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Our customers or other small businesses, when they fail, oftentimes it’s due to a few core things. When we talk to people who feel like they’re in failure mode, it is the same things.

The majority of the time it’s things you can avoid or fix.

Not having a plan

You get really excited about an idea. Or you’ve found a niche market and you see a hole you can fill.

So you buy $25,000 worth of equipment and put up a website. Then nothing happens.

Another situation is they have a passion for artistry and want to have their own t-shirt line. However, they have no plan to make that happen, to make it into a business.

They don’t know how they’re going to get customers. They think that if you make a beautiful design and you show it to people that they’ll buy it.

Great ideas don’t just happen to be successful by accident. You need a plan. These questions should be part of your plan:

  • How are you going to get customers?
  • How are you going to run your business?
  • Where are you going to operate your business?
  • How are you going to operate your equipment?
  • What hours are you going to work?
  • How are you going to store things?
  • How are you going to manage your inventory?
  • How are you going to handle the books?
  • Who’s going to pay your bills?
  • What are your expenses going to be?

It doesn’t have to be a 20-page business plan. You take out a notepad, sit in an uninterrupted place, and consider all the things.

Sales and Marketing

Talking about getting customers, it’s not just about creating a website or a Facebook page. Finding customers is an activity.

What activities are you going to perform to help you find customers? These could be ads online, get referrals, going out to other local businesses.


Are you going to run the business out of your home? Do you have the room for the equipment and supplies?

Where are you going to put the desk? Do you have the software you need? Is the computer going to be able to handle the software?

If you have children at home, you will want a second computer that’s dedicated to the business. Instead of having one computer that the children have access to.

You’re about to be a small business owner, step up your game and write some things down. The simpler the plan the better.

A great resource to help you is our blog post Free Government Resources to Help You Start a Business.

Not having cash flow

Not having cash in the bank to carry you through the first three months while you get started.

It doesn’t mean you have to have the physical cash on hand. This can be done with credit or loans, including loans from small investors.

You need to have the ability to buy things to support your business. This is the ability to:

  • buy supplies
  • buy blank apparel
  • buy the right equipment
  • advertise
  • pay rent and utilities
  • pay yourself

Another mistake that is made is thinking that once you’ve paid for the equipment your expenses are done.

Hopefully, you’re going to do well and that means you’re printing or embroidering a lot of shirts. As you do that your machine is going to require maintenance.

If you’re using any printing technology you’ve got to be prepared to buy new toner and ink.

You might get the opportunity to take on a huge job. However, they might not be the type of company that pays for the job upfront.

Which means you have to be able to front the cost of all the blanks and supplies.

To avoid this you likely want to make it part of your business plan that you require a deposit. Whether that deposit is 30, 40, or 50%.

There is no guarantee that the customer is going to show up and pay the end balance. With a deposit, you’re at least covered for the blanks and supplies you bought.

If you don’t currently take deposits and you’re having cash flow issues, this is something you need to work in.

Another area of cash flow that people don’t take into consideration is the supplies. They calculate out how much the blanks are going to cost, but not the ink, thread, vinyl, or rhinestones.

If you have a large order, especially, you may need to order more toner and ink.

Not having the cash flow can lead to a huge time waster – where you’re looking for the best deal on ink or thread, only to save $11. How much time did you spend looking for that deal?

What if you took that time and instead found a new customer?

Wasting time

Along with time wasted trying to find the best deal, there are other time wasters.

“I spent two hours trying to find this specific font for a customer.” Why not try to sell them on a different font?

Or ask them to find to find the font online, that you can purchase.

Are there things you’re doing for your customers, just to get the sale, that are taking up too much time? What does that task cost you in wages?

Fear of investing/choking your growth

You’re a busy shop and you find yourself running up against the limits of your own time and capabilities.

This goes back to building yourself a plan. You have the capacity to create 100 shirts a week. If you want to get to 200/week, what might you do?

  • Consider a second heat press
  • A faster machine
  • A bigger cutter

Then you have to figure out your cash flow. You may need to invest another $2,000 into another heat press. Start putting some money aside to reinvest in your business.

People get scared. When you’re creating the shirts you only have 60 seconds in between each shirt. That doesn’t allow you to do anything else.

Other times people don’t think they should have to invest more money. They think their existing setup is what they have to use to make money.

Looking at the Colman & Company website, you can get the Fusion Heat Press for $2,100 (or finance for $57/month). The profit from 6 shirts every month can help free up time to make you more successful. If you’re not doing it, you’re choking your growth.

If you plan out that by adding a heat press you can add another 50 shirts per week, do you have the marketing to do that?

If adding a new machine saves you 4 hours a week, that means you can spend those 4 hours building your business.

That pivotal point of growth might be another person. You might have all the equipment, but you’re not able to run it the most efficiently.

You can also hire someone to create the shirts while you get out there to make sales. Or allows you to do whatever you’re great at.

Part of your production might be to fold and box all the t-shirts. What if you had someone to do that for you?

There are a number of low-skill tasks in your business you can contract out. These tasks can be cutting vinyl, delivering orders, etc.

Giving up out of frustration

It’s the same as teaching a child to do anything – read, play music, sports, etc. They might get frustrated but as the parent, you’re able to see the bigger picture. You know that they’ll get better the more they practice.

It applies to your business. You’ve had your embroidery machine for a month and you’re not a master. So your instinct is to give up.

It’s about getting over the hump of what to do and how to do it. You’re starting your own business. That’s not something everyone can or will do.

It requires knowledge, training, time, and learning. You have to go into this business thinking that you won’t give up out of frustration.

You may have an issue with the blanks you order. You might get an error with your equipment. How are you going to solve it?

Lots of successful businesses have failures, they just haven’t given up.

Getting angry instead of getting better

Very similar to getting frustrated and giving up. They work hand in hand.

As an example: you’re having difficulty learning Corel Draw and it’s an integral part of your business. You don’t want to hire someone to help you. How does it help you to get angry about it?

When you buy equipment, you have to create artwork. We tell people the common tools for this and they get angry because they can’t figure out how to use it.

This leads them to thinking the business won’t work.

They’re angry because they’ve spent all this time and money. Yet there are other things about the business they didn’t know. They’re angry at themselves because they didn’t realize they had to order ink. They didn’t realize a certain blank doesn’t work with their process, or that a customer might not pay them.

Overpromising and under delivering

This normally takes place when you’re excited about a new customer. You then take the order without thinking about what you’re going to need to accomplish it.

You get an order for 125 shirts for a university. They’re a particular polo in a particular color. You’re going to do the embroidery on it.

You get a hold of your blank vendor after you’ve taken the order and promised delivery by a certain date. That’s when you realize they’re out of stock.

Now you’re in a really tough spot.

You need to prepare for that. Usually, successful people under promise and over deliver.

For example: You order your new Digital Heat FX system. We tell you it was going to be two weeks for delivery, and you got it in 8 days. How excited would you be?

On the flip side, if we told you it was going to be two weeks and it takes three, you’re not going to be as happy. You’re still getting the same product, but it’s late.

When it comes to making promises to customers you have to do your due diligence. If you think you’ll be able to deliver the shirts on Friday, ask them if a Monday delivery will be fine. That gives you some buffer in case something comes up that’s out of your control. It also allows you to impress your customers by delivering early.

Even if you mess up a shirt, because you delivered early, you still have time to fix the mistake. Plus your good impression from delivering early still stands.


How to fail is to not have a plan. It’s to not have the cash flow to run your business. It’s wasting time on things. It’s choking your growth. It’s giving up your business out of frustration. It’s getting angry rather than better. It’s overpromising and under delivering.

All these rules are general practice issues. You can break these rules at any time due to extenuating circumstances.

It doesn’t mean that because you briefly broke one of these rules you’ll go out of business. The key is the practice over time. You’re constantly watching out for these rules in your business.

If you do have to break them you know that isn’t out of a good reason.

Have a good business.

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