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7 Reasons Why Entrepreneurs Don't Change Habits Until It's Too Late

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7 Reasons Why Entrepreneurs Don't Change Habits Until It's Too Late

t the start of the pandemic, Tanya and Jay Doyscher, who co-own The Visual Identity Vault had a rough go, when Jay suffered a debilitating heart attack. While the duo already had started delegating more tasks to employees, Tanya recalls how stressful the time was. “We did the best we could, and developed new ways of doing things to survive,” she says.

‍“We realized first-hand that no one should have exclusive knowledge on how to do something or be the only person who can make important decisions. We could have alleviated a lot of stress if we didn’t take on the mindset of ‘nothing like this will even happen in our shop.'”
Tanya Doyscher, co-owner of The Visual Identity Vault

Luckily, the Doyschers had cultivated a strong, loyal team who stepped up to get the shop through the tough times. “We also made a lot of changes, including taking upfront payments and offering web stores to more businesses, rather than just schools,” Tanya says. “Thank goodness we made mindset tweaks to fit our needs and keep our name top of mind within our community.”

Over the past two years, we’ve all seen businesses close that we thought would last, well, forever. Amid a global shift in consumer purchasing and consumer needs, a lot has changed. Prior to the pandemic, it was important to be adaptable and willing to change processes to stay competitive. Now, this isn’t an option—it’s imperative if you want your business to survive. However, many entrepreneurs, including in the wholesale print space, don’t change or pivot until it’s too late. However, you can learn to recognize some of these mindset traps and course-correct them.

“Remember, your job isn’t producing t-shirts. To stay around for the long haul, it’s about coming up with ideas to improve the process of how we produce and sell t-shirts. So, what are you doing differently today?”
Richard Greaves, screen-printing consultant and industry veteran

7 Reasons Entrepreneurs Don’t Make Changes Until It’s Too Late (and How to Fix It) 

Business owners across all industries share the same mindset challenges. “We’ve all been indoctrinated with beliefs based on what we've read or learned from others, as well as what we've experienced ourselves,” says Tom Rauen, CEO of Envision Tees. “Changing the thought pattern is challenging and takes courage to push past these past experiences and beliefs that there may be a new way of doing things."

"A pivot or change can be scary and trigger a fear of failure. The brain goes back to a safe place, which is where you are right now or what you know as the way ‘we've always done it.’ To succeed, you need to look at these past experiences, but also talk to your team and other business owners, before taking calculated risks.”
- Tom Rauen,
CEO of Envision Tees

Here, we break down seven of the most common mindset ruts and how to start shifting your thought patterns before you sink your shop.

1. Entrepreneurs think leadership is automatically inherent in owning a business.

Many people think that because they open their own business, they’re suddenly imbued with a “leadership” power that makes them experts at running it. Unfortunately, this kind of “know-it-all” thinking leads to stunted leadership growth, resulting in being behind the competitive curve and not motivating employees.

“A lot of shops have this mentality, but I’m not sure how many of those survived during the last two years,” Tanya Doyscher says. “Those of us who thought of innovative ways to pivot our business model or our niche are the shops still in business. My best advice is talking with or collaborating with other shops on what’s worked for them. Look at what the Here For Good campaign did: Shops took that idea and made it their own, and it was fantastic! Being open-minded to new ideas and new niches is absolutely imperative right now.”

In fact, there are tons of books, webinars, and conferences devoted to helping you gain the knowledge you need to lead and run a business, both in the decorated-apparel industry and in general. Even those veterans who’ve been growing their own business for years have areas they can learn from others about how to lead better.

“Nobody knows it all. There’s always new things to learn. Take an attitude of growth, which means you’re always willing to admit there are things you don’t know, and you’re continually striving to learn. Spend time talking with others in your field, and keep up with industry blogs, magazines and video content."
"Talk to employees about how and why they do their jobs the way they do. Look at everything with a ‘beginner's mind,’ seeing it all as if you've never seen it before.”
Kristine Shreve, director of marketing and outreach at Applique Getaway

2. They operate by the “We’ve always done it this way” and “We don’t have to change because ‘that’ won’t happen to us" mentality.

“This mentality is a combination of things,” Rauen says. “They could be afraid of change, afraid of what others will think or react to the changes. Shop owners may be so stuck in their own bubble, that they won't see what’s happening outside of their business. I like to step out and see things from a customer’s perspective. Then, I take it one step farther and attend industry trade shows outside of our industry to see how other industries leverage technology and efficient manufacturing processes in their business.”

For a shop to run efficiently, yes, there must be a workflow that the team follows to get top-quality, decorated-apparel orders out the door on time. “However, what causes issues is when the routine stops working, and the shop owner doesn’t do anything about it or they think they have ‘time’ to fix it before something implodes,” Shreve says.

“Print shop owners need to examine the returns they're getting from their routine on a regular basis, certainly yearly, if not quarterly or monthly, and decide if the return on what they're doing is optimal. If it's not, they need to be OK with making changes.” Shreve says tracking your data and how processes affect your bottom line helps you make a solid case to employees about why you’re changing things up.

“Be open to jettisoning all of your existing routine if it’s not working. If you get pushback from your team, take the time to explain why you’re making these changes to improve your shop’s operations and their careers.”
Kristine Shreve, director of marketing and outreach at Applique Getaway

For example, many shops still use paper order forms and a calendar system to get their printed t-shirts out on time. “It’s time to invest in software for taking and storing orders,” says Howard Potter, CEO of A&P Master Images. “Many shops also don’t hold themselves to a standard for a deadline. That’s why you need to invest in an order management and production system so you can organize what’s in production and meet the in-hand date.”

3. They’re not putting enough emphasis on cultivating a loyal and skilled team.

As a business owner, your first loyalty must be to the future of your company. Your pipeline of customers depends on you keeping an eye on what’s ahead and taking calculated risks to keep at least one step ahead of your competition. The same can be said of loyalty to employees. However, you can’t stay loyal to employees, who are torpedoing your business.

“When you’re hiring, you need to lose the ‘I need bodies, I’ll take anyone’ mentality,'” Shreve says. “Take a moment to look at the current atmosphere of your shop. If you have long-time employees who do good work, analyze their traits and how they work. Think about the traits your ideal employee would have and then interview with those traits in mind. Consider how any new person would fit into the existing shop (or company) structure before you make a hire.” Once you've hired someone, the next thing to examine is why they'd want to stay at your shop.

‍“There have been numerous studies that show that money isn’t a prime motivator. Paying well should be the baseline, not the main reason. Look at what you offer your employees in terms of work environment, autonomy and room to grow and learn.
- Kristine Shreve, director of marketing and outreach at Applique Getaway

What are the opportunities for promotion? How open are you to feedback or suggestions and how often do you act on that feedback or those suggestions? Employees who feel listened to and valued are employees who are likely to stay long term, so you'll find your time and attention may be much more effective than a higher paycheck or material perks.”  

On the flip side, Greaves says that it’s on you, as the business owner, to build an elite team, rather than just expecting superstar people to just show up.

‍“You need to mold every employee into someone who’s more productive and problem-solving. Are you teaching them the technology of screen printing, so they can become experts in their craft? You want to inspire them to be curious, so they understand how to turn out incredible prints."
"Develop a training program for all new hires and invest those hours in showing them how to make a screen well, for example, and they’ll have that skill for the rest of their life—and for the time they work in your shop.”
Richard Greaves, screen-printing consultant and industry veteran.

4. They have too many "cooks” (managers)  in the kitchen, leading to nothing getting done and no one agreeing on what to do.

If you have partners or a lot of managers, and everyone has different ideas as to how to stay competitive, it’s easy to stop moving forward to keep the peace. In the beginning, create an agreement on how to handle conflict. Having “too many people leads to no decisions being made, or when one is made, (it creates) bad feelings and ugly encounters,” Doyscher says.

"There needs to be a process for decision-making, and not everyone gets a say. Otherwise, you’re not focused on the business at hand, but bad feelings and too much talking over what should have been a relatively easy thing in most cases.”
Tanya Doyscher, co-owner of The Visual Identity Vault

However, you also need a system in place to ensure everyone’s ideas are heard and taken into account. “It's human nature to be territorial, and many managers look at their area of responsibility like their fiefdom, and they don't want it to be trespassed upon or reduced,” Shreve says. “If your managers are squabbling, it's up to you, as the shop owner, to get them all working as a team. Maybe that means sitting everyone down and having a discussion about playing nice and working together.”

That could also mean removing incentives or bonus options that put managers against each other. “Incentivize your management team to work together by offering bonuses that can only be achieved if the managers work together instead of against each other,” Shreve says. “Institute weekly meetings where managers can brainstorm and where problems can be discussed and solved, before they become divisions.”  

5. They don’t know how to delegate when they need to.

Let’s face it, no one can do everything, and do it all extremely well. To scale your business, you need to hire experts and skilled employees, that can be cross-trained and delegated to. The best practice is to use data systems, along with consultants or hired professionals, to create strategies for moving forward with new ideas, processes, products, software and equipment.

“Burnout is real, and one person can’t do everything. It’ll have a negative impact on everyone from the top down."
Tanya Doyscher, co-owner of The Visual Identity Vault

"This also leads to a problem if a shop owner or key employee is suddenly out unexpectedly with a medical illness, accident or even death. We’ve experienced this first-hand, and the overwhelm is real when one of the key people is suddenly not available and you have to scramble to figure things out. That’s why constant teaching, delegating, and reteaching is key,” Doyscher says.

The temptation to think you can do it better and need to do it all is a seductive one for a lot of business owners. “But you need to remember that there are people out there who have skill sets better than yours in some areas,” Shreve says. “Working to use everyone's talents to their fullest extent can benefit everyone and your shop. Plus, people who are rested and well rounded tend to make better decisions. Keeping all the inks or threads in one set of hands greatly raises the potential for burnout and bad decisions.”   

6. Refusing to see “waste” in their shop and actually deal with it.

When Greaves visits shops, he says the biggest problem owners face is often not seeing where things are falling short and how to fix it. “You need to be able to see clutter you can unclutter, or eliminate confusion or extra steps in a process,” he says. “Unfortunately, many shop owners don’t see the waste and aren’t interested in a different outcome. They’re somehow satisfied with the status quo. It’s on you to build a training program to help your employees to become experts at their skill and open their eyes to what they don’t see yet.” 

Similarly, Potter points to a couple areas where shop owners ignore waste. First, product returns to your vendors. There might have been times, when the manufacturer shipped you something you didn’t order or maybe you ended up placing it incorrectly on your end. 

“Many shops don’t take the time to return the products right away, so they pile up and you forget about them,” he says. “This can lead to thousands in lost revenue. To fix this, give yourself only 48 hours to contact the manufacturer for a return ticket.” Many shops have a showroom packed full of random pieces of apparel, which creates wasted revenue space.

"Go through your samples at least once a quarter and make sure you only have items that sell consistently and have a small handful of six to 10 new items your customers may have never seen to show them you have other options.”
Howard Potter, CEO of A&P Master Images

“It’s key to have more of what’s selling and less of what isn’t. Otherwise, it’s wasted rack space and not helping your shop’s bottom line,” Potter says.

7. They don’t step outside their office to see how others view their business.

Greaves says that your shop culture is what inspires people to join your team and buy from you. “You need to put an emphasis on the human experience as well as focus on continuous learning,” he says.

"People can get ‘ordinary' anywhere. If you’re selling a custom shirt, what happens after the sale is important. If I get a quality printed concert t-shirt that lasts 30 years, I keep living the experience of why I got that shirt."
"And, your shop is selling way more than a commodity at that point. You’re selling something with a life beyond it, and people will be interested in being a part of your brand.”
Richard Greaves, screen-printing consultant and industry veteran

Greaves also points to seeing what other decorating methods make sense to add to your shop. “Right now, it’s amazing what you can do with direct-to film (DTF) transfers, whether you print them in-hose or get them from an outside vendor,” he says. “Sometimes, you’d be hard-pressed to reproduce from scratch with screen printing, what you can do with DTF. You can also use these transfers on a variety of substrates beyond apparel. Have you looked at how these new options can enhance your competitive edge?”

Get Ahead or Fall Behind

Refusing to let your business falter or remain stagnant is the key to success. Now more than ever, it’s important to continue exploring how you can adjust your business model, so you can evolve with the times. Being open to change is what will help you continue to gain an edge over the competition. While many of us don’t like change, it’s necessary to embrace it before things are past the point of no return in our businesses. “The world is saturated with your competitors,” Greaves says. “You need to take risks and have brand-new ideas to grow, change and thrive.” Don’t let your business get left behind. Stay ahead of the curve and keep evolving.

Mar 4, 2022