DECIDING WHICH TECHNOLOGY tools to use in your screen printing business is hard and complicated. When I started my shop four years ago, I knew I had to find advantages that’d set me apart in this crowded printing/decorating space. In the beginning, it wasn’t so clear what that advantage would be.
After trying a few strategies to grow the company – wasting time and money along the way – we (my wife/co-owner, Erline) put a rough plan together to shift our company to be more lightweight and flexible. My personal goal was to run my screen printing shop mainly from my laptop and smartphone, with my team on the backend supporting me.
In addition to wanting to grow the business, we were looking for a lifestyle change. We’ve always enjoyed traveling, but our new business was taking up all of our precious time. The only way to continue traveling was to transform our shop into a more flexible business. This allowed us to live our lives the way we wanted.
One of the strategies that allowed us to grow steadily the last four years, give us more freedom, take care of our customers, and learn the business, is having strong foundational technology tools. With experience running big businesses for other people and a degree in management information systems, I knew technology and technology tools are big assets to have within a business. If properly decided on and properly implemented, technology tools can quickly turn a relatively small business into a big business.
Hopefully, you’ll find these five amazing technology tools useful for your business. They certainly have been helpful to us. After deciding what works best for you and your shop you’ll likely need to decide on how to integrate them and make them custom to your way of working. Want to see how we’ve customized our technology tools? Are you having trouble choosing, setting up, or integrating your technology tools for your screen printing business? Send me an email at [email protected].
Here are five of the top tech tools I recommend using in your shop.
Google is arguably the number one company in the world in helping businesses manage and organize their information. Google’s technology tools, for the most part, are simple to use. With most of their tools being cloud-based, your information is always with you, as long as you have an internet connection. Google Workspace offers professional email with your domain name, cloud-based storage, word processing, spreadsheets to easily craft and organize information, and so much more.
Here are some of the ways we use Google Workspace products:
- Gmail – We use tags, template messages, and search to organize information. Template messages are a huge time saver and allow us to delegate repetitive customer service tasks confidently.
- Google Drive – We use this as our main source of storage. This gives us the flexibility of organizing our information in folders and in the cloud. This also allows us to share files and folders with people outside our company in an easy way without exposing sensitive information.
- Google Docs and Sheets – We use Google Docs and Sheets to create instructions for our team, blog posts, and sales letters, and track performance and trends. Google Sheets is a powerful tool that allows us to organize and manipulate information as needed.
For a small to midsize print shop, Google Workspace applications should be your foundational tools. Use them properly and you’re already on your way to freeing yourself from your business. If you do not like Google products and you want an alternative, try Zoho.
As your business starts to grow, you’ll be forced to have a system that helps manage all incoming information, the internal flow of work, and outgoing messages. That’s when a shop management software comes into play. The earlier you can get started with one, the better.
Without a shop management system, it will be total chaos inside your company and your chance of growing and freeing yourself from your business will be almost impossible. Our favorite shop management system (and the easiest to use) is Printavo. Printavo allows you to send out quotes, collect payments, manage your job workflow using job status, and so much more. Printavo’s core features just work and, frankly, work really well.
Having all your business information with you all the time through your laptop or smartphone is powerful. I was on vacation with my wife and kids, and my guys at the shop were having issues with one of our top clients about pricing. While I’m by the pool, I did some quick updates on my end, and in less than five minutes, I told them to send it. End result: happy customer and good sales for us.
We’ve tried other shop management systems, but Printavo is by far the easiest and most user-friendly software to use in our industry. Besides being a great software to use, Printavo has created a strong community of screen printers and decorators that share industry knowledge amongst themselves. Alternatives to Printavo are: InkSoft, ShopWorks, and ShopVox.
Telephone communication is a major part of our industry. No matter how much technology advances, people still want to talk to people and build personal connections. Telephones are the next best thing after a face-to-face meeting. Having a reliable and easy-to-use phone system is important in most businesses. And that is where RingCentral comes in.
RingCentral is a cloud-based telephone system. It allows you to make phone calls and send text messages all from your laptop or mobile phone app. Early on, one of our biggest pains was managing inbound inquiries via telephone calls and text messages. We didn’t want to be stuck to a traditional phone connected to the wall, and we didn’t want to get additional devices just to answer business calls.
We tried a few other telephone solutions and they just didn’t work out. After trying RingCentral, it has fit our business perfectly and gives us the ability to grow and add users as our business needs change. You also get a powerful messaging system that allows you to chat, do video calls, manage calendars, and manage tasks. RingCentral has become a major part of our business, helping us handle both internal and external communications.
Communicating clearly is important in business because everyone is mobile and looking for convenience. We’ve found the best way to communicate is through video. Screen capturing and recording has become a favorite tool of ours. It allows us to communicate clearly and quickly. There are a lot of screen capturing tools available in the market. We tried a few of them, and our favorite so far has been Loom. Loom is a cloud-based screen recording software tool. It allows you to quickly record your screen/voice and share it using a custom link. It’s super easy to use, and that’s our favorite part.
We communicate with graphic designers via Loom, giving them detailed instructions about artwork projects. Before, we typed instructions and sent them via email or chat – no bueno. This change to video has reduced the amount of back and forth (and pain) by a lot. A project that would have two to three revisions to complete is now done correctly the first time. The time saving is crazy.
In certain situations, we also communicate with our clients through Loom. Sometimes, it’s just easier to show someone something than explaining it with voice alone. For more complex situations that involve many moving parts or are technical in nature, using a video is likely the best way to go. With Loom, we simply record our screen with our voice over it and share via email using a link.
Your website is likely the first place customers will find you or learn more about you. Having an effective, professional, and clean website is key. We’ve tried Wix, GoDaddy, WordPress, and Squarespace. We’ve even had a developer create something fully custom for us. After trying all of these, our favorite website platform by far is Squarespace.
Most screen printer’s websites simply need to be able to do only a few things: tell a story, display some content about your authority, and capture leads. Overcomplicating your website isn’t bringing in any extra money or benefiting your visitor. Websites on other platforms may look good and have a lot of features, but is it really worth it?
As a small business owner, your time is likely the most valuable thing you offer. Messing around with website platforms that are complicated and require a long learning curve is just not worth it. For us, Squarespace is the right balance between effectiveness and convenience, and it also looks good. Some benefits of Squarespace are ecommerce built-in, email campaign upgrade options, and perks for building multiple websites on their platform.
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