Alright, now that you know why you want to be a sign guy (um, person, individual… um, gender unspecific sign professional?) Do you know WHERE you plan on starting your sign company?
The most popular choice by far is to start a sign business in your garage, basement or shed out back? The home based sign company option does come with some perks. The most important of these being very low overhead costs. Not needing to spend money on rent, dedicated phone / fax lines, signage or employees can enable you to get on your feet quickly and profitably. On the other hand, the down side of a home based sign shop include such things as limited space, constant interruptions, potentially very unhappy neighbors as well as very real zoning / permit restrictions.
While there are pros and cons in starting from home, in my opinion, the most dangerous problem is the tendency to give off a “fly by night” unprofessional vibe that potential clients can sense a mile away. A top thing to avoid is excessive “unprofessional” noise on the phone. Few things can sour a customer faster than hearing your TV or children playing (or screaming) in the background. It can also be difficult if not impossible to convince the local banker that they are making a wise choice in sign company when your business card is printed off your home computer.
Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing inherently wrong with starting your sign shop from home. I personally started my sign company out of my basement and was able to grow fast enough to justify professional space in a matter of four months. I was also able to avoid the “fly by night vibe” by using some specific techniques that I will be sharing in future Sign Shop blogs.
How about retail or warehouse space? This option definitely helps achieve credibility with the local business owners and will also help justify your pricing structure to any “wheeler dealers”. Having a nice, visible, organized and legitimate establishment also gives you some room to showcase your wares (in addition to being a place, all your own, to proudly show your friends and family).
Of course, as with most things, there is a downside to retail space. The largest hurdle, and the one most have a tendency to gloss over is the financial hit on cashflow. Do you have the available money to cover your equipment, materials, salary and rent for the next year to start in a retail center? Unless you are adequately prepared for the money literally draining out your pocket for that first year you will likely find yourself closing up shop in a hurry.
These items are covered in our sample Sign Company Business plan and definitely are things to be aware of. I recommend that you take a look at the sample numbers and evaluate how they would work in your specific market area.