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The Hedgehog Concept Explained...

How I'm simplifying a 100 year old printing business to *hopefully make it "print money"

Service Printing was started in the early 1900's in Martinsville, VA and it functioned as an offset printing business the majority of its existence. Sometime in the early 2000's, screen printing was added as well as embroidery.

I bought the business in September of 2021 and at the time of this writing, I've had it a little over a year. My team came to some crossroads about a month ago where some really difficult decisions had to be made. There wasn't enough money coming in to cover the amount of money going out and we were about to be very short-handed with some staffing changes!

In times like these, I'm so thankful for the business books I've studied over the years because after a couple weeks of intense stress, I finally remembered a book I read back in 2011 called Good to Great by Jim Collins. This book truly transformed my business mind and has guided my course over the years. You can buy the book here!

Change is never easy, but a lot of times in business, the tough decisions are the ones that really make you or break you.

Introducing the Hedgehog Concept...

In Good to Great, Mr. Collins introduces the Hedgehog Concept which encourages business leaders to get rid of the things that aren't working and continue the things that are. Sounds pretty simple until you realize how many customers you're going to upset by shutting down over half your business.

Nonetheless, the Hedgehog Concept won. There are three components to the Hedgehog Concept as you can see below:

Once I dug this chart back out, my decision was almost immediate.

1 - What am I deeply passionate about? I love business. You'll never meet someone who loves the in's and out's of business more than me. I've owned over 20 businesses and still own 6 active businesses right now. For almost every business I've owned, I've had some screen printed shirts or hoodies made and also some embroidered polos, jackets, or hats. I love the design part of the process and I love using clothing as a walking billboard! Out of all the pieces in this print shop, screen printing is definitely my favorite! In that circle, I wrote "Business".

2 - What can you be the best in the world at? I'll probably never be the best screen printer in the world, but I was CERTAINLY not going to be the best screen printer, the best embroiderer, the best sign maker, AND the best paper printer. Narrowing down our offerings is already making it so much easier to control our work flows, inventory, supplies, labor, quality, and pricing! Now, we are indeed striving to be the best screen printer in the world! Who knows, maybe we'll get there one day! In the second circle, I wrote "Screen Printing".

3 - What drives our economic engine? The business card industry is so competitive it makes me sick. You can get cards from literally 10's of thousands of websites. The sign industry is becoming more and more crowded. You can order any paper products, signs, and even custom clothing online and have it delivered to your door in just a couple days. For us, after analyzing our costs for paper printing, embroidery, and sign production, I quickly realized that the best place for this business to find profit is in the screen printing sector. This isn't to say you can't make money printing paper or making signs, it's just a decision we made to lessen the stress, lessen the difficulty of production, and simplify our inventory.

The third circle guessed it! "Screen Printing".

So What's Next!?

You put these three factors together and voila, decision made. We're now saying, "Bring on the shirts!" We've hired two awesome people to run our screen printing machines and we're already contemplating adding another manual press within the next couple of months.

Over the next few weeks we'll be listing some of our paper printing presses on Ebay to make room for more shirt inventory and also to make our screen printing operations more efficient.

"Efficiency is Intelligent laziness." – David Dunham

Is there a tough decision in your life or business where you need to apply the Hedgehog Concept? Comment below and tell us about it!


How do I place an order for some shirts?

If you ever need shirts, hoodies, or jackets for your business, church, club, civic organization, sports team, or family event, you can contact us through our website ( or send me an email at

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