rhinestone heritage back

 

I started this piece to tell the story of how we created a great looking hoodie for Heritage high school seniors class of 2017 but after a few sentences quickly realized that I wanted to tell the story of working with a particular customer.

I understand that a lot of customers are looking for a printer that will provide for them great service and have no idea why they go from one printer to the next printer to the next and they all provide crappy service.  The one place that they never seem to look is in the mirror.  I know that I am treading on dangerous territory if I say that the customer is actually part of the equation and not exclusively a victim when things don’t go right but I am always honest and fair.

I have been working with Dave Pilcher almost since my custom screen printing printing business started six years ago.  He and his wife had just kicked off a competitive cheer program and had just had a printer do a poor job of delivering their apparel on time and in good shape.  Not every job goes perfectly and I don’t actually know any company that bats 1000.

This last year Dave called and said that he was coaching cheer at Heritage high school again (he had tried to retire previously) was in need of cheer shirts because his team was wearing mismatched apparel.

Just a quick aside, I hate the way that it plays on kids heads when they are part of a team and one or two of the participants does not have the appropriate apparel and don’t look like they fit in.

Dave set an appointment to come in and to layout 4 or 5 shirts.  Dave showed up on time (always a plus) and knew what he wanted (awesome).  We sat down and started going through designs.  He had a couple of shirts in hand that he had liked and wanted slight modifications to them.  We put together another couple of quick designs in the computer and that was it.  5 designs put together in half an hour (btw I am very quick with the software; this allowed Dave to stay in the flow of creating instead of being distracted by me sucking and not knowing my software).

One of the things that Dave understands is the purpose of his designs.  It is cheer; the cheer leaders are going to be 10 to 70 feet from the audience and the design should be legible for most everyone.  I have seen a lot of pretty cheer designs that look good on the computer monitor but once your more than 5 feet away you cannot read it because of all the artsy touches (I said pretty designs but they actually sucked because they did not achieve the purpose of inspiring anything except confusion when in use).

While he was here we looked at the rhinestone design from the previous year (when he was trying to retire) and that coach had us stone up some jackets.  He wanted the “H” to be filled and some colors changed.  We settled on the pricing and he was on his way.

A couple of weeks later his shirts were in his hands and he was set.

The jackets were completed a bit later and they went out the door.

This is where I display a bit of that honesty part and tell you about how a couple of things did not quite go the way that they were intended.

Dave called and said that some of the glitter prints were showing signs of cracking and that some stones had fallen off of the jackets.  I asked him to collect what needed repair or replacement and let me know when I could pick up.

We stand behind all of our work even when we have to burn a few screens (this deletes profit very quickly) to make a single replacement because this is not just a money making activity to us.  I have turned down work on moral grounds and taken work that didn’t pay at all on moral grounds.

We were actually able to use the heat transfer press on the shirts, heal up the silver glitter and purple ink and return the shirts.

Many printers stay away from glitter because it requires special screens; the flakes get everywhere and it is slower to cure the ink because the glitter reflects some of the heat away.

Some of the stones on the jackets were very close to the seam and didn’t get enough pressure when they were applied.  The seam shielded the stones from the pressure of the heat plate being set on them which cause the adhesive to not go down into the fabric.  A few of the jackets had been from the previous season had lost some stones as well.  I don’t have a problem putting a few on their at no cost because it is important to me that the wearer looks sharp.

I am the father of two girls and know the difference in how girls respond to looking out of place and how guys respond to not looking their best in general.  Don’t write me about outliers.  When you are part of a team and your the only one wearing a blue shirt while the rest of the team wears red it draws unwanted attention and is distracting.  I had a girls athletics coach tell me one time that “Girls need to look good to play good and feel good.  Guys need to win to feel good.”  I know that some try to fight me on this and tell me that it shouldn’t be that way.  I don’t think changing girls to being like boys or vise versa is time well spent.

Back to the story.

The whole purpose of the story is that a coach (customer) has a serious affect on the process:

Showing up on time.  Showing up late puts a huge crunch and design time.  If Dave was late by thirty minutes and I had scheduled one hour for him we would have half the time to work with; this is not good for productivity.  It is very frustrating when a ten o’clock appointment shows up on time to see me sitting with another customer who is not finished because the first was a late.  I will tell the first that he will have to reschedule when we run out of time.  The entire time with the first customer is also distracted because I am expecting someone to walk through the door at any moment as well.

When something didn’t go right he called me up and let me fix it.  Not calling me would have guaranteed no resolution.  Dave knows after working with me for years that I care a lot and that my business is built on caring; not on ink and cotton.  From time to time someone walks through the door and complains about another printer.  I will ask how the printer responded when they called to complain and I am shocked when they say they didn’t call.  This is a huge warning sign to me and tells me that they are way too comfortable being a victim and don’t view themselves as participants in life.

One more word on caring.  I tell my employees that “You get to care here. That too many employers want obedient drones but that is not our case.  Yes, I want you to deliver consistently great results but your input matters and I don’t employ people that I don’t believe in.”

I said earlier in this piece that no business bats 1000.  This includes us.  We put our money where our mouth is on this.  I have flown jerseys from around the country to fix a volleyball teams “Pink out” jerseys because the player numbers had a strange texture to them.  The fans would not have noticed and they only use the jerseys for one game per year.  This act made it crystal clear to that coach that I can be counted on to make things right.  He told me later that he did not think that my company was going to deliver the 50 jerseys and certainly not on time (they had told me there was a problem late on Wednesday and the game was Saturday morning).  We put in the time and money to get the job done and those girls looked good.  None of the girls knew that there was a problem at all.  The coach knows that I care and can confidently recommend me to his colleagues.

 

Adam Funderburg started his Vancouver, WA based printing business from his garage in 2010.  After three expansions is now in a business park down the street from his home.  There are 8 full time employees and 1 part timer.  The business is currently expanding into sublimated sports apparel to meet the growing need in the area.  The business has doubled in sales every year for several years now and through systems and passion for people plans to do this for several more years.