Building Assets (or making da money)

When it comes to the sign industry, I always try and encourage individuals to read some of the powerful finance / business books available. One of the books that I recommend for all of my new friends, especially for those who are looking to go into the sign (or any) business, is a book by Robert Kiyosaki titled “Rich Dad Poor Dad”. If you are a regular reader of this blog you might remember that I wrote about Mr. Kiyosaki in the blog article “Do You Own a Sign Business or A Job” back in October of 2007. Without going into all the concepts and financial principles advocated by Mr. Kiyosaki, I would like to focus one particular idea / definition that still just blows me away and defines how I make many financial decisions for both my sign company and my life as a whole…

According to Robert Kiyosaki

  1. An Asset is anything that puts money IN my pocket
  2. A Liability is anything that takes money OUT of my pocket

It’s just that simple and by considering these two simple definitions, I am able to quickly get to the heart of why I am considering a particular purchase. More importantly, by applying this criteria to investments, inventions, business opportunities etc. I can really shine a hard light on the actual situation.

For example… my car, tv, radio, furniture, books, golf clubs etc all take money OUT of my pocket. Do I enjoy them? Yes. Are they necessary for survival? That is debatable. Are any of thee things putting money directly into my pocket? NO

On the reverse side… a high yield savings account, CD’s, stocks / bonds, real estate properties / rentals, or a profitable business (hint, hint… a sign business) are all things that put money IN my pocket. Money IN pocket is gooood in my humble opinion.

So, keeping this in mind, which category should I be spending my time, efforts and money on? Should I be more concerned with buying the latest model Mustang (which will loose value immediately) or should I focus on developing the systems I need for my sign business to capture more revenue this year? So, to be clear, the decision is… Mustang now for short term pleasure or Business now for long term financial freedom.

Kinda puts a different light on things now doesn’t it? I don’t know about you, but financial freedom has a pretty nice ring to it.

So, with all of that being said, what specific advice or guidance can I offer this time to help you find and build more assets? What type of invention, investment, hot stock or business opportunity sounds good and will start putting that money IN my pocket?

Well, ever since I first read Rich Dad Poor Dad (and a host of others) I have been searching for the right business model / product that can slingshot me towards a more secure future and solid financial freedom. My criteria for such a venture had some very specific requirements that ALL had to be met before I would consider it…

  1. Be a service or product that I personally believe in and can be enthusiastic about (this my priority number one). This product / service has to be simple and easy to learn.
  2. Flexible growth and scheduling (build at my own pace around the time devoted to my sign business)
  3. No Inventory / Shipping / Fulfillment
  4. Complete Business / System Automation
  5. Solid Training tools, classes, resources
  6. A genuine commitment to helping participants build true wealth

After 5 years of looking. After literally a dozen “business opportunities” that I researched and rejected. After seemingly waiting forever, I have finally found it…


This is a simple but incredibly effective fruit beverage that is based on the incredible properties of the acai (Ah Sigh ee) berry found in Brazil. The most immediate benefits of drinking the Monavie juice is a dramatic increase in energy, much better nights sleep, relief of aches & pains as well as faster recovery times for those who lead an active lifestyle. While it might seem like a bunch of hype… I actually experienced these effects within three days of starting to drink the juice. Please pardon my french, but it was freakin’ unbelievable how much of a difference it made!

So, what did I do… I still was skeptical and researched the whole thing for another couple of weeks. I checked out the facts and the science of the acai berry itself on wikipedia. I searched and read a bunch of sites (both for AND against) about the company itself and other people’s experiences. Even then, I still hesitated because, well, I’m American and I’m always looking for the “hook”.

Well, I am pleased to say that I have not found a “hook” and have signed on with this incredible company. It has meet all of my “asset building” requirements and I am looking forward to continuing my ongoing quest for complete financial freedom.

Since the focus of this entire website and blog is to help and encourage the sign community I thought it only fair to let you all know of my discovery. I encourage each and every one of you to take a look at Monavie and evaluate if this can also help you work towards financial freedom.

Most importantly, why don’t we all work together and see what we can do to supplement our sign shop incomes as a team! I would love the opportunity to be directly helpful to each and every one of you achieve some of your financial goals. I believe this is THE way to do it!

So, DON’T sign up with whomever you have in your area locally (you probably do have someone just starting up).

DO contact me here at Monavie – Juice Network and lets work on building a Monavie team together.

I would love to blog about the whole venture and illustrate to everyone how we all can seize control of our lives and achieve complete freedom for ourselves and our families.

Finding the time… for me.

For months now I have writing about the benefits of owning a sign shop and how much fun we can all have. I have posted articles about sales, marketing, blogging, travel and all sorts of things. I have encouraged you, my readers, to grab ahold of your life and use your sign business to create fun exciting opportunities and great memories…

After all of that, I am ashamed to admit, that I have allowed my sign business to take over my life. Stupid, stupid, stupid… but thank goodness it’s NOT unfixable.

You all know the story and you all know the feelings of getting caught up in working in the business rather than ON the business. Potential clients are calling, faxing and e-mailing. Sales are coming in faster than we can get them written up. We have too much work and not enough hands to do it all. Someone on staff gets hurt and we get delayed even more. You are spending so much time hopping around keeping customers happy that the people you are working with are getting pretty Unhappy. You would like to take on more work but you can’t seem to find the qualified people you need to expand the capabilities. OK, OK, don’t start crying! I understand. I didn’t mean to upset you. I’ll stop now.

(On the bright side of things, I would much rather be having these problems than looking around at an empty shop with nothing on the board. Oh yes, these problems are much, much better than that alternative)

Heck! The whole reason I started this business was to create an asset that would afford me the freedom & time to enjoy my life!

The whole reason for starting this website was to help and encourage other sign business owners to avoid this exact trap and enjoy THEIR lives!

In the words of the immortal Charlie Brown… AUGH!

So, what have I done to begin to reclaim my sign life and bring a halt to the madness? I have done the unthinkable, the horrible, the totally unbelievable and utterly unforgivable…


Yes, you heard it right, I simply turned down the business. I have written before about the 80/20 rule in the article titled Double Your Sign Business Income. Rather than continuing to run myself ragged keeping up with all of the new orders and potential new clients, I forced myself to step back and evaluate the impact that this type of growth will have on my current sign business model. It could be great to continue to grow but what type of growth will be best for me personally and the company as a whole? Am I only reacting to market pressures rather than dictating the direction I want this business to go? Following this train of thought I put together a simple list of Pros & Cons for continuing my hectic habit…


  1. My Free Sign Buying Guide works great and brings me exactly the right types of customers.
  2. I make more money, money, money
  3. I am able to continue growing the company
  4. I have been able to add more equipment
  5. I have considered expanding services and products


  1. Work 90 hours a week and never have the time to enjoy that money
  2. Growing the company in this manner will only demand more of my time. Further, my existing customers are bound to feel mistreated as their projects begin to suffer and get delayed (not acceptable).
  3. More equipment = increased overhead = more invested time
  4. More Services / Products = more time
  5. Other opportunities suffer or get completely missed
  6. No time for family as I go days at a time and not see my wife or children

Wait, I’m seeing a pattern here…

I am pleased to announce that I have realized the errors of my ways and am taking steps to once again Simplify My Sign Life. All things will progress and I will get back to enjoying life and doing fun things. I will go back and reread my own posts and remember why I started this business and what principles I should be using to foster steady, stable and controllable growth.

Please forgive me and Good Luck!

Research BEFORE “Advertising”!

I recently received an e-mail from a reader that I found interesting but alarming at the same time. The question came from a new, small, start-up sign shop and the sender seemed to be a motivated and sincere new business owner. In a highly condensed version of the message I was asked what type of advertising should this new, small sign shop start using… what did I recommend? Should they advertise in the Yellow Pages, magazines, radio, flyers…? Now, this individual acknowledged the importance & power of Word of Mouth advertising but had also decided that it was time to start spending some money on “real advertising”.
Needless to say, my mental warning flags went right up!
In my opinion, starting an effective advertising campaign is NOT for the weak hearted or the unprepared. To dive into the realm of standard advertising can be both expensive and time consuming to do properly. If your sign shop is like most of the rest around the world, then you don’t exactly have $10,000+ to spend on radio ads, newspaper ads etc. in the hopes that they will result in more sales for your sign company. Not only do the regular, mainstream, advertising options require significant financial investment but their application is typically a shotgun based approach to the market.

In short, is this REALLY the most effective way for a sign shop to communicate with the local market…?
THIS is my response to the question regarding advertising for a sign shop…
“As for advertising, I would recommend that you back up one step and focus on your Marketing before you begin to worry about advertising (they are not the same thing). Marketing is the system of communication that creates the opportunity for you to sell your signs & banners. Keeping this in mind, it is vital that you first establish EXACTLY what types of products you are able to offer and maintain high profitability. Once you have identified your products and niche, you should then figure out EXACTLY who buys these products. THEN, you need to develop the best way, for your market area, to communicate specifically to those ideal prospects. Now that you have a target and a message, how will you make the sale & guarantee a happy customer? It is only at this point that you can determine the best use of your advertising dollars. You will notice that “Word of Mouth” is a perfect fit into this process and that is why it is so effective for businesses of all kinds.

As an example… if you determine that you can make an excellent profit on car club graphics and racing stripes then you first should determine who is buying these items. Let’s guess that it will be the local high school & college students as well as your area racing / car enthusiasts. What would be a better use of your advertising dollars… an expensive yellow pages ad for $200 per month or a low cost, highly targeted sponsorship in the local racing newsletter and the high school weekly newspaper for $50? Remember, highly specific and targeted beats a broad “shotgun” approach everyday for small business with limited budgets. This principle applies to every business and it is often a major cause of failure when it is ignored.”

The basic concept that I am trying to convey here is that it is useless to spend money on advertising if you have not conducted the necessary research before hand. If you don’t know who you need to talk to… what they are interested in buying… what their interests and issues are… what problems are they having that I can solve… how do they communicate… what do they expect from your offerings…

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, then how do you expect your advertising to be effective?

Check out the Free Sign Buying Guide for the resulting advertising message I developed when I started asking myself these questions…

Vehicle Graphics in El Salvador

After a series of large projects which have resulted in a lengthy time away from the blog, I am happy to return and continue writing about items of interest for Additionally, I am also happy to report another successful international graphics project which will be the subject of this article’s topic. Yes, that’s right, I said international, as in far away from central Ohio and clear down to Central America (El Salvador to be more specific).
To leave the USA and travel the world has always been an interest of mine. Not only that, but I also firmly believe that all American’s, from every walk of life, should get a chance to see some of the rest of the world we all live in. In my humble opinion, if everyone were to visit other cultures, learn other languages and experience life outside the typical American existence then there would be far fewer problems in the world… of course, that is only my opinion (for what its worth).
For those of you are are interested, here are some pictures & information on my trip to El Salvador…

This is the view out of the airplane as we flew into the main airport of San Salvador (the capital city of El Salvador). Notice the Pacific Ocean off in the distance.

While there are definitely areas of San Salvador that can be rough and intimidating to outsiders…

… the vast majority of Salvadorians are intelligent, friendly and courteous. I can honestly say that every Salvadorian I met, without fail, was a genuinely interesting and wonderful person. I also found that a popular saying around San Salvador is “The people of El Salvador are its greatest resource”. I believe this to be a completely true statement as I have experienced it first hand.

From the beautiful mountains… (volcanoes, hiking and backpacking galore!)

… to the all natural beaches with beautiful views, some of the best surfing in the world and fresh seafood (yum). The real fun is that both are literally an hour’s drive from each other. Heck, the whole country is only about 22,000 square kilometers or about 8,500 square miles (that’s smaller than New Jersey folks)

The last picture below is me with the onsite graphics professionals from ASA Posters (link to their Spanish only Flash site) after completion of the project.
While I only spoke a bare minimum of Spanish and these guys didn’t speak any English, we still all understood graphics. What was very encouraging was when I initially unrolled the graphics package, the forman (Eliezar to my right) immediately recognized the 3M ControlTac by name. After a mutual inspection of each other’s install belts (all of which were almost exactly the same) we were off and running. Smiles, gestures, basic Spanish & occasional reference to the project drawings were all that was needed to keep everything moving forward.

The one major difference in our tools and installation was my beloved RollePro tool. After I demonstrated how it worked, all of the crew just had to try it. Even without speaking each other’s language, it was hard to mistake the enthusiasm of a graphics installer who sees that RollePro work for the first time. Let’s just say I was asked several times if I would “forget” to take it home.
Well, long story short, it was a genuine pleasure to do such an interesting project in an awesome country! I was fortunate to meet some excellent people and make a few friends. I certainly look forward to returning to El Salvador again.

Forget the Competition… Sell the Value!

Forget the competition and sell the VALUE!!! Stop thinking about what “the other guys” are doing and focus on YOUR strengths in your marketplace. I know I’ve talked about this before BUT, due to the increasing number of e-mails I have been getting on the subject, I believe it is time to discuss this topic again.
It seems that a lot of you out there have decided that, when I talk about the value of signs & graphics, I am only speaking metaphorically… Apparently there are a large number of sign folk who are firmly convinced that there is no way “they” could sell their signs for so much money. I mean, Joe Blow from down the street is selling his signs for $xx.xx , so how could I possibly sell for so much more.
In order to drive the point home, here are the most common objections (paraphrased of course) that I get when I encourage sign company owners / sales people sell based on the value of their sign products…

*** Why would a customer come back to my sign shop if he finds out that “Joe” sells his signs for 30% less than what I charge? ***
*** These materials only cost me a few bucks… I’m making good money just doubling / tripling my money right? ***
*** All the other sign companies in my area only sell these signs (insert product here) for X amount. ***
*** No one in this market gets that much for a banner, coro sign, truck lettering, electrical sign… etc.“ ***
*** Our market has just been killed by all the low-ballers out there. We are just barely holding on with the prices we are charging now…”

Needless to say, the list could go on & on but, rather than focus on the negative, I would like to give you all a quick list to help you get over this mindset if you feel trapped into this mentality.
1.First, you have to convince yourself that you provide a valuable service. Let me say that again… YOU PROVIDE A VALUABLE SERVICE. Before you can even consider moving into the world of value based (and highly profitable) sales, you must first convince yourself that you are actually delivering something of true value to your clients. If you cannot get over this first hurdle… well, then there’s no point in reading further.
2. Yes, you do makes signs for a living but signs are NOT what you should be selling. If you fixate on the fact that you hand someone a sign for money then you are missing the value of what you do. If you are a competent and talented sign designer then sell your artistic value and effective designs. If you make the fastest signs east of the Pacific then sell your effective, reliable systems and ability to respond in an emergency. If you make the best, most solid, dimensional signs than sell the longevity of your signs and the incredible return on the investment… after all, $2,000 for a sign that will last 500 years is incredibly cheap when figured on a yearly cost (that’s $4.00 per year so you don’t need to do the math)
3.Consider the impact of what you provide… Are you making a banner for the Chamber’s event or are you providing a well thought out informational / directional landmark? Did you simply hand Judy a two color Coroplast sign or did you provide her a means to increase her sales by 35% for the month? Did Fred get a logo slapped on his truck doors or did you supply an improved community image and increase his sales to the higher end (and deeper pocketed) client base?

So, my point here is, when you get to the point where you realize the value of what you provide, can clearly communicate that value / benefit to your customers, can provide a reliable business system and can develop ongoing relationships on these principles then your competition becomes a complete non-issue. Through hard work and a dedication to elevating your status is your own eyes, as well as the eyes of your clients, you CAN sell the value of your signs!

Sign Industry Blogs – The Ultimate List

The title of this entry Sign Industry Blogs – The Ultimate List is a little ambitious. I know we already talked about it but, hey, it bears repeating… Sign shops CAN blog to improve their online exposure just as effectively as any other graphics company, technical site, gaming enthusiast or “self-help” guru. I realize that I have talked about blogging before and I will probably talk about it again… after all, I enjoy it.
If you have spent any time on this particular site, you have probably come across my article entitled Promote Your Sign Shop With a Blog If you have taken the time to read this article then you know a little bit about blogs by now and, hopefully, you have spent some time searching for some good ones to read. Of course, I prefer that you spend some time heading back here to The Sign Expert but, honestly, I’m more concerned that you are able to find the online resources that YOU find the most useful for you sign business.
Since we are on the subject of “useful blogs” I decided to spend some time looking for some specific Sign Industry blog sites and compile an Ultimate List of other sign shop bloggers for you. I spent quite a bit of time online. I googled high & low, only to discover that good, regularly updated & pertinent sign industry blogs are both few and far between. As a personal note, I found it interesting that, while other industries and interests seem to have a blog site from every Tom, Dick & Nancy about their particular interests. There just do not seem to be many sign bloggers out there. I wonder why that is…?

BUT, despite the seemingly discouraging lack of of sign company blogs I was able to locate a few hidden gems that you all should find encouraging and useful for your sign business. These blogs are in no particular order… except for the first one.

1.Signs Never Sleep – The Lincoln Sign Company in New Hampshire appears to be the first serious sign shop blogger out there, so I believe they deserve the first spot. This blog concentrates the subject of their entries on the daily activities of a typical sign company. I find that the writing entertains with stories of actual sign projects as well as personal observations.
2.Graphics Workshop – Simply put, this is a great blog that I really enjoy reading. While the author has a sign company the articles are not strictly limited to sign subjects (which I don’t mind at all). I think the diversity of subject matter, combined with a creative writing style creates an esoteric (and fun) blend of truly interesting articles. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
3.Super Cheap Signs – Despite the name, Super Cheap Signs seems to have a real heart for providing quality signs and service for their customers. This blog has some excellent ideas and insights on building your sign business, relating to clients and developing improved business systems for sign companies from a sign shop owner.
4.Balch Signs – This blog offers some interesting information regarding routed signs but has a tendency to spend a lot of time on personal events. In addition, the site does not seem to be updated on a regular basis. Despite all of that, I did enjoy reading the information currently available.
5.Sign A Day – an interesting and varied blog site that focuses the articles on the benefits regarding certain sign types. There are interesting facts and articles covering products such as vehicle graphics, electrical signs and digital prints etc.
6.Shane Durnford Design – This a very new site but one that any dimensional sign carver will enjoy. A talented artist, Shane spends quite bit of time showcasing custom carved elements and dimensional letter projects. Check out this blog and enjoy some beautiful examples of custom dimensional design.
7.Budget Sign – Located in St. Paul, Minnesota the Budget Sign & Graphics shop uses their blog to showcase projects, publish customer interviews, and provide testimonials for potential clients. This a nice example of direct to the public marketing for a sign company.

I’ve tried to supply a good range of resources here for you, but I am certain that there are more excellent sites out there that would be an incredible addition to this list. If you have a regularly updated blog (or know of a good one) please shoot me an e-mail to and let me know about your online gem.

Why give away free sign information?

Why do I give valuable sign information away for free? I have received several e-mails from regular visitors to this blog regarding my Free Sign Buying Guide packet. For those of you are unfamiliar with this concept, I have created a free information packet exclusively for potential clients in my market area. While that sounds simple enough, it is actually a very valuable resource that I only offer on my web site Columbus Ohio Free Sign Planner . My Free Sign Planner contains an excellent range of information on the 6 basic types of signs, photo examples, real-world benefits of each sign and includes practical budget ranges.

In addition to making this Free Sign Planner information freely available to clients in my market area, I have also created a more generic version of the packet for other sign shops. This generic Sign Buying Guide is available to any sign company who wants it and you are welcome to download every page image for free. Using the free pages you can easily create an entire, aesthetically pleasing and valuable information booklet for your own customers (there is an example picture of how I create the booklet at the bottom of the page). You can also use each sheet as an individual information page for specific customer requests if you wish. In addition, if you want to customize the planner to your specific sign shop you can purchase the entire packet, in full vector format, for a nominal fee that helps me keep the website & this blog up and running.

Now, some of the e-mails I mentioned before contained praise for making the information available to everyone, free of charge, and expressed appreciation for taking such a bold step to help the sign community at large. Some of the messages; however, were considerably less than enthusiastic. These sign professionals are concerned that I am “giving away sign industry secrets” or “making the custom sign industry seem too simple” or (my favorite) that I am “making it too easy for customers to get a custom sign…” Now, before you laugh, I believe that these concerns are valid (though limiting) viewpoints that I would love to address. Frankly, to be accused of making the sign buying process too easy actually makes me very proud. After all, my sign company’s tagline is “A Pro Sign Made Easy”, so I must be on the right track.

So, why DO I give away my sign information for free? Being in the sign industry is fun and exciting but, ultimately, it is pretty important to sell profitable signs. I have found that, in order to consistently increase my sign company sales, it always a great idea to become a valuable sign resource for my local market area. By providing such a useful resource like the Sign Buying Guide / Sign Planner to my potential customers I have dramatically increased my visibility in my community. In addition, I have also improved my reputation for being a credible and reliable business professional while accomplishing multiple objectives…

  1. Provide pertinent and valuable Sign Product information to prospects.
  2. Provide information on the “Benefit for each type of sign”… in other words, what actual benefit will the prospect enjoy by choosing a particular type of sign.
  3. Provide information on the value of signage and the importance of having a quality sign.
  4. Provide a pressure free, easy to use, guide to help local organizations actually purchase a sign.
  5. Identify sign customers who are “value focused” instead of “price focused”.
  6. Identify potential sign customers who are currently motivated to act on their sign needs.
  7. Eliminate “Sticker Shock” for new organizations who have never purchased a sign before.
  8. Provide an easy way for new sign prospects to identify what type of sign they wish to get and begin to plan for an anticipated budget amount.
  9. Help the prospect begin to actively think about their sign project.
  10. Help the prospect actively prepare for the getting an effective sign from a reputable sign professional.

I firmly believe that every sign business will benefit from implementing a similar Marketing process in their sign company and, remember, you are free to download each one of these useful Sign Buying Guide sheets for your own prospects and customers.

Promote your sign shop with a blog

Is it possible to promote your sign shop with a blog? Can you actually sell more signs or improve your marketing approach by incorporating a blog into your online presence? I believe that the answer to this question is a resounding YES!

If you have spent any amount of time at all online, you have probably come across a reference or two for a BLOG. If you are unsure what I am talking about then look around… you’re reading one now. For a quick explanation, a blog is essentially a weblog or an online journal. Blogs can written by anyone and literally be about anything. From politics to technology, religion to cuisine, news, travel, websites, the aesthetic value of russian porcelain figurines… anything at all.

So how can you promote your sign shop with a blog and capture the power of blogging for your own sign business? What could you write about that could drive more potential customers to your website? Here are some suggestions for your consideration…

  1. Write about the sign industry in general and help other sign shops (this is my personal choice simply because I love to help other sign professionals in their day to day efforts)
  2. Write about your personal sign expertise, whether it’s hand carved dimensional signs, digital printing or high end electrical signs. By focusing on a particular type of sign you can help find customers who are looking for your specific knowledge & experience.
  3. Write about your sign projects and showcase your customer’s business. You get a double hit for this approach as you promote both your own blog AND you help your clients get some exposure for their organization.
  4. Write about sign techniques & tutorials for other sign companies to learn from.
  5. Write reviews about sign equipment and technologies.

WARNING: Whatever subject you choose to blog about be prepared to consistently update and add to your content. Blogging is somewhat time consuming and you need to be ready to devote a considerable amount of time researching & writing. As a personal bit of advice, pick a subject that you love and feel passionately about in order to keep your motivation up. Another reason for constant writing is, once you have repeat visitors to your blog, you definitely want to continue providing fresh new content and information in order to provide value in coming back for more. Blogging is not easy and taking the time to write (especially around running a sign company) can be difficult but rewarding.

If you want to start a blog, the most popular blogging tools around right now are TypePad and WordPress but there are also a wide variety of less popular, but just as useful, software available. By taking advantage of these powerful software solutions you can get your own personal sign blog up and running. Start blogging right now and help your sign shop (and the sign industry grow) grow.

Simplify your Sign Life.

Chances are, if you own and run a sign business, you feel pretty overwhelmed at times. There are the stresses of the sign industry in general, the myriad details of running a business (hopefully profitable) and the everyday items that go with having a family & social life. To make matters even more complicated, you also have to deal with a constant barrage of phone calls, faxes, voice mail messages, e-mails, text messages, IMs… the list could go on. Throw in the fact that your cell phone, blackberry or iphone can pipe all of the interruptions straight to your hip pocket and you begin to get an idea of the madness.

So, how do you handle it all? If you are like the vast majority of people here in America you simply integrate each interruption into your daily life. You figure out ways to “squeeze in” just a couple more e-mails while eating your day’s fast food meal. You “multi task” by going over sign designs and logo concepts while simultaneously surfing the latest posts to your favorite sign industry forum. (Heck, even though I know better, I’m writing this right now while the Packers and Rams play football on my television… hold on, let me hit the pause button on the Tivo).

Despite our nation’s obsession with multi-tasking it has been shown that this pattern of behavior is actually bad for quality results. No matter how much you think you are accomplishing it is a fact that the human mind can only process two simple tasks, optimally, at the same time. An example of this would be listening to a podcast or radio while simultaneously sorting mail or filing papers. Anything added to this combination of simple tasks will result a dramatic decrease in effectiveness. In other words true multi-tasking is a myth. Not only is it virtually impossible to accomplish multiple significant tasks but, in the visually based sign business, it means you are not delivering the best sign work you can.

Here are some suggestions to simplify your sign life…

1. Limit your e-mails: OK, OK, before you panic, let me explain. E-mail alerts are, by far, the most common interruptions that we face as sign professionals. So, go into your e-mail settings and change the “check for new messages” option to every 2-3 hours. Just implementing this one simple step will go a long way toward reducing distractions in your day. If you are really concerned about people being able to reach you quickly then set up an auto responder to announce you are checking mail at 10, 1 and 4 and to call if it is an emergency.

2. Learn to say NO: If you think back on the last few days you will probably realize that you say yes ALOT more than you say no (children don’t count). Every time an friend, customer, employee or local Chamber rep asks you for “just a little favor” does not mean you have to do it. Don’t apologize and don’t feel guilty for not doing everything everyone else wants… remember, your time is important too. Start getting in the habit of saying no and watch your life begin to get simpler. On the plus side… when you do say yes , you will be able to give that task all the attention it deserves.

3. Use your calendar: Take advantage of the tools supplied by Outlook or even your Daily Planner. By developing the habit of writing everything down you will begin to get a better idea of where your time is disappearing and, more importantly, how to recapture it. Stop scribbling notes, dates & appointments on random pieces of paper and organize your time.

4. Eliminate clutter (have less stuff): Do you REALLY need the 27 partial rolls of vinyl colors that have been in your shop for 3 years? Do you HAVE to have the corner of the woodshop full of partial substrates, the 3 boxes full of old notes or the storage rack stacked to the top with old channel letters…? Purge that old stuff and de-clutter your sign business to simplify your sign life.

By taking these steps to simplify your sign life, I believe you will improve all aspects of your life. Do it now and begin to get more free time, improved quality of service and better all-around quality of life.

Vector File versus Raster File

You’re in the sign business so you probably know the difference between a raster image (bitmap) and a vector images (lines & curves). I have personally found; however, that it is often useful to brush up on my graphics knowledge periodically and I thought this would be an excellent area of the sign industry to focus on for this article.

So what, exactly, IS the difference between Raster images and Vector images? The very simple answer is rasters = bitmaps & pixels while vectors = mathematical lines & curves. Of course such a simple answer does not do much to help us truly understand the difference is these two types of graphics. More importantly, the simple answer does not help us really comprehend how these differences can effect our sign shop and it’s workflow.

1. Raster (bitmap) Images
The most common types of raster images are BMP, GIF, JPG, JPEG, PNG, PICT (mac), PCX, TIFF, PSD (Adobe Photoshop) while the most common editing programs for Sign Companies are Adobe Photoshop, Corel Photo-Paint and Paint Shop Pro (among a host of other lesser know software packages).
The most common way to create raster images is to create your own from scratch using one of the above programs, digitizing an existing image using a scanner, taking a digital picture or grabbing a screenshot from your computer.
By now you have probably experienced getting some supplied artwork from a customer in raster form. You are handed a CD or e-mailed a file that looks just fine at 3″ tall on your computer screen BUT looks horrible when you increase the size to final output. What happened? Why does it look all jagged and blurry? The answer is that you are dealing with a very small, low resolution raster image. This image only has so many bits of image information (usually described in dpi – dots per inch OR ppi – pixels per inch) and when you try to increase the size you are essentially magnifying the entire image, including those pixels. When you try to increase a raster image past approximately 2-3x then the software has fake in image data where there is none. End result… jaggy and blurry final output.

As a rule of thumb, it is always better to start off with the largest raster image possible for your project (you will need to determine the necessary resolution specs for your own intended output). If you make a habit of always getting the largest image possible then you will always have the option to reduce the size to fit your workflow with no loss of quality.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Raster images can only be output on printer type equipment (wide format printers, laser engravers etc.) and CAN NOT be plotted on a vinyl cutter. If you need to convert a raster image in order to produce it in cut vinyl then you will need to use a software “tracing program” to identify your major objects and convert those edges to lines & curves.
For more in-depth information on raster images check out this link.

2. Vector Images
The most common types of raster images are AI (Adobe Illustrator), CDR (CorelDraw), EPS, CMX, PLT (plot file) along with hundreds of other software specific file formats. The most common vector editing programs for Sign Companies are Flexi Sign, Gerber Omega, SignLab along with several less powerful vinyl cutting programs. Adobe Illustrator and CorelDraw are also VERY common vector design and editing programs and are usually found in most sign companies.
The most common way to create vector images is to create your own from scratch or by utilizing already created logos, artwork, designs, signblanks etc from existing collections. There are many vedors available online who specialize in sign industry vinyl ready vector files and make these files available for purchase. Click on this link to go to our page with free vinyl ready vector files for your use.
Now, vector files, unlike raster, are completely scalable. What does this mean? It means that the logo you have for Joe’s Auto Body can be produced at 24 inches for the side of Joe’s truck or at 30 feet on the side of the local water tower with NO LOSS of quality or detail. Since the graphic is created using a mathematical equation which determines size, color, shape, color, outline stroke etc. you are able to enjoy an incredible level of control with your designs in different sign & graphics applications.
The nice thing about vector files is that they CAN be printed as well as plotted to vinyl. It is very easy to assign a specific color, fade, shadow etc and send your vector image to the wide format printer in your sign shop. The printing equipment can produce all sorts of logos, decals, vehicle wraps and graphic displays from your vector designs and they will look great on 2″ decals all the way to 100′ long banners.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The one thing to know is that you CAN NOT get photorealistic images from a vector file. A vector file, by it’s very nature, is simply unsuitable for creating the subtle colors, shadows and infinite variations of tone and texture involved in photorealistic graphic work.