How Losing His Job Turned into a 25 Employee, Live Printing Machine

Business Lessons Podcasts

Max Hellmann from Family Industries tells us how he created a 7 figure printing business with 25 employees and 2 automatic presses.

  • How he was able to hire with little revenue
  • Providing outstanding customer support
  • Buying the first automatic press

 

Transcript

Bruce: Hey everybody, this is Bruce from Printavo, simple shop management software. Today, we've got a very special guest with us, Max Hellman from Family Industries over in L.A., welcome Max.

Max: What's up Bruce? How are you doing?

Bruce: Great, great. So Max has a really cool story that I want to share with everyone here. And just from his beginning in 2009 to where he is today is just a lot of ups and downs, and I think a lot of people can relate especially to a bunch of these. So first, just where are you guys at right now? How many people do you have? Where are you revenue-wise, so people can get a sense of your size?

Max: Right now, there's 25 staff in-house. So you know we do a couple automatic presses that kind of stuff. Revenue-wise it's seven figures, middle seven figures per year. And it's pushing up every year. We actually increased revenue every single year since 2009. So there's never been a year where we've actually gone down, so every year we keep going. And I think we can attribute that to just having customer service and really trying to push to be the best.

Bruce: That's awesome. Are you guys focusing on one area of printing right now? Are you guys doing a whole bunch of stuff? I see a bunch of posters behind you too.

Max: We do kind of a little bit of everything here. You know the one thing we try to do is be accessible to people in Los Angeles. A lot of Los Angeles is fashion brands. And you know, people who try to undercut printing prices, and just really, really don't care about the end product. What we do is we make it kind of like a customer-interaction based company? So everybody's going to get knowledge, the best service from top to bottom. So when they come in 24 pieces, 200,000 pieces, whatever the order may be, we're going to take care of you the entire time.

Bruce: Gotcha, very cool. And where would you say the majority, is there a majority of your revenue that comes from one channel?

Max: It's tough to say. You know we're set up a little bit different than most other screen printing companies, where we do have the advance screen printing portion. So half of our revenue probably comes from screen printing on-site at events, and then half of our revenue comes from in-house printing. So it's almost split up into two businesses that combine into one. They overlap in a sense, but at the same time, they operate almost as two, you know, different models completely.

Bruce: So the live events, walk me through that. Are we talking festivals and those types, or schools or what?

Max: Festivals, conventions, you know, little parties, big parties, side events. We don't do a sales model on site. So when we're showing up on site, we're not selling shirts for the event. That's something we don't do. There's plenty of those out there. What we do is we have a customer experience. So you show up on site at an event, you get a takeaway, an item that's kind of something that people remember the event by. So many people have never seen screen printing done before in person. So it blows there mind when they see it on site like, "Wow I just created a shirt. I got to pick the placement of the designs." And they'll wear those shirts after the event, rather than like a typical event shirt. So, you know, we've done events when we've had 10,000 shirts, we've had events with 100 shirts. You know, tastemaker events or it could be a bat mitzvah. There's so many different events in the chain.

Bruce: Really, that's pretty interesting. The only time I've really seen live printers was back when I was in college. It was like a festival and they were printing out of the back of a truck.

Max: Yeah, there's so many different people doing it now. Like when we started, there was maybe like a couple, a handful of other companies who were doing it. But I think that we've really got it down now, so we do it nationally. I think the best month alone, I think there's 35 or 36 events in March where we are just different customers and clients across the country.

Bruce: Really, that's crazy. So why did you get started doing that? That's definitely different than what most people think to do?

Max: So, you know, I started the company with my business partner Alex. And he was working at a screen printing shop and I was working at a music marketing company. And at the music marketing company, kind of on the side with a couple of friends, we were screen printing in our kitchen. And, you know, just doing our own designs kind of having fun after work. And the music marketing company that I was working with needed live screen printing at an event. And I was like, "Hey I can do it. We can bring in a little team." Totally unprepared, used water-based ink on site, everything was drying up in the screens.

I think I was there for a David Lynch movie screening. And we totally had like 15 people on site using hand dryers just to like cure the ink and what not, and it just kind of blossomed from there. We kind of like took it step by step to make it better each time. And so it started kind of on the side with music marketing. And then I put together a program with the music marketing company with Toyota to do a national screen-printing tour, out of the back of their cars. So it was kind of like a thing that just step by step grew for that company. And that's really how the screen printing got bonafide.

Bruce: What is one tip to execute live printing event well?

Max: Knowing how to deal with the crowd. You could be the best screen printer. You could have the coolest setup. You could have whatever but if you don't know how to manage a crowd on site at an event, you're totally going to be underwater. You need to be able to be quick. You need to get through a line. You need to be able to work with the event coordinators, whoever it may be. When you're on site, you have to make sure that you're taking care of every single aspect, making sure that everybody's happy walking away, and that nobody walks away disappointed.

Bruce: So more specifically, I'm just curious, like creating a line for the crowd to stand in? Or it is more detail like getting a request and dealing with each?

Max: I mean yeah, if you don't know how to cue up a line correctly, you could have a swarm of people around the screen printing station. And it may just be...and it may take 10 minutes per person. But if you know how to cue the line correctly, you know how to explain the process so that people understand what's happening, then you can get through three people a minute. You can go through these people at festivals. And make each one feel like they created their own shirt.

Bruce: Cool, cool, and you guys loaded for like the Toyota one, I'm assuming they wanted the Toyota car?

Max: Yeah, so you kind of pull up to the event. And then you'd pull out the screen printing press right in front of the car.

Bruce: Oh then out of a truck then I could see it, yeah.

Max: Yeah, exactly. So, out of the back of their car they had like a video game system that people could play. So they wanted to be like a party in front of a bar or a party in front and you'd come out and sponsor the event. Those are the humble beginnings.

Bruce: Yeah, that's really cool to hear. So Max, tell me a little bit about how you guys got going? I mean 2009, so about eight or so years ago to now doing seven figures. That's awesome, awesome growth, 25 or so people, tell me about the beginning.

Max: So on the side, it kind of became apparent that we were getting more and more orders because we're on site at these events. And people would hit us up and say, "Hey we need 200 shirts, we need 25 shirts." So I had this tiny back shed. It was no bigger than like 8 feet by 8 feet. And Alex my business partner and I said, "Hey, let's start printing for other people, rather than doing our own designs." And in that little shed, we'd crank out short orders every night after work at the other jobs.

Bruce: Yeah, is this like a four by four press?

Max: A magnet press, have you ever seen one of those? Like one of the ones that clank up and sometimes, if you let it go every single screen would come down, and the squeegees would go flying someplace.

Bruce: Yeah, yeah, yeah, with the springs.

Max: Oh man, we've had some like bad experiences with those. So we were using a flash dryer too. So we had one palette, we'd do the design on the one palette. And then we would move to a flash dryer that was on the table. And we'd put the shirt underneath the flash dryer and print the other one while we were going. So it's just a mess, chemicals everywhere, trying to spray down the screens to clean, because we don't have a wash-up or anything like that. So that...we just focused on making sure the prints were still good even with the circumstances. And it kind of became apparent to my bosses that maybe I wasn't as focused as much at work as I should have been any more. And he kind of gave me a push and said, "Look I think should go do the screen printing. I'm going to let you go from the job." So it was at the end of 2009 that he was like, "All right, go do it. You're out. You know, I wish you the best."

Bruce: Was that like kind of a surprise to you? Or were you kind of expecting him to do that?

Max: I felt like it was coming. You know, it's never fun getting let go at a job. But he understood what we were into and we still work together with his company. So he'll place short orders with us nowadays. And I got let go, so I went to Alex and I was like, "Alex, I have no job, I'm done. I'm going to do this full-time." He's like, "Wow, man that's tough. I don't know if we can do it or not." The company he was working for, no longer than a week later went under. So he got let go of that same exact week. And he hit me up the week later, he's like, "I don't have no job either anymore." And we're like, "Okay, let's do this. Let's do this full-time." So we had found a garage space, it was a little bit bigger than our back shed. And we had a Riley-Hopkins, what I think was like a six-color workstation with the money that we had saved up in the back shed. And, you know, just started doing the jobs from there full-time.

Bruce: Were you printing before just nights and weekends? Or were you like running home at lunch too, to squeeze out a job?

Max: Sometimes we'd go home, sometimes it would be, a lot of times it was nights. We had like a little clip lamp that we'd put up in the shed. I mean the shed had led paint on the walls, it was just like a super old carriage house. And we had a clip light. I'd have to throw an extension cord down from my balcony, down to the shed so we could get the lighting, and the power and everything like that. We'd bust the power at least once a night. My neighbors would get pissed off at us. It was just like one of those things like it just shouldn't have worked, but it ended up working out which was insane.

Bruce: Yeah, that's pretty cool. So you guys found this six by four press on Craigslist or something or on a forum?

Max: We actually, we just bought a brand new one. You know, we had saved because we weren't having to pay for rent at that point. So when we moved in the new space, we had saved all of our money because that's kind of where we were. We really wanted a six by four press, so we bought a new press, got a flash dryer, bought a really old conveyor dryer. I think it was like $500 off of Craigslist. And, you know, started doing it out of a little garage space.

Bruce: So what was marketing like then? Were you guys just like the go-to t-shirt guys in the area? Or were actually pushing stuff out that hey, this is our capabilities?

Max: You know, marketing on our end has always been so nice because of the live events. So many people see us on site at the events and we can bring those customers in. So when were small like that, people would say, "Oh I need t-shirts." We're like, "All right. Hit us up, we have a shop too." So they'd come down to the garage [Inaudible 00:11:31] And this is just when it was Alex and myself. And then eventually we finally made enough money so we were able to hire our first employee. And he was a really, really good printer, and it gave us a little more time to focus on the actual business side of things. Which we really weren't able to do before that. And we shared a little desk, Alex and I had computers right next to each other. And he would sit right next to me, no more than six inches away from each other, just sitting there typing on our computers. And then kind of trying to get the business going.

Bruce: How'd you find this first guy, was it a friend or Craigslist?

Max: That was actually Craiglist.

Bruce: Oh okay, and you were actually asking for someone who knew how to print too? And you found that?

Max: He knew how to print. He came down with his little dog. And we said, "Hey set up this job, let's see if you can print." And he set it up and print, and he was with us for I think six or seven years, and great printer, yeah.

Bruce: Very cool. So you posted that, you guys started going. You had your first employee, kind of where did it go from there? What was the next step? Because there's definitely these stages that we see time and time again, right? It's the garage type of set up, hiring the first couple people, and then it transitions to like, okay, this is actually legit. You know we've got to kind of structure this.

Max: Yeah, luckily in Los Angeles, we had the benefit that there's places that burn screens for you here. That are just strictly burning screens, or you know that sell ink to consumers. Whatever it is. So we were able to kind of outsource our screen burning for a long time, so we didn't have to buy all that stuff. So we kind of built it up as we went. And you know, Alex and I have kind of a thing. We said we'd never like try to push outside of the walls that we're in. So we're always working within the constraints that we have. And at that point, you know, we kept saving up money. I mean, you know, we were bare bones. Neither of us were taking any cut from the business, always just putting it back in.

So, you know, by the time taxes would come around or something like that, we'd owe taxes. And we'd be kind of in a bad place because we didn't have money to pay the taxes and what not. That worked out over the years. But, you know, I think the customer service thing... We really just kept making sure that everybody that came through to the shop was taken care of. And I think the biggest thing for us as growth was concerned, the first few years was word of mouth. You know, it's not easy to find somebody, who will explain the screen printing process to you, who will walk you through every step of the way, who will help you with your art, who will help you choose the garment. Whatever it is, there's not a lot of places you can just go into, and you know have somebody just walk you through everything.

Bruce: Yeah, so just going way over the top with them. And making sure they remember you that way.

Max: Yeah, and especially when you're trying to grow like that. You go above and beyond everything to really keep that client. And get like the next person to come in and make sure everybody's happy. I mean we almost lost the entire business though with... One of our clients, submitted a design and they approved it, and everything was fine. We printed the entire run, I think it was our biggest order at that point. I think it was like 1,500 shirts or something like that. And we had just finished the design and I looked at the design, and I looked over at Alex and I was like, "I think this is the wrong artwork. I think they sent us the wrong thing."

And I guess we were supposed to send them a photo proof. And the design was like a little bit off, and we had spent like a week doing this job because that was when were a little bit slower. And we almost just at that point, kind of given up. And I think that was like middle of 2010. And luckily the client was understanding and still wanted the order, so they took some responsibility on it. But there's things like that, that happened early on that you have to navigate through.

Bruce: Yeah, very big. I remember... So obviously before Printavo's running a print shop too, which is kind of where this came out of. But we had a very similar situation, except the artwork was just placed incorrectly. It was just way to small on the side. And that's when we thought, they were under the impression. But again, you know, when you're super early, we didn't have the great process. Yeah, but we just printed the whole thing all over again.

Max: Yeah, it makes it really tough when you don't have anything to like base it off of. And that was kind of...I want to say like the early days of emailing back and forth. But there was no system, there were no systems in place that allowed you to send out proofs like mine is a pdf or something. And it was always like, it could get lost in an email, or maybe it wasn't... You know, there's just things that didn't really work out.

Bruce: Yeah, absolutely. Very cool. So customer service being huge. Especially when it's hard when you don't have the name brand or anything just yet. And growing off that, which I think is so important. Especially, as you do get bigger too, people tend to kind of forget about that a little bit. Or be a little bit more lax on it but... Now after that say, you know, kind of the middle, talk to us about, different growing pains that you guys are encountering as you say reached five people.

Max: The growing pains that I think are the hardest to take on is... It's when you need to hire somebody else but you may not have the money at that point. And that always made it tough for us. So you're like, "Hey we need a guy to burn screens. We need a screen room. Or we need another Nanyo [SP] printer. Or we need, you know, it's just one thing after another. Oh, we need a production manager." Just anytime down the line, it's just making that leap and saying, " All right." You know, making that leap to the next step and saying, "Okay we're going to hire them. Let's just hope this works out." I know there's space for them here, but I don't know if we're' going to be able to make the money back on that end.

Bruce: So how do you do that? How did you...did you say okay look we need to just print, you know, x amount of shirts more to be able to cover this guy's salary and catch up to it by the end of the year?

Max: You know, what we did, we just had to take cuts out of our own paychecks. You know, we said, we're going to cut back on what we're making. We're going to make sure that everybody else is taken care of first. Let's make sure that the entire business is set up so that we have something that runs in a way that allows us down the line to be able to, you know, be a healthy sized business.

Bruce: Gotcha, okay so you guys went back and cut in on yours and anything else I'm sure that you could find that you could cut out.

Max: Yeah, I mean at that point we had cut out other people burning screens, the little shops you know in L.A. they could burn screens for you. We had bought a washout booth and you know I think we found like 300 wood screens for $100 or something like that. So we had all these... They were just the worst screens possible. I mean they were warped in ways but you know you pick out the good ones and put those aside and reuse those as much as you can. And then the other ones, you kind of have to toss to the side and recycle them.

Bruce: What would you say was one of the biggest hires for you? Was it a specific person? Or a specific role that really, you felt made a bigger leap than the others?

Max: I think the bigger leaps on our end... I think there's been a few. One was getting an automatic press. And that was a little bit down the line, but that allowed you know the screen printers to really do their job and allows them to speed everything up and you know it's let's tiresome to run an automatic than manually all day. A customer service rep definitely helps out in making sure that everybody's taken care of. Anybody that walks through the door at our shop or the showroom and what not can be taken care of. And then, I think...I mean every single portion of the shop is so important and integral to one part or the other. You have a production manager making sure that everything is being overseen on the floor, you know and it lets them focus on that and us to focus on the business. So it's like, it's hard to pinpoint one.

Bruce: Yeah, gotcha. No, that's very interesting. Buying the first auto, where were you guys as a company revenue, do you remember revenue and employee-wise?

Max: Probably like $500,000 a year at that point. And...

Bruce: What was the trigger where you were like, all right let's take a bullet?

Max: We had a 14,000 piece tote-bag order from a customer. And said, "Hey we need this order by this time." And we said, "Sure we can do it." So at that point in the back of your head, you're like, "Now we have to get an auto, we have the order from the customer but we've got to have an auto." We had some money saved up, a little bit more. So we had all cash and we bought this old work-horse press and this thing was just a monster. It hadn't been serviced in years and the pistons on the inside it was like the loudest press, it actually jumped across the floor because it hadn't been set up.

So we're in there and we'd start on one end of our shop and then the auto had danced to the other side of the floor. We were just loading these tote bags just doing this order. So I think that, even though it was on the auto, I think that order still took us a week and a half something like that because the press was just so bad. but that prompted us to get the auto. And then we kind of honed in the settings on the auto. And we ended up getting, about a 350,000 piece order through Samsung, just single color left chest, single color back. And I think we had that order going on for about two months. On just the single old work-horse press. One color and that's about all the press we did, so one color front and one color back. And....

Bruce: Unbelievable, 350,000 pieces that's great.

Max: We just had these trucks coming in and out and in and out. We had to hire a night shift. It was just this whole thing that we had never experienced before. But what happened with that is that once we had that order with Samsung is that we just said, you know what this press doesn't work anymore the and we hit Ryan up from Ryonet we said, "We want one of the S-ron presses and he's like, "All right, cool. Let's work out a payment plan." We said, "No we're going to put it on the Amex, we're going to pay it off because we just had this Samsung order. We just want to take care of it and get it installed."

So I think we had the first S-Ron press from Ryan installed in the U.S. Maybe it was the second one, but that was a couple years back that we kind of just had everything set up. So it was just those moments that we had to take the opportunity as to where you want the business to go, and that was one of them. We said, "All right we're going to do this. We're going to buy that press and we're just going to get it."

Bruce: That's awesome, so I was actually just talking with another shop who had a very similar circumstance. Where they got a 50, 60,000 shirt order very early on in the business too. And they used that to buy the auto and kind of launch the larger orders. Now I can hear people saying, "Well how the heck do I get a 10-300,000 piece order, where did that come from? Was it out of the blue? Was it networking through people?

Max: So like I said there was a live screen printing thing we had been working with another company, who's a marketing company. And one of their big clients is Samsung. So what happened is they needed shirts for this whole entire U.S. activation that was happening and they had gotten in contact with us. We had taken care of them, every single time we worked orders. 24-piece orders for T-mobile or an order because one of their staff was having a birthday party.

We were doing these small runs for them. So when the time came. I was able to say, "We can do this order." Again, not having the right equipment to do it. I mean we did, but we really didn't. But with the customer service side kind of being able to say, "Look, we've taken care of you before. We're going to take care of you know. We'll get this done." And we did it. And I think that was from a past client we knew we were able to do that for.

Bruce: See, I tell people too, don't' shy away from the small ones. Literally, exact same story. I think it was a wife and her husband he worked somewhere else and they ordered a massive order from that one.

Max: Yeah, and you see people who come back. You know, and we like to help people build whatever they're doing so it's just a matter of making sure, you keep them... You be honest with them and say if somebody's coming in with their first order with like a seven-color front and a seven-color back and they want to sell the shirts, we'll tell them. We think you're doing the wrong thing here. The people that we see come back that are successful time and time again, start simple. And eventually they, step by step, they'll grow their business by being smart about what they printing onto their shirts.

If they're trying to start a brand, do one-color, two-color front. Keep the finishings really, really simple. Next time you come back, and you sell all those shirts, then you start adding that stuff in. And the next time you could get the bagging. And the next time, you can add 300-pieces. You know what I mean? It's like we want to help you grow the brand when you come in here. So we're happy to work with them and the people that we see that have that success. You know, that's something that we had the knowledge of just knowing on the other side of it.

Bruce: Sure, gotcha. Very cool. When you guys got the second auto, you kept the first one right? Or did you sell that one?

Max: Yeah, well actually we kept the other one and like I said that thing was good for one colors. So we sold that pretty soon after and then we had the one rock for a little bit and then we decided we needed the other one and a bigger gas dryer just because we're outputting so many different orders per day. So we got a second rock and the rock tunnel dryer.

Bruce: Got it, very cool. How much do you say would you work every week how many hours?

Max: Our guys, our staff, our team, I don't say guys because we do have girls here too. Our team is here from about eight to five every day.

Bruce: Okay, and what are some tips on managing a team like that? And you know, you start to have to deal with more human resources and people then it is being in there with production operations, and flow, and sales and things.

Max: Yeah, the like the one thing that like I guess I wasn't prepared for you know. There's a management of personalities when you have so many people together in a shop. So you do get to those things like the HR issues or things that happen in the shop like that you would, you know... Somebody got into a fight with another guy because they didn't get along. You have to prepare for those. So I think that the side that kind of helped us in regards to everything like that is the production manager dealing with, you know, the production or the art team dealing with art, or the live team, being over there dealing with the live screen printing side, or the finishing team is working on fishing.

So there's just different...you create little different sections in the shop itself and we don't micromanage anyone. We don't like micro-management. It doesn't work. We let everybody kind of be themselves here and do what they do best. And I think that's kind of how we deal with the HR side of it or making sure that everybody's getting their job done. Don't, you know, don't breathe down their necks.

Bruce: Do you find yourself say setting an expectation and say okay this is the goal and you get there? Or do you kind of check-in? Or is it more of kind of the first couple months of them getting started where you're doing a lot more checking in?

Max: When they start, yeah we'll make sure, but you know, we have the attitude of expectation. So we expect you to do your job. We expect you to get it done and we expect you to do it correctly. You know what I mean? So there's that attitude that's there, but we kind of step back and say, we want people who can work within that kind of in that realm and do it themselves. We don't want to have to, you know, watch over you. We don't want to have to push you to do the job better.

We like having people who can self-service the job. They come up with new ideas that we can say, "Hey, you set up this entire system." Like one of our customer service reps has this whole system within Printavo that none of us had ever thought of before and he set it up and it's been absolutely incredible for people picking up, you know, what orders are due, rush orders, this whole entire thing with shorthand. Things like that. He wrote a customer service handbook that I had never put together, I couldn't do anything like that. So it's like using their strengths to help kind of piece together the business.

Bruce: The customer service handbook, what is that about?

Max: It's just when a new staff starts. He can give it to them so they understand, these are the systems we use. It gives a rundown on how we use Printavo. It gives a rundown of kind of the shop, the ordering process, you know, some of the printing processes that comes in. It's more for the front of the house staff versus back of the house staff. But, so somebody needs to make a sale, they can reference the handbook. And say, "Oh this is how we make a sale." Or you know if you're pricing something out or a guide for posters or whatever, it gives them an idea, you know, how the color charts work or [inaudible 00:28:15] tones or whatever. It's a whole entire book, yeah.

Bruce: But then how does he do that? Is that on Google docs that you guys keep that? Or do you print it out?

Max: That's on Google docs exactly, so yeah.

Bruce: Okay, awesome, very cool. I've seen other companies... I mean larger companies always have you know an onboarding type of flow but you know it's the small medium-sized businesses you see a lot where it's like, "Okay, here we go." You know, "Follow me, this is what we need you to do."

Max: Yeah, I think with small-medium businesses a lot of times they don't mean to do the business. It doesn't, their goal isn't for the business to get big...not big, but sometimes it's an accident that it happens. You know, and it's like you're not prepared for those situations. And you know, that's like us. You kind of just fall into these things and things start to happen and you learn a lot as it's going, but you can't claim you know everything. And you know for us, there's been those stages where it's like, "Uh-oh what are we going to do next?" And that's when you lean on the staff who's in-house that has ideas and it's like, " I think we could do it this way." And you know, you trust your instincts.

Bruce: Yeah, so you talked about hiring people based on them being motivated and reaching your expectations that you guys set. What are some actual interview type of things or things you look out for to gauge that? I think that's definitely one of the hardest, especially here too, and other places it's like, you know interviewing is tough and you know really figuring out who they are. And gauging that motivation factor could be tricky. I mean maybe they interview very well but they're not the best, you know at work or vice versa.

Max: Yeah, it is tough. Sometimes, we'll do like a trial period with people just to kind of see how they'll do when they come in. Because screen printing, if you're bringing in somebody in for the back of the house floor job, screen printing it's a trade. You have to kind of know what you're doing. You know, we're happy to teach you, you know if you want to start maybe in the screen room and kind of see the process as it grows. But if you're hiring somebody you want to bring in to do, you know, work on the auto, you want to have somebody who's doing finishing or whatever. You need somebody who knows the process, knows how to cut out a neck tag, or where it's printed, or how to make the shirts align correctly, or speed a cad, or pull the right ink off the shelf. There's a lot that goes into it.

Plus, knowing how to screen print correctly. You know, whatever's involved in it. So the trial period helps us out. Somebody's hungry to learn, you know, and makes that known that look I don't know everything. I could learn it in this aspect, but I bring x to the table. So I know a lot about water-based inks. I know a lot about mixing inks. I know a lot about how to you know print specialty. That's always something that intrigues us, you know. And references, recommendations from other shops, you know we've had some other printers that bring people in. He says well, "This guy is a good printer. Bring him in. I think he can step right in." So there's a lot of that as well.

Bruce: Got it. Now how long is that trial period? Is that a full day or a couple hours?

Max: You know, we actually do a full week. Yeah, so we like to make sure that a person's going to fit, that they want to be here. Because sometimes you know they may not get the full production that's happening. And like, "Oh this sounds like a cool job. Like, I could be here, I can do this." And by the end of the first week, it's like, "Wow that's all our production, I didn't realize I was going to be handling so many pieces." And they may not want to do it. So we like to make sure that they're here and they like doing the job.

Bruce: Interesting. And now have you found that to work pretty well too? Have you seen some people where you're like all right that was a good try, you know we'll pass?

Max: Yeah, and a lot of times it's mutual. You know, "I didn't realize that it was going to be this way, sorry." So it works out for the benefit I think on both sides.

Bruce: Yeah. Very cool. So where are you guys at now? What are some challenges you would say at a shop your size, you guys currently have?

Max: So space... You know, we're in Los Angeles, it's not easy to come by. So we're kind of...you know there's other things we want to get into, whether it's fulfillment or a little bit more merchandising, specialty items, more into the sublimation realm of things and then on the live side of things we're kind of developing an app so people on site... We do it now, but we're really trying to develop it even further. A custom sublimation on site for different, you know, activations and events. So those are like the main facets that we're up against. And finding more space to be able to do all these things together. You know, we probably have another auto, but our space won't allow for it, we just don't have enough power in the building to even entertain another auto with the heat processes and other things that we have going on at that the same time.

Bruce: Got it. So how do you think you're going to kind of attack that or solve it? Are you starting to hunt around for other larger warehouses?

Max: Yeah, I think we're going to get another space. So we'll probably have two spaces working at the same time.

Bruce: Got it. How do you even go about moving? I mean, I'm assuming there's only a certain amount of moving companies that move large equipment.

Max: Yeah there is, we've actually worked with this company a couple times before. And they just come in with a... they have like forklift. We'll probably take all the arms off of the presses. They come with the forklift and put the main equipment on the back of a truck. We'll have to catalog like all the inks and all the showroom and everything. It's going to be a definite process, but I think with the people that we have here, I think it'll be a lot easier to kind of give everybody a task to make that work.

Bruce: Got it, very cool. Well great and last question too, I know you're a busy guy. What are you looking forward to? It sounds like the live events are a big piece though of the business and growing. What are you looking forward to maybe in the next couple of years here with how Families growing?

Max: We finally got into DTG printing a little bit. And, you know, we had always said once the technology is there we'll do it. And for years it just never looked great, it has never been up to par with screen printing. But we just got one of the F-2000's from Epson and the thing it looks awesome, every print looks cool. So we finally started saying you know what? We'll do the single run orders. We'll do those types of things now versus sending those orders down to another shop that we are friends with. So we can take on even smaller jobs now that we're a little bit bigger of a company.

We can handle people who want, I need to see a sample or I want to a one-off or you know I need a 12-color print on 10 shirts. We can handle that kind of stuff. So funneling more of that business into our current business model I think is one thing that I'm definitely excited about. And then doing some more large format sublimation on various items. I guess sublimations going to be really, really big coming up. I feel like it's just starting to hit but it's been around for a really long time. But I think the applications that sublimations that it can go onto. I think it's a whole other variable that I don't think kind of hit fully yet.

Bruce: Cool, very cool. And what would you...give one tip to someone that's looking up and they're like man we're going to be just like Max and his shop. Give something to them that they can take.

Max: I think you just always. You always have to be on no matter what, just make sure you're taking care of the customer. Make sure that your prints look good, that they feel welcome in the job and that anytime they come back or they recommend somebody else, you know, take care of that person the same way. Because it's a word of mouth business. Screen printing is 100% word of mouth. We get a couple Yelp reviews or a couple people contacting you from Googling, but I'd say the majority are going to be people that know somebody, that knows somebody, that needs a t-shirt. Because everybody needs a t-shirt. Everybody wears t-shirts. There's no question about that. That's not even something that I think you can question at this point.

Bruce: Right, awesome. Well, I appreciate it again Max, this is super helpful and really thank you for your time.

Max: And hey thank you so much. And I just want to plug you guys because I feel like we didn't talk about Printavo at all. But this system that you have put in place for shops and businesses has been insanely helpful for our business and growth. And we didn't really get to that as much but being able to add the art, send the emails, send invoices, quotes, whatever, from my cell phone to a client or be at home with a 3-month old baby and not have to be in the shop and I can say, "Oh cool, I've got to hit back my client." And send it over to them. I can do that from my home and not have to be in the shop. It's made everything amazing and it's helped us grow. I mean honestly, good work, we love it and we're looking forward to continuing to work together.

Bruce: Awesome, yeah I appreciate that. Congrats on the newborn too.

Max: Thanks so much.

Bruce: Yeah, I don't even really tend to talk about Printavo because I love to really understand stories. But I definitely appreciate that and we're pushing forward.

Max: Well, I mean it's part of the spark. It's 100% a part of the story, and I don't want to leave that out. I want to say that is a way that you'll grow. That's another recommendation, for a way to get your shot from the bottom up. It looks, it's awesome, clients love it.

Bruce: Awesome, well I appreciate it again Max and thank you. And we'll definitely be in touch.

Max: All right, perfect, have a good one.

Bruce: Bye.

Max: All right, thanks.

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Printavo ​​is simple shop management software. Whether your shop works with screen printing, embroidery, signage, digital printing, or awards & engraving–we make your complex workflow simpler to manage and understand. Printavo keeps your shop organized by handling scheduling, estimates, quote approvals, workflow, payments, accounting and more. With Printavo, you’ll work smarter–not harder.

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