Build Your Business:

Why a Consultant Could be the Answer

August 4, 2016

1. Saving Time and Money
Consultants typically have incredible ideas on industry best practices that can fine-tune your shop. If you are interested in improving your business in any area, there’s an expert consultant for it.

Do you need help in screen or digital printing, or need embroidery skills to train your staff? Do you have tax questions, need human-resources help or want to build a social media marketing program? Are you buying a new building and want the best shop layout for maximum efficiency? Need help in learning to build your pricing lists or add more margin to your shop’s bottom line? Struggling with a decoration method on a particular shirt type? Want to speed up the printing process when working with water-based inks, or learn how to better handle polyester fabrics?

Of course, you can figure out the answers to these questions yourself. A lot of educational materials are available online and through trade show conference programs. However, hiring a consultant to help you navigate the challenge more quickly often can be the most direct route to resolving the problem.

Why? Industry consultants have direct knowledge of how to solve your particular problem because they’ve tackled the same issue before — often with other companies. They constantly talk to other shop owners and managers, and are on the inside track with new products and equipment before they are released. It’s their business to have the answers. They are experts.

Trying to solve problems on your own often doesn’t save money. It’s quite the opposite, as there is a real cost to your time, materials and effort as you ping-pong your way to the correct solution to the challenge.

Think about the biggest problem facing your shop today. What would you pay to solve it right now?

2. Perfect Timing with Expertise
Your biggest client just handed you an enormous opportunity. After hanging up the phone, you went around the office “high-fiving” everyone within 10 feet of you.

Then someone asks, “How are we going to do that?” All the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, as you realize you may not pull it off.

Someone who has navigated a similar challenge can be a crucial ally ensuring you don’t misstep. The great thing about consultants is that you can rely on them to help, but they aren’t permanently on your payroll. Sure, you pay a fee for them to join your team, but you’re really paying for their wisdom. Otherwise, you may find the challenges too daunting to surmount.

3. Managing Crises
The meeting just broke up, and everyone stormed away frustrated and angry. Nobody seems to know how to solve the problem. The order still has to ship at the end of the week and there are no answers — only finger pointing.

You can figure out how to solve this crisis simply by picking up the phone. Like calling in a superhero in a comic book, a consultant can resolve any problem so you can get back on track. Will he have the answer you seek? Probably, but even if he doesn’t, he likely will have access to other resources that can provide those answers. You may only know 10 people you can rely on in the industry. Consultants know hundreds.

They also are connected to the brightest minds, even people who may be better suited to address a certain subject. Consultants network and surround themselves with the best people. You’ve probably seen them at trade shows on a panel or clustered together at a booth. They know everyone and have access to people with the correct 
answers to a litany of problems.

Consultants help with crisis management every day. Got some shop drama? It may be helpful to call in the big guns and deal with it immediately. That way, your order will ship on time.

4. Scaling Your Business
Business is good; you’ve achieved a few years of steady,  double-digit growth. Customers and employees alike love you and, better yet, your bottom line loves you.

What’s the next step? Buy a building? Get more equipment? Diversify into new markets? What will happen to production if you expand your sales team or build that new website?

Here’s where bringing in a business consultant can help. In the most simple terms, decorated apparel businesses usually are either run by a business person who sees an opportunity and hires a creative team to handle day-to-day operations, or a creative person who handles operations and hires a team to help with business matters.

Usually the business-minded types can handle the process of scaling the company, but the creative-minded owners sometimes experience challenges with this. Just as you would hire someone to help with your taxes or legal affairs, bringing in a consultant to think about your strategic plan for the next five or 10 years may be wise.

5. A Different Perspective
You’ve probably heard or read the phrase, “You can’t see the forest through the trees.” Sometimes business owners are so caught up in day-to-day operations that they don’t take a step back and notice what actually is happening in their companies.

Periodically opening the doors to someone with a fresh outlook who simply can ask, “Why are you doing it that way?” may be a good idea. In this industry, everything is narrowly focused on the next two to three weeks for production. Orders have to ship. That’s the only thing that usually matters.

The problem with that mode of operation is that when you catch your breath, another year has elapsed. You still didn’t tackle that new project you had been conceptualizing or create that business plan to diversify the company.

A good consultant can be a mentor or unofficial board of directors’ member you need to have a positive outside influence on your company. Everyone needs a sounding board. Sometimes just the act of explaining something can be the spark that leads to new approaches or ideas. 

Marshall Atkinson is the owner of Atkinson Consulting LLC, a service firm focused on the decorated apparel industry for process improvement and 
efficiency, sustainability, employee training, social media marketing and 
long-term strategic planning. For more information or to comment on this article, email Marshall at, or follow his blog