As a business owner, you may be itching to expand operations – but it’s important that you grow at the right time.
There’s no shortage of methods and strategies open to apparel decorators interested in growing their businesses. For example, you might ask yourself: Should I…
- …automate my screen printing?
- …expand into embroidery?
- …add digital sign printing?
- …start a vinyl cutter/plotter section?
- …consider direct-to-garment printing? Heat transfer? Pad printing?
Deciding if You’re Ready
While there are times when it makes sense for a business to expand into new printing methods, outsourcing these new tasks can open up new doors and help avoid costly mistakes. This may allow you to grow the customer base for that method to the point where the expenditures make more sense, or you may decide not to pursue that avenue after all. To make the best decision, small business owners should invest in a sound decision-making strategy and have clearly defined measurements in place to gauge the success or failure of any expansion efforts.
When considering the future, it’s important to take a step back and understand the aim of your business before making a decision:
- First, you must decide if you want to grow your business or not. While the allure of fast growth is hard to ignore, many businesses are already thriving and they don’t require fast growth. In those cases, premature growth may not make financial sense. As an owner, you must establish a clear plan with stated goals.
- Second, a business owner needs to have a firm grasp of his or her industry, and the alternate possibilities for growth if they do not want to expand their in-house operations. Some owners prefer to contract out their printing or embroidery to other companies rather than investing in doing the work in-house. This will limit the profitability but also reduce the risk factor associated with expansion. There are other risks, as not all contract printers product quality work on schedule, and some may even try to woo your customers away. Be careful – not all contractors are Boy Scout honorable.
- Third, understand the concept of what is needed to develop new markets, and the value of these new markets to your business. How will you seek out new markets? If you could collect email addresses and other contact information from prospects, would that get you any closer to selling your product? Should you set up an appointment or cold-call them? Do you understand which kind of markets are a good fit for your products and how best to reach these markets?
- Fourth and finally, a small business owner should look at a budget. Do you have enough money to do the things in your plan? Going part of the way and thinking you’ll see results in the first few weeks is not a solid strategy. When considering a budget, ensure you have enough money to implement your top priority and be sure that you give it sufficient time to grow. After all, you’re building the business for the long term.
Other Considerations for Growth
The list above is a helpful guide for small businesses who are on the fence about expanding or outsourcing their printing operations. Assuming you’ve gone through the above checklist – you want to grow, you have the ability to grow, you understand the concept of developing methods and strategies, and you have the budget – are there any other considerations?
- You need to figure out how much time you and your staff have to focus on marketing and sales. It can be dangerous to pull too much of your energies away from essential tasks and put that effort into new undertakings. Write down your daily tasks over a week and how long they take to complete, then analyze the results and determine if you really have the time to dedicate to new projects.
- You need to think about the learning curve of new decoration methods. When expanding into unfamiliar territory, you can seek out help from industry forums, videos, demos and seminars. Remember, you can always contract out new decoration methods until you’ve gained the knowledge to do them yourself.
- You need to have the capital to fund your growth plans. Leasing and loans are ways to obtain money, but you also need to have the cash flow to meet your monthly obligations.
In order to successfully grow your business, you need to think carefully about whether you’re actually ready. If you decide you are, it’s necessary to have a thorough understanding of your goals and what it will take to achieve them. The sheer amount of growth opportunities can seem overwhelming, but taking the time to research and plan will help you steer your business in the right direction.
Looking for more information about growing your screen printing business? Check out these blog posts: