advertising can be completely restructured.
Mark S: Absolutely.
Marc V: You’ve always done the Pennysaver ad, and now you’re going to move to Facebook. Or you’ve been doing Google ads for a long time, and it’s getting more and more expensive, and you’ve never tried anything local. So, you decide to jump into the community newspaper type of ads.
Mark S: You can see restructuring is a pretty big category, that can take a lot of things. That’s why doing the work in episode 96, so you have specific things you know you have to deal with, has got to be the approach. Because you don’t want to change all of these things at the same time, and not know what’s working.
You want to be strategic about what you’re doing, to make sure that you’re responding to actual market conditions that affect your business.
Marc V: Yeah. I remember we were at a podcast event, and there was a gentleman talking about how it was him and he had a co-host, and they did a podcast together. They were doing okay, but their visions were so different, the podcast was conflicted in itself, in its branding and where it was going to go.
They decided to part ways, and go on their own. Then, success came so much higher. So, maybe it’s even you work with a team of people, or you have some business partners with different visions, and you say “Let’s partner together.” Wrong thing.
Mark S: Wait, wait. Are you breaking up with me? Is that what’s happening here?
Marc V: I’m just giving you the warning.
Mark S: Okay. I’ve got to start working out again!
Marc V: The last re- now, reinvesting. Put some money into your business, to revamp it. Take some profits that you’ve got, put it back into your business. If you don’t have a big swell of cash handy, then use your creditworthiness to lease or finance some new equipment, or make some upgrades to your shop.
This reinvesting, reasons to reinvest, just like everything else, reasons would be you’ve just got old, broke down, slow equipment.
Mark S: Yeah. Guess what? Except for embroidery machines, which almost last forever -.
Marc V: I’ve got some embroidery machine examples that I wrote down.
Mark S: Okay, good. All of this technology advances quite a bit, over the years. You might be in the situation where the equipment you bought ten years ago just isn’t cutting it anymore.
Marc V: It’s true of just everything. The donut shop example. It was fine with what they had, but you can go bigger and better and faster, whatever it might be.
The things that drive me nuts are sometimes I’ll see some pictures online, or – and I’m not talking about the CAS group, by the way, or I might be. I don’t know, because they have so many things on Facebook. But I’ll see a picture of a shop, and I see this heat press that is just like, there’s duct tape on it. It still works!
And then, complaining about heat transfer vinyl falling off. I’m just like “You’ve got to see the writing on the wall, here.” Sometimes things get old and broken down. A delivery company with old trucks eventually has to replace their trucks. They might be fixing them, and took care of them well. The trucks treated them well for a long time.
But they took those trucks, sold them. They got new ones. They’re more efficient on fuel, they can get there faster, they’re more comfortable for the drivers, all of those things.
Mark S: By the way, there’s a 25% chance that this is the breakup talk. “You know, those old trucks, they did well before.”
Marc V: So, yeah. Reasons; if you find your equipment is breaking down, if you find that it’s much slower than you know newer equipment is, if the qualify of the product coming out – if you’ve been using the same printer for eight years, and you’re getting banding in everything you print, and lines, and it doesn’t print blue the same way it used to, then you’re losing production quality, and you could lose business because of that.
Mark S: I agree.
Marc V: What else did we put in here? You’re using a t-shirt transfer, stuff that peaked like in the 80s, and you’re still using that technology. You know, the beach t-shirts with the heat press. You’re still using that.
Mark S: Everything has a box.
Marc V: Yeah, and nobody really likes that stuff anymore. If you’re still loading an embroidery machine with tapes.
Mark S: No!
Marc V: There’s some people out there, still running those machines.
Mark S: No! Discs, maybe.
Marc V: They are. I’ve talked to them. Tapes. If you’re using a heat press that’s got nothing digital on it, chances are it’s very inaccurate.
Mark S: I simultaneously agree with this one, and it hurts my feeling. If your computer is running Windows 98. That is absolutely true. I know you’re out there, because we get those calls in Support all of the time.
Marc V: “What do you mean I can’t install this software made in 2019, on a computer made in 1998?”
Mark S: Because your computer will catch fire, if it tries to run!
Marc V: Or you don’t have anything new to offer, or anything different. If your competition is kind of outpacing you, and you’re realizing there’s some things you need to change, and nobody out there is doing bling transfers. Nobody is doing rhinestones or spangles, or nobody is doing digital transfers or full color designs.
Then, there’s a spot for you. It’s waiting for somebody to develop.
Mark S: When you do that competitive analysis, if you realize there’s that hole there, then that is a great opportunity for you to restructure, and to reinvest in a new technology that your market demands, that nobody is doing well.
If there is somebody doing glitter vinyl in a decent business, with a Cricut from their house, then maybe you need a SpanglElite or a CAMS machine, so you can produce commercial quality spangle and rhinestone transfers. And you’ll just blow the doors off the market; faster, cheaper, better, etc. So, there may be that opportunity where you are.
Marc V: Exactly. We’re in the equipment business, so obviously we’re going to be for that.
Mark S: We want you to buy more things. I’m just going to say it. Buy more things! We do!
Marc V: But what’s exciting about it is you see, like before, we were talking about that embroidery business that got DTG and UV, and now this is their thing. Business owners that do particularly well look for opportunities, when they want to grow and change and succeed and stay relevant. They look for these opportunities.
If you’ve got an opportunity to, for one, just fix something that’s broken, or an opportunity in the market where nobody is doing this, or there’s only one person doing it, and they’re only focusing on spirit wear. And I do corporate wear, and there’s opportunity for this technology here, then it’s your opportunity to jump on that.
Mark S: We’re going to call that “the only donut shop in town strategy.” If you sell bagels, and there are ten bagel shops in town, be the only donut shop. It’s a similar business, and you can make a crapload of money, because you’ve got some exclusivity, you’ve focused in an area that that technology isn’t.
So, it’s kind of the same thing. I really like that idea of finding a hole in the market and filling it, in the way you just described.
Marc V: Across America, it’s a huge place. And we still have people, 2019, that will call us up and say “There’s actually nobody really in our town or in our direct area, that does embroidery.”
Mark S: That’s crazy!
Marc V: Even in some reasonably size cities. They’ll say “Yeah, I’m in a suburb of Chicago area, and the next embroiderer is only eight miles away. But eight miles in our area is like 45 minutes. And I think there’s an opportunity for a business here.” And they saw that. Maybe they just had an awards shop, and they realized that.
And they’re reinvesting in their company, because they’re realizing maybe their awards are slowing down. They’re not getting what they used to. They see an opportunity to do embroidery, and they jump in on it. They reinvest in an opportunity.
Mark S: I like all of that. I think 96 and 97, these two – do I say this on every episode?
Marc V: I don’t know.
Mark S: Not every episode. I think it’s some of our most valuable episodes.
Marc V: It’s good. The final thought, I think, on it is whatever you’re going to do with this, you’ve got to make a plan out of it. We talk about that all of the time. It doesn’t need to be formal, or anything like that. But put some things in writing. Do a little bit of math. See what makes sense.
And if the decision looks right on paper, and you’re like “I’ve got a feeling for this. I’m looking at it on the paper. The numbers make sense.” Go for it! Whatever it might be, whether it’s rebranding, restructuring, reinvesting, or all three.
Mark S: I love that. I want you to just keep a picture in your head, of Carnation Breakfast Bars.
Marc V: If you go to the Custom Apparel Startups website, you’ll get a free look at a Carnation Breakfast Bar box, no charge.
Mark S: Which most of you probably have never seen!
Marc V: You get to see what that looks like.
Mark S: I wish I could give you a prize, if you’ve ever had a can of Carnation Instant Milk.
Marc V: You can give somebody a prize.
Mark S: I could, but I’m not going to.
Alright, everybody. I think this has been a useful episode. As usual, we would like to encourage you to share it. Please review us on iTunes, or wherever you listen to your podcasts.
Come to the CustomApparelStartups.com site, and you’ll see a video of the antics that we get into, when you’re just listening to us.
Marc V: Do we have an episode 98? You had mentioned.
Mark S: We do. There is at least going to be one more of these, and I can’t remember what it is.
Marc V: Good. Well, we’ve got episode 100 coming up! Are we going to do something big?
Mark S: I think we are.
Marc V: There’s no plan for that, at this point in time.
Mark S: Maybe we’ll just wander around the building, and interview employees. That sounds like fun.
Marc V: Okay. Send your ideas and your Carnation Breakfast Bars to MarkStephenson@ColDesi.com.
Mark S: Alright, guys! Thanks very much. Do you have any final comments or words?
Marc V: No, we’re good.
Mark S: Okay, let’s get out of here! This has been Mark Stephenson, from ColDesi.
Marc V: And Marc Vila, from Colman and Company.
Mark S: You guys have a great business!