We interviewed Mark Coudray. He is one of the screen printing industry's leading thinkers, consultants, and advocates. With nearly 50 years of experience in the apparel decoration business, Mark's career spans a period of robust growth and incessant change. It's not just screen printing that's changed. The entire world has!
The new technologies, processes, garments, business models, and techniques that have emerged during Mark's career could provide fodder for a years' worth of discussion.
But what hasn't changed during that period is equally remarkable.
Print shops still struggle with the same things:
No amount of software and no screen printing press can account for a lack of strategy or a mismanaged approach to building a business. Mark Coudray's insights are easily among the most valuable you'll read: clear thinking, simple advice, and experience add up to serious authority.
It's easier to make decisions each and every day when you have a goal in mind. Mark's advice is dead simple, but hard to envision (much less implement):
"Begin with the end in mind, figure out what you want to do. How do you want to exit the business?”
Too many businesses are stuck printing any job that comes their way. This habit might hamstring your business – are you actually moving toward your objective, or are you just keeping the doors open?
Mark goes on to discuss the two types of entrepreneurs he's encountered:
Starting with the end in mind requires soul-searching and some decision making. But when you set a goal, you can begin moving toward it instead of floundering from job to job.
"Everybody starts in manual printing. I built my first press with $200 in my parents’ garage. In the beginning I was ambitious, I would walk in anywhere and pitch them on doing shirts. I wasn’t really too concerned about the people that didn’t want to buy stuff."
Mark offers some of the most concrete and actionable advice for making the leap into an automatic screen printing machine:
Automatic printing is great. But without a solid plan – and the income to support it – you can dig a hole for yourself and grow faster than you can handle. Mark explains:
“When I bought my first automatic, I had enough work to last 16 hours a day for 3 months. And I was just overwhelmed. Three weeks into it, I was out of work and out of money. I converted all my cash to accounts receivable. It literally took me 5 years to get back on my feet because I grew too quick.”
You're looking for personality types that are going to:
While you're at it, Mark suggests taking the Myers-Briggs for yourself. "It was stunning to go on this self-discovery and learn my personality type."
Whatever you do, don't hire people that are just like you. It's an easy mistake to make – just get people with your same ambitions and work ethic, right? Mark disagrees: "I was hiring for somebody like me. You don't want to hire people that match your personality type."
Mistakes. Failure. Mark doesn't like these words. We've dug deep into common mistakes print shops make, but Mark prefers to frame it in a better way:
"Those terms [mistake, failure] don't help you. These are experience issues. We're learning ways that don't work, and we're finding ways that lead to extra cost."
Interestingly, the biggest mistake is how shops react to their "experience issues." Every shop faces challenges, but the truly successful shops accomplish two things when they face adversity:
"Everyone understands it's a process and can duplicate it."
Your shop doesn't have to be tidy to be organized. Organization takes many forms, but the common denominator remains the same: there are distinct processes in place that every employee abides by.
A quality print shop will have:
When everyone in the shop understands that they're involved in a production process and have a distinct role to play in the success of that process, there's a high likelihood that the shop is successful and producing quality prints.
It's practically a meme: pricing your screen printing is difficult. Too high and you lose customers. Too low and you can't pay your bills.
Luckily, Mark Coudray has the goods: you've got to know your utilization if you want to make sense of how your costs compare to your prices.
"When we measure shop efficiencies, and we've done this hundreds of times, the shop's efficiency is typically between 24% to 33%. [...] Lunches, breaks, approvals, packing, setting the press up. That triples or quadruples the cost per hour!"
Instead, price jobs based on value. Value-based pricing eliminates your competition: "You are defining what value is. [...] When you talk on the customer's terms, and deliver on what's valuable to them [...] you are able to charge more for what you do."
If you're struggling with pricing, we suggest taking a moment to contact Mark Coudray and see how he could help your business make sense of utilization, pricing, and adding value for your customers.
Mark's advice isn't to go out and get as many customers as quickly as you can. In fact, it's quite the opposite: be careful.
"Be very careful about your customers. Target them. Know your niche. Pick 3 to 4 niches to be an expert in. Know everything that there is to know about that."
We've long advocated for being an expert consultant to your customers – it's easy to get analysis paralysis when faced with the overwhelming choices customers have.
Luckily, you're in a position to pick and choose your niches. Mark gave us two examples of how you can leverage niche markets to be an expert:
Since Mark has visited hundreds, if not thousands, of print shops, we weren't surprised to hear this news:
"Lack of organization and information flow. It's getting better with programs like Printavo, because they're helping manage the information. But there are still holes. The approval process is one of the biggest challenges in the entire process."
Approvals are tough. They require back-and-forth and can get stuck in a no-mans-land – totally killing your momentum and costing your shop a lot of money.
Mark wants you to think about the return on the time you're spending in your shop. Too many people worry about return on investment in a strict dollars sense – but time is far more valuable. If information seamlessly passes from one department to the next, productivity is increased. Wasted time is lessened. Instead of spending time on low-value tasks, you can find high-value tasks that push your entire operation forward.
Is what you're doing in your shop a wise return for the time you're spending on it?
We're so thankful that Mark Coudray took the time to chat with us.
Mark has helped hundreds of businesses reach their full potential. His focus on goals, vision, and concrete methods to achieve long-term success is an asset to the entire custom apparel industry. Mark's voice is tremendously valuable: he tackles controversial, hard-hitting topics that screen printers really struggle with.
At Printavo, we want to engage with figures across the industry to share their insights and knowledge with you. When your business succeeds, it raises the bar for the entire industry. Check out more of our recent interviews:
And if you need more from Mark Coudray, check out our last interview with Mark. He goes in-depth into pricing techniques and shows what happens when quantity breaks become a crutch instead of a tool.
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.Try Printavo