Creativity Killers – How to Keep the Drive Alive

Your company needs a solid dose of creativity every day.  I’m not just talking about the art department either, although that’s the obvious place to start.  How your team solves problems, rises to challenges, and pushes past their limits all have to do with the amount of creativity they have in their bank.  So how do you keep that drive alive?  Read on my friend…

  1. End Roadblocks.  To foster creative solutions you need an atmosphere where ideas are welcomed.  If you have people at your company that make all the decisions or poo-poo anyone that brings up an idea on how to resolve a challenging situation, then your staff is more likely than not to keep their mouth shut.  The atmosphere you want to create is one of “anything goes” and “let’s hear it”.  Maybe you won’t act on every idea, but simply having the discussion can lead you down a path that wouldn’t normally be trod.  Micro-managers are the bane of creative people.  If that control freak is you, take a deep breath and let your team start handling challenges and give up some control.  It will be ok, trust me.
  2. Keep Busy.  I don’t know about you, but I do my best work when I am overloaded.  I really like it when I have multiple projects going, deadlines are looming and there is a lot at stake.  My creative mind works best when I’m juggling different tasks, and while I’m working on one thing I’m often thinking about another.  I believe that this cross pollination will often produce better results.  When things are a little calmer, and I actually have more time on projects is when I lose focus.  Pushing the limits is always a good thing for me.
  3. Feedback.  Want to motivate and encourage your team?  Provide positive feedback and encouragement.  It’s tough sledding to come up with better ways to do anything if you are surrounded by negativity.  Creative people thrive on others being impacted by their ideas.  Good discussions and dialog about challenges foster even more creative thinking.  It’s like adding fuel to the fire.
  4. Yes Men.  Surrounding yourself with clones is a great way to kill any creative spark.  Seek and hire people with diverse backgrounds and talents.  You want a rich mix of skills, life experiences, and attitudes.  Dig up people that think differently than you and encourage them to add their ingredients to the stew.  Thomas Edison was famous for getting all different types of people to assist him with his research – electricians, plumbers, sculptors, engineers, accountants, etc.  They each brought something to the table and were able to look at problems from different perspectives.
  5. Give yourself permission to fail.  In a rut?  Try something new and allow yourself or your team to fail.  How many famous inventions were created by accident on the way to discover something else?  The journey is what’s worthwhile.  Try something.  Fail.  Try something else.  Repeat and keep going.  Learn from it, and tweak things until you achieve your desired results.
  6. Research.  What’s out there that can help?  For graphic artists: I used to keep a notebook with pages and examples of great stuff I ripped out of magazines and other sources that showed different textures, shapes, layouts, colors or fun examples for inspiration.  Now I just use Pinterest.  To me, it’s always amazing that when I get stuck on an idea or layout I can find something that will work looking through this material.  Here’s a link to my Design board: http://pinterest.com/atkinsontshirt/design/
  7. Be silly.  Being silly is fun.  Loosen up!!  Life shouldn’t be so serious, and neither should you.  A great way to add some creative zest is to act like a goofball.  To multiply the effect, be silly with others.  There are no rules!!  Get out of your own way and laugh!
  8. Don’t worry about what others may think.  Over the years I’ve taught art classes and workshops on watercolor or drawing.  At first people are basically scared of the blank white paper and making that first black mark on it.  “If it’s not perfect, what will others think of me?”  Compare that to seasoned artists that just immediately splash a gigantic broad stroke of color on the paper to get started.  They don’t care what you think.  They armor themselves with the attitude that pushes their creativity forward.  Go ahead – make your mark!!  Have that inner strength in all that you do.
  9. Staying on the sidelines.  Get involved!  Want to push your creativity to the max?  Try helping someone else with a project, volunteering for a charity, take a class, or learn a new skill.  Getting up and out of your chair and involved in other things enhances the opportunities presented to you.  Life doesn’t come to you – you have to go get it.  Learning from these experiences can be like a super-vitamin to your creative system.  Go for it!!
  10. Stop thinking.  Sometimes your brain just gets in the way.  Have you ever thought of a great idea in the shower, lying in bed, or at the gym when working out?  The impetus for this article occurred to me when I was sweating like a freak on a rowing machine at my gym last week.  Your subconscious mind takes over and will shoot you a good idea every now and again.  The trick is to do something with them.
  11. Bonus – Ask for help.  That’s right.  Admit that you don’t know everything and seek guidance and support from someone else.  Collaborate.  Let an expert’s ideas help shape your original idea into something better.  Or, bring in a few other people and work on the project together equally.  Let their ideas shape how it comes out.

Creative thinking isn’t limited to just artistic types.  Sometimes, it’s just getting out of your own way and pulling down the barriers of why you think something won’t work.  Explore different alternatives.  There isn’t a correct answer, just one you haven’t tried yet.

If you need some creative thinking help with your company, I’d love to get involved.  Send me an e-mail at matkinson4804@gmail.com and let’s brainstorm together about how I can help you achieve success.

Pinterest: Visual Social Marketing for Apparel Decorators

By now you’ve surely read one or two articles about the value of incorporating a social marketing strategy into your business plan.  Connecting with your current and potential customers is an ever-demanding and crucial step in growing your sales and working towards successful sales goals.

You may already have a website, blog, Facebook page, LinkedIn account, and Twitter feed.  Adding another element to that may seem overwhelming and daunting, but if you haven’t heard of Pinterest (www.pintrest.com) you may want to jump on this gigantic growing social media phenomenon.  Pinterest is the hottest social media website on the internet, with millions of users and it’s growing every day.  In a recent study released in April (http://www.forbes.com/sites/alexknapp/2012/04/09/new-study-pegs-pinterest-as-the-number-3-social-website/), Forbes Magazine reports that Pinterest is the number three social media service, with 105 million users, ranking only behind Facebook and Twitter respectively.  Below, I’ll explain what Pinterest is and how you can use this to your advantage as part of your social media marketing strategy for your business.

Pinterest has been likened to a “Visual Twitter”, and that’s pretty accurate.  Your account is essentially one or more bulletin boards of visual pictures that you want the world to see.  Instead of blasting out a short 140 character message users “Pin” a picture of something that “Interests” them to one of their boards.  Others may find that image likable and can either “Like” or “Repin” the image to one of their boards.  Popular images can go viral and spread across the country in minutes.  The fun of Pinterest is exploring other people’s boards to see their interests and connect socially.  After I created my account a few weeks ago, the business epiphany of using this as a tool for marketing was readily apparent.  I’ve loaded an image and in literally ten seconds, someone I don’t know Repinned or Liked the image.  It’s amazing.

Obtaining and creating a Pinterest account is pretty easy.  You can sign up for an invitation from Pinterest (www.Pinterest.com), or be invited from someone that already is using the service.  After you’ve joined, you can sign in using your Facebook or Twitter account so logging in when you want to poke around is easy.  After you’ve joined you can create your “Boards”.  These will be the landing zones for your visual images that you want to pin.

  1. The easiest way to add a new image is to use the “Pin-It” bookmark, as this is the tool that adds the image to one of your boards.  Go to the Pinterest Goodies section and drag the “Pin-It” bookmarklet to your bookmarks toolbar in your browser.
  2. When you want to share images from the web with others, simply click the “Pin-It” tool and all of the available images from that page will appear.  Move your cursor over the image you want to share and a “Pin This” icon will appear on the image.  Click on the icon, and you can choose one of your boards to pin your image.  Simple.
  3. When you pin the image you can include a description of the image if you want.  You have 500 characters, which is considerably more than the 140 character limit that Twitter imposes, but most people using Pintrest only post a sentence or two at the most.
  4. When you Pin something, the image will be placed on your Board.  Anyone viewing that can click on the image to Repin it to their board, or if they click again it will take them to the original source of the Pin.  This is what’s driving the world-wide craze, as Pinterest is quickly outdistancing other social media referrals.
  5. The enjoyable part of Pinterest is exploring and sharing images.  Warning: It’s addictive.  Once you start, good luck getting anything else done that day.
  6. Pinterest has a free app for iPhone users and they are working on one for Android phones now.  You can still do everything from your phone if you have web access though, so don’t let that discourage you.  I have the iPhone app, and it works great for viewing your pins, but they haven’t worked out the “Pin It” bookmarklet yet for the iPhone – but it’s coming soon.

The downside for Pinterest is that it’s already battling some copywrite infringement challenges.  Webpages that don’t want to allow Pinterest users to capture images can install some short code to their site that will push a disclaimer that reads, “This site doesn’t allow pinning to Pinterest. Please contact the owner with any questions. Thanks for visiting!”  You might want to tread cautiously if you are unsure about an image.  Also, some companies are still waiting for the legal dust to settle before moving forward with any marketing use of Pinterest for their business.  However, a simple rule of thumb to consider is that if it’s your image, it’s yours to post.

Ok, so that takes care of the basics of how the site works.  You should play and explore around a bit to see how others are using the site and the mechanics of doing the steps.  Remember, nothing is permanent and you can edit, delete, rearrange and redo whatever you want, whenever you want.  Make some mistakes and play around.  Have fun!!

For apparel decorators here are some ideas on how you can use Pinterest to your advantage and make this a part of your social media marketing strategy:

  1. Educate your customers about your shop.  What do you do?  Have a board showing different facets of your business so everyone can see all the wonderful things you can print.  If a picture is worth a thousand words, twenty pictures from your shop is an entire article devoted to your business.  Quite often nobody really knows how a shirt is printed or embroidered and pictures of the process are very fascinating to the general public.  Photos of your staff smiling and working are great.  Include some descriptive texts and your company name so your photo is more searchable.  Check out my board “Behind the Scenes at a T-shirt Shop” here – http://pinterest.com/atkinsontshirt/behind-the-curtain-at-a-t-shirt-shop/
  2. One of the coolest features of Pinterest is that you can Pin videos too.  If you have some video shots of your company or an introductory video, here is a great place to include them.  Have a board just for videos and Pin all the ones that you like.  Take some short videos of your presses in action or your embroidery machines humming.  Make a video tour of your shop, or show someone how a high density print is made.
  3. Create a board for blog articles that you read and share your favorites.  If you have a blog, this is a great place to share your blog as well.  I have a blog board and a few times, there weren’t any available photos from the blog that could be pinned so I wasn’t able to link the blog and share it.  Remember, everything on Pinterest is visual so the key for sharing on Pinterest is to make sure your photos can be shared.  Web designers take heed.
  4. If you have an art staff, encourage them to join Pinterest and use the service as a tool to create inspiration boards that they can learn or spark and idea from.  Each board can be categorized by a theme, such as “Elephants”, or “Motorcycles”, or “Distressed Textures” or “Blue”….whatever makes sense to the artist.  As they bump into great looking or inspiring ideas on the web they can Pin that idea to the appropriate board, so when someone wants a shirt with a distressed graphic of an elephant riding a motorcycle on a blue shirt, you have some reference material to start that work already available.  Type in Logos, Design, Type, Graphic, T-shirt, Image or any other key word in the search field and be prepared to be mesmerized by the high volume of insanely great work flowing to you.
  5. If you have a brand or retail line, Pinterest is right up your alley for marketing your designs.  You can simply Pin your collection from your online catalog, and your designs will be in front of a huge mass market instantly…and for free.  The great thing about Pinterest is that once someone discovers one of your images or your boards they can follow you, and have instant access to all of your Pins in the future.  This means for example that if you are promoting a line of t-shirts that feature creative images of a dragonfly, all of the people that like dragonfly t-shirts can immediately be updated with your new designs if they have found you and are following your boards.  If they like a particular design, in two clicks they are on your ordering page and could be buying that shirt!  It’s that easy.
  6. You can create boards to spark ideas for your customers such as “Sale items”, “Things We Love”, “Promotional Ideas”, “Unique Placements”, “Distressed Graphics”, “Mixed Media”, “All-Over Prints”, “Foil”, etc.  The list is probably endless, but you get the idea.  Customers want to know what you do, and by showing your repertoire you can get their creative juices flowing.
  7. Give your customers reasons to follow you by creating boards that are more than just a visual portfolio.  Create contests where they can link back to you, such as “Pin It to Win It” or “Corporate Pin It Challenge” where they show your product and how they use it for a reward of some kind.  Remember, this is a SOCIAL media and it’s all about connecting and sharing.  At my company we are already tossing around ideas on how to develop this strategy, but we haven’t released anything yet.
  8. You can also make a collaborative board, and have others Pin images to the board.  Under Settings you can change the board controls from “Just Me” to “Me+” – this might be an interesting way for your art staff, sales force, or clients to collaborate on an idea.  For example, maybe you can start a board for your local Chamber of Commerce, Rotary group, or networking circle.  Maybe a client oriented board or two that shows of the work that you print for them?  People can share and post their visual Pin to that particular board, driving traffic to your Pinterest account, and maybe while they are there they will check out another one of your boards.  Get creative!

In closing, I think that if you try Pinterest you’ll quickly see that it can become a major part of your social media arsenal.  Remember, you need to include good looking visuals of anything you Pin.  Boring or trite images will get passed over for funny, interesting, or stunning shots every day.  Make your boards fun and informative, and include some personal interests too.  If you’d like to check out my Pinterest boards here’s the link – http://pinterest.com/atkinsontshirt/.  I’m always adding to this page and playing around.  It’s such a new and interesting tool, and like you, I’m still learning how to incorporate this into some big picture ideas. Happy Pinning!

How Do I Do It?

People that know me are aware that I’m blessed/cursed with an insatiable curiosity with learning something new.  I’m always reading a book, a blog, someone’s post or Twitter feed.  Like a worker bee bringing pollen back to the hive, I gather new ideas and try to glean some new edge from the noise.  I’m constantly being asked what app I’m using or blog/book I’m reading.  I thought it might be fun to jot down some of my favorites and explain, from my perspective, the value that I find in them and maybe how I’m using each.  I’m always bumping into something new, so this will be an outdated list probably too soon, but maybe someone can use it as a way to sharpen their own sword.  These are in no particular order…

  1.  LinkedIn.  I’m a big LI freak and I’ll admit it.  I find it constantly intellectually stimulating and encouraging in connecting with other professionals in one online space.  If Facebook is for “friends”, then LinkedIn is for “professional friends”.  If you aren’t connected with me on LinkedIn already, check out my profile here http://www.linkedin.com/in/marshallatkinson.  While most users on LI are just adding connections, or simply posting a profile and forgetting about this tool; I’m actively using it to grow my professional connections, introduce myself, gain business and sales, share ideas, share my ideas and knowledge, and use it as a resource to learn about others.  The best value for me is to keep the “Top of Mind” with the people that I’m connected with, so when they need some t-shirts printed, or a design created they will think of me.  You never know who will be reviewing your profile, or what they are looking for so I have mine chocked full of content.  Here are a few tips on using LinkedIn:
    1. Fully fill out your profile.  The best ones have some information on what that person does for a living and describes somehow how connecting with that person can be a value to another.  You should include how to contact you – both e-mail and phone.  I see so many people not post this information, and it’s vital.  After all, that’s the reason for having a LinkedIn account – for the connections and potential business, right?  I constantly get contacted from someone from LinkedIn because my information is listed, and you should too.
    2. Join some groups and be an active member.  I try to either ask or answer at least one question a week in one of the groups that I’ve joined on LinkedIn.  This has led to some interesting debates on subjects, wonderful working answers to a challenge I’ve posted, and most importantly of all – some business opportunities.
    3. Connect with everyone.  This is a networking group.  I don’t pre-judge anyone, as I’m looking for my next opportunity or referral.  Maybe that person won’t need my services, but his associate might.
    4. Connect your Twitter feed.  This helps keep your presence on the status update, so if anyone is looking at their LinkedIn page, you’ll look productive and as a contributor.  Of course, if you regularly Tweet nonsense about picking up your kids, or how that ref just blew the call you might want to reconsider.  (or have a professional Twitter account, and one for you personally)
    5. Post a picture.  There’s lots of debate about this, but from my perspective I like to see someone’s face on there.  I’ve met a few of my connections in person, long after I’ve connected and it’s great to check their profile before meeting them in person to help find them in a crowd at an event.  This should be a professional looking head shot, not one of you gunning down a shot of tequila.
    6. Use LinkedIn for research.  Shortly after you hand me your business card I’m going to type in your name on LinkedIn and see if you have a profile posted.  I do this for a number of reasons, but the main one is to make sure that I’m solidifying my connection to you and I stay in front of the pack.  I’ve learned some very interesting things along the way in doing this practice, and sometimes I’ve discovered something on a profile that will strengthen this new relationship or close a sale.  Of course if you don’t have a LinkedIn profile as you don’t have an account this will come up empty.  It always seems to me like there’s a hole online for that person…and that is a little disappointing.
    7. Twitter.  (Follow me at @atkinsontshirt)  I’ve only been using Twitter since August of 2011.  I’m late to the party, but I’ve grown to learn and understand its power.  Previously my comprehension of Twitter was that it was only for posting some smarmy attempt at wit; or some other inane comment that probably nobody wanted to read.  After reading multiple business success articles and books, I opened my account and started Tweeting to the world.  It’s been a challenge, and I often hate the 140 character limit, but now it’s an everyday part of my business arsenal.  Why?  Well, for one I like sharing things.  Articles, books, ideas, whatever.  Twitter is a perfect outlet for that.  I don’t care if you read it or not, I’m putting it out there as whatever I’m posting is something I found interesting.  Twitter is also the perfect medium for marketing something about you or your company.  For Twitter, here are some points you should consider:
      1. Be polite.  Give others credit for a post and say Thank You for a re-Tweet.  There are some important social etiquette rules for Twitter, and if you adhere to them you’ll gain followers and influence.  Plus, it’s just the right thing to do.
      2. Make it interesting.  In my opinion the most valuable Tweets are ones that contain something that someone thought interesting or helpful.  Read an article on robots?  Great!  Share it.  Found some inspiring photos of Kenya?  Great!  Share it.  Incredibly hung-over?  Who cares?  Post it on Facebook.  I’m ignoring those.
      3. I have a loose formula of for every twenty or so Tweets I’ll post something about my company or something personal.  The rest is divided up between sharing things I’ve encountered online, and re-Tweeting someone else’s post.  I don’t want my Twitter feed to be all about me, me, me, me…but I do want others to have the opportunity to read something me once in a while.  So far, that’s been working well.
      4. Re-Tweeting, or abbreviated by RT.  If someone posts something that I find relevant, chances are I’ll repost it.  I do it the right way, by using the RT function.  Some people don’t, as they want to be seen as the originators of that thought, but I think this is wrong.  Also, I’ve seen multiple people post the same link with a few RT’ing it, but there’s always one clown that doesn’t.  To me, this makes them look plastic and fake, and lose credibility.
      5. Buffer.  This is my number one Twitter app.  It’s free and I can’t live without it.  This schedules my Twitter feed for multiple days out.  The advantage?  Recently a business associate commented to me that he was impressed by the fact that I’m always posting online and sharing information that he found valuable.  He wondered how I get any work done, since I’m always posting something.  The secret is this Buffer app.  Once or twice a week I fill up my Buffer feed and schedule when my Tweets will be posted.  I can add to the feed at any time, and I always know what’s coming up.  I’m not “always” online – it just appears that way.  My goal for keeping “Top of Mind” works by using this app.
        1. There is also a great analytics tool, where I can see exactly how many people click on any link that I post on Twitter.  In this way, I can see what articles are more popular than others.  I can then tailor my content to post more items that people are interested in, adding to my credibility and usefulness to be connected or following me.
        2. You can also schedule your LinkedIn and Facebook feed with Buffer too.  They just came out with this and I’ve experimented a little bit with this feature.  Since my Twitter feed is connected to LinkedIn already, I mainly don’t use that tool for that.
        3. You can schedule your Tweets to post as many times during the day as you want, and at any particular time.  I’ve experimented with one, two, three and four posts a day…and currently I’m doing three.  Morning, lunch and end of the work day times.  The times that I post may vary, see SocialBro below.
        4. SocialBro.  As unbelievably cool as Buffer is, it doesn’t do everything.  SocialBro is a great analytical tool for understanding your Twitter feed and the people you are connected with online.  You can see who’s recently unfollowed you, your influence and some cool stats about your followers.  However, the number one item I use SocialBro for is the tool that allows you to measure the exact times of the day that you should be Tweeting, based on your current followers – when they are using Twitter.  I run this analytic tool once a week and adjust my times accordingly.
        5. HootSuite.  I started using this free app to help me with my Twitter feed before I started using Buffer.  It still works great, but I really only use it now for reviewing my incoming Twitter feed, and then only sparingly.  I find now that HootSuite is too cluttered visually, but I do still like it all one place.  I usually find things I might want to RT using HootSuite.
        6. WordPress.  (http://atkinsontshirt.blog/)  If you are reading this you are using my latest experiment – the WordPress blog.  Granted, folks have been using WordPress for some time now and I’m not breaking any new ground…but this is new for me.  I found building this blog and posting my thoughts incredibly easy.  If you aren’t writing a blog and posting your thoughts on whatever you are passionate about, what are you waiting for?  Trust me, if I can do this you can too.
        7. Klout.  (www.klout.com) This free app measures your social influence on a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 being the best.  I’m not sure how this works, and there’s been plenty of debate over whether measuring social influence not only matters but how it should be measured.  About once a week I check my score and it’s always been going up, so I’m using that as an indication that I must be doing something right.  At the time of this article my score is at 45.26.  Celebrities are somewhere between 60 and 80.  Industry gurus are around there too.  Most of the people I’m connected with are between 10 and 30.  Do they have this wrong?  I don’t know, but it’s interesting.
        8. Pinterest.  (http://pinterest.com/atkinsontshirt/) I wrote a blog article about Pinterest previously (http://atkinsontshirt.blog/2012/02/04/how-your-art-staff-can-use-pintrest-to-an-advantage/) and since then I’ve learned a few other cool things about using Pinterest.
          1. You can collaborate with other people.  This is really fun.  Two or more people can share and Pin things to this board and have a visual conversation about something.  My wife and I are experimenting with a family themed board, but I could see this as a great way for companies to share ideas with their customers, employees to share ideas or thoughts, even teachers and students to share ideas…the possibilities are endless.  What could you share?
          2. I’m posting blog links and videos.  This is a wonderful tool, and has led to actually more exposure for this blog as I’ve posted it on my board and now people are following it through Pinterest (if you are reading this because of this link, I’d like to know!!)
          3. It’s not just women using Pinterest.  More and more guys are posting, so for every Pin that features a new way to paint your nails, bake some muffins, or wear a dress – there’s one for sports, muddy jeeps, women, alcohol, or other man-centric thought.
          4. The incredibly quick re-Pinning or Liking of a Pin is mind-blowing.  My wife Pinned a fun drink recipe and over 500 people re-Pinned it in under an hour.  By the next day it was over 1000.  I haven’t had that level of success yet, but I did Pin a video link on Sustainability at 5:30 am and 14 people either liked it or re-Pinned it in under a minute.  I’m not sure what’s driving this behavior, but the visual content of the Pin is the number one factor for having others to share it.  Boring image?  You’ll get nada.  Visually stimulating and exciting?  Goes viral in seconds.  While this may prove to be the next MySpace…currently it’s so loaded with possibilities and enthusiasm you need to be a part of it.
          5. Information.  I like a bunch of websites, blogs and spaces online to cull out my content.  Here are a few, in no particular order:
            1. Ted.  (www.ted.com)  This is the world-famous video lecture website dedicated to expanding the influence of new ideas.  Every video there is some revolutionary idea on something that will absolutely get your brain going.  I love it.  If you haven’t watched a Ted video before, you are missing out on something unique and worthwhile.  Trust me on this one.
            2. Social Media Examiner.  (http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/)  Want to learn “How to Do It” with social media, this is a great resource for learning.  The experts at this site keep the ideas coming and in no-time you’ll be up to speed with the latest developments with building your online presence.  I’ve learned a lot from these guys and you will too.
            3. Leadership Freak.  (http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/)  Dan Rockwell’s daily blog.  Every day’s post is 300 words or less and always something useful.  I repost his blog articles all the time, and share with my staff constantly.  The man is a genius at distilling down one idea into something that you can create and use as an action plan for change.
            4. John Spence.  (http://johnspence.com/)  John is one of the top business minds in the world, and the author of one of my favorite business books “Awesomely Simple”.  He speaks about continuous improvement and engaging your staff.  He always has great content, and I devour everything he posts immediately.  I’ve recommended his books numerous times and have organized a few staff meeting around some of his ideas.
            5. T-shirt Forums.  (http://www.t-shirtforums.com/)  Hey, I’m in the apparel industry and I’ve gravitated to this site somehow.  Rodney Blackwell does a great job of keeping the posts relevant and organized.  I like to read posts from other people in my industry, and I’ll chime in on a topic or two if I can help.  My online name here is atkinsonconsult, so if you see a post there it’s from me.
            6. Screen Print Group.  (http://screenprint-group.socialgo.com/)  This is industry guru Bill Hood’s forum, and where all the top minds in the apparel industry go to share ideas, tips, and mentor each other in developing successful companies.  If you are a t-shirt printer and not part of this group, you are missing out on a valuable resource.  I’ll admit that I read more than I post…  This should be mandatory for all production managers and owners.
            7. SGIA.  The Specialty Graphic Imaging Association. (www.sgia.org)  This is my number one resource for guidance on legal regulations, HR related issues, webinars, and other methods of developing a successful company culture at an apparel decorating firm.  Want to write a job description?  Learn how to implement a safety program?  What are the facts with the Consumer Product Safety Information Act of 2008?  Here’s where you go.
            8. Twitter.  Yep, Twitter again.  People post links to all kinds of stuff every single minute of the day.  If they are sharing something even remotely interesting I’ll click on the link and read what they think is valuable content.  Sometimes I’ll share it, sometimes not.  I gotta’ keep my edge somehow you know.
            9. LinkedIn.  Since I mentioned Twitter, I have to mention LinkedIn again.  People share information in the groups that I belong to, and I’ll use that post to learn something new.  That’s one of the hidden gems of using LinkedIn, and it keeps me on my toes.  I belong to 50 groups (the maximum) and continually read the feed from each one.  I have a lot of interests, from continuous improvement to sports…so this is a good information feed as people are sharing the content that they find valuable.

Ok, so if you’ve read down to this point on this blog congratulations!  You must be interested in growing and learning.  I love to share information too, so if you have an idea on something that works for you let’s trade or network and grow together.  You can e-mail me at matkinson4804@gmail.com.  Thanks for reading!!