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Conflicting Advice to Newbies

Discussion in 'Newbie Forum' started by Speedsterbeast, May 30, 2012.

  1. Speedsterbeast

    Speedsterbeast Active Member

    Feb 1, 2010
    Thunder Bay
    First of all, let me give where my perspective is coming from on this.
    I own a one-man shop with no employees. Been in full-time business for about 1 year now. I am learning on my own and with the help you fine people.

    I was reading another current thread about a newbie with big plans to start a business in this industry. And I have to ask. Is recommending that they start apprenticing for someone else as opposed to learning on their own good advice or not. I see this advice on most threads of this type.

    I don't think I would hire someone who ultimatley plans to compete with me after they learn from my business. If they were honest about it, I couldn't do it. Could You?

    And if you wouldn't hire someone like this, are you recommending that they go and apply at these shops under false pretences?

    I am just curious because this advice always seems very strange to me.
    I do realize the option of apprenticing out of town so to speak, so maybe that is in the contect this advice is given.

    I would like to hear some views on people who have employees, especially if you are the ones who dispense this advice.

    Just wondering.
  2. Fatboy

    Fatboy Very Active Member


    Good show coming up! Watch this space!
  3. ColoPrinthead

    ColoPrinthead Swollen Member

    Dec 17, 2009
    Donkeytown, Colorado
    When you finally find your shop slammed and in need of help are you going to want someone who knows nothing that you have to train, or someone who can step in and immediately get to work at full speed?
  4. Fatboy

    Fatboy Very Active Member

    The young man has got a good point
  5. Gino

    Gino Premium Subscriber

    Jun 7, 2006
    Some very good and valid points.

    Many of thee people saying to go work for someone else and learn before starting out on your own are repeating what they've heard older people saying. The difference is..... years ago.... you could ONLY get into this business by apprenticing, and doing such things as learning your trade before going out on your own. Only then would you be considered qualified to hang out a shingle.

    Those that entered the sign industry by being self-taught were not really respected and never really amounted to much. However, there were exceptions.

    Today, you can learn at Letterhead Meets, sign meets, swap meets, Utube, internet and schools. There's a ton of ways to get into this industry and many do it in this manner. Nothing wrong with it, but they generally don't learn the fundamentals or basics this way and want to plunge head first into the deep end and then b!tch about not knowing how to do things when they didn't take the time to learn.... anywhere. There's a reason you start out in first grade and slowly progress to 12th grade. You learn as you go.

    I used to take in anyone who wanted to learn and become a sign-painter. Thing is, while I was paying these kids and some adults to learn and paying them to mostly make mistakes... it was tough. Once they became productive, they looked for higher pay where someone else didn't spend hours upon hours and much money training those people so they could offer up more and it was hard to compete with those guys, so about 10 years ago, we stopped teaching altogether.

    So, yes, it might be tough going somewhere and telling them you only want to learn. However, trying to learn how to do a trade, to run a successful business and compete, learn the various facets of signs, digital printing, media, laminates, application, hands-on, quoting, customer thinking, layout, design, software, equipment, fixing it, money to repair, let alone buy it and keep your head above water..... is just plain ludicrous to think you can learn these things on the internet.

    That's why the guy you're referring to just wants to become a 'broker'. The learning curve seems less hard and one can achieve the same end results. NOT !!
  6. Ponto

    Ponto Active Member

    Nov 24, 2008
    There are many things to learn that are associated with running a succesful sign or any business for that matter,.....and apprenticing for a period of time is a good idea. I've been apprenticing for over 25 years now and am still learning. Tried a home base business for awhile and went great until my major (bread and butter) client got gobbled up in a corporate merger....

  7. ChicagoGraphics

    ChicagoGraphics Major Contributor

    Feb 27, 2007
    Before computers and vinyl came out all I did was hand lettering and screen printing, while doing screen printing I wanted to learn other types that I did not do in house so I would apply at compaines that did the type of screen printing I wanted to learn, 9 out of 10 times I was hired on the spot, I would work for the co. about 3 months learn what I needed to then quit. So I got paid to learn.

    I would hire someone that has a lot of experience over someone that has none.
  8. Rick

    Rick Certified Enneadecagon Designer

    Apr 17, 2003
    Valle Vista
    I have no employees, but I was trained and apprenticed. I can not wrap my head around learning this trade on my own.

    A long time ago, one had to pretty much apprentice to get into this type of work. We did not have computers and printers, it was all training and repetition. It was a journey to learning a skill and craft. It was good advice then, it's good advice now. Back then, some ol' phart who was teaching me knew it would be years before I was his competition. He was taught, so there is the matter of paying it forward.

    Now say I'm a newbie, stroll into your shop... you with your one year of self taught experience does not have that much to offer me in training. I would be your competition in a matter of weeks or months.

    Now, say I stroll into someone with 30 years experienced and they were mentored. It would still take years to learn what they know... so how would I be their competition?

    Personally, I would probably not hire anyone over mid 20's to train. An older adult would have to have the right drive to convince me otherwise. I know whoever I train will have to go and start their own business or go to another place. I did it, I assume they would too. I owe it to my mentors to pay it forward as well.

    The computer has made it easier to make signs, but there is no button to make them look good. A newbie needs training, practice and some amount of drive and curiosity. I would think those were admirable traits to have in a prospective employee looking for a career. Not everyone wants to own their own business... I'm one of them. So you might be training your competitions next star employee... but guess what, you can hire one yourself.

    There are a few franchise and non-franchise sign companies who's main idea, is that newbies who have a large chunk of cash and credit buy into their franchise, then HIRE someone to train them. They will get their own training through the franchise and have a system set in place, but have the franchisee hire their own mentor to run the business. So the idea of apprenticeship is alive and well in this business. Someone just put their own twist on it.
  9. Ponto

    Ponto Active Member

    Nov 24, 2008

    This is so true,......thankyou for adding this,.....business is business, no matter how you spin it and there are corporate giants that have become very successful putting that spin on things..........what it's done for the sign industry is a whole other topic................

  10. WildWestDesigns

    WildWestDesigns Major Contributor

    Sep 27, 2010
    Mid TN
    I had two mentors in my trade. One was the traditional by hand, the other was more the digital aspect.

    It is very hard, but not impossible, to do it on your own. But it takes a special kind of drive to be willing to do that and to improve upon what you do (which is something that is hard to come by) when you don't have an experience hand helping you along the way.

    I have zero problem with teaching someone, knowing that they want to take it to the next level on their own possibly. A few members know that if they have questions, I'll help them out if I can. I enjoy my trade and I hope that by my doing that it helps further that trade in a positive way, so I actually see more of a harm in not helping someone that wants to apprentice out of fear of competition, rather real or imagine.

    I can certainly see both sides of the coin, but I have to say that no matter what the trade, the absolute best way to learn is to apprentice under someone (I just hope you pick well who you learn from).
    Last edited: May 30, 2012
  11. TammieH

    TammieH Very Active Member

    Nov 28, 2011
    Pacific NW
    I have been in the sign business for 35 years now, I am one of those who has never desired to own my own sign shop (although I have been toying with the idea as of late), but starting up in this economy scares me, probably one reason why I am still an employee. I did manage a sign shop 10 years, and I learned one thing, I did not like myself as a manager.

    My belief, there is nothing like having employees with experience, I know we demand more pay, but I believe if you weigh the cost against the benefits of experience you will find it is most advantageous for the employer. The larger problem is dealing with personalities and whether you get along with one another, and of course a good work ethic, which seems to be less important to younger people these days.

    Of course if the employer has less experience than their employee, then you might have to put your ego aside, but at the same time make sure the employee knows you are the boss.
  12. showcase 66

    showcase 66 Very Active Member

    Sep 23, 2010
    I started while back in high school with a friend of mine. He started with a 24" cutter that his dad used for their AC business. He would make all the decals they would put on the units they put it. We had no idea what we were doing at the time, other than making funny or embarrassing "bumper stickers" to put on our friends cars and make money from kids at the school. I went off to college and got my own cutter. Thing I learned in school. Find a frat house, put there letters on anything, they will buy it.

    My friend stayed and ended up building up the business to the point he was slammed. Would hire his friends at first but soon realized, he was losing money not making money then. He decided he need someone who knew what they were doing and he could learn from. That is what he did. He told me a few years back, if he wouldn't have hired the first experienced sign guy, he would have folded years ago.

    I think a person can learn on there own, as a lot of people have done here, but it also helps to have that person to show you how to do things the proper way. Now my friend barely does any work around the shop anymore. (honestly probably for the best) his designs were very generic unless it was something he was doing for himself. Now he has a great crew and good design guys working for him.

    I do things for them from time to time and he does stuff for me, but I could never work for him. I have known him to long as a friend that I wouldnt want to mess that up between us. Plus I would have no problems telling him his design sucks where most would tell him they look good even though the other designers think it is awful.
  13. Billct2

    Billct2 Major Contributor

    Mar 12, 2005
    New England
    I don't know if the advice is always so much to "apprentice" as it is to try working in the business for awhile before you blow your savings (or credit) on your own place.
  14. petepaz

    petepaz Major Contributor

    Feb 14, 2007
    years ago i owned a gym and it failed(for many reasons) i ended up with a nice home gym and bankruptcy.
    in these times the last thing i would want to do it start a new business
    i agree with this point
    i actually work for a printing company and do all the installs as a sub-contractor but i started an LLC and it works out good but pretty much all i have learned along the way was self-taught and info from this sight or asking others questions but i did go to school for graphic art and that's how i started with the company as the graphic artist and it just branched off into a sign shop as we grew and i started the install company which helped me make more money and helped the printing company grow
  15. eomedia

    eomedia Member

    May 27, 2012
    Since we're talking about my post I'll toss in my clarification I posted in the other thread - I'm strictly looking at it from a perspective of brokering advertising, not signs. To add to the conversation here, if I wanted to actually be in the sign business, I would absolutely spend the time (or try to, as the OP mentions) being an apprentice. There seems to be a fantastic amount of skill that goes into the process. That's why I'm not up here posting that I want to try slapping up transit vinyl because it looks easy. I am absolutely paying pros to do it. Why? Because of the huge learning curve. Not even something I would consider.
  16. S'N'S

    S'N'S Active Member

    Jun 5, 2008
    I think most of you are missing Speedsters point, its not should he hire an apprentice, he's referring to the newbies starting their own business and the advice given by members to go work for a existing sign shop and learn the trade.

    Speedsterbeast wrote:
    I was reading another current thread about a newbie with big plans to start a business in this industry. And I have to ask. Is recommending that they start apprenticing for someone else as opposed to learning on their own good advice or not. I see this advice on most threads of this type.

    Well I sure as hell wouldn't hire and teach someone who's going to be my opposition.
  17. showcase 66

    showcase 66 Very Active Member

    Sep 23, 2010
    Technically everyone you ever hire are potentially your opposition. The favorite/best employee is just one more butt chewing from the boss to start his own shop from the know how he learned from the boss. Unless there is a non compete clause in the employment.
  18. wmshuman

    wmshuman Member

    Apr 14, 2005

    I think you may be referring to my reply to ??? telling him about going to work for a sign shop if he really wants to learn the trade. The reason I said that is because that is how I learned the (sign) trade. That was almost ten years ago but I was already in the dye sublimation printing industry so adding (cut) vinyl signs was a no-brainer. I worked for a local sign company part time and learned how to do some vector design work, weed and mask vinyl, install without problems, etc. and most importantly became close friends with the guys that really knew what they were doing and learned a lot from them.

    I, like you, work for myself and prefer it that way. I don't need employees but I have a part time employee that is there when I need him. I earn a decent living, more than what I would if I were to work for a local company. I learned everything I know from trial and error but like I said, having real world experience helped me more than anything.

    I was just being honest with the guy, but I also agree with you that I would not hire the guy or anyone for that matter, knowing they will be competition down the road. Learned that one the hard way but lucky for me he didn't learn enough and didn't make it lol.

    There is also a rule of thumb that every business man needs to know to be successful and that is that you hire assets and not liabilities. Meaning, hire people that know more about your trade than you do.
  19. Speedsterbeast

    Speedsterbeast Active Member

    Feb 1, 2010
    Thunder Bay
    That is some great perspective.
    Please know that my OP wasn't trying to discourage people from giving the advice of learning somewhere else, but more of a question to people with employees if this seems productive to the big picture of your business. I guess if I were to disect it even further than giving advice to people via sites like this would also be counter-productive in a the even bigger picture, but as some of you have said, paying it forward to what you have recieved from other mentors, teachers etc is the least you can do.
    I know that the only reason I could possibly have done this on my own is with modern technology like youtube, signs 101, online tutorials and a lot of personal discipline and patience. The first three though are mostly people helpng out selflessly giving their time and experise to help others. I guess with hiring someone who may be your future competition, you are also getting a service of labour in return for your efforts instead of just a warm fuzzy feeling of helping people over the web.
    I think I get it now.
    And as always, a big thank you to all who have helped me directly and indirectly (by reading countless posts to others) over the first year of my business.
  20. qmr55

    qmr55 Very Active Member

    Jun 3, 2010
    Yardville NJ
    Where has Addy gone to?!

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