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Monty Mims from SanMar stops by to chat about:
- Contract printing tips
- Weathering economy downturns
- Diversifying your business
- Where the industry is going
Bruce: Hello, everybody. This is Bruce from Printavo, simple shop management software. We've got another business lessons and learnings podcast episode today. Have a very special guest with us, Monty Mims from SanMar. Hey, Monty.
Monty: Hey, hey.
Bruce: Thanks for joining us.
Monty: Thank you for the opportunity.
Bruce: So tell us first a little bit about your role. What are you doing at SanMar? What are you working on?
Monty: My current role, for almost exactly a year now, is part of a fairly new group and division called Decorator Relations. It's a new division but really started seven, eight years ago by our channel manager and lead, Mark Bayley, who was tasked to, you know, kind of multi-part approach but identify, organize, and begin a collaboration effort with contract decorators nationwide, as well as begin to collaborate with many leaders throughout the industry from Haloflex, to an M&R, and so forth, essentially crossing the aisle at all these trade shows we go to.
We felt like there was a good strength and value into connecting, making those connections, understanding who the key contacts are and bridging that gap, you know, reaching out and talking to these guys more as we both have shared accounts.
Bruce: So would you say it's a lot of a consulting type of role or is it matching what SanMar offers to what the print shop needs?
Monty: I think it's both. You know, our sales team, as a whole at SanMar, as one of the rare ones that has no commission structure to it inside or outside sales. Our outside folks are called territory managers to add to that distinction but, you know, 45 years of grooming that culture has led to a lot of our customer base looking at our reps both internally and externally as consultants.
That's certainly what we strive for as that trusted advisor role and we get a lot of questions asked, "Looking to get into direct-to-garment printing. What have you seen out there that's been successful? What would you recommend? We just relocated and need to build back up a contract decorating network, you know, who do you know in the area," kind of thing. So Mark Bailey started that. I was...I'm the third outside guy. Rich Jacobs came after Mark, joined his team. I was added middle of last year and then we've taken on a fourth member, Jason Murphy, who's a wonderfully valued asset as well.
Bruce: Got it. Very cool. So you guys are dealing with shops...how many shops would you say you deal with, let's say, a month?
Monty: Well, our account base now that we're actually visiting, you know, is upwards of...we probably have identified somewhere in the ballpark of 600 or 700 contract decorators nationwide and then we try to travel, you know, at minimum every other week throughout our different chunks of the country. So I have eastern time zone, Rich Jacobs has sort of the central core of the country, and Jason Murphy is West Coast. And, so, we're out there meeting with contract decorators as a focal base but all shapes and sizes, big guys, little guys, continuing to learn from them. And we're building profiles for each one of them that feed into a database that we can then pull from when we get certain requests.
Bruce: Very cool. What would you say...this just popped up in my head, but what would you say is the biggest issue that you see repeatedly between contract decorators? Then you're, like, "You know, you guys got to stop doing this or..."
Monty: Sure, you know, contract decorating, as I've understood it and I've been on both ends of using and certainly working with contract decorators, it's a low front-end margin business model and so where you have to make your money is through time and efficiency. And there's still a lot of contract decorators out there who aren't as efficient as they could be. You know, the of maximizing of time, and in my opinion, utilization of the proper technology and processes. You know, the world isn't such now that you can replace everything with technology but you can certainly gain a lot of benefits from it. So there's still a lot of...even some of the biggest guys I've met with still using stuff, just straight paper trail, stacks of paper, triplicate copy stuff everywhere.
Monty: And I myself, I mean, how I came to find out about Printavo and meet you was taking on my own little personal study course of all the different software and system companies in our industry. And, you know, I bring that knowledge and experience of studying that and continuing to keep up with some of those leaders like yourself and Printavo to see who's actually getting it and who has real-world tangible application that these guys, even some of the old curmudgeons, if they have a simple system they can utilize it to improve the efficiency.
Bruce: Interesting. So even some of the big guys are still using...I know we see that a lot, too.
Monty: Some of the biggest.
Bruce: A paper, a whiteboard, you know.
Monty: Yeah. I tell people all the time. I say, "Listen, I know that that guy...that 600-pound gorilla that your competitor down the street, you're fearful of and think he's doing everything right. Well, you'd be surprised, you know, they are definitely not optimized," is how I best put it. And I get my batteries charged, you know, after leaving a big shop that maybe is still stuck in their ways. I go walk into another shop that's run by some 20 or 30 something's. They're using Printavo or something like that, they, you know, got tablet stations, they've got...their processes are all labeled and identified, and you can just tell they are dialed in, man. I walk out of there feeling hopeful about the next generation for this industry.
Bruce: Yeah, interesting. Do you see that in...and I don't wanna, obviously, you know, make this an age thing, but do you see that as more so the shops that have just been around for say 20 years are there ones that's are in their existing process and are kind of stuck there?
Monty: Absolutely. I mean, I think, the adage goes "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," right? And so a lot of people, I think, lean on that heavily, and we do it in our personal lives and professional lives. I mean, I think, any person can talk about their experience with introducing their dad to an iPhone or, you know, parents to something new with technology.
Monty: But I think the key and the secret to it...because I get labeled by co-workers all the time like, "Oh, you're such a tech-nerd," or got kind of a geeky moniker. And I tell people, I say, "Listen, I'm not...believe it." I've seen what tech nerds really look like and there's guys that tech out just to tech. These are guy's that get the newest toys or the newest thing just to get it. And really my core mantra is I am an efficiency nut and so that's boded well for this role. And I look for technology that truly does optimize and make things more efficient. It's partly what drew me to continue to follow along on the Printavo story, is, I like the way you're handling this solution.
So, yeah, you know, as much as you try to affect change with some of these guys, sometimes you...you know, there's some meetings when I can quickly gather there's maybe a lost cause scenario and I have to kind of politely smile and nod and gracefully, bow out from some of those conversations of technology.
Bruce: Interesting and you've been involved in the apparel industry for quite a while. I know you tweet a lot of apparel geek on Twitter. And your family, you grew up in an embroidery business, just talk a little bit about that, you know, the different experiences you've had.
Monty: Yeah. I mean, I kind of like to joke I've been around the industry for my whole life and I've been active in it for 17 years. My dad, who's probably 73 now, he was an early guy onto the scene. Even dating back into the '70s, there was a pretty common business model for direct to consumer retail of the transfer shops. So whether it was the hot spot like Daytona Beach or even a mall, you'd go in and there'd be racks of blank garments and, you know, glittery transfers all over the wall and you'd say, "I want Dukes of Hazzard on the royal blue cotton t-shirt," and they press it for you, and send you on your way.
Bruce: Sure. Yeah,
Monty: He opened up a business, the business model in 1981, and very early on, what, been moved into a place that was right next to a guy, who's still in business to this day that does contract screen-printing. So, I think, from his perspective he gravitated towards embroidery, utilizing a contract decorating network for screen print, and probably hit his peak in the mid, the late '90s. And then through various reasons trickled the business down. But even through mid-'80s, through mid-'90s, I believe he was also co-owner in a tradeshow registration company and their primary client was ISS shows.
So, for a good 10-year plus block, he was traveling the country with all the regulars, guys like Charlie Taublieb and such, know my, know my dad from the old school days. And if you had asked me 15 years ago or, you know, when I was working with him if I would to still be doing this, I'd probably say, "No." But I had about a seven-year stretch of working with him and the latter five of those years were from 2001-ish towards the middle end of 2000s. Became buddies with my SanMar rep, and he got me an interview, and then I moved to Jacksonville to be an outside rep or what we call "Territory Manager," from about '07 until just about a year ago. So...
Bruce: What would you say...because that's pretty cool, so what would you say is the same and different from, you know, 20 or so years ago being in an industry till today? And it could be anything.
Monty: Sure. Well, I think one of the obvious things is there's certainly been a strong consolidation of suppliers, you know. When we started we were...being in Florida, we were using Broder and a little bit at Alpha and Virginia T's and now through various acquisitions, you know, the strata of, call it the top 10, you know, broad base apparel suppliers has certainly shrunk. And conversely, SanMar, who, you know, founded by Marty Lott, has always been a family-owned, family driven business.
I think one of our strongest attributes is our attachment to the industry and a culture that listens, learns, and adapts our business model to our customer base as opposed to, you know, coming up with ideas that we think maybe are what people want and implementing them, and then maybe taking a few years to figure out that it wasn't the right strategy. You know, it's a company that not only that I'm feeling very fortunate to work for, but plan to retire with and it's at that common core that has kept me around and kept me passionate for doing this.
Bruce: What about the actual printing industry side? So the suppliers, are a lot of them consolidated?
Bruce: What about like...I mean, everything was so different then, right? There was barely...Internet wasn't even a huge thing yet. So there was no Yelp, there was no Facebook there's no...I think, there was a little bit of email.
Monty: Yeah, I think, you're spot-on. I mean, I think, there was there's been a big boom and probably a bit of deflation in extent in the last 10 years especially with the online e-commerce model. Pioneers like Custom Ink and Teespring and such certainly changed the landscape for how to reach an audience. Again, it's a visible, tangible sign of technology working within the industry. I joke, our industry is in many ways a bit slow and pokey.
You know, I married a super smart, savvy, corporate woman and she works for a huge company. And you hear about a lot of the things that they're doing, and features, and processes they use that it feels like our industry's still a few years away from but I like that. I think we get to take our time and do things the right way. So, e-commerce has affected things but I also, I get some, I talk to some people that are paranoid and extremely fearful of, you know, mega giants like Amazon creeping into this space.
Bruce: Yeah, yeah. I saw the newest patent that they put out for fulfilling.
Monty: Yeah. While I think there's a place for that and I think that's it's good, some people feel like it's gonna dry up everybody's business and I would disagree. I think one of the charming aspects of the industry that I love is people do business with people. And so I don't think the Internet will ever replace that. There's a lot of efficiency and optimization of the commerce experience that are good, but I think if, you know, the small medium and even large size businesses take from that, and adopt that, and add that to their regimen. People wanna go, touch and feel. People wanna try on. People wanna shake someone's hand. And I've seen, if anything, a little bit of a resurgence of sort of old school back to basic salesmanship in lieu of everybody kind of disconnected.
Bruce: Yeah. That's definitely interesting. I mean, that's what we focus on, too, is a lot of person to person. I think there's...you try to automate as much as possible to just to, from an efficiency perspective and things that you're doing that's repetitive over and over, but especially when just chatting with people, and helping with people, just getting on the phone and just doing things that aren't scalable really help us, too. What would you say is something that you miss about how the print shop was ran, you know, back when you are working with your family?
Monty: Well, do you ask that question speaking like as a global change or is it like something I enjoyed doing back then that [crosstalk 00:14:42] doing it?
Bruce: Yeah, back then more like a nostalgic type of thing.
Monty: Okay. You know, being in a small business, and I think any employee or owner will tell you this. There's very few regimented defined roles. So when I worked with my dad, he was on the tail end of his business boom. I was coming back as being that kind of youthful injection and it's been fun meeting other similar models. I think that's not too uncommon. You know, we're in an era now where a 25-year-old is often back living with their parents, right?
So if they have a business that needs help, they're often living and working with mom or dad. And, you know, we had two production operators, we had an aging out salesperson, we had one admin and then me and my dad. So I was literally given the book of biz that he had accumulated over years of calling and dealing with different accounts. I started with sort of an initiative to cold call. But I think one of the things I really started to click and connect with was when we did start, I know this sounds like a little business horn toot, but when we did start working with SanMar, one of the captivating things was they had free custom websites and thus kind of web stores. And so, rather than cold calling businesses all over the country, which I didn't mind doing, I really enjoyed sort of learning about the power of a web store and this is 12 years ago. So think about that in its infancy. And so we started converting over schools, where we were doing, say staff uniform shirts, from old handwritten, can't read Sally's, you know, credit card numbers...
Bruce: Yeah, put them on an e-commerce store.
Monty: Yeah, remember the day you people would write their credit card information on a triplicate...
Bruce: Oh, they still do that.
Monty: Yeah, mind-boggling.
Bruce: We still talk to shops where say they have to mail in these papers.
Monty: Yeah, terrible security measures back then. But the idea of taking that chaotic mess, which had so much labor involved, and mishaps, and, "I thought you wrote that instead of this," converting that into a web store. Even as, you know, again, 12 years ago, you know, SanMar system was fairly basic but also very accomplished in what could be done with it, and that became kind of a snowball effect for us.
We built our first one, used that to sell the second one, used that to sell the third one. And four or five web stores deep, we were going, "Who else can we get to fit into this model.?" So I miss the creative side and I miss that application of these tools. Now I just get to talk about them but certainly brought that shared experience into my roles at SanMar.
Bruce: Yeah, I think some of the younger guys, and I was thinking about this, you know, as we talk about 15 or so, 20 years back, some of the younger guys, myself included, haven't, especially running a print shop, haven't experienced a downturn yet in the economy.
Monty: Sure, yeah.
Bruce: Whether, you know, '90s, 2000s, '08, what was that like? I mean, you've seen a couple. What was that like in the printing industry?
Monty: Yeah, you know, I may have kind of been around it because, you know, I graduated in '01 and so there was a bit of a slump post 9/11. The really crazier part though was, you know, going from the working for a pittance for dad in '07. You know, I started with SanMar literally in February of 2007 and certainly, you know, we're putting on my big-boy pants as far as getting my first real career job. Working for dad was great but didn't feel and it didn't...401k, what is that?
So it was a very strange time to dive in and then immediately got smacked in the face with '08, '09, and '10. You know, it was strange. I was doing better than I ever have. SanMar was actually doing great. We were growing. We were adding employees on all fronts, you know, I feel like we were the tortoise, of the tortoise and hare race and our kind of fiscal conservative slow calculated approach, paid off in those three years of a slump.
But here's what I also learned during that time, the industry as a whole, which, you know, you gotta bring in all aspects, fairly recession-proof. I heard some interesting statistics around that time of...because there's counterbalances. So, you know, team and athletic stuff may be down but corporate's up or in that case maybe during that time, corporate had taken a big hit, but people were still getting uniforms and stuff for their kids to play sports. You know, different various aspects of the industry would have a surge.
So I think the stat I heard was basically the industry at its worst was flat back through the Carter Administration, during really overall bad economic downturns, things found a way to sort of counterbalance. So, again, I think that should be a wonderful feeling for all of us that have chosen this is our career path, not maybe being in the flashiest, sizzling, crazy of industries, but also feeling a little bit more safe and comfort if things do take another dip.
Bruce: Yeah. Yeah, that's interesting. And the reason I think about it is, of course, everyone, if you do follow financial markets and so on, they...you know, everyone's like, "Oh, we're overdue. We're overdue," and, you know, obviously, not every shop is doing, handling big corporate accounts in a large city. There's small town shops that are handing small towns and, of course, those would probably hit a lot harder than more metro located businesses.
With that said, that's interesting that you say that, especially more about SanMar and in focusing on longer slower growth and more stable growth because I'm assuming they probably...this is a total assumption but may not be as debt driven, like, growth off debt, and leasing things and things like that, and more off of just natural revenue and their growth, which is, of course, something to consider with any business along with the other, 100 other factors.
Monty: Yeah. I mean, I think the things that make sense there, especially if there is a downturn is diversification. I mean, that's key. If you've got too many eggs in one basket that's a red flag there. So, you know, the accounts that I saw, you know, during that time, I really only saw maybe a handful of businesses that went belly-up and each one you could trace back some of those common parameters.
I think always running on the razor edge of debt failure was one of those attributes and the guys that were just getting by by the seat of their pants. Things slowed down, you know, they go belly-up because this industries fairly self-sustaining. So a lot of people get complacent, frankly, with the phone always ringing, the emails always filling in, and people walking in the door, and I've met many owner that had been in it 5, 10, 15 years truly don't grasp a lot of the fundamentals of sales and marketing because they were in a good place. They had some connections. They were sociable and charming, and that was able to kick the business off and keep it running. But yeah, don't over-leverage, and keep a diverse portfolio, and you're probably gonna get along just fine.
Bruce: How do you...let's say there is there's a shop out there. They've got, you know, they're contract shop they, or even not a contract shop, but they've got a couple big clients like you were saying. How do you go about diversification? What are the, maybe, one, two, threes of starting to do that or planning for that?
Monty: Well, one of the fundamentals I always lean on is go with what you know, and so, you know, hopefully, you've got enough employees where you can draw from their experience as well, even if they're not in a traditional sales role. But rather than trying to quickly learn up, read up, and study a completely unfamiliar industry, you know, everybody's got a past, everybody's got a resume. And so I like digging into that kind of history and talking to some of your employees about, "Hey, what have you done? What do you know about that?" "What are their wants and needs?" And starting that as a very root basis.
And so if you haven't ever tapped into like, say home service markets like, landscaping and security and different things where they're...it's a huge market for people that have to wear a logo'd product. But maybe one of your employees does or better yet, one of your actual sales reps used to do that. So they have an understanding there. And some of that stuff, you know, you have an understanding because you've been a user of that. So just chatting up the guy that comes to do your pest control and asking them about what they do.
So, you know, if you've got a couple of strong points may be in school and team market but don't have some kind of other blue-collar service markets or corporate, see in your immediate vicinity who does have some experience and sit down with them, have a frank conversation, and learn from that. And I feel like once you do get a couple of those channels figured out then build off of that. You know, again, don't try to stop the motivation you've got going and completely switch gears. Kind of like in my web store example, you know, use your first success story to sell the second one and then build off of that.
Bruce: Mm-mm, got you. Yeah, that's...I think those are good tips definitely. It's always like the always be selling type of model. And I heard this interesting quote or someone, or maybe it was a blog post, but they were talking about when someone starts the business, and they're really grinding hard, and their tapping every single channel they possibly can, and then versus the kind of four or five years down the road, it's like, "Are you still doing that? Are you still like grinding and pushing as it hard as possible?"
And usually, the case is probably not as hard as you were doing it before and then looking at that and saying, "Why aren't I?" Like, "I need to be...if, you know, this is what I do, we print shirts, or embroider hats, or anything like that, why aren't we still reaching out to every single person and saying, "Hey, you know, remember me? We do this. Can we help you guys? Do you guys need anything?" Things like that.
Monty: I think there's a push and pull dynamic where, you know, I kind of look at businesses a lot of times coming from doing some restaurant hospitality business through college, sort of front of the house, back of the house, right? So I've always heard from my accounts talk about this concept and seen it in my personal experiences where it's like you wanna go sell, sell, sell, sell, but you also got to maintain the internal architecture or back at the house. The production, the processes to support that.
So, I think, people go through that push and pull dynamic where maybe they hire a rep or... I always recommend, I've had a lot of business owners share with me their angst and frustration and bad history with hiring reps. And one of my responses to them is always, "You're never gonna get a great rep. Very few and far between what you need to focus on is getting some people internally to support your back of the house and your infrastructure and you need to be out there. You're always gonna be your best salesperson. You need to free up your inside process time, and get out there, and go sell yourself because you know your facts and and you've got the passion."
So I think it's a push and pull. I think people jump on that spark but then they get so busy that they immediately retreat back and realize productions behind and things are getting jammed up. And then maybe they build that up, or improve some things, they add a Printavo to the system, and that gives them the comfort to feel like they got to go back out. But you're right, some people end up kind of getting trapped in the inner workings and don't get out as much as they'd like or feel like they need to.
Bruce: Yeah. Yeah, we just have PrintovationConf, our first annual conference and we had tons of people come. And we had a bunch of speakers and we had a...two or so were actually just people in sales and we had a lot of questions about that. And some of the definitive takeaways we're definitely trying to measure the salespeople more numerically. And just understanding that, you know, anyone can say that they're a salesperson because the [inaudible 00:27:00] entry is so low.
So the hiring process of rating someone based on these different scales and what you think a successful salesperson should be sure, and vetting those people very strictly before you're bringing them in, and then after that making sure that they are completely enabled and feel extremely comfortable to be able to go and get it. And constantly iterating on that, too, like, "Hey, how can I help you?" Like, "How can to make this easier? Where are you stuck?"
Monty: Yeah, it's a challenge, and one thing I've observed in my time in this industry is how brilliant, smart, savvy, even deep-pocketed experts from other industries have come into our industry in various shapes and forms. Whether it's an ownership of a major supplier, is somebody starting completely brand-new and they just go, "T-shirts. How hard can it be? Killer margins. I love the numbers. Let's do this," and they flounder and flop bad. And I have to kind of snicker and smile because I think they come in with that sort of disrespect or discredit to what we do and there's a lot of nuances and trickiness, and it's not as easy as it looks like on the pamphlet.
You know, to start your own t-shirt business or apparel business and it's just printing money basically. And again, they may have been titans of industry in other areas but...and that's why, again, people freak out about Amazon. They're gonna be good at certain things. They're gonna, you know, do terrible in other things. You know, I don't care if they got deep pockets and Bezos at the head, they're screwing stuff up, I guarantee it. So this is a quirky, charming, remarkable world that we're in and it's got its nuances that take some time to learn.
Bruce: Speaking of which, you know, because I think a lot of print shops think about Amazon Fulfillments and someone could just go there just like they got a Custom Ink, which...you know, Custom Ink has been around for a little while now, too. But what do these suppliers think about Amazon, right? Because they definitely have the ability and they spend a lot of money to get people their garments two days, one day, and they're definitely diving into clothing, more on the fashion side for people who wear jeans and this and that. I don't know if, you know, a SanMar or whoever, is a competitor, they don't really do much B to B type stuff. But is that something that's been like that, you know, you guys chat about occasionally or...?
Monty: Yeah, you know, I like to joke there's...and we're about to have our annual sales meeting here in I think three weeks or so, up in Seattle. Every sales meeting I've gone through for the last 10 years there's a new crop of new reps. They all ask the same five questions regarding the industry, "Are we ever gonna get into decorating?" You know, obviously, they're in the industry now but, you know, when there's Under Armour, you know, "Are we gonna get Under Armour, or when are they come in." And then one of them is more recently been, you know, "What's the latest with Amazon? How do we see that?"
And I honestly don't know. I'll get the update in three weeks about Marty and Jeremy Lott's perspective. But there again, I think, it looks like their model is more stronger competitors with, like, a Custom Ink, lesser so with competing against a SanMar. But hopefully they're smart enough to understand that. Like, you know, its taken us 45 years but I feel like we've got a strong respect earning across the industry and you can't buy that. You can't optimize that and you can't fulfill that.
It takes time. And people shaking hands with you at the shows and talking to you, and understanding that, you know, you're not a bunch of high-level bean counters. That you're from the industry, you're about the industry, you're listening and responding to the industry, and even a company like Amazon can't replicate that for maybe quite some time.
Bruce: So where do you think then things are going? And we'll do this for you know SanMar area and for the print shop area because you work with them as well a lot. Where do you think things are going as far as the distribution side? Like, where would you see SanMar or others in the next five years?
Monty: Well, there's been, again, there's been a consolidation and compression of competition with, you know, the group that owns Alphabroder, Bodek. And such and I listened to a podcast, I believe with that with Norm Hollinger and feel like I recall him saying that they're still potential acquisitions down the road. So...
Bruce: What podcast is that called?
Monty: I think I heard an interview of him on "PromoKitchen." I think the PromoKitchen, guys interviewed him. This is maybe a year or so ago. Or, I think It was right after the Bodek acquisition. So it could be still some compression there, you know, there's a whole host of smaller regional suppliers that I think are, you know, trying to grow and evolve. I feel like SNS has come up in the wake of a lot of that chaos as well. You know from SanMar's perspective, I think we've got great coverage
I think we've got some big architectural plan things that we're doing like, we're doing a rolling change for our warehouse management system, still a year or two out from completion. That's gonna position us better for some of the long-standing things on our list that customers want, new back-end architecture with websites and some other projects. So I think all of that is us, you know, refortifying our foundations, I think it's the best way to put that, so that you can, you know, feel comfortable about changing out the furniture and maybe adding on something down the road.
Our warehouse distribution, that works pretty strong and capable. We're eight DC's deep now across the country and getting very little parts of the country within, you know, one day. So I don't see a new DC in the future, at least I haven't heard anything. But I think others that are more pocketed and regional, I think that would be part of their growth strategy, would be to add additional location so they can service more parts of the country.
Bruce: Now, distribution side, too, you know, obviously upgrading systems and things like that but are there certain things that you can see in say, three to five years, whether tech or not where, maybe how people order is different. Are they...you know, because obviously the...does SanMar have an app or any of the other guys, to make it easy to order on the go or quickly like that?
Monty: Yeah, we have an...we started with an app. I think it evolved into an applet. So it's basically just a portal through to a mobile site. And then part of, part of our implementation and change this year will be to have a fully responsive website so it won't matter what, you know, screen you're looking at, the site will be, you know, fundamentally the same. But I think what, what technology is teaching us, whether it's, you know, the ordering streamlined process through Amazon or, you know, I draw up along the example, honestly, of Domino's Pizza. You know, I was referencing them, gosh, it feels like seven or eight years ago where, you know, I would talk about a long hard week of travel and chatting with folks and on a Friday evening, I just wanted to get a pizza and veg, and chill out and it was nice not having to pick up the phone, and talk to some knucklehead who doesn't quite understand you and get your order wrong as clear as you make it. To punching that in on their fledgling app back then, it certainly improved since then. So I feel like streamlining the order process is gonna continue to evolve for a lot of businesses in the industry. I think the old holdout curmudgeons will, you know, retire or sell-off. I listened to one of your podcasts with the folks up in Chicago, something sportswear.
Bruce: Oh, Campus?
Monty: Yeah, Campus Sportswear. That was the quintessential example of, you know, the old guard meeting the new guard, the kind of the...not even the hand off, I mean, they're in business together which I think is awesome. So I'd love to see more collaborative efforts where you have the older, seasoned, pro veterans that may be wizards at decorating, meeting the new, young bloods that come in with some sales and marketing and process efficiency things. You know, less ha-
Bruce: It's a powerful combo.
Monty: Yeah, it's, that's an amazing combination. I'd like to see more of it out there, and I think that that will continue to evolve in that direction. But there again, I love this industry because the fundamentals, I think, are always gonna be there. Technology will never replace the human-to-human experience that people need in some cases in this industry. Lots of people have tried to do school uniforms, for instance, online. It's a gimme. Well, the fact remains that parents wanna touc, feel and get Billy to try on the, you know, shorts and shirt. And as amazing as your website might be, mom needs a brick-and-mortar shop to experience that.
Bruce: Gotcha. Well, what do you think...well, we'll just get into the specifically contract printers because you work with them a lot. What do you think they need to do to continue to be competitive over the next five years?
Monty: Sure, you know, day in and day out, and I experiences this as a TM as well as talking with contract decorators, maybe a little bit more amplification with them because it is a skinny margin, front-end business. But I've met with countless owners that, they get mentally bogged down and mentally kind of deadlocked. They got their blinders on looking just at price. I mean, it's an easy, comparable metric that so many people get focused on. And I think if you take a step back, and you somehow break free of that, it's a challenge I understand.
The successful businesses in our industry and outside of our industry, from suppliers to distributors, to online and e-commerce, the guys that have done well are not focused on that, on price. They're focused on the service and the experience of the consumer, I would say, and so I think more contract and more businesses in general, they have to truly embrace that. And they need to understand that it may take some investment, both in time and money, but that if you can optimize all those other aspects, you'll quickly realize that suddenly price starts to kind of trail back in the list of important needs.
If you don't do that and you do keep those blinders on, then your customer, your end-consumer is almost gonna mirror your model. My dad is still in this industry and he has got a lot of information and thus is a pretty powerful salesperson in a sense. And that when he talks to a new client, he expresses: empathy, understanding, a casual nature, but a lot of knowledge, and help. He's helping the customer. He's often sent people to competitors essentially because they're a better fit for what they're looking for.
But sometimes gets them back on the phone when they have a bigger project or something more suited for what he does because he was a helpful advisor and not a, you know, a sleazy sales guy. So I think it's so much about the experience and the process that, you know, when he's in those conversations he'll talk to somebody for 30 minutes and feel like they'd had a good connection and they're gonna do business together, price never even got brought up.
Bruce: Mm-hmm, cool. Well, awesome, Monty. I definitely appreciate it. Maybe a last takeaway. Is there anyone that's interesting that you're following or getting some tips outside of the industry that you like?
Monty: Sure. You know, I'm two years into daddyhood. I've got a four-year-old and a two-year-old so forgive my maybe lack of depth when it comes to people I'm checking out. That's been a wonderful blessing for my wife and I, but taking a lot of time to do some outward exploration. I only got, honestly, and some may be surprised, I'm 39 years old but I only took a deeper dive on social media may be just three or four years ago.
As you mentioned, I did...I created a social media channel primarily focused on Twitter at Apparel Geek. And I did that, honestly, because I was going and seeing a lot of businesses and when I was in there showing them product and talking about, a lot of times, more the application of the product, and different ideas, and creative ideas. SanMar started empowering all its sales force with decorated samples and we would have a lot of internal sharing of ideas. But as I got older, I realized I would see my accounts every six months, more or less, and I wouldn't remember in those meetings all the cool things I had seen or learned about.
So I created the Apparel Geek moniker, if you will, and then in my meetings, I would tell customers, "Hey, if you want to stay in touch with the cool stuff I learn about on the road just follow me"
Bruce: Just follow me there.
Monty: Yeah, follow me there. And when I'm talking to an owner or business or somebody, you know, I'd make sure to always say, "Hey, is this something cool? Can I take a picture? Would you mind me sharing this on social media?" So that's been a pleasurable outlet. And then I do try to follow all the mainstay industry standards from the Berrodins to PromoKitchen, Printavo, M&R. You know, many others out there that I do see are contributing to back and educating the industry.
Bruce: Cool. Well, yeah, I definitely appreciate it, Monty. this has been a really great chat, and again, thank you for the time.
Monty: And again, thank you for the opportunity. And I know I've done a couple of Printavo puff pieces here but I'm being sincere, I think your business model is an example of what the industry does need, which is that next, you know, generation push to carry us forward. We can't keep leaning on the old titans but we can certainly learn from their experience and apply a lot of the next generation, you know, youth and optimism, and I think it's a wonderful fit. So, thank you, again, for the time.
Bruce: Yeah. I appreciate it. Thank you.
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