Back when I obtained my degree, I lifted it as high as I could to the sky with the expectation that companies were going to start flocking in droves to make me an offer for a position within the highest ranks of their prestigious organizations, and that my selection would go to the highest bidder. I quickly came to realize that there was no line and there were no offers. I had to generate that kind of response myself.
I interviewed with various companies for months, finally landing a very low paying, salaried position as an outside sales rep for a globally recognized, multi-functional-device company, selling office copiers and hating it. But I learned a lot, ranging from sharp salesmanship skills to working with people to meet their expectations. Then I got recruited into the staffing world and tried working for not one, not two, but three separate firms within a four-year time span, and ended up frustrated because their primary focus was on metrics as opposed to service. This ultimately created a lack of autonomy and my inevitable resignation from each one. The firm that paid the highest salary conversely yielded the lowest satisfaction. I believe it’s safe to confess that it didn’t pay to assume that the highest bidder was the best choice for the long haul.
My grandfather and both of my parents are entrepreneurs, so I had seen what it took to start and run a business, and the hard work and personal satisfaction that came along with it. When I started Simple Shirts, I had some of the necessary tools in understanding what the real world was like and generally how businesses function. I felt that I could make it work and indeed I have.
Most of the ideas and processes that I’ve learned in business did not come from my education, but rather from personal experience, diving in and figuring it out. Risk-taking is a crucial part of business that I feel is essential for success. But I also believe in smart, informed decision making. Blindly walking into situations is an ideology that I personally try to avoid at all costs. That’s not to say that I never make mistakes, but ultimately I try to avoid making the same ones again in the future. Yet many people fail to learn from those same mistakes, which in turn can stifle their chances for personal and professional success.
One of the biggest challenges I face in my day-to-day operations is trying to meet expectations for quality, service and cost. It is difficult, if not impossible, to be the best at all three of those standards simultaneously. I have encountered many potential customers who want or need to get price quotes from multiple companies. I completely understand many of the benefits of getting bids for something you need.
Everyone is under pressure to cut costs, and the person I am working with or their boss must exercise good financial stewardship for their company. But I will never understand the misguided perception that all things in my industry (e.g. screen-printing and embroidery) are equal or quite simply a commodity.
I get that sugar is sugar. And I also get that a Gildan shirt is a Gildan shirt. But I don’t think that the screen-printing or embroidery process is the same among all 10 random companies that someone called from a Google search. Once the embellishment process begins, you simply don’t know if your finished product is going to look the way you originally envisioned.
That’s why it’s so important to have a company that you trust and can count on to deliver what you need how and when you need it. Dependability, in my opinion, far outweighs saving 32 cents per shirt on a 100-piece order. Did the company you chose send an art proof for your approval prior to printing? Did they take the time to match your colors for your logo with the ink they use? Did they triple check to make sure that none of the details got dropped out of the artwork when importing it into their design software to print off onto the velum and then develop the screens? Did they order the correct shirt style, color, sizes and quantity? Do they respond to your calls or emails? Will they be able to meet the deadline you told them you had to have your order? Do they even care? I could go on all day.
I think it makes sense to check prices when you’re not familiar with an industry to see what things generally cost. However, I don’t think it’s wise to assume the lowest quote is the best and will save you money in the long term. Do the initial research. Think about the quality and service aspects as well. Find a company whose people you actually enjoy talking with and you feel confident doing business with.
Find someone who not only has competitive pricing and a good-quality product, but is professional, articulate, reliable, has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, continues to grow each year, and has only positive reviews on search engine sites.
I implore you, the consumer, the decision maker, the business owner, the buyer, to take all of these factors into consideration when making a final decision. A good relationship goes a long way, and I truly believe that if you’re dealing with a company that understands all of the principles described above, then you will also reap the fiscal benefits in the long run.
Increased volume also will yield some flexibility in cost. But at the end of the day, you have to think about what is most important to you. Quality, service and cost: They work well together, but with balance.
I met someone a few days ago who was talking about how she would like a quote on a fairly routine order placed throughout the year. I asked her about what she needed and she told me, kindly answering all of my questions in a direct manner. But there was a point in the conversation where I just had to pause. The woman explained that the pricing she has been getting from her existing vendor is “extremely good,” but the reliability isn’t there. Yet she was expecting me to match that other company’s pricing. She wasn’t correlating the low cost with the low degree of service she had received.
Was it too much to ask her to pay a bit more to cover the increased expenses that allow a company to run with the dependability she needs? I suppose it could be argued — simply on paper — but it’s difficult to apply in real life. Here’s an example that might put things in perspective:
XYZ Company isn’t making very much money on the orders they’re producing for ABC client. XYZ company is somewhat smart and business-savvy, or for the sake of brevity, logical (yes the two are interchangeable). They determine that they can’t spend a tremendous amount of time managing ABC client’s account because they’re not having much added to their bottom line. If they don’t spend their time managing more profitable accounts, they will go out of business. Make sense?
What it really comes down to is the fact that a lot of companies in the shirt industry don’t have any sales experience or understand how to sell their customers on value and service over price, which results in the market being beaten down so low that it’s difficult to make money for any of us out there working.
It’s an unfortunate circumstance, but is a reality of what my industry, and many others, have to face. Another example of focusing solely on cost can be seen in the number of American workers who have found themselves out of work because of outsourcing to other countries.
The challenges, difficulties and complexities of what I contend with on a daily basis have only made me a stronger, better business owner, working hard to make a living. I have no regrets.
My only wish would be for the business community to open their minds to the concept that customer service and quality have a greater trajectory than just a bottom line price.
Quality, service, cost: Be sure you know which is most important to you before you make a selection based strictly on dollar signs.
I have spent my career trying to provide the highest customer service and level of quality while also keeping costs down as much as possible. It’s a never-ending battle, but one I feel is worth fighting for. May quality and service thrive.
Branding "This" Company
by Luke McClellan
November 26, 2015
“Branding” for lack of a better word is something that every business, both large and small struggles with. It’s a continual effort and always needs to be kept in perspective. Staying relevant and developing a fresh take on things sounds idealistic and perfect on paper, but the execution and application is a completely different story.
“Simple Shirts” 7 years ago wasn’t even a consideration. Unbeknownst to me at the time, as cliche’d as it may sound, getting fired was the best thing that ever happened to me. “Simple Shirts” was founded in a state of desperation with the attempt of making ends meet. And beyond.
Quite frankly, there has been no looking back in sight and I couldn’t be happier, as of the writing of this article.
But what does “Simple Shirts” stand for? I knew from day one what I wanted this company to represent, but how to convey that message to my public was the challenge.
“Simple Shirts” offers “screen printed” or “silk screened”, as some may refer to it as, t-shirts as well as embroidered polo shirts, hats, button down dress shirts and bags, coats, robes, towels and the list goes on. The skinny: screen printed and embroidered apparel. Straight to the point.
But what’s behind the veil of what we offer? What is truly the bottom line of what we stand for? Quality. Integrity. Morals. Ethics. Standards. Professionalism. Service. “Doing-what-we-say-we-will-do,-when-we-say-we-will-do-it.”
When you receive a screen printed t-shirt, what are your expectations? If you’re like most, you probably expect the order to be correct. Additionally, you also expect the service to be friendly, courteous, professional, reliable and dependable, yes?
What’s ironic is that while most of these expectations are not out of line, they are hard to come by in this industry. Most screen printers and embroiderers don’t do a good job of branding themselves. And while it may seem like it should be a given, if a screen printer or embroiderer doesn’t stand for these principle’s, then why in the world would you want to patronize their business? (That’s part rhetorical, part literal.)
The point of the matter is “Simple Shirts” has always strived for excellence in everything that we do. We set out with above mentioned standards and to this day stand behind them. We’re more than just a shirt company. We’re the “right” shirt company.
Quality screen printed or silk screened t-shirts and embroidered polos. The absolute best customer service humanly achievable. All coupled with a considerably competitive price.
“This” is the brand that “Simple Shirts” represents without compromise. Call us. We’re here to serve you today!
- Luke McClellan