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Anyone run a sign shop like New Belgium runs a brewery?

Discussion in 'Business Management' started by SolitaryT, Nov 21, 2013.

  1. SolitaryT

    SolitaryT Member

    Apr 29, 2010
    Or maybe like how FedEx runs a shipping company? Over the past decade, I've wound up moving from Colorado to Alaska because every move I've made from a failing sign shop run by entrepreneurs with ZERO sign experience has been a less than lateral move. Maybe I just haven't had the best of luck, but I wound up here, and work for a pretty solid shop, except the boss just had an hour-long closed-door session with an IRS agent. I'm 31, and I don't want to start over in a new career. I love making signs. But, at some point, does the industry give back to you? Is there a company where a sign-maker felt like they could retire and have decent benefits? Sorry if I seem whiny, but seriously, it's been a struggle. Thanks, everyone, in advance.
  2. JgS

    JgS Member

    Dec 8, 2012
    If you don't like how others run their business take what you have learned and start your own shop. A meeting with the IRS doesn't mean anything. Dodging the IRS however is a big red flag.
  3. SolitaryT

    SolitaryT Member

    Apr 29, 2010
    Yeah... I suppose it doesn't mean anything realistically. However, I wonder how hard it would be to build a sign business with that sort of philosophy and then grow it into something wonderful, artistic, and fun for everyone involved. You know?
  4. jasonx

    jasonx Very Active Member

    Aug 5, 2007
  5. Craig Sjoquist

    Craig Sjoquist Major Contributor

    Jun 18, 2004
    When I was 12 yrs old seeing Mpls. Moline tractor go out of business after over a 1 year strike & all the pensions & near pensions went poof.
    Said myself why work for someone all those years & the rug gets pulled from under ya..no thanks

    But if you been able to get good jobs working for good people & enjoy your job & challenges...stay with it & can be a great way to grow & do things you want.
    It is not always greener on the other side of the fence.
  6. HDvinyl

    HDvinyl Trump 2020

    Nov 20, 2008
    halfway house.
  7. grampa dan

    grampa dan Member

    May 31, 2008
    Steering my own boat

    Thanks for the vote of confidence and kind words.

    While I am sure there are some very good employers out there in the sign industry I instead chose to be self employed. I knew very clearly from the start what type of shop I wanted to own and the kind of signs I wanted to be known for. We focus entirely on creative, dimensional signs that I design myself. I turn down everything else. I send away nine out of ten people who come to me for a sign.

    we live in a small town that is sixty miles from a major city. Our shop is at the back of our small acreage 330 feet off the road and behind our house.

    does our approach work? We are currently booked into next summer with projects.pending that will keep us busy for the next two years.

    I believe work should be what we love to do - our passion. I do my best to make sure that my employees have as much fun as I do every single day.

    Working for someone else is to let that person control your destiny and future. Your future is determined by what happens to them whether by choice or circumstance. I prefer to steer my own boat as much as possible. It can be precarious and scary at times but I get to choose the direction I travel. :)
  8. SolitaryT

    SolitaryT Member

    Apr 29, 2010
    Ultimately, I'd love to own my own business. If things go the way they CAN, I may be starting to do that in the coming months, but it's through a restructuring and path to ownership. It's really the only way I can do it. Since I blew it in my 20s, I'll spend at least the next 7 years paying for it, getting my credit score up, etc.

    The reason I ask is because I've spent over a decade in the industry. I've worked for 8 sign shops, and I've been laid off from 3 of them, and the others paid me, on average, $11.50/hour. That's hard when you're in your late 20s with two kids. I've looked for some place where I could just be plugged in and run, and that brought me from Colorado to Alaska, where it's beautiful, and I wouldn't trade it for the world. But, once again, I've hit the point where unless things go the way I hope, I'm stuck at the top of the food chain in another small shop, where I'm making less than $40k/year, have another kid on the way, and there is absolutely no chance of advancement in the immediate future. I'm finding that I'm becoming really good at management/organization. I've streamlined things in this shop so much in the past three years, it's absurd.

    I don't think it's unrealistic to want to make a decent salary, but I don't want to fall into the trap of the sign shop owner who is only in it because they have heard somewhere it's a good way to make money. It is, but at the same time, you have designers and production artists and installers who are all making slightly better than Walmart wages with no benefits because no sign shop is a big sign shop.

    Sawatzky, I've seen your work, and it's amazing. I love that you're creating a fun environment for yourself and your staff. Keep up the good work, and try to inspire other business owners to do the same. This industry needs more people like you.
  9. 2B

    2B Very Active Member

    May 5, 2011
    You mention "creative and artistry" why not look into becoming a "design" company and that way you can focus on the creative side and not have to worry so much about the cost to getting a new shop up and running as you will really only need a good computer and design program. similar to what Dan Antonelli does. http://www.graphicd-signs.com/index

    As you grown then you can become a turnkey provider like you also mention
  10. Locals Find!

    Locals Find! Very Active Member

    Oct 17, 2010
    Fort Myers
    If your making less than 40k a year you need to get out NOW! I have 3 kids too. I was making over 40k a year with way less knowledge and skill in the industry than you have as a broker.

    I would believe with your skills, knowledge, and experience you should be able to easily make way more than 40k a year as a broker till you get your own equipment and open your own shop.

    I scaled back mainly because I needed way more than I was making to support my addiction to spending time in the woods and conquering all 1000 miles of the Florida trail before I am 45
  11. Gino

    Gino Premium Subscriber

    Jun 7, 2006
    Only you..... and your wife know what you need to do to keep your family clothed, fed and the bill collectors away.

    If you're an average shop, you're gonna be running shoulder to shoulder with about 98% of the other shops, regardless of being local or internet. That's some stiff competition. Not knowing what you fully know in the industry or knowing your level of expertise in anything, it's hard to give anyone good advice. You would probably benefit by sitting down with a good business planner, putting a model together and see if the numbers could possibly work. There are a few of those kinda people as Merchant Members here. I'm sure they could help you.... at least get some starting points written down and show you how to focus on building yourself. People like Dan and others who are highly successful, didn't one day say.... I'm gonna do this, build it and they will come. It took long hard hours of dedicated practice to formulate your future. Oh, and at 31, you're not too late to start.

    Good Luck.............
  12. grampa dan

    grampa dan Member

    May 31, 2008
    Here's the 'secret' plan that works.

    The time to start building your future is TODAY. It will take time and plenty of practice without a doubt but you have to start TODAY. Tomorrow do more. The day after that do even more. Tomorrow you will be known for what you did today. Wishing does not count for anything - only action. Take one small step EVERY DAY towards your goal. Make up your mind you want to be the very best at what it is you want to become. Then DO IT.

    First, decide the type of work YOU WANT TO DO. Start building samples to get good and to build up a portfolio. Use hand tools if that is all you have. These samples don't have to be big but they need to be the kind of work you WANT TO DO IN THE FUTURE. Read books, practice, talk to others who do similar work. Take workshops. Make it a PASSION.

    Start with family and friends. Christmas is coming. Build cool projects for those you love. Take GOOD pictures. Put the pictures in your portfolio.

    Pick a good name for your (future) business. Get your DOT COM. Build a website. Post those fabulous samples you are building as examples of your work. Start a part time business in your basement or garage. Build your business as you are able over time. Expand slowly but surely with a definite goal in mind. Don't let others (or those nagging doubts in your own head) tell you it isn't possible.

    None of this is rocket science and it works. My own career and our shop is a good example. We live the dream - every single day!


    -grampa dan
  13. particleman

    particleman Member

    Feb 1, 2008
    You've got to start somewhere. I co founded a business 6 years ago with a $500 worn out vinyl cutter working evenings after my day job. The business now has two full time employees and does well. You can still do A LOT with just a vinyl cutter. I guess what I'm saying is that you're going to have to get your feet wet and get something going.

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