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Looking and considering a new business

Discussion in 'New Member Introductions' started by SKJ, Oct 13, 2004.

  1. SKJ

    SKJ New Member

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    Oct 13, 2004
    Great Forum! It almost sounds like you have too much fun!

    I am looking to move from Florida and considering on starting a sign company(tired of hurricanes).
    I am currently a Project Manager in the Computer Based Training Industry and worked my way up from Graphic Artist to Programmer to Management over the last 10 years. My father-in-law who plans on helping start the business has over 10 years of printing experience. Even with the experience we have there is a lot to learn.
    In considering a sign business I was wondering if anyone would be willing to...
    1. Tell the Pros and Cons of the sign business (biggest pro for me already is the thought of being my own boss)
    2. Share the basic equipment list that is needed for a sign business
    3. Share Resources that have helped you in the business
    4. Possibly share a business plan that would serve as a template to get me started in the right direction.
    Thanks in advance,
    SKJ
    :thankyou: :U Rock:
     
    Tags:
  2. THATgirl

    THATgirl Very Active Member

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    Hi SKJ....welcome! where ya planning on moving?
     
  3. SKJ

    SKJ New Member

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    Oct 13, 2004
    Possibly Morresvill NC. Still considering area.:biggrin:
     
  4. smullen

    smullen Member

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    Aug 12, 2004
    Welcome.... I'll try to help, but I'm fairly new myself.... Very new actually...

    As far as what all you'll need to get to get going, I'd say you really need to decide and list what all services or products you think you might want to offer...

    Research a few Shop's sites on the net and visit a few shops to look and see what they are offereing...

    After you know exactly what your offering its easier to make a list of required hardware and supplies...

    Myself, I have planned to start off small and only offer Vinyl designs that applied to various substrates, such as Aluminum Blanks, Banners, Corplast, Windows (Vehicle or Shop) and the such...

    I know I can't afford things such as a large plotter that with not only cut vinyl, but print on it too... I just don't have the capitol...

    But as a basic list, I'd say...

    One or more PCs with large monitors, decent size HDs, plenty of ram... A good backup solution I think is a must....

    You will then need software to design in and open files brought to you by clients... Adobe Illistrator, Corel Draw, Maybe Adobe Photoshop

    One or more of the various sign making/cutting applications such as Signlab, Flexsign, CoCut or one of the many others... (tons of info here to read about on each)

    Some collections of Clip art and fonts...
    (don't buythe crap off of ebay, I did and pretty much wasted my money)

    A Vinyl plotter/cutter

    Maybe a scanner to bring in already made works

    Supply of vinyl stock, application tape and the such,

    A nice big work surface with a cutting board,

    tools for weeding (everyone has their own choices) Tweezers, exactos, Olfa knives)

    Large heavey Straight edge/Ruler

    This is by no means a complete list, just an idea of some of the stuff you may want to aquire...

    Hope this helps, if anyone wants to add on or touch on the ther questions he had listed, I'd be glad to read the input from everyone...

    Keep reading this place daily!!!!!




     
  5. SKJ

    SKJ New Member

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    Oct 13, 2004
    smullen...thanks for the info...I have been living on this site since i found it. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>

    It's great and the people seem great as well.

    Your info is helpful...some i had thought of and some I had not.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>

    I believe that I will have the capital…so I am approaching the plan from the "Ideal" and then whittle it down to reality. Sounds like a good ideal for another thread "The Ideal Sign Shop".

    SKJ (Steve)
     
  6. Rick

    Rick Certified Enneadecagon Designer

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    1. Tell the Pros and Cons of the sign business (biggest pro for me already is the thought of being my own boss)
    With any creative service business you can either sell your design experience, or just signs. Low-end signage (coro, stickers, banners, lower end digital printing) will satisfy your creative urge for a while, but may not pay the bills, have a direction, lately I have seen a trend of some low end sign shops getting into promotional items...(pens, cups, give-a-ways) This is not an upward direction but a diversion from the real problem....improving your design skills, understanding codes and rules and following them, learning to work with your hands and learning to outsource or work with others on signage you are not able to make. Remeber this when making your plans.....

    2. Share the basic equipment list that is needed for a sign business
    I think Smullen covered it, but I don't like clip-art...the only ones I could ever recomend is Mike Jackson (www.goldenstudios.com) or Don Coplans Trilogy series.
    The more you grown, skills like wordworking, welding, concrete and tile mat be of some use....if you take it there....

    3. Share Resources that have helped you in the business

    First off is I worked my way up through shops and freelancing, nothing better than earn while you learn. Then Magazines like Sign Business, A Magazine about Letterheads, Sign Business, Signs of the Times, How, Communication Art, Dynamic Graphics, Print and Step.
    There are great books on layout and typography:
    Great book but dated is Mike Stevens "Mastering Layout"
    Other books on design are endless, I have a list longer than my arm, but it's good to take a trip to the Graphic design section of Borders and Barnes and Noble.

    4. Possibly share a business plan that would serve as a template to get me started in the right direction.

    I think a business plan is so unique to every individual, your asking for goals you havn't det yet. There are good books on writing your own and some web sources that you can google.
     
  7. SKJ

    SKJ New Member

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    Oct 13, 2004
    Thanks Rick!


    My plan is slowly starting to gel and depending upon my financing (which looks good at the momement) I will probably be able to start with large formats.

    I am also finding very useful info on the forums and other web pages.

    Thanks for the book ideas...and if any body else has some recommended reading please let me know

    Thanks again.

    Steve :unclesam:
     
  8. smullen

    smullen Member

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    Aug 12, 2004
    What are plans for drawing in new Customers???

    Phonebook, Flyers, Cards, Radio Spot, newspaper adds, Cold calling, word of mouth, website???

    Also, Did any of you cold call, when you were just starting? I have several friends who own thre own small businesses and did a lot of cold calling to get going....


    I hate it when sales people call on me at home or work, so I shudder at the idea, but they say I need too...
     
  9. Rick

    Rick Certified Enneadecagon Designer

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    Word of mouth, this takes time though, every job I had I networked, even if those friends I made are not in the business anymore, they keep in touch when they need design services or reccomend me. In turn if they have a business I reccomend them.
    I also have quite a few friends with thier own business, or in graphic design, I will throw them website stuff or print graphics to big for me to do, and I will set up thier signage stuff.
     
  10. Fred Weiss

    Fred Weiss Merchant Member

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    There are , of course, no single best answers to your questions due to the sheer size and range of this craft/business/profession/hobby we call signmaking. For many people signmaking is a hobby or a sideline. For others it's a mom and pop cottage industry. Yet others populate it where their equipment and expertise would rival major construction companies. Many occupy it's ranks with the focus on retailing, defining and systematizing products to make and sell. There are those who focus on their artistry and/or design skills. Others who focus on technical and manufacturing excellence. And a very small group who focus on being the lowest priced (read this with a high tone of sarcasm). And another group specializes in jobber work .... producing those things that aren't cost effective for most sign companies to do themselves.

    So who do you want to be? You presumably have some skills in both graphic design and computers. Your father-in-law adds into the mix at least the production skills that should help a lot. If you were to prioritize the things you are looking for from your business and from life in general, how would you rank the following?

    1. High income
    2. Above average income
    3. Independence
    4. Time with family
    5. Creative gratification

    Would you rather do one job that sells for $10,000 or 100 jobs that sell for $100 each?

    Do you have or plan to get the certifications and licensing that would qualify you for contractor status and allow you to take on major projects, or are you thinking more in terms of a more limited approach that focuses on less ambitious undertakings?

    Your answers to all these and other questions must really be known for anyone to answer the questions you've asked. But in a general way, I'll answer as best I can.

    1. Tell the Pros and Cons of the sign business (biggest pro for me already is the thought of being my own boss)

    Pros: It is not only satisfying creatively and something in which I have found pleasure, it is a profession where you can receive a high return on your time, teach and employ others to expand beyond your own efforts, achieve a loyal customer base, and leap over your competition just through self-growth and pursuing excellence.

    Cons: It is an industry that has become increasingly influenced by the hardware and software used to manufacture its output. There is far more "acquired productive capability" in place then there is demand. The result is, regrettably, a decline in prices through increased competition. This is aggravated by both a lower cost of entry into the business and a perception on the part of many buyers that what is being purchased is just a commodity type of product with no particular skills needed to do it ... just that you have a machine and the buyer does not.

    So you are in a constant battle to educate your prospective clients, impress them with your capabilities, get a price that's fair to you, and do enough business to make both a reasonable living for yourself and make a profit so you can finance your growth.

    2. Share the basic equipment list that is needed for a sign business

    You need to be able to design and produce the graphics for any given job. This requires a computer, design software, outputting software, and a vinyl cutting plotter. A printer is not basic equipment.

    You need materials in the form of vinyl, transfer paper, and various substrates.

    You need to have the capability of cutting the substrates to the sizes and shapes you will need. Straight edges, knives, saws, routers, sanders, etc.

    You need to be able to store your materials so that they are both handy and safe from damage.

    You need to have adequate workspace to do the kinds of work you plan on doing and a variety of work tables, saw horses etc. In addition you need to have clean areas for graphics production and separate areas for those things which will generate dust, dirt, smells etc.

    You need one or more suppliers with whom you develop a close relationship and that are within a reasonable proximity to you so that you can get inventory and non-inventory items quickly when needed, as well as get advice and support.

    3. Share Resources that have helped you in the business

    Subscribe to and read at least two different trade journals. Go to at least one major sign expo a year. Develop friendships with peers in other areas .... and, if possible, in your own immediate area.

    4. Possibly share a business plan that would serve as a template to get me started in the right direction.

    Don't have one. But I strongly recommend growing your business from profits versus upfront investment to the greatest extent possible. Listen to your customers and keep yourself informed about the industry.

    The most important issue after acquiring the knowledge and capability to be able to produce a variety of signage is:

    How are you going to go about getting customers? This is where many folks in this business are clueless. And this is where you should spend a major part of your time determining what suits you and will produce good results. Next to being a good signmaker, there is nothing more important to your success than quickly establishing a regular flow of work. Doing this not only generates sales and cash flow .... it also helps provide the confidence to quote prices that are fair to both you and your client and to enter into a growth cycle for your business.

    There's a very interesting thread at another forum going on right now. A gentleman who could be described as somewhere between a journeyman and a master signcrafter in a medium sized town was just barely making a living even though his work was excellent. He decided to convert his business into a franchised sign store.

    He relates how the franchisor helped him both with becoming more systematic in his production, adopting uniform pricing standards, setting up a store that was both a place his clients were comfortable coming to and did a good job of marketing his work, setting up controls to manage and grow his business, and training / evaluation procedures for his employees.

    Following his opening his first year income was $50,000. Second year was $70,000 with continued growth each year. At this point, in only a medium sized town, his store grosses $800,000 a year.

    Please don't misunderstand .... I'm not recommending anyone go out and buy a franchise. Lots of them fail miserably. The point is that he had good signmaking skills and he was failing. By adding good management and marketing, along with better productivity, he was able to completely reverse his situation.

    Hope this helps.
     
  11. smullen

    smullen Member

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    Aug 12, 2004
    All good info as usual Fred.
     
  12. SKJ

    SKJ New Member

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    Oct 13, 2004
    Fred, you are my Idol! :Big Laugh Incrdible Information!!

    I grew up in Jupiter tell everyone I said Hi!

    One thing that I forgot to mention in my post is that my father-in-law actually owned a printing franchise for over 10 years. The franchise he owned had also brached out and created a sign franchise that we had looked into.

    After consideration we decided that we could probably do it ourselves with our knowledge.

    I visited a few sign shops (the franchise we were looking into) in the area...they draw a line in there capabilities at anything more than a ladder to install and whether or not permits have to be drawn. These types of things they subcontract out.

    We have some time to plan and learn before we get started and our plan is starting to gel (thanks to all of you and the forum) and I believe that the root of it is producing a creative quality product, building strong customer base on marketing and word of mouth, knowing our limitations on what needs to be subcontracted, and building the strong vendor relationships will go a long way at helping find my independence and make a living.

    Thanks for the help on my journey!
    :Coffee:
     
  13. jpavlov

    jpavlov New Member

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    Aug 7, 2004
    New to business also

    Like you , I am new to the sign business. This thread is right on.....Thank's to Fred and others.
    I have purchased videos. Researched web sites , visited trade show 350 miles from my home. In November we plan to attend back to back classes in Grand Rapids Michigan to learn the software program we use with our Gerber edge.
    Go to google and search out sites like

    • Sign Industry
    • Sign College
    • Signforums
    • Sign Web
    This site is the best.......much to read....much to learn ...Good Luck!

    Regards,
    Jim Pavlov
     
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