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Micro-Ambition: Setting Your Sights Lower

(December/January 2017) posted on Thu Jan 11, 2018

Attainable, short-term goals could be the key to success for your business in 2018.

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By Marshall Atkinson

If they can’t think of anything, try this: Write about 50 to 100 words down on small slips of paper. Use some nouns like dinosaur, skull, flower, or warrior. Add colors like red, green, or black. Throw some funky production curveballs in there too – glitter, metallic, rhinestones, high-density, puff, translucent, glow in the dark. Let them go wild. Whatever interests your team or makes sense.

Now, mix all the slips in a hat or a bucket and pull three to five out. Whatever combination results, tell the artists to design that.

Many articles have been written about how to improve workflow. I know I’ve written a few. They tend to be pretty big in scope. So where can you take the micro-ambition concept on the production floor?

A natural choice might be to have a small Kaizen event daily. This is a concept from the Six Sigma lean-manufacturing approach involving small meetings where the people responsible for a process gather and try to make it better by the end of the day.

Maybe your event should be in the receiving department about how they check in arriving inventory. Or perhaps you can spend the day on your equipment preventative maintenance program. Your goal is to examine the bottlenecks and friction points in these processes and make them simpler. You just need one small idea. Think it up; try it; test it. If it works better than before, great. If not, find out why. Do another Kaizen event and think of something better.

Your employee training program is another place to apply the concept of being micro-ambitious. This industry is filled with a million things to learn. As we all know, you can’t learn them all in one day. But what if you set out to learn one new thing a day, every day? Or, as a manager, what if your goal were to teach someone one new thing every day? Imagine how much better your shop would be if everyone was always learning.

One thing this industry sorely misses is the apprenticeship-style method of teaching skills. We have such a fun mix of craftsmanship, art, and science. Yet owners constantly complain that there aren’t enough trained people to operate their equipment. One place they should look is within their own shops. Do they have a nurtured learning environment? The idea of teaching and learning one new thing a day could collectively push your crew toward excellence.

Customer Service
Let’s consider the front end of the shop. Customers are the lifeblood to any business, but the way shops interact with their source of revenue could stand improvement, too.

Think about it. How often are you asking your customers how you are doing? I’ll bet you have former customers you haven’t spoken to in years. Are you scared of them? More likely, you’re too busy trying to find new customers to worry about ones who have already bought from you.

A 2014 article in the Harvard Business Review stated that increasing your customer retention rate by just five percent will increase profits from 25 to 95 percent. If there is any reason to give being micro-ambitious a shot, it’s to try to hold onto that five percent.

So, let’s say your goal was to reach out to a customer that hasn’t bought from you in awhile with a phone call – one customer a day. Reintroduce yourself. Have your CSR rekindle that relationship.

It’s All About Acting
The thing I want to impart to you with this article is to seize the day.

Being micro-ambitious is about taking the opportunity in front of you, and doing it now. Set a small goal, ace it, and move on. It’s about accomplishment.

This doesn’t mean that huge projects and long-term thinking aren’t necessary. But consider how much of an impact a simple idea such as picking up the phone and reconnecting with a customer could mean. That’s 10 minutes of your day. Showing a press operator how to zero out an ink scale and mix ink could be a lifesaver when you need to get a Pantone color on press in about four minutes. It’s all about doing one thing today to make that one percent difference.

Read more from Screen Printing's December 2017/January 2018 issue or check out more advice from The Marshall Plan.


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