Shout Out Loud Prints in Columbus, OH began as a 19-year-old's way to plug in to his local music scene. Now, it's a flourishing screen printing business with 15 employees and a clean 7,000 square foot facility.
Growth is hard, and Shout Out Loud Prints' owner Pat Crann made no secret of his struggles. "I was starting to go crazy. It affected everything, just mentally getting to a point where I couldn't manage it all by myself."
Two years ago, Pat buckled under the stress and decided a change had to happen. He had to make the business more sustainable. 70 hour work weeks and the stress of handling production and administration was too much.
If you've struggled with long hours and delegating responsibilities, you'll relate to Shout Out Loud Prints' story – and be happy to hear that there's a way out of that vicious cycle.
Pat Crann started Shout Out Loud Prints at 19 as a way to connect with the people and music around him.
Taking their moniker from a Bouncing Souls song, Pat used t-shirt printing to plug himself in to his local music scene from the very beginning. "I don't play in a band. I didn't play an instrument at the time. So, I'm going to print your t-shirts. That's going to be my entry point."
In 2004, not many businesses had a website. But Shout Out Loud Prints did. Pat would take orders online, then deliver them himself after printing them in his garage.
He didn't want people to know he was just some kid with a squeegee in a garage: "Everyone assumed I was just the delivery guy. But I was actually the person printing the shirts."
So how did Shout Out Loud Prints grow? Slowly and deliberately over the last 15 years, but now they're off like a rocket.
Pat detailed the primary source of their recent growth: "We saw our biggest client's prints all over town. They needed more volume. So we started taking on more volume to accommodate them."
With 7,000 square feet and 15 employees, Shout Out Loud Prints has grown into one of Columbus' high-volume screen printing shops. They took a bigger space than they thought they needed because they had bumped into space issues in the past – adhering to the adage that you should overshoot your current needs if you're going through the hassle of moving.
They have two M&R Sportsman presses, a Sprint dryer, and are eyeing up a Uni-Kote automatic screen coater in the near future. Pat has engineered a simple water reclaiming system for the washout booths. Their shop goes through 60 to 80 screens a day, so their water use is high – though it looks like that volume could grow.
"We use so much water in this industry. We are really trying to do our best to be eco-friendly." Water is typically used at least twice in the shop before it's filtered and disposed of.
Slow and deliberate growth only gets you so far. At a certain point, growth requires taking on more than your business can handle.
Two years ago, Pat's business had reached that point. He was in a frenetic rush, handling production tasks (catching, printing, whatever needed doing) and trying to handle administration by making sales, handling customers, and taking in orders.
A one-man-show can definitely make it work, but Shout Out Loud was taking on more volume than any one person could reasonable expect to handle.
Pat was spread too thin ("I was starting to go crazy") and that's when he realized it was time to stop pulling heroic hours and actually implement systems, delegate responsibilities, and build a system of trust for employees in the business.
"It affected everything, just mentally getting to a point where I couldn't manage it all by myself."
The incredible customer service that Pat had built the business on – never missing deadlines, always meeting the customer's needs whenever they needed it, and providing a personal touch – was great...but it was taking its toll.
Pat began delegating and taking stock of his employees' skills, matching them with roles in the business that fit their personalities. He slowly but surely worked himself out the business, and used the relocation to a new building as a clear-cut border between the "old" Shout Out Loud Prints and the "new" Shout Out Loud Prints – one that wasn't built on his frantic labor.
Rocket-fueled growth has killed lots of prints shops. They take on orders that they can't really service, try to deal with clients that they can't actually handle, and generally over-extend themselves. Shop owners and employees tend to burnout under those stressful conditions.
Growth-at-all-costs is a mindset that can get you in the door, but it's not a sustainable model for growth. Ultimately, no individual is talented and hard-working enough to replace multiple people with clear responsibilities.
One of the examples of how Shout Out Loud managed their growth is evident in their cart-based job prep system. Their intake and job prep station is a series of large wooden carts that can be rolled around the shop. They're numbered and color-coded to make finding them super easy. Press operators simply grab the cart for the job and start printing after they check the work order.
Pat says this cart-based system helps stage and print jobs faster. "It keeps the shop from feeling like a maze of shirts and stacked garments."
This kind of simple but effective system is an example of offloading responsibility: Pat helped his team create a system that creates a role for a person, consequently giving them responsibility – which leads to a real sense of ownership.
"Rachel (their intake and prep manager) is meticulous and detail-oriented. She double-checks everything for every job." Pat saw that skill in how she worked and let her own the intake operation.
By thwarting burnout before it started – and taking a focused approach to growth through delegation, systemizing, and trust – Shout Out Loud Prints was able to avoid the dreaded failure by volume. They grew smartly, and it's obvious that Pat and his team have an eye toward further growth and improvement.
A huge thanks to Pat and his team for having us in their busy shop. We are very excited to see their growth – and humbled by their kind words about Printavo.
They're a vivid reminder of why we started Printavo: to help shops get organized and manage their complicated workflows.
By bringing together all of his staff around a centralized system that tracks the status of each job, Pat's business is better organized and easier to understand. That's huge, and we're thrilled to be part of that growth!
We love to visit print shops across the US and share their stories, unique tips, and special take on the industry. Check out some of our most recent visits:
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