Welcome To Signs101.com: Largest Forum for Signmaking Professionals

Signs101.com: Largest Forum for Signmaking Professionals is the LARGEST online community & discussion forum for professional sign-makers and graphic designers.

 


  1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Small Shops - How many active jobs do you have and what is your lead time?

Discussion in 'Polls' started by Doyle, Jun 28, 2008.

  1. Doyle

    Doyle Very Active Member

    2,533
    4
    38
    Dec 4, 2006
    Michigan
    I'm just curious to find out from you other SMALL shops (1-2 employees), how many jobs do you have in front of you at a given time? And how do you handle the workload? Also, what is your lead time?

    For me, I have somewhere between 35 - 45 jobs going at the same time from April - September (15-30 in the fall/winter), and I'm actually to the point that I am telling some customers that I won't be able to even look at their job any sooner than 2 weeks.

    How do you handle the workload? How many projects do you work on at the same time, and what do you tell the customers that must wait?

    I keep raising my prices, but the work is still just pouring in, not sure what the hell is going on, but I am not very good at organizing my workload, and under stress like this, I feel lost. Anyone have any pointers on how to handle a heavy workload BESIDES hiring more help? I try to keep just one employee because the workload changes so suddenly, might have a job today and tomorrow it might be gone....
     
    Tags:
  2. hammered

    hammered Member

    332
    0
    0
    Mar 8, 2006
    As few as the one Im working on to as many as 10. Depending on size of course. I try to keep turn around times down to 3 to 7 business days.
     
  3. GregT

    GregT Very Active Member

    I try to keep about 20 jobs on the schedule. Sometimes there are more, right now I have less. I try to keep 1-2 weeks for completion.
     
  4. iSign

    iSign Major Contributor

    13,027
    31
    48
    Nov 29, 2003
    Kahului, Maui
    Doyle, I think I am in about the same boat as you, and have been here for about 4 years now. 4 years ago I was by myself, and was treading water about as furiously & exhaustedly as one man can in 60 - 70 hours a week, That was about the time I took on my first full time employee & we worked together for 18 months. During that time I continued to be ambitious about taking on just about every job within my ability, if I got my price, and I still worked 60 - 70 hours a week... but the major difference was on those moments at 8 or 9pm when i would feel like I just had to go home... I used to take one last look at my desk & would invariable discover one or two things that simply HAD to be done before i could even think about calling it a day. After taking on my first full timer, it was far less often that I couldn't quit for the day when I felt like it.

    In fact, I think that concept of creating the freedom to quit when I feel like it sums up the main mission of this whole discussion topic for me. I want to be ambitious, I want to continue to grow my company & push myself to increase my efficiency... and I'm fine with working a lot of hours... but I want to be careful with my comittments, and accurate with my projections, enough so that I do not feel trapped by my business on a regular basis.

    After that first employee left, I've had 3 others in a row. One who didn't work out, one who did, although not as much of an ideal fit for each other, personality wise... and my current employee who fits in as well as my first guy did. During this last 4 years, I've also had about 10-15 hours of help from my step daughter.

    I don't have the answers for you, but my method so far, has been to create job files for my bigger clients, & keep a misc. file for my smaller jobs. My file cabinet has a mics folder for each letter of the alphabet, and done jobs get put in there, or in the clients own folder. But the jobs in progress are out on the desk, in a file sorter, that displays them like bleachers where each row sits higher than the one in front of it. I put them in alphabetical order, plus i have a misc. jobs-in-progress folder that never leave my desk.

    Each weekend, I compile a new list from the files & the misc file. It contains all jobs in progress down the left side, and a brief description of tasks down the right side. This list is used for a monday meeting where everyone gets a copy & is brought up to speed on where i see them being involved in helping on whichever jobs they will be a part of.

    This at-a-glance sheet showing all jobs is very helpful in remembering what there is to do. I've since added 3 colums on the left: Quote, Pending, and Job... so if it is pending artwork approval, material arrival, or payment of a deposit... then there is nothing for me to do, except remember that it is coming up as a future responsibility. If it is a quote, that is noted... if it is a job, the brief description should indicate what steps are first to be done. The other side of the sheet has three comums with the initials of me & my help. The boxes of who will be involved are checked off, so any of us can quickly scan this sheet for something to work on. The last thing on this sheet are under a "due date" column, which is usually just a 1, 2 or 3 indicating the level of priority... rarely do i commit to an exact due date.
     
  5. Rollie

    Rollie Very Active Member

    1,651
    0
    36
    Dec 20, 2007
    Ontario Canada
    20-30 jobs average in the summer. Sometimes more sometimes less. A little while ago it was over 40 .. now down to 27.

    We started using a work order system and it works for us.
    My ADD personality needs guidelines or I lose it.
    Since we started doing this it has helped a lot.

    One sheet to organize quotes and leads which allow for columns with Due date, specs needed, emailed cust. cust approved, work order make, file(s) exported.

    Once a work order is made it goes on another worksheet that has columns such as:
    Due date,Printed, vinyl cut, materials to order, substrate prepared, invoiced, delivered/installed etc

    We have a calendar with due dates as well.

    Some of it is redundant but it's a work in progress.
     
  6. Capital Signs

    Capital Signs Very Active Member

    2,020
    0
    0
    Mar 24, 2008
    Our turn around on basic things is 24-72 hours, depending on what it is. For light boxes. and Electrical is about 2 weeks.
     
  7. Rollie

    Rollie Very Active Member

    1,651
    0
    36
    Dec 20, 2007
    Ontario Canada
    Even wraps Capital?
     
  8. Flame

    Flame Major Contributor

    8,283
    7
    38
    Apr 26, 2006
    Vancouver
    Just me an my wife, and occassional part time help, and right now I have 25 jobs on the board. Average 20-30 I suppose, and about 4-6 days out on average.
     
  9. .

    I find my self at awe with the workload some of you have. X-cellent! I've been in the printing business for 31 yrs. Recently purchased a Mutoh & Graphtec & run around 6-10 orders a day. Combo of poster mounted on foam board & at least 4 banners a day. Vinyl lettering only 1-2 orders a week. 90% from new customers. Haven't had enough time to even market that part of my business. Got to say that I though I was doing well. Will print out some promo's this coming week to our current clientel & see if I can have those problems. Also have to say that I don't remember who posted this quote, but I truly have stuck to it.
    "If you are too busy your not charging enough". (Graphics) I was charging $22 & up before. Now it's $43 & up. No complaints!
     
  10. iSign

    iSign Major Contributor

    13,027
    31
    48
    Nov 29, 2003
    Kahului, Maui
    Jimdes
     
  11. insignia

    insignia Very Active Member

    From first had experience I can tell you that you may be wise to bite the bullet and go ahead and hire an additional employee, maybe just part time, but full time may be better. We were in a similar prediciment this spring, being too busy for our staff of three to efficiently crank out work in a timely manner, but not technically busy enough to justify an additional hand, or at least justify it all of the time. Eventually an opportunity presented itself and I decided to take a risk (calculated of course) and hire another full time person, bringing our staff up to four. Best decision we've ever made really. Our cash flow could support the addition, and that's critical, don't hire someone you can't afford, but it was a scary move because it did spread cashflow thinner than I like. Within a month, the shop was moving smoother, 3-4 week average turnaround times dropped to less than a week on most in-house jobs, customer service and retention improved, attitudes improved because of a less stressful environment, and our salesperson and I were freed up from some of the mundane daily tasks we should not have been involved in to focus more attention on the business, and not what the business makes. Before making the move to hire an additional hand, sales were on target to have grown about 35% over last year (which is pitiful growth in my oppinion but it's all we could handle). It's 4 months later now and currently we're on target to grow a little over 100%. I attribute it to the fact that we can produce more and better work with less stress in much less time while extending better customer service than ever before and being free to aggessively market ourselves. Scary move that may or not have paid off, fortunately it did for us and now there are times when we could easily use a fifth person and occasionally a sixth. We intend to add a second digital printer, relocate to a larger facility and be up to 5 full-timers by the end of the year.

    The best thing of all is my wife and I now have a life. We're leaving for a long vacation in the morning, just bought a boat, and are enjoying alot of things we haven't been able to enjoy in a very long time. And all that without sacrificing the business, it keeps going in our absence (although I doubt we ould disappear for weeks!).

    If your cash flow can support it, even just a little, I truly believe another employee will benefit you greatly, even if it is petrifying at first. It will open up a whole new world to you.

    BTW, I know you didn't want someone to tell you to hire more help, but it's a legitimate option. It's really hard to get yourself organized when you can't handle your current workload. And it's likely that if you do manage to somehow get organized, it won't stay that way for long. Just speaking from experience.
     
  12. mountainmang

    mountainmang Active Member

    692
    0
    0
    Apr 7, 2007
    all we do is cut vinyl and all jobs are completed within 24-48 hours if not the same day :thumb:
     
  13. zgraphics

    zgraphics Member

    341
    0
    0
    Dec 10, 2007
    i'm also in the same boat as you guys, Our workload right now about 25 plus. We try knocking out the jobs as they come in. I try doing 2 to 3 days. but sometime sooner. I have a high traffic of walkins everyday sometimes about 10 customers in the shop at the same time. I hate to turn down jobs, but it's hard. I'm the one who runs and designs on the computer, so at the moment we have two plotters cutting and the printer printing work all at the same time. Their is days we close shop for the day for to finish up work. So how about the customers that want the job on the spot? LOL.. Well for all you sign guys, good luck and don't stress cause if the customer likes your work, they will wait or come back, like our customers.
     
  14. Typestries

    Typestries Very Active Member

    1,581
    4
    38
    Jan 8, 2007
    NJ | VT
    Turnaround times- small stuff like banners and job sites, 1-3 days. Vehicles usually can be in and out in a week, although for the past few weeks it's been longer since our installer left, new one starting tomorrow. Big stuff like fabrication, dimensional, gold leaf, anywhere from 3 weeks to 6 months.

    For Wholesale work-esp on the flatbed printed stuff, we work really hard to maintain a next day ship on all files in before 4 pm. Sometimes the high volume orders take an extra day.

    It's also important to distinguish between ART time and FABRICATION time. Especially if you have a F/T designer. Often times, art can take much longer than fab, especially if a committee or corporation is involved, or if clients take a long time to respond or issue a bunch of changes.
     
  15. Conor Knoxx

    Conor Knoxx Member

    414
    0
    16
    Jun 7, 2007
    Gananoque, ON
    I'm sure volumes could and have been written on this :tongue:

    My only "tip" on staying a bit organized, is that I have an erasable board beside my desk. 3 columns - " Design / Production / Installations "

    Its so fast and easy to update / change. Its big and easy/quick to reference. If I was making a new one though, I'd get one a bit bigger, and add a "Today" column. which could be updated each morning. right now I've taken to doing this on a piece of paper, but looking at "things I need to do today" REALLY takes the stress off, of looking at 25 jobs in front of you, and the overwhelming feeling...


    Regarding the initial post - I'd think you have enough work to justify hiring some help? Especially if you have been "raising prices" - if you're not making enough to hire someone to do the work, then you're still not charging enough (the reverse thinking that you are just "working for wages" - your "business" is not making a profit, over and above reasonable expenses)

    Being over-loaded is not profitable, because you are stressed, make mistakes, skip things you could/should be doing, get "short" with customers, don't put effort into "growth", and many more issues. Not to mention, the "reason" for making all that money is to enjoy life, not to make life miserable, right?

    I also like the idea of "starting some one new" when you are not insanely busy - even part time - because when you are too busy, training someone new often TAKES more time than you are saving! Just adding to your stress...

    ~end of sermon~

    :beer
     
  16. mystysue

    mystysue Active Member

    999
    5
    38
    Mar 14, 2006
    we have anywhere from 5 to 20 invoices on the board at a time..
    most of the invoices have mulitple signs on each one..
    our time to complete we try to maintain 24 to 48 hours if all work is done in house.
    Things like the ada and such.. depends of course on how long our supplier takes.. .
    If an install is needed then its usually 2 to 3 days..
     
  17. weaselboogie

    weaselboogie Very Active Member

    3,835
    9
    38
    Apr 23, 2006
    Us
    10-20, Next day to 2 weeks.
     
  18. Pat Whatley

    Pat Whatley Major Contributor

    8,593
    86
    48
    Sep 29, 2003
    Wetumpka, AL
    64 currently, usually around 40 this tme of year, had a high of 104, low of 14 this year. but it's a misleading number. 1 job that's $5000 is a whole lot better than 20 jobs that are $50.

    vinyl work goes out in 1-5 days, digital 4-7, electrical 2 weeks.
     
  19. Doyle

    Doyle Very Active Member

    2,533
    4
    38
    Dec 4, 2006
    Michigan
    Thanks for all the replies, it makes me feel a little better that I am not alone. I have a part time employee right now, but he is fairly new, and not really trained well because I have no time to train him, training is kind of on an "as needed basis" (I know this is a horrible way to do it, but I don't have a choice. I had to get rid of my last helper because he was a total jerk-off smartass (he did decent production work but had he stayed another day I would have killed him).

    I have done NO marketing this year so far because we have been so busy, and I don't even wish to market myself right now because I could not handle any more work. I am very disgusted in myself that it takes me sometimes 2-3 days to return a phone call, and some days I simply refuse to answer the phone because it constantly hinders me from getting any of my work done, and I sometimes lock the door to keep anyone from disturbing me, and this seems to be the only way that I get work done. I seem to get the most work done early in the morning, or late at night. I have customers that are calling and e-mailing me to come and look at their jobs which they inquired about 2 weeks ago. A guy wants his boat lettered up and I don't even have time to go look at his boat right now, and I fear that by the time I get out there, summer will be over, he will be pissed, and I won't get the job anyway. Yes, I am a complete mess, and so is my shop!! I could spend 2 days just cleaning and organizing my shop right now, it is really just making me sick to even look at it. I will stop venting now, I just need to go in at 5am for the next couple weeks and put in at least 14 hours a day, and I think I will pull through.

    For the future though, I really need to get this figured out. I don't work for myself so I can be a slave to my shop around the clock, I would like to spend time with my pregnant wife and our 2 kids...

    I think that the very worst part of it all is that by the time I get everything straightened out, it will be October and my phone will quit ringing for the rest of the winter....
     
  20. iSign

    iSign Major Contributor

    13,027
    31
    48
    Nov 29, 2003
    Kahului, Maui
    Doyle, I started reading "The E-Myth" when I was in a place very much like where you seem to be at today. It is not a good place to be, and that book starts by describing a small business person, in that exact same place. You can't stay there... it is a place between business infancy & business maturity. I think Michael Gerber called it the "adolescence" stage of business... and more business will fail from the growing pains of the "adolescence" stage than those who fail in infancy.

    If you can't hire a qualified sign production person right now... hire a bookkeeper, a receptionist, a personal assistent, or a business coach. You can't do it all, without slipping & it sounds like you are actually slipping worse than I ever was... get help now...

    I think you should even imagine yourself spending ALL your profit for a few weeks... just to get out of that hole you're in... & I'm guessing you will imagine that is an entirely welcome trade-off. I also think you could get enough help to feel relief without giving up anywhere near all your profit... partly because you will be more efficient with help, and the help you get will most likely support themselves, while also rescuing you from risking burnout.

    I strongly suggest you call Jon Aston to discuss his "Marketing partners" business. When you're that busy, marketing is not what you would think of needing, but Jon has helped me with many many aspects of business management & planning. I honestly think you would benefit from investing in some consulting work to get a fresh opinion of some options available to you to help manage the overload of work you seem to be pressured by.
     
Loading...

Share This Page

 


Loading...