This is an article I wrote for Impressions Magazine February Issue.
Garment decorators are unique because we are responsible for sales, production, marketing, accounting, all in one. Wearing so many hats we are bound to prefer one task over the other and often discount or give away services. We have to compete to win business and sometimes our reality can be skewed or we make emotional decisions in an attempt to secure accounts. Learn to sell your service and your expertise.
Think of each process as an expense, the more efficient and accurately you handle each stage of the order process, the more you will profit. Mistakes are easily made and can be extremely costly. Follow these 3 crucial steps to help maximize profits for your DTG business.
Don’t Assume, Print Quick and Move On:
Garment decorators take pride in our products and want to deliver quality goods to our customers, but we have a tendency to make assumptions about the customers opinion and expectations. I have found myself taking precious time redoing jobs or adjusting art only to find the customer didn’t notice or care. I have also assumed the customer would be happy with the results, only to find they were disappointed.
I suggest taking time with the customer before you print the job and learning as much about their expectations as you can. With DTG, blank quality highly dictates the final result, if necessary show them print results on different blanks. Find out if they want or need a white underbase, these little things can save you a lot of frustrations.
Remember, this is our speciality and our expectations are probably vastly different than our customers. Don’t waste expensive time and resources doing work that doesn’t need to be done. It’s easy to spend time overthinking and redoing jobs. My point is if they are happy or satisfied, let it roll, complete the job, thank them for their business, and move on.
It might only cost you $5.50 to print 1 shirt, but don’t charge $6.00 to be a nice guy. Charging lowball prices often does more harm than good. I say set a standard, and charge accordingly.
If you lowball a bid, the customer is immediately under the assumption that is the price. If a production mistake comes up and you need to discount or purchase replacement garments, you have no margin to work with and you end up paying to do the job, and there is nothing worse than paying out of pocket to do a job.
Set a standard; analyze your cost to print a job and set a profit margin guideline for yourself. If your cost to do the job is $5.50 to print including a shirt, set a standard that you will charge no less than 100%. Now, is the customer demanding these quickly? Charge a rush. Do they want low minimums? Charge a minimum order fee. Do they want you to create or manipulate art? Charge an art fee. This leaves you room for time, resources, errors, and discounting if necessary.
It is a lot easier to set a standard price and SELL YOUR SERVICE rather than lowball bid and leave money on the table or go out of pocket to complete the job.
Maximize Production Efficiency:
I love the old adage “work smarter not harder”. It is so easy to do, and redo, processes in garment decoration. Think strategically about workflow and how to speed up the process.
Try and keep your DTG printer running, don’t let the print head sit idol. Once one print is complete, have another shirt ready to put on the platen and go.
Pretreating can be slow and the heat press can be a bottle neck. I suggest separating the print process from the pretreat process. I like to pretreat in advance. This does two things. 1: Allows me to have shirts ready to print uninterrupted. 2: Allows me to dry shirts uninterrupted. It’s terribly frustrating to go dry a wet printed shirt only to have a wet pretreated shirt drying on the heat press.
A little tip; pretreat the garments as soon as they arrive from the distributer. After being burned enough times, I always assume the distributer has sent me an incorrect order. I instructed my staff to immediately open and count the shipment against the order the day the blanks came in. When the box is opened and counted, this is the time to pretreat. Pretreat the shirts and mark that they have been done, then hang them to dry. This also eliminates the common problem of finding out the order shipment is incorrect before the print needs to be completed. Try and avoid these last minute unexpected issues by maximizing efficiency and preparing to print in advance.
These 3 techniques are good practice in any print shop. It sometimes takes years to learn the finer points but this is a good start and should be written into your companies constitution.
Never make assumptions about the customers expectations.
Take pride in your service and charge accordingly.
Be as efficient as possible. Hang shirts to dry to maximize production efficiency.
John LeDrew is the DTG Director for Melco International.