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The No BS Rule


Want to make your shop better?  Run with more efficiency?  Bigger profits at the end of the day?  Here is one place you can start.  It’s a simple rule and it applies to just about everything:

No bullshit.

Sorry if that is offensive language to you.  But I think it is an appropriate business term in our industry context.  It sums the collective need to simplify things to push for the greater good.  Listed below are six key areas of your business where the NO BS rule could have a tremendous impact.  Feel free to add yours in the comments section!


Your business isn’t just a line-up of computers, machines and other gizmos.  It’s made up essentially by the people you employ.  Yet shops all across the land often fail in this most important aspect of their business.  They hire the wrong people.  They don’t push clear expectations.  There isn’t any accountability.  They put off employee reviews and difficult conversations.

When it comes down to it, it usually is a leadership challenge.  Create a BS Free Zone with how you handle your people.

When you think about your employees or your co-workers does anyone seem extremely out of place or over their head?  Get them the help they need or go in another direction in terms of their employment.  They don’t “have to” be your employees.  That deadweight that’s holding you back can be someone else’s problem.  Especially if they have a litany of challenges in their personnel folder.

It should be easy to work in your shop.  Clearly defined rules.  Crystal clear expectations.  Accountability.  Trust.  Humor.  Training.  Teamwork.  Empathy and understanding.  Effort.  Reliability.  Honesty.  Respect.  Even fun.

Shops that have this practically run themselves.  Shops that don’t look chaotic.  Lots of turnover.  Dysfunction.  Finger pointing and blaming.  Mistrust.  Basically the opposite of the paragraph above.

If you have ever lamented, “We just can’t find good help!”, often the answer to the challenge starts with the top.  Is that you?  Look at your own BS and see if you need to change something.

This also may mean that your staff just can’t do what they want.  If you have established procedures, policies or rules, then those are the guidelines everyone must follow.  If the rules don’t work, by all means change them…but if they are useful and pertinent; then that’s the direction your shop train is traveling.

Either employees are on board, or they need to get off at the next station.  That’s No BS.


This is crucial.  Either you have quality or you don’t.  What do you allow to ship?

The No BS rule here would be to clearly define that line.  It is binary.

Can you match a PMS color?  Can you print or sew in the correct location?  Are the garments folded neatly?  Is the quality of the decoration perfect? When you put a sticker or shipping packing slip on a box, is it on straight or just slapped on crooked?  Details matter.

If your team has any sort of craftsmanship challenges, what are you doing about it?  It’s the question for the ages.

Craftsmanship counts.

Your shop is the totality of the mistakes you make.  You can print 99 orders right, but the only one the customer is going to remember is that one that “got away”.  Plenty of shops get new customers all the time because “my old shop screwed up my order”.  Have any of your new customers told you that?

Customers have very little memory of past successes.

The NO BS rule changes that.  Don’t accept mediocrity.  Learn how to do it right.  Buy the right equipment.  Use it properly.  Train your employees.  Have good work instructions that clearly define the order expectations.  Insist on excellence in every step.  All the time.

Do you cram mistakes in the middle of the shirt pile and hope your customer won’t find them?  Do you argue to your wit’s end that your color match is “close”?  Are you the master at inventing excuses?  That’s all BS and you know it.

Stop sweeping your mistakes under the rug and hoping nobody will notice.  They do.

Craftsmanship isn’t about doing just enough to get by.  Craftsmanship is all about creating the environment in your shop that pushes the limits of what is the best in the industry.  Vince Lombardi has a great quote that applies to this:

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”

What level of craftsmanship do you think you have in your shop?  Are you working on this every day?

This is shop-wide…not just in production.  What are you chasing?  Name your top three weakest areas.  Start there.  That’s no BS.


From an operational standpoint how efficient is your shop?  In manufacturing, lean thinking is all about eliminating waste.  Wasted steps and motion are targeted.  A hypothesis is developed for the change.  It’s tested.  Implemented, and then constantly tweaked.

Are you on a continuous improvement journey?

Apply a No BS rule to your operational efficiency.  Take a long, hard look at the internal processes in your shop.  Just in how things are routed, organized and handled.  What sticks out?  Look for your bottlenecks.  Talk to your staff.  What are their biggest problems?

Within each task that has to be accomplished, you might go from A to B to C to D to E to F.   Map it out. Gather your team together and examine the process.  What do you need to eliminate a step or two?  Do you do something in your shop just because “that’s the way it’s always been done”?

There may be a better way.  Think about these things in your shop that are slowing you down:

The goal of lean in your shop is to establish standards for work to eliminate any waste.  What BS is the way?  Old rules?  Junk nobody uses?  Barely functional equipment?  Spend-thrift decisions about supplies?  Personnel issues?  Clutter everywhere?

Get past that and work towards freeing up time and effort by culling out the problems that don’t work to increase operational efficiency.  Some of this effort will be easy.  Some of it may require a difficult conversation.


For a lot of things a compromise will be reached to satisfy many different concerns or a group of people.  A new vacation policy for example.  Compromise in this context is great and truly needed.

Where the No BS rule comes into play for compromise is in bigger picture ideas.  Your company’s Vision Statement.  Core Values.  Purpose.

When you think about your shop are you doing what you set out to do?  For a lot of companies they work for a few years and realize that they left a lot of the “why” they got into the business at the feet of getting another order.

There is a reason I’m asking.  I’ve had plenty of in-depth conversations with shop owners about their businesses.  For many, their core beliefs and ideals that they founded the company with aren’t present in their daily view.  They’ve sacrificed and ignored some of their principles.  Now, years later they are mystified about how they are running their own businesses.

It’s heavy.

Here’s the NO BS rule though.  You have to paint the picture about these important things everyday in order for them to be present.  What is your Vision?  What are your Core Values?  What is the Purpose of your company?

If you want your team to follow these maxims and use them to guide their actions and business decisions you have to talk about them constantly.  They just can’t be on a plaque on the wall or posted on your website.

They need to be in the heart, lungs and breath of your company.  Your leadership must instill these in the actions they choose to take every day.  You need to acknowledge or even reward staff members who demonstrate that they “get it”.  Conversely, you need to eliminate those that don’t.

There shouldn’t be any compromise on this big picture, and crucial ideals.  That’s No BS.

Creativity & Learning

What separates the wheat from the chaff in this industry?  It’s simple.  The masters of our craft are constantly learning and pushing the envelope with their creativity.  The best shops all pressure themselves to get better.

In everything.

What have you done this week to learn something new?  Are you asking your staff to experiment with anything?  Do you:

This isn’t just with your management team.  This is with everybody.  When you celebrate creativity and learning you are opening up the floor to new ideas.  You are saying “It’s ok to try something new”.  That’s where the real growth occurs.

Do you want to be just a group of order processors?  Where’s the fun in that?

This industry is a marathon, not a sprint.  In order to really succeed you have to separate your shop from all the look-a-likes.  There is a low cost of entry into this business.  Anyone can embroider or print a shirt.  Not everyone can do it well.  Few can stump the experts.

When your work stands alone as a shining example of the best the industry has to offer, you won’t be competing any longer on price.  Creativity drives value.  Learning to do it better drives value.  

That’s the No BS rule here.  Increase your value.


Have you ever read or heard this before?

“Failure to plan is planning to fail?”  

I’m only asking because one of the top challenges that I see with the shops I’m talking to daily is that a good number don’t have any sort of long-range plan for their business.

They’ve started it.  Worked it for a few years.  Seen some great growth.  Now, they are poised to take the next step and blossom.  Everything that they’ve accomplished as been due to hard work and a good amount of luck.

I say that because there are just as many shops that didn’t quite make it.  Where do you think all the used equipment on the market comes from?  They worked just as hard.  Except that they were in the wrong area, or tried to service the wrong market.  Or any number of things really.  For them, their Ready, Fire, Aim luck didn’t work out so well.

Want to push for better growth and fantastic success?  The only way to do that is to plan for it.  It is the long-range mental game.  It is strategic.  It is No BS planning.

One of the first things I ask for when I start coaching shops is for them to send me their current business plan.  About 75% of the shops that I’m working with don’t have one, or the one they have is several years old and doesn’t match up to their current state.

Why do you need one anyway?  Can’t you just wing it?  It’s been working good so far…

Here’s why.  Let’s say you want to drive from Miami to San Francisco.  Would you just get in your car and drive?  What roads would you take?  Where are you stopping to rest or sleep?  Is there anything you’d like to see along the way?

I’m sure plenty of people could find their way without planning the trip, but constructing a plan would bring a long list of benefits that would help on the journey.

Writing a business plan works the same way.  Can you just shoot from the hip?  Sure.  But knowing your direction, key landmarks, understanding your metrics, challenges, competition, and most importantly your customers, is the No BS way to get to the next level.

Success is strategic in nature.

Don’t have a current business plan?  There is a wonderful free template available at the Small Business Administration.  Click here to use it.  Here’s what you will need to write:

Here’s the No BS…to grow your business you have to understand your journey.  Where you’ve been.  Where you are going.  Can you describe where your shop will be in 3 years?  5 years?  Maybe 10?

If so, that’s great!  If not, it looks like you have some homework to do.

…and it’s N0 BS.


“Strategic planning is worthless – unless there is first a strategic vision.” – John Naisbitt

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” – Mike Tyson

“Stop setting goals.  Goals are pure fantasy unless you have a specific plan to achieve them.” – Stephen Covey

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