But the Experts Say…

Most of us who have been in this industry for a while can name those people we feel are the experts in the field. There are many people I know and respect who I personally consider experts in one area or another of the garment decorating business. These are the people who I will discuss issues, techniques and opinions with when we cross paths at tradeshows and events.

But Expert Opinion comes with a warning. Many of these experts believe there is one and only one way to accomplish a task. “You must use this product.” “You absolutely have to follow these steps.” “Anyone who fails to heed my specific and detailed instruction is not a serious pupil of my wisdom!”

There are those among us who believe, or at least want to believe, that what we’re doing is rocket science. They believe that the process of applying ink to a shirt needs to be complicated and difficult (and follow a specific path) to make all of us worthy of business respect and position on the manufacturing stage.

I have disappointing news for the experts. With a little bit of effort, most people can do this. With a little more effort, people can do it well. And guess what, it can be fun too. After 30 years, I still love to pull up that last screen to see the finished product.

Every job starts with a shirt and a graphic, and ends with a finished product… a graphic on a shirt. Many experts will tell you there are rules and procedures that must be adhered to for a proper and salable result. We all start in the same place, and assuming the customer approves of and buys the finished product, we all end in the same place.

But, and here’s the sacrilege for many, I don’t really care how you get there. What works best for one shop, might not work best for the next. Your particular market or product/customer mix might cause you to approach the process differently than the guy across town. If it was all formula, we could buy the booklet for $9.95, pass out copies to our employees, and be a perfect cookie-cutter duplicate of each competitor down the street or on the other side of the country.

But garment decorating is not a cookie-cutter business. We all have to find the path that’s best for us. That’s why we come to websites like this, or read blogs, or go to seminars, or talk to perfect strangers at tradeshows while we’re standing on line for our name badges. We’re looking for that idea, or technique, or combination of steps that works best in our totally unique business and marketplace.

The trick is finding the perfect path that fits your unique scenario. There is always room for improvement and innovation. While I recommend talking to every expert you can find, and making note of what they tell you, don’t get trapped into the absolutes of what you’re told. For the garment decorator, the start and the finish will be virtually the same. It’s all the creamy filling that makes our businesses special. My apologies to the experts who would tell you otherwise.

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Terry Combs is a 30+ year veteran of the garment decorating industry, offering training and consulting through his website TerryCombs.com. Terry is also editor of the management and production newsletter Screen Print Weekly.

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