business success

Formula for Business Success

Bruce Ackerman is the founder and CEO of Printavo, a business he started in 2012 after growing a print shop in college.  Since that time, Printavo has grown to help shops all over the world get organized and streamlined. He previously held a position as the head of design for Avant. Ackerman also produces content for Printavo's blog, which covers topics of shop management and efficiency. You can contact Ackerman at

Decorators are innately intriguing. No two shops are the same. Each small business has a unique story. Our industry has decorators of all ages and generations. You can find both screen printers that can tell daunting tails of using carbon arc and rubylith while watching other shops move towards new methods of digital printing. Regardless, the question always comes up as to what specific paths you need to take to attain that level of success in your business.

You may ask shops what their formula is. Some may say it falls on their superior customer service or their attention to quality printing. Others may say it’s their market or the people they work with. There are an infinite amount of ways to put together a successful business, but what is truly the most important?

For a shop that has been around for decades, is success defined by printing by hand and taking care of every customer? Does the secret formula for every shirt include blood, sweat, and tears? Look back to when you burned your first screen and printed that first order, did you imagine yourself to be in the spot you are in today?

The truth is, most businesses do not reach their full potential because of a lack of automation and systemization. Look at any homegrown company that has achieved great success as an example. They took their talents and created a system that is teachable, transferable, and, most importantly, scalable. By refining and working on your business as a system, you increase its efficiency and quality over time. A system is truly scalable when you can remove yourself from it—and you can watch it run from the sidelines. Instead of being a part of a system, you become the mechanic or surgeon of your system. You help fuel and tweak the system to run at its highest potential.

When you can watch your business run itself, you become the true entrepreneur that has not only built the business but has also iterated it enough times for it to be self-sustaining. Our industry is simple; it should not be over thought. Remember that every aspect of the decorating business is teachable, so spending your time teaching and refining your employees builds the foundation of a strong system.

If you have not thought of your business as a system, it can be done on a single piece of paper. Use a basic flowchart or a diagram and denote all aspects of your business. You can create a closed loop system that feeds itself by incorporating sales, marketing, design, production, and finance. You will find strengths and weaknesses and areas of financial gain and loss. Become paranoid about the synergy of your system, and take a holistic approach to making everything flow. Enjoy building your business, and remember what you imagined when you printed your first shirt.