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Most of you are just mediocre sign business people

Discussion in 'General Chit-Chat' started by Texas_Signmaker, Oct 22, 2019.

  1. Texas_Signmaker

    Texas_Signmaker Very Active Signmaker

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    Yes, most of you are. Now that I'm a few months into my new life of "going national" I've had the pleasure to deal with about 50 companies. I post this to make you guys think about how you conduct business and where you might think about improving.

    about 20% of the sign companies are "Great". Their qualities are
    • Fast e-mail responses... Same Day
    • Fast quoting ...same or next day
    • Positive reviews on Google / Good website with proper spelling and grammar.
    • Fast surveys... usually within a week
    • Fast install turn-around.. usually within 2 weeks.
    • Provide updates on projects as they are moving along.
    • Keep their promises. (Or try very hard to while providing a very good excuse)
    MOST sign companies are like this..
    • Don't respond timely to e-mails and requires follow-up calls / e-mails to get answers.
    • Forget to bid
    • Takes DOUBLE the amount of time then they promise
    • Have to keep reminding to get job moving along.
    • Blame not being able to keep a promise on being "out of the office" he/she is on vacation...blah blah blah.
    SOME are really bad... (Maybe less then 5%)
    • Repeatedly miss deadline after deadline several times
    • Do side-deals with the local clients (one time this blew up right in their faces...lol
    • Charge to go out and fix something they didn't do correctly.

    Now, most companies I deal with are the largest ones in their respective market. The signs I do require cranes & buckets and only some of the biggest in the area can handle them.. so I'm not calling around and dealing with nobody's.

    Overall the report is that this has been good for me and I have learned a lot and really enjoy it. Very happy with how everything has gone. I've learned a lot about sign pricing all over the country. (BTW, there are a WIDE variety of prices even in each market) Its been interesting to see how other sign business conduct themselves. Some of the best companies to deal with are the smaller ones... The larger the business the more they just don't care about anything.

    And you wouldn't believe the amount of time people are "out on vacation". "Oh last week such and such was out on vacation, this week so and so is out".


    Just some food for thought for you all to think about how you run your business? Are you like the 80% that are just trotting along?
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2019
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  2. Mosh

    Mosh Major Contributor

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    I will have to get back to you on this, I am out of the shop on a little get away this week.
     
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  3. James Burke

    James Burke Being a grandpa is more fun than working

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    I am learning to say "no" EARLY. Half of what you mention are just ways (really poor ways) of saying "no". Somehow our psyche hasn't figured out how to just come out and say it.


    JB
     
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  4. ddarlak

    ddarlak Trump Hater

    I have been taking some me time as of late, putting customers on hold. i'm worth it...
     
  5. Johnny Best

    Johnny Best Very Active Member

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    "Going National" Looking good Patrick!
     
  6. Gino

    Gino Premium Subscriber

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    You need more than a job or two from a sub and more than 2 or 3 months to make really good assessments about people, shops and how they work.

    I will agree with you on most of your observations, but it takes a little more time to create a working relationship with most, regardless of size. Usually, everyone is on their best behavior right up front. They want to impress you and get more future work. However, if you are only using these people once and done, it's a tough call to make as you're doing.

    Great to hear things are going smoothly for ya. :thumb:
     
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  7. JBurton

    JBurton Signtologist

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    From a longtime sub to the biggest guys, I have to say this is a two way street. Dealing with some nationals after they've issued a PO is absurd. They are impossible to get a hold of, don't know any answers to any questions (let me call the fabrication dept...) and then will not call to deliver any bad news. Like the building won't be ready and we aren't shipping signs until the following week. That's all fine and dandy, but I'm scheduling a month out and I could be doing some other work if I had the opportunity to schedule it. Getting paid is a very bad joke for some of them. Some will call and need a survey, sure but it will be 3 weeks on X day. They call every other day for 3 weeks asking if it has been done.
     
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  8. TimToad

    TimToad Very Active Member

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    Here is a pretty typical interaction. A couple weeks ago we get an email marked "urgent" on that Monday morning from some national provider in the deep south needing two substantial window decal installations in a nearby, newly built strip mall. Easy looking install, we reply and tell her we'll put a quote together and ask what "urgent" means to her. She replies that graphics would be shipped to arrive at our shop on that Thursday and HAD to be fully installed the next day on Friday. It was several hundred square feet worth of prints divided among doors, transoms, windows and sidelight windows. It would take two people a pretty healthy day to get them both done in one day.

    In fact, the parking lot isn't even paved yet, so the windows were likely filthy from the dust and road film and needing extra time getting clean.

    I tell her that I'll have a quote by the end of the day and ask what their payment terms are. 60 day net. Which really means, you'll be chasing them for another month or more to finally get paid.

    Starting an hour after that last email, she calls on the hour, every hour asking for the quote. After the fourth call, I question if that is how they treat all of their colleagues and peers. She tells they have multiple other quotes and hangs up on me.

    Fast forward to that Friday. Drive by on way to bank and other errands late in the afternoon, no install being done. Finally on the next Tuesday, our closest competitor is out there by himself and gets one set done. The second set wasn't done until Thursday. So he's out there for nearly two full days, blows their deadline by almost a week and now gets to wait two months to realize that he'll have to pester them for another to get paid.

    No thanks.
     
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2019
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  9. Rocco G

    Rocco G Member

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    My main workload is installations for national sign companies, a handful for 30+ years. I do try to do all of the thing in your first group, but do admit that once in a while they have to call me to remind me to bid a job and that my website needs improvement. However, two weeks to complete an installation? I'm sorry but in NJ it takes a month just to get the permit on average. Not to mention adding time to get sealed plans, doing the survey, etc. And in Philadelphia I can give no promises because L&I there is populated by a bunch of...well I'll just say "people". We meet our deadlines almost 99% of the time and if we expect permitting issues our customers get notified right away. Plus we meed our quoted price unless there are issues, like a hidden i-beam, etc. However I'm guessing that you aren't talking about jobs that need permits.
     
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  10. JBurton

    JBurton Signtologist

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    I forgot about this one. I guess their quote requests are just their way of trying to teach us how to deal with their AP dept. Call every hour, asking how that check is coming.
    I'm not a fan of backcharging the national for unforeseen obstacles, more often than not we can find a way around it, and honestly more often than not it's an electrical issue that the contractor turns to the electrician, says you make this happen, and he lowers his head and walks off. If I end up not meeting the time frame, I'm on site every day and night getting it done, on my own dime.
    But when the mistake is clearly on the other sign company, I do add a line item for extra/repair charges. It's always a fight to get them to pay it, but usually I hit them with an embarrassing email explaining how this was their f*ck up, with tons of helpful, but more often than not sarcastic tips, and a few here's how we do it remarks. This way if/when they forward my complaint to the higher ups, it makes them look like an idiot.
    The last bad national job was a face change on a big flex face. During the heatwave this year. They asked us to quote it, but not survey. We get there and it's the standard j-clip/flex clip setup, except the bolts ran through the sign frame, with the nuts in the cabinet. This gets to be challenging when you have a two man crew, one running the crane, one in the basket, and nobody inside the sign to put nuts on. Guess what we would have known if we had gotten to do a survey. I don't know if we ever got paid for that return trip now that I think about it.
     
  11. signman315

    signman315 Signmaker

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    Shhhh don't tell my competitors why I'm beating them regularly even though I'm not the lowest price...turns out answering the phone and replying to emails is perhaps more important than the product itself.....shhhhhhh....

    I once asked my biggest national client why they use me when they know they could get it elsewhere a little cheaper....the blunt answer was "you answer your phone when I call"...I thought it was a joke but they are dead serious! A few years ago we had a gnarly snow storm, late in the season, got hit with literally 42-48" of snow in 24 hours, it was nuts even for upstate NY. My former employer at the time was on his annual, 6 week, vacation and I was holding down the shop for him (oddly enough he was one of those always on vacation, never responding, and so on). Of course I told the employees to stay home, but I took my promise very seriously that the shop would run while he was away, and I only lived about 15 minutes from the shop so I went to work, alone and knowing it would be slow that day and that I would barely able to make it home unless I waited for a plow and followed it. We served many national clients and it wasn't snowing for them, so the phone still rings, and the orders don't stop. It just so happened that a client out of Texas that I had been pursuing for literally 2 years had one of their big wigs call our shop that day. And guess what...I was there to serve, and that phone call secured their relationship with us to this day. They've now developed into my biggest client by far, moving with me to my new employer, spending annually what the whole sign shop was grossing annually before they came around, literally doubling the income of the business. All because I answered the phone in a blizzard. So yeah always be available, prompt, and friendly, you never know what it could turn into. I have a long list of anecdotes like this...little Taylor's garage band hounding me for cheap bumper stickers who turns out to grow up and become a prominent contractor in the area who needs lots of signs. Damn those bumper stickers were a pain but when it grew into a fleet of vehicles, yard signs, and so on for a contractor it is well worth it! Glad I treated him like he was as important as my corporate clients! Lucky for me most of my competitors just don't seem to have that kind of drive and work ethic...Shhhhhhhh!
     
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  12. shoresigns

    shoresigns Very Active Member

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    Yikes. We tell first-time clients what our payment terms are, not the other way around. They want to pay in 60 days? No problem, we'll schedule the job in 61 days.
     
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  13. Texas_Signmaker

    Texas_Signmaker Very Active Signmaker

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    I tell 60 days to take a hike...

    I pay my subs as they desire. I pay online as soon as everything looks honky dory, I'll send em a check. It would be appalling to pay 60 days. I don't even like waiting 30.
     
  14. TimToad

    TimToad Very Active Member

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    Then you've never gotten a project from Caost Signs, blah......blah.... Signs, .............. zoink graphics, etc. etc. etc. etc. We get hit up by lots of 'em and rarely do a thing for them.
     
  15. netsol

    netsol Member

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  16. netsol

    netsol Member

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    i realize you are supposed to be educating the rest of us, but, you do realize a small business with 120-170 employees NEVER has less than 3 and typically 5 or 6 people on vacation, probably another 2 or 3 (at least) on medical leave... this is before we account for family leave time.
     
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  17. TimToad

    TimToad Very Active Member

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    Can you think of a single sign related company outside of suppliers like Gemini that have more than 100 employees?
     
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  18. netsol

    netsol Member

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    tex is talking about "national accounts", they don't have 3 employees
    i assume he is talking about client companies (the ones ordering & paying for work. )

    i currently have 3 employees, never more than 7 in the last 20 yrs, but MY largest client has 140 employees ( as many as 170 including temps in the past)
     
  19. 2CT Media

    2CT Media Major Contributor

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    Yesco, BP Graphics, Outdoor Dimensions, Blue Media, want more?
     
  20. Texas_Signmaker

    Texas_Signmaker Very Active Signmaker

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    I'm talking about everyday local sign businesses. Usually 4-10 people maybe? And it was a sarcastic type comment...hence probably why it has 4 "hilarious" thingymaboobs at the bottom
     
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