“I'm going to change the game!” is one of the most common things I hear from new screen printers joining the industry, and this is one of the most dangerous statements I feel for a new printer. The reason being is it shows a level of arrogance that, although some can be crucial to your business success, is usually more of a turn off to your peers and manufacturers and makes them less likely to want to help you.
Why should you care if your peers and manufacturers want to help? Well, at the end of the day we are all in this together. Although local shops are technically your competition, having a productive and good relationship with them can make a world of difference.
What happens if a rush order comes through and you realize you are out of white ink? You can try to drive to your distributor and pick some up if they are close enough or you can call the shop across town and ask them if you can take a gallon and order a replacement for them. And yes, as a salesperson in the Midwest, I encourage this and see this VERY often.
What happens if you bite off more than you can chew and can't turn a customer in time and are worried about meeting an in-hands date? If you have that relationship, the shop across town may be willing to charge you contract printing rates to help you out. Never get too cocky and forget that you always get further with a smile and being gracious.
The other most common mistake I see is when new printers attend a seminar on either sales or production. Because someone with many years experience shows them steps to success, they think it is as easy as it looks. I promise you, it is not. That being said, it's also not a super difficult industry to break into. I highly recommend attending shows and learning from as many people as possible. Still, at the end of the day, never take the word of anyone who is making money off you buying something as the “law” of screen printing. Test! Test! Test!
All too frequently as a salesperson, I find myself giving my opinion instead of showing the variables and allowing the customer to test and discover their own opinions. Although salespeople and consultants are absolutely worth your time, always test their opinions and products and make sure everything works right for you! If you are currently purchasing through a distributor, chances are you have a salesperson making commission off your sales, so that being said—put them to work! Contact them and have them use their expertise and contacts to help you with anything from solving problems with products to helping implement healthy standard operational procedures for your shop. Be reasonable, of course. They usually have hundreds of customers and the ones paying more tend to see more attention, but do not let them ignore you. They should also be working with the “up and coming” shops to help nurture the industry and their territory.
The best piece of advice that I was given many years ago by a great manufacturer rep was to never take it too seriously. At the end of the day, we are just decorating apparel, we don't have the stress of a surgeon that is at risk of losing a life on the operating table, so never allow the stress to hit that level. Take your time, make mistakes, own them when you make them, especially to your customers! If you are honest and have the drive to test and always learn, you are already ahead of many shops and will find your success.