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Offering services to big shops?

Discussion in 'General Signmaking Topics' started by ChaseO, May 15, 2020.

  1. ChaseO

    ChaseO Member

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    Hey guys/gals, I want to make it clear that I'm not soliciting work, just curious about some of the processes. We are a small shop, and have been receiving more and more calls recently for site surveys, installations, etc. I used to dislike getting these calls with often times impossible deadlines for a small shop with an already full workload, but in the past year, have actually done pretty well working for bigger shops. I hired a new employee with a brain and a construction background and have been sending him out for surveys and small installations/removals with pretty good luck, allowing me to stay at the shop and work here, so it got me thinking about putting my name out there to try to get more of that type of work.

    I know that subcontracting is a dirty word to a lot of sign shops, I too have been burned by depending on others, but that is essentially what I am looking at here. So do I try to contact some of the big places to put my name out, or just let them find me as they have been doing? I have gotten in with a pretty big company and they are sending me a few jobs a month now, and it has been working great, but I'm sure there are plenty of horror stories out there. I was just wondering what kind of thoughts you might have on the situation.

    I also had a large GC business ask me to bid on some work for a future project and I was sent the information in an email and directed to a website that also offered a lot of other projects to bid on. I have not looked into this as I am not a huge fan of bidding, but is that how other places could find me easier? Some of these large companies contacting me are requesting bids, while others are straight up telling me what they will pay for the job before it even starts, and that seems even better. I don't like people pricing my work, but a lot of these companies have a pretty realistic idea of what things cost so I haven't had much issue there either.

    Some of this stems from seeing my aerial equipment sit for periods. I stay covered up, but I was thinking that doing more subcontracting work could allow me to weed out some of cheaper, or higher production jobs that other shops would like to have.
     
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  2. player

    player Major Contributor

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    Thanks for the post.
     
  3. White Haus

    White Haus Formally known as RJPW..........

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    Yes. Doesn't hurt to put together a list of companies that could benefit from your services and give them a shout to introduce yourself.

    I personally enjoy working with other shops, whether it be smaller shops that don't have/want the equipment we have, or bigger shops that need someone to look after projects they're too busy or big to do in-house. Trust your gut when it comes to payment terms or credit - if they seem sketchy or leery about playing by your rules, you can bet they won't be quick to pay that invoice that you'll be sending.

    Don't expect an instant flow of work after reaching out, but you might just catch someone at the right time. Worst case scenario they're not interested and you've only invested a couple of minutes of your time.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  4. Hero Signs

    Hero Signs If they let me make it, they will come

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    Even with working for the large National Brand companies you will have to bid the job for the estimate. Everyone needs to create a budget. Now some of the "remaining nameless" companies they will dictate down a cost and look for the cheapest.
    You can get business from reading the name tag on the signs you change panels out, or something cool on a nearby job.
    Also who are the large companies at the trade shows?
    Find your niche on what separates your company. Do you do after hours? Larger bucket truck?
    For us having the electrical contractor license and not being limited to signs and carrying $3Million in liability insurance typically gains us the business.
    Also be ready to photo document all your work and show why you do things better and have a care for quality.
    The negative thing that I have seen on Trade installations is that my NDAs do not let me display those projects.
     
  5. JBurton

    JBurton Signtologist

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    I do quite a bit with Chandler, Federal Heath, Anchor, AAA, and they are all great to work with.
    I do a ton of surveys and estimates for Persona, and never get an install.
    It's all a crap shoot as to who is heading up a project, and whether they call us or someone else. We just did a smoothie joint for a national company, about an hour away. I saw a building permit pulled for the same smoothie establishment in my home town, and called on the national to see if I could do that install as well. They knew nothing about it, and two months later I saw a permit pulled for signage. When I called them up to see if I could do the install, the project manager said another guy had been put in charge of that location, and called his sign company in town. No particular reason other than he already had a contact there.
    Then there are others who will not give out jobs in our city as a policy, so we get jobs one town over, and sign companies one town over get jobs here. It's the biggest pain for everyone involved, as it just adds time and wear on the trucks.
    In any case I'm not a great fan personally of doing the work for nationals. I prefer to encourage folks to buy local, but in some ways they are a necessary evil, and they (mostly) tend to pay well and on time.
    Oddly enough, almost none of my nationals require an NDA, the only one that comes to mind recently involved a cellular company buying another cellular company, but that's a big secret!
     
  6. ChaseO

    ChaseO Member

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    The problem is I don't know who the companies are, as in the majority of my sub work is done through a third party, it's not as easy as calling the end customer. I agree with wanting the customers to use local, even if it isn't me, but the ones going through a third party, I figure some money is better than none. I spend a fair bit of time lurking on here and have come to realize that the permits and regulations a lot of you have to contend with are much stricter than mine here in podunk. Permits are not as easy for me to get my hands on to look, and usually by the time the GC sign goes up and the ground is broke, a lot of the sign stuff is usually figured out. I have been focused more on the larger clients, but I also do some work for other local competitors from time to time, or assist when an extra truck is needed for a sign. Most of the time printing or even cutting vinyl for another shop is more of a hassle than it's worth. I have a couple of other shops that send me work and it goes well, but I also have some that think I should print stuff for them for free just to help them out, or agree to a price and never pay. Those are the times when I consider it buying from freedom from ever having to deal with them again.
     
  7. Texas_Signmaker

    Texas_Signmaker Very Active Signmaker

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    You'll get most of them via Google. I sub out all over the country and if it's a new market I'll look at Google listings, reviews and website. Make sure you mention "installation" or show bucket trucks.

    As far as WINNING a project. I'll reach out to 3 or 4 (or 5) companies and usually one or maybe two will be responsive. I usually go with the one that can survey and respond to me the quickest without giving me a lot of red tape. I'll take speed over cheap pricing. Over 50% of people I reach out to take too long to respond or you have to remind them about a request. I don't even fool with those people anymore, I'm not going to chase you down to get you to work.

    If you do good on that job I'll keep you in my roster and use you again and not rebid or get other quotes. Once you're locked in you'll keep getting the business.
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2020
    • Like Like x 1
  8. Notarealsignguy

    Notarealsignguy Active Member

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    You may be in podunk but what you said isn't true. Bidding, planning and permitting happen before they break ground and it's a pretty standardized process across the country. If you're not looking for the jobs, you won't typically know what's coming no matter where you live. If you wait for the GC to stick their coming soon sign in the ground then often times its a wrap. It's been a long time since I've had to chase construction jobs but the earlier you get in on the process (pre-bid) the better your odds are of getting something out of it. Not many people are going to lay out their sales strategy in a public forum. You'll have to dig in and figure it out or hire an experienced sales person that knows the ropes.
     
  9. ChaseO

    ChaseO Member

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    While I appreciate the comment, we're getting a little of track. I'm not wanting to try to bid all of the new jobs that come to town, I am just wondering how the big shops can find me easier or something along those lines. The smaller places usually give me a call anyway, but the big corporate places depend on their big shops to find me. One of the big places had me fill out a couple of pages outlining my capabilities and equipment so they would know what i am capable of and when they should give me a call. That's more along the lines of what I am looking for at the moment.
     
  10. JBurton

    JBurton Signtologist

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    Well, give some of the vendors mentioned here a call and see if you need to get on 'the list' to get bid requests on their work. You could always join the ISA or WSA to get on their lists, but it's not free and somewhat expensive if that is your only reason to join, not to mention the big guys don't really rely on those lists, as they have in-house lists...
     
    • Like Like x 1
  11. Texas_Signmaker

    Texas_Signmaker Very Active Signmaker

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    You're in a small town really in the middle of nowhere. If it's a big project they might reach out to whoever they know in Nashville but being 2 hours away even that is a stretch for service work.

    If I had a job there I would reach out to you... you show up second on the list on the first page of Google. You have great reviews which is good, but you don't mention installation or service work. Nothing on your website shows BIG signs or use of bucket trucks or cranes. When I look for service work or large installations I look to see if I'm dealing with a small vinyl shop or someone who has the capability of preforming the work. If you guys do that sort of thing please include it on your website somewhere, all I see is ground level stuff and vehicle lettering.

    Do you guys do service work or large installs? If not you might not have the capabilities that national stores are looking for.
     
  12. ChaseO

    ChaseO Member

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    I'll be the first to admit that my website is not the best foot forward to the shop. Many of the pictures used are dated or flat out just need to be updated with newer stuff. I'm absolutely terrible at taking after after pictures unless it's for someone else and me getting paid depends on it. I do have a bucket truck and a couple of other lifts but to be honest, they aren't much to look at, so no in-action shots. I bought cheap stuff as I don't mind working on it, didn't have to borrow any money, and wanted to make sure it was going to be used enough to justify the expense. I've been keeping an eye out for a newer truck lately. The website could certainly use some attention, I'll put that on my list of things to get done.

    On a side note, a lot of the aerial stuff I do is not for me, and I don't want to post pictures of stuff I didn't "do". My town has a 10' monument rule on most zones, so a lot of the bucket truck work I do is for someone else in another town and I don't want to take credit for something if all I did was install it.
     
  13. JBurton

    JBurton Signtologist

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    Ugh, I feel your pain on the 10' rule, we are limited to 8' maxed to 64sq/ft in any zone not within 1,000ft of the interstate.
    But as far as pics of other folks stuff, it never hurts to ask. Always put a description on those shots, saying "check out this badass sign I just helped the guys at shop-with-no-bucket-truck install, looking good guys!"
    They'd probably be just as happy to get a free name drop.
     
  14. Texas_Signmaker

    Texas_Signmaker Very Active Signmaker

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    Don't be ashamed of old buckets, no one has new trucks. I'm pretty sure it's a requirement for any project I do to get delayed for 1. Weather or for 2. Bucket truck in the shop... most of the time it's both :banghead:
     
  15. JBurton

    JBurton Signtologist

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    Just saying, that's the number one excuse we give if a project pushed into another project's start time frame. It sounds better than 'sorry I guess wrong on a totally unrelated project...' We typically make up the time on a weekend if it comes down to it.
     
  16. Texas_Signmaker

    Texas_Signmaker Very Active Signmaker

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    Well, I was considering getting in the bucket truck repair business... everyone's truck is there.

    I just like it when they blame it on rain, and I look up the weather history for their city and see bright sun, calm winds and 72 degrees.
     
  17. JBurton

    JBurton Signtologist

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    You may be onto something there. We once had a crane blow a hole in the generator while in the air with a sign hanging from it (very old generator that hadn't been maintained any come to find out). In a parking lot of a large national chain breakfast joint. We had a rental crane come out and get the sign, but still left the boom in the air with no emergency controls aside from straight down, no scoping, no rotation.
    I tried to find someone with a hydraulic pump that could come over and hook it up to get the crane stowed. Nope. Even called crane companies to see what they would do, their answer was essentially, "huh, gee, I dunno."
    After a day with my stomach in my throat, the crew went to site, dumped oil in the gennie, and pretty much used the starter to turn the engine over while steering the crane back to stow.
    But yeah, bucket truck repair biz would be nice. I'm just grateful Altec opened up a shop down the road about a month after we got our first Altec unit.
     
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