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How to Move Smoothly from Rookie to Print-Shop Manager

(October 2008) posted on Mon Oct 06, 2008

This is the story of a screen printer who, after years of hands-on experience on the production floor, gets promoted to a shop-management position. Discover the struggles he faces during the transition and how he overcomes them.


By Gordon Roberts

I received an e-mail this month from a reader with the kind of problem that we all hope to have at least once or twice in our careers. The reader, who I’ll refer to as John, was just offered the management job he had been working toward for the last 12 years. The package came with a nice salary and a fat bonus clause that could finally give him and his family the financial security they sorely needed. It didn’t take him very long to accept the offer.

John started his screen-printing journey in his late 20s after serving for a few years in the Navy, and he discovered that the organizational skills he had gained in the service translated well to the print-shop environment. Couple that with a strong work ethic and the desire to learn and master all aspects of the business, and you can see why he eventually ended up running the operation. A stint in the screen room turned into a job on the press, which in turn led to a supervisor position. When the shop manager retired a few years later, it was a foregone conclusion that John would take over—and he did.

Like all new managers, John had been chafing for a while to make some changes and put some of his own ideas into practice. Some worked, and some didn’t, and he was forced to learn a few more lessons the difficult way, but he eventually made a success of it. I called him after I got his e-mail, and he told me that he thought the most important thing he learned was that he could actually do this job pretty well and that he really liked the challenge of a new problem to solve every day. The business recently expanded, and the owners bought out a competitor in the next state. The company offered John the opportunity to relocate and sort out the mess that the previous management had left behind. This was the problem that he discussed in his e-mail to me.


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