Success Stories with Marshall Atkinson

Success Stories EP 24 - "Turn the Tables on Marshall" with Marshall Atkinson

July 14, 2021 Marshall Atkinson Season 1 Episode 24
Success Stories with Marshall Atkinson
Success Stories EP 24 - "Turn the Tables on Marshall" with Marshall Atkinson
Show Notes Transcript

Guess what?  With this episode, Season 1 of the Success Stories podcast is officially in the books!  Thank you so much for tuning in and enjoying the stories of success that have been shared on this show.

We thought it might be fun to turn the tables on me as the interviewer, and we’ve asked some of the guests from this season to record and send in some questions for me to answer.  Six of this year’s guests were asked to ask me three questions.  

One was on a topic I gave them, question two was something they wanted to know about how to improve their business, and the third was a completely fun and silly question.

Tune in to hear the questions that Danny Rosin, Robert Fiveash, Traci Miller, Mark Graham, Monica Maglaris, Alison Banholzer, and Brett Bowden have in store for me.  By the way, if you like their questions and want to revisit their episodes, don’t forget to click and launch those conversations!



Marshall Atkinson  

Guess what? With this episode, season one of Success Stories Podcast is officially in the books. Thank you so much for tuning in and enjoying the stories of success that I have been sharing on this show. We thought it might be fun to turn the tables on me as the interviewer. And we've asked some of the guests from this season to record and send in some questions for me to answer. 

Six of this year's guests were asked to ask me three questions. One was a topic I gave them, question two was something they wanted to know about how to improve their business, and the third was a completely fun and silly question. So, tune in to hear the questions that Danny Rosin, Robert Fiveash, Traci Miller, Mark Graham, Monica Maglaris, Alison Banholzer, and Brett Bowden have in store for me. By the way, if you liked their questions and want to revisit their episodes, don't forget to click and launch those conversations. And now the first group of questions is from Danny Rosin and Robert Fiveash with Brand Fuel. They were the guests from Episode 1. So, it's only fair to give them the first opportunity to ask me questions.

Robert Fiveash and Danny Rosin  

Marshall, hey, it's Robert and Danny from Brand Fuel. Thank you for the chance to chat with you today, man. We appreciate the opportunity to turn the tables on you. We are going to hit you with just a few questions here, and Dr. Rosin is up. All right, Marshall. Here we go. Question number 1: We're all juggling a lot right now, man. And I think it would be good to figure out what's in your head with regard to strategic planning? How can you help businesses get where they're going in the future? And what are three trends and marketing is related to the promo industry that we need to get out ahead of?

Marshall Atkinson  

That's a very interesting question about strategic planning. So, I think there are a couple of things that we need to unpack here about how to do it best. And I think it really revolves around four points. 

The first is that we want to set goals. So, we want to find out where is the flag that we're going to plant on top of the mountain? We want clarity on that. So, where are we going? So, if our goals are for strategic planning are all about the destination, we want to create a new online store for customers, or we need to have more visibility in the marketplace around creativity, or whatever you're trying to do. What is the final goal that you're trying to build? You should write that down and be very crystal clear about exactly what you're trying to do. Next is, we want to build the tools that are going to allow us to achieve that goal. Right? So, what are tools are you going to need? Are you going to need a new website or you need a new logo? Are you going to need a new dashboard for tracking your KPIs? What are the tools that you need to be able to hit that goal? So, let's talk about those tools let's capture that. The third is, we want to know our numbers, right? So, we want to be able to track our data. So, what does success look like? What data are we capturing? What is a good number? What is a bad number? We want to clarify that. And then lastly, we want to be able to support our team. What do they need to be successful? Do they need our training? Do they need technology? Do they need a new computer or a cell phone or some marketing assets? Do they need a PDF or e-book that they can send clients? What do they need to be successful? So, we want to build all four of these things, goals, tools, numbers, and support to be able to hit our strategy with what we're trying to do. And then, what are the three trends that have really blossomed in the last year in the promotional product space? I think a great question. 

And I really want to just start off with the fact that I think anything leading with empathy has proven to be a real game-changer. So, people who just came across as robotic or not really present, and didn't really try to understand your customer's problems, I think they really had a hard time of it. I think the people who try to be human, who try to leave with human to human marketing, who are really using stories to help with that engagement, to help to make connections to help build on past relationships, those are the people who have really gotten ahead of the game. And so, if you think about doing that, that is with Clubhouse, that is with Tik Tok, that is with videos, that's with podcasts -- that's what I'm doing, right? We're sharing stories. So, I think these are the things that are really resonating in the marketplace, is being human in everything that we can possibly do, and that is going to lead to more business. The next thing is the fact that we really want to see more with the online store space. I think that's not going away. I think promotional products, it's a natural fit. Because we can showcase products, we can showcase those things that solve problems for our customers, and that's with apparel or other merchandise, and we can make it easy for the end customer to order. 

And for promo folks, they can build these stores, they can be marketing these stores, they can be taking the friction and problems off of our customers' plates, and really owning that. And that's going to help you become more valuable to your customers. And the last thing I think is really gained some traction is the notion of sustainability. Right? So, can we do more with less? The things that we're trying to sell? Is it something that's going to be a lasting item? Or is that something going direct to the landfill? And I think we really uncovered that in our episode when we talked about the notion of brand fill, right? Where you're making that dress ball, and it's viewed for two seconds, and then as strong right into the recycle bin or the trash. That's not making any lasting impressions on anybody. So, if we're creating things in a promo space, we want to get as many impressions and views as possible. So, what are those items, and I think apparel is something that's proven to be sticky. And that is going to be around for a long time. But it's not just any apparel, right? So it's that exact shirt, that exact branding or design on that shirt. And how you come across with that. I think that really matters. So that's my answer to that question.

 

Robert Fiveash and Danny Rosin  

Okay, good one. And Marshall, number 2, as we all know, culture is hugely important in all of our companies and COVID has really diminished that impact because folks are working from home, and they're not able to get together and enjoy the camaraderie of the past that contributed to that culture. And now COVID is on the wane, and we're trying to get folks back in the office, and some are very comfy staying at home. We are wondering what your suggestions are on finding that balance of getting folks back in the office. And, trying to create that culture again, but also being aware of their needs and desires to stay and work from home.

 

Marshall Atkinson  

Right. So culture is really important to companies. And I think if we're trying to kind of dial in how we're getting back to our office, and we're trying to get people to make those connections again and get back from working at home. They've really enjoyed doing that they have enjoyed that flexibility. They learned that they can work from home and be just as good as working in the office. So why do we need to work in the office? I think you really need to unpack the reason why you want that? Is it because you want to keep track of their time again, right? Do you need your heavy thumb as a business owner keeping track of them? Is that what you're trying to do? Or is it really about the need to foster those engagements, you know, over the water cooler in the break room or that kind of stuff? That really helps you build a better team and cohesiveness and what you are working on. Right? So, I think you can do that these days with just having maybe an open Zoom call. 

Let's say it's from 10 till one o'clock in the afternoon, where zoom is just on. If you want to jump on and chat you can if you don't, hey, no big deal. And then maybe we all eat lunch together at the same time. Doing that open Zoom call, and we can just talk about whatever we're talking about, has nothing to do with anything with business, just like in the office -- can you do something like that? And also, I see a lot of companies, a lot of my coaching clients, sometimes they're having a hybrid model where somebody works from home on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and then on Tuesdays and Thursdays are coming in on the afternoons and stuff like that. And that seems to be really working. Because I think a lot of people don't like the downtime of the commute anymore, right? So we're fighting that traffic, it's 30 minutes, it's an hour for some people. And that's just lost productivity. 

So, I think the reason why people want to do more with working from home is they realize they can have more control over their life, they can have more control over their work performance and output. Just by doing things a little better, and they can be more efficient about it. But I think as leaders, we have to recognize the fact that we want them in the office, we want them to be doing some things. So how can we make this work for everybody? I think it's by talking to them and finding out what you're really trying to accomplish is how you're going to make this work.

 

Robert Fiveash and Danny Rosin  

For the last one, for the fun question that you've asked us for. Music's a big part of Robert and my life and Brand Fuel and our culture. And we also feel like music is a common thread for just about everyone. So, this one's music-related. We want to it's a kind of a two-part thing here. We want to know what your secret roll-down-the-window, desert-island-jukebox, possibly embarrassing favorite karaoke song is? Let's name this song that makes you cry. That is the most important question. What was the song that makes you cry?

 

Marshall Atkinson  

And then lastly, the fun question is about music. And I love music I'm a music nerd. Maybe not so much as y'all love them. But, I'm a music nerd. And then, what really kind of gets me going is any music. I love music, I love all types. But I specifically sing along to music that has been around and part of my life for a long time. And that's got to be 80's and maybe early 90's music which is going to be Van Halen, Metallica, Rush, AC DC, ZZ Top, The Clash, Beastie Boys - Licensed to Ill, I think I know every word on that whole album. David Bowie, Queen, Dire Straits, I'm a huge Mark Knopfler guy, right? Eagles, Leonard Skynyrd. These are the bands that I really resonate with. And I really love hearing them, and if I'm on a long drive, you know I'm seeing into the songs. But it doesn't just stop there. There’re more bands that I really like. And I think anything that I grow up with that has really good memories, too, that's something I'm singing. But I'll tell you what I'm not doing is I'm not doing karaoke because my voice sounds like we just sacrificed a cow. So that's something you're not going to hear. 

But if I'm alone in the car, or maybe with my family, I'm singing along and they had to put up with it. So, alright, and then part 2 of that is What song do I cry to? Let me tell you. There's one song that always gets me. It was written in 1961 by Willie Nelson. Let's see if you can guess what it is. 1961 by Willie Nelson, made famous by Patsy Cline. Do you know this song? And it's "Crazy". It's a really old song. It always gets me It reminds me of my mom. I'm about to tear up right now just thinking about it. She passed away a couple of years ago, and this one always gets me, it's such a sad song. Anyway, this is it. Thanks for the downer question guys. So that's it "Crazy" by Willie Nelson, recorded by Patsy Cline. So, thanks, guys appreciate you.

 

Robert Fiveash and Danny Rosin  

Alright, Marshall, we love you man. We appreciate what you do for the industry and uplifting everyone with your education connection points. The work you did in the promo kitchen We miss you bud and be safe. Take care, man. Thanks.

 

Marshall Atkinson  

The next set of questions comes from Traci Miller with Color3. She is the owner of a contract decorating company in Ohio and was a guest on episode 6. Here are her questions for me.

 

Traci Miller  

In the current climate, it is difficult to find and keep employees. What suggestions do you have on improving how to attract and retain quality team members?

 

Marshall Atkinson  

So, to me, suggestions to attract and retain quality team members are all about the clarity of expectations that you have for your team. So, it's Who are you picking to be on your varsity? This all comes from hiring, right? So, if you've hired well, you won't have any trouble retaining your employees. Right? So, I think this is about who you're letting on a team, to begin with. And then really being picky about who you bring on. Right? So, you have to start with that. I know that recruiting is really difficult these days. And I've talked with lots of shops over the last six months since COVID. I think everybody's really struggling with finding employees. And some people, there's just nobody around. 

So here are some things that have really helped. The first is getting other employees to help recruit for you. Right? They, people know who is available. They've got a friend, they've got a cousin, it's their brother, I mean, who knows, they know who needs a job. And if they like working for you, because you've got such a fantastic culture, it's easy for them to sell that person on why they should come work for you. 

Another great thing is to give them a bonus. And back when I was running shops, we had a $250 bonus for employees if they brought in an employee to come work for us. And we paid that bonus when they hit their 90 days. And that seems to really work. Right? Because everybody knows people who are out there. The other thing I think that especially these days, there's no hiding it. Everybody knows what everybody makes. And in your city, I bet people in other shops know what you pay. Okay, so if you kind of make it a point to find out what other positions are paying, and then pay about 20-10-20% more than that, I think that people will start coming to you to come to work. Because it just makes sense. Everybody's doing the same job, why not pay them more? And of course, you have to be able to afford that. And that's a whole different subject. But I think if you pay them a little more then I think you can find people. 

Next up is a signing bonus. For the employee, not just for the neighbor referral, but I know some shops right now who are giving $100 bucks $200 bucks. I know a shop is giving a $500 signing bonus if you come to work for me. So maybe that's something that can help. And then, of course, other benefits and that kind of stuff. So maybe those are some things that can help you find and retain and recruit employees.

 

Traci Miller  

Since you and I met hanging at the bar at a THREADX conference. When it comes to craft beer. Do you prefer IPAs or lagers?

 

Marshall Atkinson  

The third question is my favorite craft beer. Alright, so Traci, my favorite craft beer is not an IPA, is not a lager. I actually don't like those beers. Right? What I like is a German hefeweizen, and I also like your British-style ale. Those are my two favorites. So, if I'm in a bar ordering a beer, those are the beers that I try to stick with because I really liked them. So, I like the hefeweizen the best. I discovered that beer when I actually went to Oktoberfest in Germany in the mid-90s with about 10 guys. So, we had a really great week and a half trip to Germany. And that's all I drank. And when I came back, I couldn't get enough. I really stick to Hefeweizen if can't. But I like the British-style ale and then of course, when it's really cold, I tend to go more stouts and porters, so I just kind of like those flavors. So, thank you, Tracy. Appreciate your questions, you rock. 

 

Marshall Atkinson  

Well, next up is Mark Graham, who is the owner and co-founder of the industry software giant Commonsku. He was a fantastic guest on episode 12 of Success Stories. Let's see what questions he might have for me.

 

Mark Graham  

Hey there, this is Mark Graham. I am one of the founders of Commonsku. And I'm delighted to be presenting some questions to Marshall today. My first question is, what skill is most important in today's business leader. Has that skill changed in the last 10 years?

 

Marshall Atkinson  

So, the most important skill in today's business leader; I'm going to have to go with communication. So, Mark, you have to be able to clearly communicate intent, and why something is important. I think, as businesses, we all have different sets of challenges. And we can't solve them ourselves. We have to let our team help. I think communication is going to be that skill that we need. Because we have to be able to articulate why we're doing it, why it's a problem, why we need to solve it. And then as we're working to solve it, we have to communicate what's going on, right? 

There's a transition period where we're working on things, and then sometimes, things don't go our way. We have to communicate, why we need to change, or why we need to stop and reassess and make some different directions and keep moving forward. So, communication is going to be the key to that. And this can be in many forms. It can be their written form, you know, just an email, asking questions or a follow-up, maybe have an internal newsletter, that type of stuff. It can be a video, I like creating videos, and I send them to folks all the time. So, video could be a powerful tool, it can be text messaging, or maybe an app -- a piece of software using where you're putting notes in, or your kind of sending stuff back and forth. So. anything you're using and has to be able to be usable for everybody and everybody using the same tool. That way you're getting your point across and everybody's responsive to it.

 

Mark Graham  

Question number two. Coming out of the pandemic, what are the top two or three opportunities that exist for businesses in the promotional products industry that did not exist before the pandemic?

 

Marshall Atkinson  

Well, I think I'm going to have to lead with what everybody basically kept their company afloat with, which is PPE. Masks, hand sanitizer, and that type of stuff. Everybody pivoted to that. And I think that's the reason why we made it out of COVID alive. But nobody's buying that stuff now. Right? So, you have to ask yourself, was that the equivalent of the fidget spinner, and I'm going to say it is. But, I think what we can learn about that is that we need to be able to find that connection, where humanizing our brand connection with our customers. So that's what I'm leading into. So, we use PPE, to help solve problems for customers. 

So right now, what is the next thing that we should be asking? How can we make that connection for our customers? And that's what we're going to be leading into that next thing. And I really think that the next thing is going to be online stores and fulfillment. And so, I think what we learned through the pandemic is that people need to make that connection. And I think people are obviously online all the time. And an online store is a really frictionless environment, to be able to order things that help our customers. And that could be a box of stuff, you know, a shirt, a coffee mug, and some candy, or whatever, for those stay-at-home folks. Or it could be a brand connection that you're doing something for a virtual trade show or a follow-up to a presentation. These are all things I think we do really well in the promo space because we're all about sourcing the right product, with the right colors with the right design. And we're making it easy for our customers to solve that problem of the connection. And I think that is where our superpower is right now. And it's in that fulfillment part of it, where we really distanced ourselves from the competition if you've nailed that. And then lastly, with this idea, I think it's the next level. 

The next level on that journey is going to be used using variable data. So, it's not only about that online store, that fulfillment. It's that that person receives the box, the T-shirt, the mug, or whatever. And then that something is personalized for that person and doesn't just have the company name, logo, designer, whatever. It's got my face on it, it's got my name on it. It's got something that resonates with me, on a personal level. That's what I'm getting in the mail. That's what I'm getting from the online store. So, I think the next level of this isn't going to be sending out 1000 boxes, and everything's the same. We're sending 1000 boxes, and it's 1000 different variables, I think the next level of that is going to be solving that problem. And I think that's where the excitement is going to be. So great question Mark. 

 

Mark Graham  

Question number three. Marshall, what have you learned the most about yourself after three decades in the decorated apparel industry?

 

Marshall Atkinson  

And then the last answer for you, Mark. Is all about what I've learned about myself after three decades -- holy cow, three decades in this business. It's going to be about a couple of things. I think when I started in this industry, I started as an art director, I was a lot younger. And what I've learned over three decades is that I have grown as a planner, as an organizer, I've learned how to delegate better, I've learned how to communicate, which is tying my first answer back there. I think, but I think more than anything, what I've learned is that I need to slow down, I need to stop, and what I need to do more than anything is research. I need to be able to learn, what are the next set of problems that are coming around the corner? What is going to be my answers and be my reaction to this stuff? And so, this happens in many different ways. It happens by participating in communities. 

You know, I was a promo kitchen chef for a long time. I learned so much from guys like you, I read a lot of books, I attend trade shows, I talked to just different people. I'm open to finding the answers to questions that I mean, needed. I don't even know that I know the question yet. Just by talking with people and paying attention. That's what I've really learned in three decades of doing this stuff, is the fact that you just have to be open. What you did, you know what I was doing in the early 90s? I don't think that exists anymore. I've grown so much, and have transformed myself in so many different ways. And that's because I have invested the time in learning. And I think that's something that's really set me up for success. Great question Mark, thank you so much for asking that.

 

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Like what you hear so far? Be sure to subscribe so you can get the latest from Success Stories. And now here's Zach Shortly with our S&S spotlight. 

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Marshall Atkinson  

Episode 18 of this year's Success Stories podcast was a lot of fun. It featured Monica Maglaris with Liberty Print Co. She's a dynamo and I always enjoy talking to her. And in fact, the entire idea for this "Turn the Tables on Marshall" came from her shop -- one of her employees. So, let's see what questions she has in store for me.

 

Monica Maglaris  

Hey, Marshall, it's Monica here at Liberty print Co. We have a couple of questions for you. I have one about staff training. At Liberty, we try to have everyone kept shirts no matter what position they're hired for. We want everyone to know that catching shirts and doing quality control is an important job. What other job in a shop, would you suggest that everyone try?

 

Marshall Atkinson  

So what other job in a shop would you suggest that everyone learn? Here's what I'm going to go with. I'm going with organizing today for tomorrow's production. And the reason I'm going with this is that I know that organization is the key. It's the bedrock of being efficient, right? So, if you can have someone today be in charge of planning and executing tomorrow's production, which means they're in charge of deciding what are we ready to print with or embroider or digital print or whatever. Do we have all the shirts? Do we have all the threads? Do we have all the ink? Do we have all those screens? To have every single thing that we possibly need for tomorrow's production. And what we're going to do is we're doing a scavenger hunt today, we're going to get those screens, those inks, that thread, all that stuff. We're going to side on the exact order we want the jobs to run in. We're going to pull all that today, and we're going to set it up next to the equipment in the order we want it to run in. 

And what we're going to do is we're going to take turns getting that organization done, and then you'll quickly realize: how those screens aren't ready, or the ink isn't next, or out of that thread color or whatever. You're going to realize that you're not ready for that. And taking turns and discovering where you need to go is where I think that is really going to help you because that planning that staging touches every single department in your shop. So that's going to be my answer.

 

Monica Maglaris  

My next question is, and this is just a general business and screen printing one. If you had one ultimate tip, one nugget of pure screen-printing business gold; what would it be?

 

Marshall Atkinson  

So, my ultimate business tip? What is my screen-printing gold? I think if you guys have learned anything from me, I'm listening. It's gonna have to start with your business plan. And the idea of writing a business plan is articulating who is your number one best customer? And then knowing exactly who that is? What are their pain points? What are they struggling with? And what is your answer to that? Do you have the answer to that pain, to that problem? And are you the best on the planet at that? If you have that dialed in, you will have the world beating a path to your door. If you're trying to sell people stuff, what you're gonna find is they're not ready to buy because they don't understand it. If you have the answer to their main question, their biggest problem and struggle, they're going to find you. That's the difference, right? So, I would say start with your business plan, and figure out what your customers' pain points are, solve those problems, and then make that your unfair advantage that your whole business revolves around is solving people's problems. Not putting ink on cotton, and just being a commodity-based printer. So that's my answer.

 

Monica Maglaris  

And the third question comes from one of our favorite people here at Liberty. Sarah Mulholland, one of our awesome artists, was actually the one who decided she wanted to flip the tables on you and ask you some questions. Unfortunately, well, not unfortunately, she's out on vacation, but so I'm going to ask it for her. She wanted to know; Marshall, every superhero has an origin story. So, what's yours? How did you get started in our beloved industry?

 

Marshall Atkinson  

Thank you for that question, Sarah. I really appreciate it. Too bad you're on vacation. But maybe you're having fun at the beach and I'm happy that you are. And I really appreciate your inspiration of asking this because that's how this whole podcast episode started was your idea. So, thank you so much. And thank you to Monica, for asking the question for her. So, my origin story is all about me coming out of a divorce. That's right, a divorce. In 1989, I had done some shirts and stuff, you know, back when I was in college. But I wanted to get my master's degree in architecture. And so, I started graduate school. And I started a T-shirt business with a friend of mine, and we were going after the fraternity and sorority market at Florida State. 

This was a business that was all about managing and selling to the Greek community. And this was so long ago it was before computers. So, I did everything by hand that's right, by hand. And so I created the artwork and had a company print the shirts for me. And so, while I was in school, I had somebody sell the shirts for me, and I would just do the artwork and get everything printed. And then there's this thing that came along, called the personal computer. And the guy that was running the shop there printing the shirts for me suggested, "Hey, you might want to look into this". So over Christmas break, I taught myself how to use a very early version of Photoshop. I taught myself how to use Freehand, which is kind of a precursor to Illustrator. And I just recreated designs that have already been printed and then I never went back to school. So, I never got my graduate degree. 

But I became an Art Director in 1993, I started with this company and was their art director for 14 years. And that company grew to be one of the top 3 t-shirt printers in the United States. And then I, we did all of the work for some major contract players, we did work for Nike, we did stuff for Coca Cola, did stuff for Chick-Fil-A, I was the Art Director for them, I design shirts for those companies, and many, many more. And then I was always the guy that said, hey, there's a better way of doing this. There's a better way of handling whatever, right? So, I got promoted to Vice President of Operations. So, I was in charge of the whole production. So, from that, that's why I started my whole journey down Lean Six Sigma, around sustainability, and all those things. I left that company, months shy of 18 years, I was a casualty of the recession. And I left them in 2010. I started my consulting business the day after, and then I moved to Milwaukee to work for Visual Impressions as their Chief Operating Officer. Much larger shop, but I was able to take everything I learned in that first business, and help them transform into a really super-efficient contract decorating shop. I had a five-year contract, and I left them in 2016 on my contract was up. Eventually made my way down here to Arizona where I worked now, start I've been consulting since 2010. Just as kind of a side hustle 2018, I did it full time.

And so now here I am, full-time consulting with shops all over the world, really, I've international clients. I have most of you here in the United States. But I have lots of fun doing and working with shops, both as a consultant and also with my Shirt Lab business. And so there you go. So, thank you so much for that great question. Sarah, and Monica, appreciate you guys. 

 

Marshall Atkinson  

Brett Bowden is not only one of the nicest guys in the industry, but he just may well be the most fun. His laid-back and quirky personality always means that unique conversation, loaded with laughter, but with good insight as well. So, Brett was a guest on episode 9, which was focused on company culture. Let's hear what he has in store for me. 

 

Brett Bowden  

Hey there, my name is Brett Bowden from Fort Worth, TX. And a company called Printed Threads. And here today I'm going to ask Marshall a few questions. So, my first question for Marshall Atkinson is about production scheduling. And we've figured out how to map out how long each job should take on average. And we have all of this down. And obviously, we want to fill every minute of the day up with printing. And we do this we block it all off. But is the age-old problem of customer service always wanting to take more orders than we can produce? So, my question for Marshall, is how do we handle rush orders the best? And how do we make sure that we have time to do rush orders that pay well and serve our customers well?

 

Marshall Atkinson  

That's a very interesting question, Brett, thanks for asking that. So, my answer to that is first off is about how you're just doing production scheduling in its entirety. And I'll get into rush orders after that. So, what I like to see and what I think really works best is that when orders come in, let's say today's a Monday, as orders come in on Tuesday, what we're going to do is we're going to schedule all the jobs that came in yesterday, to the date that we want to run the job on could be next Thursday or something to the actual machine we're going to run the job on. And we know that from data analysis, how long our setups take on average on that machine, how fast that machine normally runs. 

We can also say that in between each job, we can allow 10 or 15 minutes of turnover time. And that way we can accurately account for exactly the averages of everything that works. Now, knowing that -- some jobs are faster than others. A left chest is going to screen-print faster than a full front, and you're going to run a T-shirt faster than you do hoodies. But if you're keeping accurate data, you might be able to get the data on those different types of setups and garments to have averages that are applicable to those exact scenarios. So, when you're trying to schedule you know that a left chest runs at 600 an hour, but a full front might run at 400 an hour. But there's the same amount of colors. So, your setup time still might be 10 or 15 minutes depending on how fast you do things. 

For rush jobs, what I always recommend is that there is a way in your system to mark-demarcate those with a special code, with a special color, with a special something. So, it's kind of like the Disney Fastpass. They go to the head of the line in every department. So, if you have a rush job, they're purchased first, they're received first, the screens are burned first, embroidery digitizing happens first, everything happens first in each of those departments. It moves to the headline, so there is no waiting on it. Because of that critical circumstance of it being a rush job. Then, when it comes down to production, what we're going to be doing is the day before production, let's say its next week on that Thursday that we've been scheduling stuff too, on Wednesday, we're going to look at our schedule of all the jobs that we have to run tomorrow, on Thursday. And what we're going to do is we're going to do the scavenger hunt today. This means we're going to get the shirts, and the screens, and the thread. If it's embroidery, we're going to find the samples, and the mock-ups, and everything that we need. We're going to pull all that together. And we're going to stage it by the end of the day on Wednesday, for Thursday morning. And those rush jobs are the absolute first things that we're going to do. And that way, they're knocked out first. And if there's any way possible to do them Wednesday, at the end of the day, before Thursday, that's even better, that's great. Because you've already knocked out the biggest part of your job was just to get the rush jobs out first. So that's the answer to my question. Thanks, Brett.

 

Brett Bowden  

Alright, so my second question for Marshall has to do with the receiving department. I know all of our companies have had a lot of issues over the past year with garments having come from multiple warehouses and also multiple vendors. So, we receive hundreds of boxes a day from UPS and FedEx. And what we know is, we're not going to receive all the garments today that we might need to receive for our order. So how do we keep our warehouses nice and organized and know that there's still product coming for this order? And it is, we don't know what day it's going to come. It might be coming in the next few days. How do we keep all that stuff organized, knowing that the full shipment has not arrived and it is not available to print yet?

 

Marshall Atkinson  

Okay, well. Here are some things that we know. First off, we can't control our vendors, we can't control when they're shipping it to us, we can't control UPS or FedEx and when they're delivering. All we can control is what happens once the packages land on our docks. So, what I want people to think about is not so much, "how do we get these other people to help us" because they're not. What I want you to think about is how that we can control the process in our facility, right? And the thing that I've used over the years is a simple method that works fantastic. Which you organize everything by the last digit of the work order number. 

So, we have the last digits that can be anywhere from zero to a nine. So, what you do is you create spaces for everything that ends in a zero, everything that ends in a one, or a two, etc., and so forth, all the way to a nine. And you have that for fully received, have that for partially received. So, when you're let's say, UPS is that your dock and the truck and load and you have 150 packages to wade through, what I want you to do is I want you to organize these by the order of what you have. So, you see on the packing slip, it'll say package one of one, or two of two, or whatever it is. And as I'm looking through the packages coming in, I want to sort these to a skid as they're coming off the truck. So, the UPS driver hands you a box, it's one of one. Well, that's going to go on the single skid. Oh, it's one of two, two of two are still on the truck. I've got a skid for just two boxes, right? So, these are coming in, you're going to segregate them off the truck. And then what you're going to do, is you're going to start counting and checking them in, all we want to do is check against the packing list to make sure that what's in the box matches the packing list. So that's the first step. 

The second step is to check the packing list against what's in your system. And that tells you if the job was fully received or not. So, what you're going to do is you're going to check and let's just say for discussion, it's a box of 72 shirts, and that's all the shirts for an order, you're going to check that and against the system, you're going to find that as job number 123456. It's fully received, that's really great. You print the box label, you put it in the upper left-hand corner of the short side of the box, and you stage it in the six-row over where you keep all your inventory that's ready for it to run for production. The next job you check in it's for 100 shirts, and you're missing 20 according to your system. And this job number 123457, let's say. So, what you're going to do is you're going to print a box label, you're going to put the box label on the boxes, and you're going to write a big "P" with a big fat magic marker and circle it that tells everybody that this is a partially perceived job, you can't run it yet, we're waiting on something. And you're going to stick those two boxes over in the seven-row. And you're going to be waiting for the other 20 shirts to come in, maybe tomorrow or whenever they come in, right? If you've got the information about when the shirts come in, and maybe you have tracking numbers, then you know that the job other 20 shirts are coming in the day after tomorrow, whatever and you can then schedule your job accordingly. 

But we all know that we can't print the job until all the shirts are here. So, if you can, try to get all the tracking numbers. And so, by segregating things between fully received and partially received, it's easy to make decisions, especially if you're looking for things with the last digit of the work order number is just super simple. It takes two seconds to find whatever you're looking for, and staging anything and finding things to run jobs or make a job complete is a breeze. Did that confuse you?

 

Brett Bowden  

Well, for me personally, you know, we've dealt through this so deeply as a company. And we figured out you know, a lot of those same solutions is kind of asking it even as like, everybody needs to hear this right?

 

Marshall Atkinson  

 Yeah.

 

Brett Bowden  

Like such a hot topic.

 

Marshall Atkinson  

Yeah.

 

Brett Bowden  

A lot of people are struggling with so...

 

Marshall Atkinson  

Well, I used to do this for over 300 packages a day. So, I know that it works. 

 

Brett Bowden  

Yeah. I mean, it's crazy. Like the other day, like UPS pulled up the semis like...

 

Marshall Atkinson  

I've been there.

 

Brett Bowden  

Alright, Marshall. My last question for you. We all know that Friday's coming, and hopefully, we've had a great week. The economy's booming right now sales are good. It's time to celebrate. So you're going to your favorite Steakhouse. And you're going to sit down and you're going to order the perfect meal and the perfect beverage to go with that meal. And this is, this is no-frills. This is time to celebrate. We're going for it. What is your meal? And what is your drink?

 

Marshall Atkinson  

I love this. So, my perfect meal is a steak. So, it's funny that you said steakhouse, Brett. So, I like a filet -- I like it medium-rare. I like a Caesar salad with it. And I like people that make their own Caesar salad dressing, not from a bottle but they actually do it right with anchovies and all that, right? And I like some grilled asparagus with a little lemon and some parmesan cheese in it to go with a steak. And drink--the drink with it is got to be a really nice glass of Johnnie Walker blue scotch. That's it. 

 

Brett Bowden  

Alright, that's good, man.

 

Marshall Atkinson  

Well, thanks for doing this. I appreciate it. 

 

Brett Bowden  

Absolutely. 

 

Marshall Atkinson  

And I've saved the best for last. Ali Banholzer was the guest on episode 20. And our conversation was about her transformation with Lean Six Sigma and their processes to build more efficiency. What do you think Ali will have in store for me with her three questions?

 

Ali Banholzer  

Hi everyone. This is Ali Banholzer we're with Wear Your Spirit Warehouse. And I am super excited to turn the tables on Marshall. So here we go. Marshall, what is one hack that you haven't given us before? That will 10x the efficiency of a shop. So, if I put a minute into it, it's going to give me 10 minutes back out. Go.

 

Marshall Atkinson  

So what is going to give you the 10x efficiency improvement for your shop? Well, Allie, I got to tell you, do so much already. I don't know if I have a great answer for you. But my answer is going to be all about how you organize, and how you do things with small movements. All right? So, as you know, I'm a 1% guy, meaning we always try to get 1% better every day. So, when you're looking at your shop, what are you doing? What is going to make the best difference? And how does each person do things? And I think what you need to do is really challenge each of the employees to constantly come up with these small 1% things, right? 

So, I all think it all revolves around people and their activities being ready before they need to do something. So, this is all about mise en place, which is a restaurant term, which is all about being ready. Everything is in its place before you're reaching for that. So, for a chef, they already have the chopped onions, and the garlic, and the spices within an arm's reach of them. So, in your shop, who is doing that for these people? So, ask yourself, what is eating your time? So, when you're thinking about preparing? So, are your screens ready? Is the ink mixed? Is the thread counts already ready? Is everything already hooked for your embroidery operator? Or what are you doing to make it easier for them to do their work? That's what I think you really should focus on.

 

Ali Banholzer  

Marshall, what still gets you excited about running a shop? What still amazes you and awes you, and makes you excited?

 

Marshall Atkinson  

So, what still gets me excited about running a shop? That's all gonna be about people. I love training. I love teaching people. Back when I was in college, I have a degree in art. But at one point, I was actually going to become an art teacher. That was my kind of my goal was to teach art in high school. And I have always thought of myself as a teacher when I was running shops. I was always the manager, but in my brain, I want to teach people how to do whatever they're doing better. And if I didn't know the answer, I would find someone who did. And I would bring them in to teach them how to do something better. 

So, I love training and teaching people, it always thrills me to see people grow and use what I'm offering and scale, and somehow scale their part of the business. And one of my favorite things was finding people who were just the basic level line worker and finding something in them and giving them challenge tasks. Have them teach something that they have no idea how to do. And then they learn and learn and learn. And then in two or three years, they're in a position they never would have thought that they would have been qualified for. For example, I remember finding a catcher: single mom, a high school graduate, never went to college, didn't really even know how to turn on a computer. But this person had such a great personality. We brought them into the front office as a receptionist. 

We got her trained in how to do accounts receivables, how to look stuff up on the computer to send out invoices, all that kind of stuff. And then eventually she made her way to being a customer service rep. And this is an example of just giving her stretch goals, and being patient, and letting her make mistakes, and training her and how to do something that at one point she was never qualified for. But I remember the victory glow on her face when she came in one day and told me that she was able to close on buying a house. Now, remember, this person was an hourly catcher, a low-level worker, and then we gave her so many things. She learned so much that she was able to afford to buy a house because now she's in like mid-level stuff and her career's gone on and blossomed and she's doing great. 

But this is an example of training and setting people up for success. And I've gotten a lot of stories like that and it really always makes me happy to be able to position people like that, but it's only if they're wanting to do it. I've got just as many stories where people are happy with whatever their lot in life is, they didn't want to learn, and they were just stuck in that position. And eventually, they probably left the company, right? So, it's finding those people and training them and making them more successful in their life. That is what has always given me the biggest thrill. So great question, Allie. super appreciate you. Thank you for asking.

 

Ali Banholzer  

Alright, Marshall, what is your two to three-word moniker? Three words that describe Marshall. So, my three-word moniker is “Lifelong Learner”. What is your three-word moniker?

 

Marshall Atkinson  

What is my two to three-word moniker? And I Love Lifetime Learner. So that so describes you, Allie. And I think mine, and you know me, I don't think I can get one to fit for three words. Shirt Lab motto came for me, which is "Actions Reveal Priorities". That's Shirt Lab, that's not really Marshall Atkinson's. I think mine is going to have to be five words. And my five words are: "Your Preparation Determines Your Outcome". So, I'm always trying to set myself up for better success by being open. Being open to opportunities by reading books, by going places by talking with people by really kind of trying to understand things, and be willing to make mistakes. And maybe I don't know everything about something, but I'm okay with, stumbling my way through it while I figure things out. So that's kind of what my mantra has been. I think my whole life is "Your Preparation Determines Your Outcome". So that's how I've been able to do things over the years is just trying to be better prepared, and asking questions, and being open to finding the answers. Sometimes, you don't even know what the questions are you just "what is that?" Right? So, I think that's my answer. I don't know if that answers your question. That certainly wasn't in three words, but there you go. Thank you so much, Ali.

 

Marshall Atkinson  

So, thanks so much for listening to this fun episode of "Turn the Tables on Marshall". Hopefully, you got something out of it today. It was a lot of fun getting everyone to participate and I love getting my answers out there. Hopefully, it made sense to you. And that's me sharing my stories about stuff--my success. So, thank you so much for tuning in to Season 1 of Success Stories, appreciate you listening. If somebody wants to learn how they can contact me, you can reach out to [email protected]. Please, please, please subscribe to the podcast. Please share this with other people. And reach out to me if you would like to be on the show, or maybe have the idea for a podcast. I'd love to hear what you have. So anyway, that's it. You guys take care and we'll catch you next time. See you, bye!

 

Marshall Atkinson  

Well, that's our show today. Thanks for listening and don't forget to subscribe so you can stay up to date on the latest success stories episodes. Have any suggestions for future guests or topics? Send them my way at [email protected] and we'll see you next time!