Teamwork. It is the secret sauce for awesomeness. Without it, your shop will be doomed to certain mediocrity. Here’s why…

Most of us have been on a sports team in our lives. If not, at least you’ve cheered for your favorite one on TV. The teams that seem to flounder all lack cohesion. All too common is when one superstar hogs up the playing time and tries to win on his own.

The inferior team wins as they play with unselfish teamwork. Fans everywhere react to the upset. It is one of the marvels of sports.

We Are Alike

For underdogs like you and me, it is the teamwork that makes the dream work* to defeat the champ. Your shop must battle against your competition constantly. It is survival. Teamwork gets you putting points on the board quicker and easier than any other way.

What is the level of teamwork in your shop? All-star? Middle of the pack? Rookie? Completely non-existent? Teamwork doesn’t just “happen”, it is an on-purpose thing. Your shop leadership needs to nurture and develop it continually. Do you even talk about it?

C’mon, admit it. When was the last time you had a purposeful conversation about teamwork in your company? I’ll bet you can’t even remember.

Here are some things to look for and develop:

Vision and Expectations

The desire to have teamwork is an all-in effort. It doesn’t do your shop much good to have everyone focused on building something great, and have that one person who refuses to support the initiative. Passing judgment with snide remarks from the corner office kills your morale and produces an “us versus them” mentality. Even more so is the guy that “did things differently somewhere else” and doesn’t want to adopt anything new. Buzzkill!

These folks aren’t playing for your team. In fact, they are sabotaging the effort that everyone else is working on by going against the grain.

Instead, your leaders need to paint the picture of how things should work. If you don’t talk about what should happen and give examples of your teamwork vision, people will keep acting like individuals. They will moan and groan, or even intentionally refuse to participate. Do you have that guy on your staff? He’s in a lot of shops it seems…

Sports coaches will often bench a star player if they keep showing off or not supporting their teammates. Acting in a contrary way has to be squashed because insubordination can not be tolerated.

Better to have an uncomfortable conversation and iron out the details of the expectations than to keep letting them constantly work against you. Create the vision of what you are after and drive that home in everything you do.

Ask yourself: How often are you communicating your teamwork vision to your staff? Are you speaking about it? Is it part of your employee review process? How are you rewarding teamwork?


Nobody has to do things on their own. Working as a team means you can bring in some help. This not only prevents your staff from becoming overstressed, it gives others the opportunity to learn.

For example, let’s say you are running a really large job on one of your machines. Instead of having the main operator handle the entire order, give a junior production staff member the opportunity to operate the equipment for a few hours. Long runs are the perfect time to upgrade training with staff. As the comfort level increases, so can the time in the driver’s seat. Having senior staff members coach helps identify potential managerial prospects too. Always be looking to augment your bench strength.

Another thought: In basketball, one of the stats that is tracked is assists. This is when someone passes the ball and the second person scores. It is a great stat as it tracks unselfishness. Is there any other recorded statistic that measures this? I’m not sure, but it points to the benefits of delegation. When part or even a whole project is handed off to someone else, the work gets handled and frees up someone to work on a task that might have a larger priority. Your team scores faster.

Ask yourself: How is delegation seen in your company? Do people hold onto their tasks like old money, and are afraid of what might happen if they let someone else try? Is it a control thing? Trust?

Asking for Help is OK

Over the years I’ve spoken to many workers across the spectrum in the decorated apparel industry. One challenge that repeatedly comes up is that workers feel timid about asking for help. This may be because they are judged too harshly in their reviews or they don’t want their managers to know they can’t do something. The problem with this is that it leads to misprints, orders not shipping on time or other bigger issues. People just don’t speak up until it is too late. If you’ve ever exclaimed “Why didn’t you say something!” to a staff member I’m sure you can relate.

Part of working as a team is the ability to say that you need help. In your shop, can your workers say this without reprisal? Good teammates will assist and help to achieve the goal. Without repercussions, the work just gets handled. If you have a culture of teamwork ingrained in your shop, this is part of daily life.

When your staff constantly helps others downstream from them, things happen at a faster rate. Are you looking out for each other? This has to be championed by your leadership team.

Ask yourself: What happens in your shop if someone raises their hand? Or worse, will they raise their hand?

Communication Key

It’s not enough that your culture allows for help requests. Sometimes you just need people to say “pass me the ball!”

When your staff has finished their assigned work, do they ask for more? Or is it an excuse to hang out in the break room or bathroom until the shift ends? Teamwork is constantly moving forward as a unit and making things easier. Are you helping the next guy?

Workers that are always heads up looking to assist have a trait that should be highly rewarded. It’s easier to create a fantastic teamwork culture when you have staff that thinks this way.

Want more orders to ship today? Hire and reward your staff that fosters communication within the teamwork framework.

Ask yourself: Does your staff have the freedom to help others that may be struggling? How can employees ask for help? Do you have someone in control of this process to make sure it’s working? What tools are you using to assist in this process?

Win and Lose Together

All too often, different departments spend a lot of time and energy playing the “Blame Game”.

Is this a game that is being played in your shop? The rules are simple. Blame all problems on another department!

The order didn’t ship on time?  Pick one)

  • “Well, we just got the screens this morning!”
  • “The customer changed the ship to address at the last minute!”
  • “We didn’t have that color thread or ink!”
  • “Those mediums didn’t come in until yesterday!”
  • “Sales keeps adding jobs to the schedule!”
  • Enter your shop’s excuse here __________.

Instead of constantly defending the castle and throwing out excuses, a teamwork based shop will rally together to make something happen. After all the customer isn’t playing that internal blame game. Their rules are different. They just blame your entire company, then take their business elsewhere.

Teamwork minded shops will stay late to burn those screens so they are ready in the morning. They will walk the new shipping instructions out to the floor and replace the work order documents. Production will double check to make sure the thread or ink color is stocked. Inventory status on the order is reviewed proactively and a heads up is given to receiving and production. Production stays late or comes in early to get those orders produced.

Consequently, they make it happen. After all, your company wins and loses together.

Ask yourself: Do you play the blame game in your shop? If so, what are you doing to stop it?

Victory Lap

Part of being on a team is celebrating the victories. Those are the ties that bind. How often are you getting everyone together and clapping?

That’s a good sound to hear in your company. It should be your favorite song.

What milestones do you celebrate?

  • Did you sign a new client?
  • Create a new online store?
  • Maybe a staff member had a new baby?
  • Did Fred in receiving just celebrate his ten year work anniversary?
  • What about production nailing that new technique? Don’t forget about that training program that just ended! Acknowledge the graduates!
  • Maybe you raised a pile of cash for a charity?
  • Better yet, you had a week without misprints!
  • It could be anything that matters to your crew.

Taking a victory lap and celebrating with your teammates is a good thing. Want to make it better?

Throw some burgers on a grill. Bring in a cake. Award a prize. Hand out free lunch coupons. Bring in pizzas. Make a sincere and heartfelt speech about why it matters.

Most noteworthy besides the food, the one thing that can make the victory lap better than anything is just two words:

“Thank You”.

Ask yourself: When’s the last victory lap you took with your staff?


*Big shout out to Erik Yrigollen – one of our fantastic InkSoft sales team members for the topic idea! Thanks, Erik!



“No team out works teamwork.” – Dwayne Wade

“When you form a team, why do you form a team?  Because teamwork builds trust and trust builds speed.” – Russell Honore

“The best teamwork comes from men who are working independently towards one goal in unison.” – James Cash Penney