Screen Printing - February/March 2016 - (Page 36)

sh o p ta l k Who's in ChArge here? As Jim Morrison of The Doors once put it, Andy "traded in his hours for a handful of dimes." Andy MacDougall A year ago, I finally got a day job. I say "finally," because I hadn't been on someone else's payroll since the early 1980s. In February of 2015, I was hired to install and operate Wachiay Studio (, a full-service textile, graphic, and industrial screen shop on Vancouver Island where we train aboriginal youth (and anyone, really) interested in art and printing. It's been interesting to transition from working alone, running my own small company where I was totally free to set my own priorities and timetables, into a world with bosses and co-workers. Don't get me wrong: A year later, I still love going to work every day. It's a dream job and certain new perks are cool - like getting paid a specific amount of money every month. (A salary! What a concept! A game changer to most small business owners I know who eternally face money-juggling games at the end of the month.) Other parts of my job, like dealing with interpersonal issues, office politics, mountains of paperwork, and reporting forms required by superiors up the food chain - even the simple act of being at work on a specific schedule five days a week to open the print shop and make sure everyone had their work sorted out each day - all took some getting used to. I know how ridiculous that must sound to most of you, whether you're a business owner or an employee, but it's definitely taking me back. Many years ago, halfway through printing a stack of material, I used to daydream about how great it would be to run my own business. Work when I wanted. Stick all that money straight into my pocket. Build the company up to the point where my workers, who would all be highly skilled and efficient, could run the show while I took holidays and dropped in from time to time to sign paychecks and collect the bank deposits. (For the record, I never daydreamed about afternoons off playing golf. I hate golf.) Anyone who has started up a small business knows the reality is a lot different than the dream. I learned that when I opened my own shop 30 years ago. I eventually took on a dozen employees. My original shop expanded from 800 to 14,000 square feet and moved five times in five years. It went from having no debt to owing six figures on a line of credit and some demand loans, with a business partner who spent money we didn't have on things we didn't need. None of this was part of the dream. Some of it was nightmarish. Specialty printing shops are classic examples of "E-myth" (entrepreneurial myth) companies, as described by business author Michael Gerber. They're formed on the idea that all a person needs to succeed at starting their own 36 screenprinting business is skill and drive. See if this quick synopsis of his books sounds familiar: 1. Printer learns to print, masters all the steps, and sees an entrepreneurial opportunity. ("I am a great printer. I know this process from front to back. My bosses use me to make tons of money. If I had the equipment and my own company, I could make tons of money, too.") 2. Printer starts a printing company in his or her garage. ("Wow, we're bringing in some sweet jobs, this is going great! I'm a success!") 3. Printer expands, hires staff, and eventually goes out of business. ("Boy, I guess you need more skills than printing to run a business.") Theoretically, if you attend a seminar and buy Mr. Gerber's book and services, you can avoid the E-myth curse. Or you could learn about the other areas key to running and growing a successful shop on your own. Either way, it takes years, and the truth is, you never have a guarantee of success. It doesn't matter how good you are, how smart you are, how big you grow, or how hard you work. As my shop increased in size, these problems kept multiplying and a new set of realizations started to form in the reptilian side of my screen printer's brain. Being the boss of a small, growing business wasn't all about freedom and riches. It was primarily about three things: * You are a social worker for your employees. * You are a tax collector for the government. * You are helping your landlord get rich. I used this knowledge to modify my business. I eliminated employees and ended up owning my own studio building, kissing the landlord goodbye. I'm still working on the tax thing, but that is a universal problem, owner or employee. I still run my little company, but now I go to work for someone else. The reality is, until we retire or become one of the idle rich, we all have day jobs. Andy MacDougall is a screen-printing trainer and consultant based on Vancouver Island in Canada and a member of the Academy of Screen & Digital Printing Technology. If you have production problems you'd like to see him address in "Shop Talk," e-mail your comments and questions to

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Screen Printing - February/March 2016

Screen Printing - February/March 2016
Editorial Insights
Pressing Issues
New Products
Are You Confused about CPSIA Regulations?
Clothing Becomes Electric
The Power of Pigment
Understanding the Garment: Selection, Testing, and Prep
Distributor/Dealer Directory
Ad Index
Who’s in Charge here?

Screen Printing - February/March 2016