Make your sign company remarkable

There is a story told over and over again about a business that had a customer wanting to return a tire. This lady insisted that the tire did not fit properly and that she wanted her money back pronto. The company representative, without batting an eye, promptly noted the price on the side of the tire, handed her the correct amount of money and welcomed her to continue shopping at the store with a pleasant smile. Pleased with the excellent customer service and prompt resolution to her problem, the customer did head into the store to pick up a few things.

Ok, now what is so remarkable about this? We all know about customer service and how important it is to service our sign shop customers well. We greet everyone with a smile
and cheerful demeanor. All of our clients get great designs and prompt deliveries. So what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that this company was Nordstroms and here’s the rest of the story… After spending some time in the store the same customer came back to the desk and remarked that she was unable to find the tires anywhere. At this point she was informed that Nordstroms did not sell tires.

DID NOT SELL TIRES?… Now this IS remarkable!

How does the story end? This customer was so impressed and amazed at the level of customer service she had received that she became a Nordstrom’s customer for the rest of her life. She also had great fun telling her story to everyone she met. To top it all off, this particular story has been told for over 50 years now (especially in business circles) and has helped set the standard for customer service thinking ever since.

The million dollar question… How does your sign shop standout from the other ones competing in your area? What competitive edge do you have to make your sign company the obvious choice for the clients you want. Most importantly, how do you make your sign business remarkable?

Send us an e-mail with a story of how your sign shop is remarkable and the best ones will get posted online in future blog entries. Good luck all and make your sign shop remarkable.

Remote Control Your Sign Shop

I DON’T have to be in my sign shop to make money

I DON’T have to be in my sign shop to sell!

I DON’T have to be in my sign shop to service my clients!

I am writing this from the comfort of a cool little coffee house in New York City. The noise from the street filters into the room and the smell of fresh brewed coffee moves through the air… very nice. Here’s the thing, I am not from New York nor do I live anywhere nearby. I am actually from Ohio and I am only here in the Big Apple to check out a potential graphics project.

Even though I am pretty far from my sign shop I have no worries at all that things are not getting done. I have my laptop here in front of me and I have already checked my e-mails, knocked off a little revised sketch for some channel letters and sent off a series of specs for an electrical cabinet. To cover my employees, I have placed two calls back to the shop on my iPhone to clarify instructions for a vehicle wrap happening today. In short, all seems to be moving smoothly in my absence.

THIS is how I like things to run!

A while back, I began to challenge the necessity of actually being in the office to keep things running. I found myself questioning the standard workflow and exploring alternatives. In the age we live, with broadband internet access, powerful laptops, smart phones and a plethora of remote access tools available, I figured that we should be able to apply this technology to a sign company. I am happy to report that this is exactly the case. I have compiled a list of things that can help you achieve the same (or greater) level of freedom from your sign company.

1. – this incredible, web based, service allows me to easily remote control computers from anywhere that I have internet access. It literally brings up my computers desktop (I actually have multiple computers set-up) and I can work on my shop computer as if I was sitting right at my desk.

2. E-Mail – using e-mail in general is useful. Using e-mail I can look at new projects, communicate with my clients, respond to requests, provide information / quotes / drawings etc. In sort, training all of your clients to communicate with you almost exclusively with e-mail can significantly increase your potential mobility. You will increase your freedom even more if you have an e-mail capable cell phone that can receive forwarded messages.

3. Cell Phone – I personally use the new iPhone which has proven to be much better solution than my Blackberry 7100i. While I could receive e-mails on the Blackberry (and respond) I was unable to actually see any attachments. The iPhone solved this problem and I can easily see pictures, Excel documents, PDFs and Word files that have been sent by customers or vendors. The iPhone also allows me to carry around art/design samples, picture of projects and even videos of sign installations or the ISA’s sign resource information.

4. Systems – Having effective systems working in your sign company can make (or break) any freedom of time that you might want. It is vital that you have systems in place to run your marketing, your sales process, your project communication and your contact with your clients. I have posted several Free E-Tools on website that I use in my own shop to ensure things are moving along. Feel free to use these resources in your own sign shop and enjoy!

Keep your sign shop profitable

Let’s face facts here folks, we all own a sign business to make money, to make a life for ourselves and to make a life for our families. To be more specific, we want to make a profit which “should” lead to these things.
Now, many would immediately argue that it’s more important to be designing art, or how much they love the crafting of their particular signage specialty, but facts are facts. How much “design freedom” do you really have if you can’t pay the bills? How much “family life” do you have when you need to work 60-80 hours a week keeping all of your customers happy? No matter what philosophy you subscribe to, no matter what political ideas you
might hold, there is one irrefutable fact in this world… money is important.

Now, you should notice that I’m NOT saying that money is ALL important. I personally believe that money is not even in the top five of my most important things (I’ll write about that another time). So, while money is not the most important thing in life, I think we would all agree that having enough money does make running a business a whole lot easier.
So, now that we have established that we need to make money and be profitable…. how do we accomplish this in our sign companies? Here is a list if things I consider to be of critical importance in a profitable sign business (in no particular order).

  1. Establish your “working overhead”. Basically, this is finding out exactly how much money it takes to run your shop everyday. You need to sit down and figure out ALL of the things that are pulling money out of your business. Make sure that you cover the basics like rent / mortgage, salaries, materials, leases, etc. but don’t forget items like taxes, insurance, utilities, cell phones, magazine subscriptions etc.
  2. Establish the value of your “shop time”, “design time” and “install time”. You will notice that the common element here is TIME. It is amazing how many sign shops sell themselves (and their company) short when it comes to our time. In my shop, Time is the most important indicator of my value & profitability in almost everything. Always remember, you are a Sign Professional and your experience is the most important asset you have. Once you realize that your time is valuable then it becomes infinitely easier to sell profitably.
  3. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Bill Cosby is credited with saying “I don’t know if I can tell you how to succeed, but a sure way to fail is to try to please everyone,”. The best way to make sure that you have a profitable sign shop is to make sure you are selling profitable jobs. No matter how large or small your sign company is, you will only be profitable in specific services or products. So, find out what makes you the most money, focus on selling more of it and stop trying to please everyone.
  4. Learn to say “no” How many of us are constantly taking on jobs just because a customer asks? I have learned over the years that it is perfectly alright to tell someone “no”. (I have also learned that it best to have a solution ready for them when you do turn their project down). My regular spiel goes like this… “thank you very much for thinking of us for this project but this is not something we typically do. I do; however, have the name and number of XYZ company who should be able to help you out”. I have found that most clients will be appreciative of your honesty, for not wasting their time and for providing a viable alternative.
  5. Deliver KILLER customer service. I am a firm believer in delivering top-notch customer service to all of my clients. How many sign shops have the luxury and pleasure of hearing their clients rave about great it was to work with you? The way I see it, if I have pinpointed my clients, attracted the types of jobs I want and regularly profit from these projects then my customers deserve a remarkable experience. Check out the latest client (Alley Cat Games and Comics) who enjoyed the experience of working with us so much that they made sure to include us in their own blog… Alley Cat Games & Comics.

All things considered, our sign companies (and our lives) all move better when we are actually making money. I encourage you to take a second look at your sign shop and find out if you are truly profitable.