Whether you’re a startup decorating shop, a sole proprietor or a shop that’s had to downsize to a smaller staff, there are some key ways you can streamline your operations to stay competitive. Learn more.
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Business Tips

7 Ways to Streamline Your Smaller Shop’s Operations


Whether you’re a startup decorating shop, a sole proprietor or a shop that’s had to downsize to a smaller staff, there are some key ways you can streamline your operations to stay competitive.

Right now, in 2020, despite being in the middle of a pandemic, we have an opportunity to reinvent our businesses. In some ways, this current climate has created a clean slate for shops in an unfortunate way, if they’ve had to lay off staffers.

However, this is your chance to set up better processes for art approval, production, shipping and customer communication. It’s also about embracing the fact that you’re a smaller shop and finding alternate ways to compete with bigger companies.

Here are seven key ways that you can make a bigger impact with a smaller shop.

1. Evaluate the core roles you need to run your shop.

Your first step is to drill down into the essential “hats” you need to run your shop efficiently. There’s a great book called Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman that explains how you can have the right staffers in the wrong seat, or the wrong staffers in the right seat. Your next step is to evaluate your team to see if everyone’s in the right roles, per their personalities and skills. You can also examine whether one person can bridge any of those roles. Maybe one staffer is a great graphic designer who can also burn screens. If you need to hire new people, look for flexible candidates who are open to cross-training.


2. Take a big-picture look at your technology.

During the coronavirus lockdown, many people haven’t been in the office. That’s why being a fully cloud-enabled shop makes sense. Can your salespeople sell from anywhere? Do they need laptops or tablets? Have you saved all of your clients’ artwork in the cloud? Do you work with a contract artist who has access to the drive to make on-the-fly tweaks to client graphics? Can you step out of your shop for an hour or a full day, but still access all of your current orders? Cloud-based tech allows you to work more efficiently and flexibly. Now’s a good time to link up with possible vendors and demo their solutions. (For example, Printavo offers a gamut of cloud-based services, including scheduling, ordering, invoicing, art approvals, shipping and online stores.)


3. Stay in touch with your staff.

Many shops have set up more regular communications with their teams. That practice should translate into an all-the-time routine of holding weekly meetings with your team, even if it’s only two or three people.

Talk about your big-picture goals. Talk about your current sales and revenue numbers. Talk about your upcoming challenges and opportunities. That builds trust.

Your team also gets a chance to ask questions and share ideas. You’ll also build up morale and get people directly invested into your shop’s success. In our weekly meetings, we brainstorm lots of great ideas to achieve our goals.


4. Set key performance indicators for your team.

A good tool to try is Front App, which coordinates and shares your team’s inboxes. As the shop owner, you can use the app’s analytics to measure how quickly your customer service reps respond to emails or phone calls. You can set KPIs for each person’s role and then measure their success, and work to grow beyond that.

For example, on our customer service side, we set our KPIs as the number of calls that we picked up vs. those we missed, or how fast we responded to a first email a prospect sent us. Our targets: picking up 100% of calls on the first ring during business hours and answering initial emails within 45 minutes. Right now we’re at 75% and working to increase our success.


5. Stay in touch with your customers.

All the time, but especially during a pandemic, focusing on customer retention is a must. Everyone talks about how you get 80% of your business from 20% of your customers. However, this is a great time to reach out to see how all of your customers are doing. It’s also your chance to offer them solutions they need now, beyond their regular T-shirt order.

For example, could you set up an online store to help them sell merch and fundraise? If your band clients can’t tour in person, ask if they want to perform every Friday night via live stream. Then, have them drop a link to the online store you set up for their branded merch. When a fan purchases a shirt, part of the proceeds go to the band, part to your shop and part to help a local nonprofit that’s helping medical pros on the front lines. It’s a win-win-win.

Expert Tip: Work hard to serve your specific niches. Think of who you’re catering to—who are your buyers? Who are the end-users? Can you offer 2020 graduation apparel for schools? How about a morale-boosting kit for employees? How about items for church members who are attending services via live stream?


6. Evaluate your website.

In our new normal, you need the right balance of online self-service and personal touch. Your site should always provide a professional ecommerce experience, but a prospect should also be able to pick up the phone and call you. People do value your expertise. They want you to guide them through how to use 5,000 T-shirts for fundraising at a marathon.

Plus, it’s key to offer ease of online ordering speedy service: Consider how much sites like Amazon have changed our expectation of online ordering and delivery. Smart shops include a core group of 10 to 20 good-better-best styles that cover the gamut of quality and price in the major apparel categories, like T-shirts, polos, hoodies and headwear. Respond quickly. Get the order out quickly.

Expert Tip: If your site isn’t ecommerce-enabled or needs a boost, this is the time to reach out to vendors to see how to upgrade your site.


7. Develop a social media presence (if you don’t have one).

If you’re not on social media every couple of days, you’re a dead business to a prospect who doesn’t know a ton about you. You also need to cultivate online reviews and testimonials, so that people who visit your social sites see proof of how you’ve helped other businesses. Don’t forget to include images of the decorated apparel you’ve printed as part of other marketing solutions.

Now is a good time to take a fresh look at your shop, especially if you’re experiencing downtime to COVID-19. You’ll probably find lots of surprisingly effective ways to reimagine your business.


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