Dear Shop Owner....What I Learned About Hiring In The Screen Printing Industry

Updated: Jul 2, 2021

Can I see a show of hands - who's been guilty of getting so caught up in the day to day, that your tunnel vision not only caused setbacks, but it also brought long term harm to your business?, two, eighteen, fffourrrty seven, ok so everyone....

I could point out several examples of what this could be, but for starters, I want to touch on hiring. How did reading that word feel to you? Odd question, I know. But for those that have done it, still doing it, wish they could do it better, or wish they never did it, you will know exactly why I asked that.

Now, maybe you have a formula down that will ensure that you hire on the "best and brightest" in the industry. If so, that is awesome and good for you and this post may not be for you. But maybe you've been running your entire operation solo, the business is beginning to show significant growth, and you're physically unable to continue navigating it alone. It's time to think about possibly bringing on that first employee. That's exciting! But what questions should you ask yourself, what should you look for, what questions would you ask in the interview, how is your company currently set up since it's been you this entire time? You could have a core group of employees that do ok, and you need to hire on someone else to fill a much needed position in order to achieve that next phase of growth or to help streamline the workflow. Maybe, just maybe you have let go several employees over time or had someone quit because they were too overwhelmed due to lack of structure within the workplace....


As with anything I write or talk about, this is all based on my experience and in no way telling you it is the right or the wrong way.

Ok now with that being said, here we go....

You have more than likely heard the phrase "Hire slow, fire fast." If so, good. It is truth and those 4 words can help guide you. Far too often, the wrong person is hired for the job and far too often the job suffers due to lack of attention to detail. If it takes an extra week to two weeks to find the right person for the job at hand, do it. I realize your time is precious and you may feel that extra one to two weeks may bury you, but it will be well worth it in two months when your shop is flourishing because of the added value of a skillful colleague who takes pride in their work. So as the owner, put in a few extra hours knowing that in two weeks, it's going to be even better than it was before.

Every industry has their fair share of disgruntled employees, but the screen printing world specifically, can attract some that will never be forgotten - in a good and bad way. There are employees that will work when there are eyes on them and not work when no one is looking (classic). Some employees may steal from the company and some may slam a door and throw over a table when they are let go for not wanting to work.

But some may work for you for years and then their time has come to move on and you both hug and maybe even, I don't know, cry and say your goodbyes and keep in touch because they were an integral part of the company's growth. It is important that the potential employee's overall attitude and personality align with your company culture and just as important, that they bring high emotional intelligence to the table.

Don't feel rushed to hire right away because you are lacking in a position within a department and things are moving, or you are getting busier so you feel you need to immediately bring in someone only to have to let them go days, weeks, months down the road. Do you feel like you just need a body in that position and you'll eventually train them to one day be the absolute best?! I will be the first to admit I made all of these mistakes more than I made the right decision with hiring and that's why this is extremely important - Don't hire out of desperation, hire based on skill.

And to be clear, skill doesn't have to mean that they have a college degree or that they've worked in a printshop for 6 years.

I know, I know. You are ready to hire and you are looking for top tier talent. You find some good leads, and BOOM, you hire them $12/hr. because that's good starting pay for someone who catches shirts or cleans and reclaims screens, right? Well, I could go on and on about how...No this is not right.

The person who catches shirts at the end of your dryer is more than likely your quality assurance as well, which is the last line of defense before the order goes out the door. And the one who cleans and reclaims screens for you is just as important, if not more important, than your press operator because if the screens are wrong, the entire job is wrong. You might be looking for someone to oversee operations or a production floor manager and if so, what is that position worth to you? Do you think someone will step into that role at $15 an hour in hopes that they will get a $2 or even a $4 raise in a year? Wrong again.

If you want the best, you have to pay for it. And this is regardless of any position in your company. Yes, your time as the owner is extremely valuable and you should be charging your customers for that. But your employees' time is extremely valuable as well because they are showing up, doing their job, assisting others with their work, creating plans, delegating, scrubbing the toilets, all so that your company can grow and they can be part of something awesome and grow with it. Hire those that are better than you at that specific position, and then pay them top dollar.

Finally, make sure your processes and systems are in place before hiring your first employee, even if they are part time. This is a big one and one of very few things I regret when I began hiring many many years ago. I started in my living room printing on the floor, then moved into a small garage and it was just me for the longest time. I knew the movement of my workflow and had no reason to document it because I had it all in my head, or so I thought. I didn't even use a work order until I hired my first part time employee while still in my garage and that first work order was all hand written like it was 1996 (great year though - The Afghan Whigs released Black Love and Tool's Ænima came out. Great records, check them out!)

Maybe you're wondering what the hell processes/systems even mean. Those just sound like ridiculous "business" words that seem too technical for something like a print shop....I assure you, they will be your guiding light. Think of it this way, in its simplest form -

A system is like your body. Everything within functions properly and effectively so that you can do what you do best, and that's be you! Processes are what work in tandem within to make the system work, like your heart pumping blood throughout your body so you can receive oxygen and nutrients and your brain creates electronic signals so you can pick up a squeegee and not touch a hot pallet. Your processes help define the steps for tasks and overall efficiency. Systems help lead you to the goals.

Here's the bullet points in case you skipped down the page, which I get it...the post is way too long and the attention span shortens with each passing day -

• Hire slow, fire fast

• Don't hire out of desperation, hire based on skill

• If you want the best, you have to pay for it

• Define and implement systems and processes before hiring

• Check out The Afghan Whigs and Tool

• And that sentence you see below

One last thing and I promise I am finished here -

You can train someone to be a manager, but you CAN NOT train someone to be a leader. (There's a big difference between the two in which I will pick up in another blog in the near future...)


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©2022 Adam Tanaka