Sign Expo Canada 2022

The thumbnail version:

  • Canadian sign industry shows and expos are happening again

The full version:

Sign Expo Canada hosted by the Sign Association of Canada is scheduled for September 23rd and 24th in Mississauga.

SAC promises that this year’s show will feature cutting-edge products and services. The industry-specific sessions on the show floor Learning Hub and other attractions and events all return too.

The organizers feel that there is a pent-up demand in the industry for an opportunity to get together in person once again and catch up on what’s new and exciting. They may be right.

Make your travel plans now.

Employee retention through recognition

The thumbnail version:

  • Recognition is a powerful motivator
  • There are many ways of recognizing and rewarding employees

The full version:

Bob Nelson’s book, 1001 Ways to Reward Employees, was first published 28 years ago. And except for the obviously dated ideas such as rewarding an employee with a tape deck for their car, it has many timeless ideas still suitable for today’s business environment.

Recognition is a powerful motivator. It demonstrates appreciation; everybody likes to feel appreciated. It boosts morale. It can help maintain a stable workforce.

So here are some ideas for employee recognition worth revisiting:

  • Paid day off.
  • Magazine subscription
  • Birthday card and cake
  • Tickets to an event
  • Recognition lunch
  • Post about the employee on social media
  • Round of golf
  • Home computer
  • Gift certificate
  • Also, a long list of other things you could dream up if you tried.

Not only is this an all-round, feel-good thing to do, but it’s a small price to pay for employee retention; it makes business sense.

Roland pairs business ideas with equipment

The thumbnail version:

  • Roland offers business ideas for your shop
  • They pair equipment with the each idea

The full version:

Roland recently published a bog post in which they offered five business ideas you could incorporate into your shop. The article suggested that these five ideas are good for an online business but of course it could apply to a brick and mortar shop as well, especially one in tourist destination.

What’s interesting and quite creative about this list is that it pairs Roland equipment with each idea in a way that some restaurant menus pair dishes with wines . . .

  1. Custom apparel paired with Roland’s desktop DTG printer
  2. Personalized gifts paired with Roland’s benchtop UV printer, their DTG printer, or their desktop rotary engraver.
  3. Personalized jewelry paired with Roland’s desktop rotary engraver or a their photo impact printer.
  4. Customized home décor paired with the Roland desktop DTG printer, desktop vinyl cutter, desktop printer/cutter, or a benchtop UV printer.
  5. Stickers and decals paired with a compact, full-colour desktop printer/cutter.

There you have it. A “menu” of ideas conveniently paired with the equipment you’ll need.


The thumbnail version:

  • Popular advice for small businesses is to design a catchy logo
  • Logos confer professionalism and legitimacy
  • Small business logo priorities and big business logo priorities are different

The full version:

Here is a topic with advice that should not only be of interest to you, but that you may want to convey to a customer looking for design and sign printing services.

We’ve been here before but another visit to this topic is prompted by a recent article (this time by Shopify) on launching a new business. The writer emphasized a well-designed logo. This is good advice but the reason behind it is a bit misguided and can lead to an ineffective design.

The problem lies in telling small businesses that “a great logo is essential” because it will “trigger brand recognition.” What’s happening here is a failure to make a distinction between big business and small business—the logo needs are completely different.

For most small businesses the need for a “great” logo has nothing to do with “brand recognition.” Let’s not kid ourselves that the buying public will ever recognize our logos the way they do for, say, Nike, Coke, McDonalds, and Mercedes. For us, the benefit of a “great” logo is that it confers an air of legitimacy, speaks to our professionalism, gives the appearance of a serious contender, and tells a passer-by what we offer.

So what should our prime considerations be when designing a logo for our small business? As suggested above, a good, clean, professional design and, importantly, also tell what our business does. This is why I favour word logos instead of obscure graphic designs that say nothing (remember, something like the Nike swoosh will be meaningless for your small business).

A logo has an important job to do promoting a small business as a professional, legitimate, producer of something a customer needs. “Brand recognition” in the Nike sense is not a priority. Design for yourself and your customers with this in mind. invites you to join them at Printing United in Vegas

The thumbnail version:

  • invites you to “Grab your pass”

The full version:

Now is a good time to plan ahead to attend Printing United in Vegas on the 19th to the 21st of October. The show covers all printing segments and all printing technology. Over 600 exhibitors are expected to be there.

Signmedia encourages you to “Seize the opportunity to experience global product launches, explore the latest trends, and forge new partnerships with a global audience.”

How you ship says a lot about your shop

The thumbnail version:

  • The shipping process is an opportunity to impress
  • Customers generally have unrealistic shipping expectations, but that’s your problem, not theirs.

The full version:

I recently received a delivery from a fairly big online business. I was surprised at the shabby appearance of the parcel. It arrived partially opened because the box was made of a very thin cardboard and had not been taped up properly. I’m not going to name the company because my legal budget is a lot smaller than theirs.

To ensure that your shop makes a favourable impression with its deliveries, everyone in the shop must understand how important impressive parcels are to your shop’s image. And they must understand how that image is an important aspect of generating return business.

So preparing your delivery packages according to a clear and well-communicated standard should be the norm. That said, we can’t all go to the extent required to match, say, Apple’s legendary packaging, but we can make an effort to pack effectively, in a box that gives a good impression, and perhaps toss in a surprise such as a bag of cookies, candy, or even a chocolate bar. You’d be surprised how inexpensive it is to make a favourable impression.

And why should you do all this? Because if you don’t, your competitors will get the sign order next time.

The difference between a marketing strategy and a marketing funnel

The thumbnail version:

  • A marketing strategy is the overall approach to attracting customers
  • A marketing funnel is the step-by-step map of the customer’s interaction with your shop

The full version:

Your shop needs a cohesive marketing strategy. Without it you’ll be like a sailor without a compass and no idea where you’re heading or where you’ll end up. You may get lucky, but then again, you may not. It’s better to plot a course that you can change and control as circumstances change than it is to drift aimlessly.

A marketing funnel kicks in once someone has responded to your marketing and is now a potential customer. It maps out the steps the potential customer is guided through in turning them into a customer. There are four parts to the funnel. The first contains the the new people who don’t know much about your shop yet. The second part contains the people who are seriously considering doing business with you. The third part contains the people who have made a purchase and become customers. And the fourth and final part of the funnel is the loyalty part which contains the customers you work to retain.

So, in short, the overarching marketing strategy gets them to top of the marketing funnel and then you move them down the funnel through the four stages. Two complimentary but different concepts, each with its own purpose.

Obviously CLV must exceed CAC.

The thumbnail version:

  • These metrics must be checked regularly
  • But first you must know what they are

The full version:

Don’t you hate acronyms, especially when a writer assumes that you know what they are? Me too. But at least they got your attention . . .

So CAC is “Customer Acquisition Cost” and CLV is “Customer Lifetime Value.”  Both are important metrics but also somewhat nebulous and difficult to calculate. If you advertise to grow your business you should at least be aware of what they are and make an effort to calculate them, even if it’s rough and approximate.

Let’s take a simple example . . . You spend $100 on an advertisement. If it gains you 10 new customers, your CAC for those 10 customers is $10 each. Now, that could be a good or a bad number, depending upon what the CLV turns out to be.

So the CLV is the return (profit) you gain (or are likely to gain, if you can project somewhat reliably) from a customer over the lifetime of the relationship with that customer. By now you can see where this is going. If the customer only buys from you once because you’re unable to retain them for some reason and you make, say, $5 from the transaction, then clearly it’s not a winning proposition. Your CAC exceeds your CLV. You’ve spent $10 to make $5.

On the other hand, if you can retain the customer and they do, say, another twenty similar transactions from which you gain $100, then your CLV exceeds your CAC ten-fold. And that’s good. You’ve spent $10 to make $100.

Try to avoid advertising blindly hoping something worthwhile will come of it. Know your CACs and CLVs.


Spilling the beans for the competition to see

The thumbnail version:

  • Sometimes there’s interesting competitive information hidden in articles
  • This information can be useful to know and can potentially be used in your own business

The full version:

The June edition of Sign Media Canada includes an article about signage made for a new pet store in Brantford. While I was reading the article it occurred to me that this type of article was interesting for the insight it offered on how the sign shop in question conducts its business.

I sometimes wonder if the publicity a shop gains from a detailed article about its operations and business practices is worth the risk of spilling the beans for the competition to see. After all, this article is in a publication for its competitors rather than potential customers.

The short article had a number of bits of information I could put into five categories: (1) stuff to tell customers; (2)  client relations; (3) marketing; (4) sub-contracting; and (5) material costs.

  1. Stuff to tell customers:
    • ” . . . we try to to stress to our customers the importance of having legible signage in a readable font and to keep it fresh and well-maintained.”
    • “Nothing is worse than a sign in disrepair.”
    • “Maintenance of  signage should be in every business’s expenses.”
    • “After all, it’s the first impression you make prior to someone walking through the door.”
  2. Client relations:
    • “They are generally impressed with our turnaround in getting them layouts and communication of the project details.”
    • “The customer was ecstatic with how quick we were able to get the items produced with the overall quality of the work . . .”
  3. Marketing:
    • “They reached out to us after seeing our social media marketing.”
    • “Most of our clientele are new customers who have seen our work online and requested quotes.”
  4. Sub-contracting:
    • “. . . the scope of work was a fascia sign, window perforated vinyl decals, and frosted window vinyl, as well as some printed materials, including business cards, mailers, handouts, and coupons.”
    • “The digital prints were subcontracted, but the vinyl was installed in-house.”
  5.  Material costs:
    • “The only issues we are running into is the cost of materials.”
    • “Unfortunately, these new costs have to be absorbed into production, which lowers margins on the project, or have to be pushed onto the client . . .”

So, there you have it, some insight into the operating and business practices of a competitor. For free. No James Bond required.


A Facebook phishing scam you should know about

The thumbnail version:

  • If you use Facebook for business, you need to know this

The full version:

Security company PIXM is warning about a Facebook scam that has been running since late 2021. Apparently it has ensnared over 10 million users. You or a designated employee looking after you social media accounts could place your shop at risk by unwittingly disclosing the credentials that this scam tries to harvest.

It involves setting up a fake Facebook login page. When a user logs in, the their credentials are harvested and then an automated program can send out a link to the user’s “friends” via Facebook messenger.

What you have to do is take extra care with any messages received through Facebook Messenger.

Understand margins and monitor them

The thumbnail version:

  • Profitability starts with margins
  • Margins have to be constantly monitored

The full version:

You don’t have to be an accountant to know that profitability starts with margins. Margin in this case meaning “gross profit margin” which is the amount by which the selling price of the product exceeds the cost (all costs) to produce it. You need this margin because without it you won’t be able to pay overheads such as rent and administration expenses. This might be a slight over-simplification, but it makes the point that you must mark up your product with sufficient margin to run a profitable business.

BDC recently put out another excellent document for small business in which they briefly discussed 5 profit margin killers that they say must be eliminated. Obviously you should do more reading and research on these items if you are to fully understand the essential details about margins, but in the meantime, here they are:

  1. Pricing that doesn’t reflect true costs.
  2. Holding onto unprofitable products.
  3. failing to manage customer relationships.
  4. Allowing direct and overhead costs to grow uncontrolled.
  5. failing to use technology.

This is an important topic fundamental to running a profitable business. It’s well worth spending the time to come to grips with it.

Word of mouth – a topic worth revisiting

The thumbnail version:

  • Word of mouth is an effective marketing tool
  • The catch though is that your customer service and product quality must be top notch
  • A lapse in customer service or product quality can see word of mouth work against you

Full version:

Word of mouth is an effective and inexpensive business builder so you want customers to tell other people about your great customer service and great products. In fact, encouraging word of mouth should be a key element of your marketing strategy. If more businesses spent some of the time they waste on social media obsessively looking for “exposure” and instead focused on promoting word of mouth recommendations, they’d see better returns.

However, word of mouth can be a two-edged sword. It can work against your business too if a customer’s experience is less than great. Remember, unhappy customers are just as capable of talking as happy ones.

So, here’s a reminder of a list of qualities needed for providing great customer service. How does your shop measure up?:

  • Top notch communication skills
  • Good listening skills
  • A willingness to take ownership of customer problems
  • Patience
  • Empathy
  • Good, polite manners
  • Product knowledge
  • Adaptability and creativity

Customers talk. The question is, what are they going to say about your shop? You don’t want word of mouth marketing to backfire on you!


The thumbnail version:

  • New shop owners need information and guidance
  • Established shop owners need new ideas
  • Read

The full version:

COVID-19 has apparently led to the launching of a lot of new small businesses. Some of them are graphics and sign shops. If you are a new shop owner (or even an established veteran trying to cope with an increasingly competitive market place’) you need to develop a new habit—reading.

As I’ve written before, it might not be something you particularly like doing but, like exercise or dieting, it may be difficult at first. However, once you get into it, you’ll be excited by what you discover. We’re talking about reading technical and business books, articles, and blogs or listening to podcasts and audio books. The technical stuff because you must stay up to date, and the business stuff because you’re now a business person with a lot to learn.

Let me remind you what Charles William Eliot, who was the president of Harvard University for over 40 years, said: “Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”

You might be tempted to do the lazy thing and turn to You Tube instead, but it comes with a warning. There are a lot of so-called “experts” on You Tube talking a lot of BS; be very careful about your sources. You’re much better off with well-written material by real experts.

A reward for stressed staff – time off!

The thumbnail version:

  • Employees are stressed after a seemingly endless pandemic
  • You can help provide relief by rewarding time

The full version:

Thanks to the pandemic in particular, your employees have been dealing with elevated stress levels at work and at home.

And while much of Canada is rushing to lift restrictions, remember that the pattern to date has been for spikes in new COVID-19 infections to follow relaxed restrictions. This is discouraging and only compounds the stress on people.


So how do you deal with this and reward employees, especially when the shop’s budget is under strain and trying to recover from the pandemic?  Time off. Time is the one commodity you have to give and it’s a commodity always appreciated.

Here are some ideas worth repeating:

  • Provide an extra break.
  • Give the occasional two-hour lunch and perhaps order in pizza or a dessert.
  • Give two-hour lunch one day a week for a month.
  • Give a day off.
  • Give a three-day weekend.
  • In an exceptional case give a week off.

You can probably think of many more ways to use time to help your employees in the current stressful circumstances.

Roland TrueVIS printers get some great publicity

The thumbnail version:

  • It’s encouraging to see what people produce with the same equipment you have

The full version:

In case you didn’t know, NASCAR teams have their own graphics centers. One in particular, The Richard Childress Racing team’s graphic center is in Welcome, North Carolina and  is equipped with Roland DG TrueVIS wide-format printer-cutters.

According to the RCR Graphics Center manager, quoted in Sign Media, “The vivid colour, exceptional detail, and outstanding productivity we get from our TrueVIS inkjets allows us to produce wraps that exceed expectations of our sponsors, year after year.”

Given the degree of scrutiny NASCAR cars get from millions of fans, live and on TV, one can understand why quality wraps are so important. And they are produced for every race.

So, with your Roland printer-cutter, you’re in good company. And you can also do amazing stuff.

New equipment — see it work

The thumbnail version:

  • Shows are back; you can see equipment working
  • Seeing equipment work before you commit to buy, is a good idea

The full version:

The stranglehold that the pandemic had on business appears to been relaxing. The pandemic is by no means over but it seems that the pent-up desire for a return to “normal” business is stimulating the industry. The equipment manufacturers say there’s a demand for new equipment (even though they’re having trouble locating parts).

So if you’re part of the demand for new equipment, keep in mind that if you’re investing time and money in acquiring new equipment, now would be the time to invest just that little bit more to get the maximum benefit from your purchase. That extra something that will help differentiate your shop from the competition.

One place to see equipment in action is the bigger trade shows such as, for instance, Long Beach. As we begin to emerge from the restrictions of the pandemic, you’d do well to keep an eye on the trade show calendar.

Brochures and videos are all very well but nothing beats being able to see, touch, hear, and even smell a piece of equipment being put through its paces.

Grommets! Who knew?

The thumbnail version:

  • Reading promotional material can be illuminating
  • Not all grommets are created equal

The full version:

When a manufacturer publishes an article it’s mostly with a view to selling something. But if you take the trouble to read such an article you may learn something even though you already have what they’re selling. For example, a recent article by a bench press manufacturer.

The article was clearly written to sell a particular model of bench press but it included some interesting information you may not know on two types of grommets. One type is a self-piercing grommet that is designed to cut through banner or sign material when there are no pre-punched holes.

Another type are sheet metal grommets that are used with plain, teeth or neck washers. They require pre-punched holes. The teeth washers are used in fabric to add additional grip whereas neck washers are for use in automatic grommet machines.

See, if you didn’t know this before, you do now.

The BOCSIes are back.

Thumbnail version:

  • The annual BOCSI awards are back.
  • Its an opportunity to showcase your shop.

The full version:

The 2022 BOCSI Awards are now open for entries.

I remind you every year that the BOCSIes is an opportunity for you to showcase your work and your shop. The process of entering is as important as the possibility of winning. Consider the moral-boosting impact on your staff. Who doesn’t like a competition and, better still, who doesn’t like being on a winning team?

There’s also the SCOTY (Sign Company of the Year) award which: ” . . . recognizes a sign company’s commitment to excellence, customer service, environmental stewardship, and uniqueness within the Canadian industry.”

As always, the program is managed jointly by Sign Media Canada and the Sign Association of Canada.

Don’t wait. Enter here.

Printing United Expo returns

The thumbnail version:

  • Printing United is back in Las Vegas in October.
  • It has something for everyone in the printing industry.

The full version:

You don’t need the hype to convince you to attend this show, Just consider the facts:

  • Three days from 19th to 21st October 2022 in Las Vegas.
  • Over 500 exhibitors covering every aspect of the printing industry.
  • One million square feet of exhibition space.
  • Registration has only just opened and thousands have already registered.

Nobody serious about business ownership or a career in the industry should miss an opportunity like this.

You can find out more at:

The Nearest Colour Finder tool in Roland’s VersaWorks

The thumbnail version:

  • Detailed instruction from Roland on using the Nearest Colour Finder tool

The full version:

Periodically I remind you to check out Roland’s website from time time. They post a lot of useful information on how to get the most out of your Roland equipment. Just a few minutes a month visiting the site could save you a lot of time and headaches or give you new ideas for getting more out of your equipment.

The most recent useful post is about using the Nearest Colour Finder tool in VersaWorks. It includes useful tips and step-by-step illustrations.

Cybersecurity awareness

The thumbnail version:

  • Cybercriminals are more numerous and more sophisticated than ever.
  • You and your staff need to aware and alert.

The full version;

Protect your business from this guy

In a recent post on Stanley’s textile blog I quoted a BDC report that included some worrying statistics about cybercrime. For instance, 18% of Canadian small and medium-sized businesses experienced at least one attack in 2021 for an average cost of $49,470.

Another worrying statistic is that only 55% of businesses train their employees in matters of cybersecurity. So what are you doing to educate both yourself and your employees as a defense against cybercriminals? Industry experts recommend ongoing and continuous training to help reduce the risk for your shop.

The first thing you should do is alert employees to the fact that cybersecurity is a serious matter and a constant threat. Then to reinforce the awareness you can do things like share relevant news articles and promote discussion about the articles. The objective is to build a strong cyber-conscious culture  in the shop.

But it doesn’t stop with the few suggestions in the limited space available in this post. You should explore the topic fully and implement measures to protect you shop.

I urge you to do this as someone who once had an e-commerce site put out of business for two months by cybercriminals who got in and destroyed over 200 files. It cost me $8,000 to fix the damage.

What is your focus figure?

The thumbnail version:

  • There’s usually a single critical number in every business that’s a quick measure of its health.
  • Your job is to find that number and monitor it.

The full version:

Think about your car’s dashboard. Depending on the model and the age of the car, the dashboard will have a varying number of dials, gauges, and digital readouts. They all tell you something about the performance of the vehicle (and sometimes a whole lot of other information) as you’re driving.

But if you were on a road trip in tricky driving conditions and had the time to watch just one of those dials, which one would it be? I’d suggest it would be the speedometer because by knowing that single number—the speed of the vehicle—you’d know a number of other things as well. For instance, what your fuel consumption is, when you are likely to reach your destination, how quickly you could stop if the vehicle ahead stopped, whether you’re within the posted speed limit, and so forth.

Now apply that to a business setting. Business articles and books will encourage you to know your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). But if you’re a busy small business owner with no time to monitor a series of KPIs (or the inclination to do so) what is the equivalent of your car’s speedometer that will give you a quick overview of how your business is doing at any one time? It’s your FF (Focus Figure).

To explain, here’s an example taken from a coffee shop in Calgary a few years ago. The owner’s primary concern was her monthly rent of $6,000 (it was a fancy location in a fancy building). If she didn’t make rent, all the rest was irrelevant. To put the rent issue in perspective, we came up with a focus figure based on the margin per average cup sold. At a margin of $2 per cup her focus figure to ensure that she could cover her rent, was 3,000 cups.

Every business has a focus figure, it just depends upon the business and the circumstances as to what that figure is. You need to find yours and then monitor it.

Footnote: The 3,000 cup focus figure brought the coffee shop’s high-rental dilemma sharply into focus for the owner. It defined a financial issue in units she could readily relate to—cups served. Needless to say, this coffee shop closed not long after.

Conveying professionalism with interior laminate signage

The thumbnail version:

  • Well done interior laminate signage conveys a sense of professionalism.
  • Professionalism and low cost are attractive selling points.

The full version:

If you were interested in boosting your sign shop’s business by pro-actively promoting interior laminate signage, then the key points from an article by Gemini Signage would be helpful:

  • “Interior laminate signage is a classy yet cost-effective solution for customers that seek to convey a professional, sophisticated image.”
  • “Laminate signage is an excellent bridge when you’re looking to maintain a high-quality look while fitting into your customer’s budget.”
  • “Some customers want the metal look, but will turn to laminate, because they can achieve depth and a clean, sharp look.”
  • “Interior laminate is the perfect solution for professional service firms  – law firms, dental offices, accounting firms, hair salons, wellness spas . . . “
  • “Laminate signage is also the perfect solution for wayfinding signs that are needed in many workplaces . . . “

Signage experts are suggesting that interior laminate signage can constitute up to 30% of a smaller shop’s overall sales particularly if it is doing a lot of wayfinding and reception work. How much is your shop doing?

Has your sign shop explored textile products yet?

The thumbnail version:

  • Sign shops are incorporating textile printing.
  • The forecast of this of some time ago is proving true.

The full version:

Sign printers are incorporating textile printing as a diversification option. The clues have been there for some time. Traditional sign equipment manufacturers such as Roland are producing direct-to-garment digital printers. Articles about printer-cutters and other sign shop equipment are beginning to appear in previously strictly textile magazines. Cross-over is happening as the dividing lines blur. 

All of this points to a potentially huge diversification trend in the digital and graphics industry. And it will include all sizes of shops, right across the board. On reflection, it shouldn’t be a surprise as businesses look for diversification opportunities not too distant from their existing expertise.  

So, textile decoration is something you should be aware of and probably explore. It won’t be any good eventually turning up at the station after the train has left.

Your customer base as a source of intelligence

The thumbnail version:

  • Listen to your customers.
  • They know what they want better than you do.

The full version:

It’s a simple but powerful concept—listening (really listening) to your customers. There’s an old story that goes back probably 40 or more years about General Electric vastly improving their business by simply asking users where they’d prefer to have the controls on their stoves, rather than telling them where they were going to have them.

No business, regardless of the industry, can can afford to keep its head down and allow the world beyond the walls to pass by unnoticed. So to try to stay in touch, the usual sources of industry intelligence they turn to include trade shows, trade journals, blogs, conferences, and even industry websites. But as useful as these  sources can be, they tend to provide intelligence from the “inside”—from the industry’s perspective.  What about the most important perspective—the customer’s perspective?

Customers see your shop and  industry from the perspective of their needs. They care more about what they want than what you have. And if you don’t have what they want, they don’t buy from you.

This is why customers’ questions, requests, inquiries, complaints, and product suggestions should be seen as a must-have source of intelligence. Business has a history of telling customers what they want instead of asking what they want. Your shop would be better off if you did it the other way round.

A printer/cutter or separate devices?

The thumbnail version:

  • There are advantages to both options.
  • Your choice depends upon your shop and type of work.

The full version:

First of all, it’s interesting to find an article about vinyl printer/cutters in what has traditionally been a garment-decorating magazine. It’s a sign of the times and an acknowledgement of the cross-over that has increasingly been occurring. But on with the topic which is the choice between a single integrated printer/cutter or two separate machines, a printer and a cutter.

Rob Goleniowski of Roland DG, writing for the May 2022 edition of Images Magazine, discusses the two options and concludes that your choice “depends.” To help arrive at “it depends” he offers three main reason to favour each of the two options. Here they are in summary:

Reasons to go with an integrated printer/cutter:

  1.  It’s more convenient. You can get on with other things while the machine does the whole job.
  2. With a take-up unit installed you can leave the machine unattended (even overnight).
  3. It’s a smaller footprint and a lesser investment.

Reasons to go with a separate printer and a cutter:

  1. A dedicated cutter cuts faster and with more force.
  2. Standalone printers tend to include additional inks which widen the colour gamut.
  3. For a larger shop with high volume there is no waiting for the printer/cutter to do both jobs. Separate machines allow for cutting to take place while a second job can be printed.

The degree to which the above considerations apply to you will depend very much on the size and nature of your shop.


A free webinar: wide-format, signage, textiles, and apparel.

The thumbnail version:

  • A webinar by Ultraflex on new trends and new products.
  • Suitable for both textile and sign shops.

The full version:

Ultraflex is offering this seminar on new technologies and trends of interest to both the textile and sign industries. Webinars such as this one are well worth registering for. Not only do they cost nothing but time, but if the content doesn’t live up to the billing you can just bail out.

Technological developments come quickly nowadays and these webinars are a great way to stay on the cutting edge. So register for this one by clicking here. It’s at 1.00 pm ET on 17th May. And do so because your competitors will probably be attending too.

What to consider before buying new equipment

The thumbnail version:

  • The prospect of buying a new piece of equipment is always exciting
  • Excitement should not overshadow planning

The full version:

Governments are bending over backwards to encourage a post-pandemic economic recovery. Regardless of the politics and where you might stand on this, the fact is that the pandemic and the recent supply chain disruption is bound to have created a pent-up demand for all kinds of stuff. And that demand may encourage you to acquire new equipment for the shop.

That being said, it’s well worth re-visiting some of the planning points you should consider in depth before buying into the hype of the equipment manufacturer. Stanley’s encourages you to consider these points because the last thing they want is for you to end up with buyer’s remorse.

So here are your homework questions:

  1. Who will operate the machine?
  2. Will you have to hire more people and will there be a cost of training involved?
  3. What about maintenance costs?
  4. What does upkeep involve (regular services etc.)?
  5. Do you have enough power to run the equipment?
  6. What additional equipment will you need to make the new item run?
  7. Are you going to run into safety issues?
  8. Do you have the space for the new equipment?
  9. What is the depreciating factor? Will you be able to recover your money if you sell it?

Okay, now call Stanley’s.

FASTSIGNS recognized as recession-proof.

The thumbnail version:

  • Franchise Business Review identifies FASTSIGNS as recession-proof
  • Does this extend to all sign industry shops?

The full version:

This might be good news for your independent, non-franchise sign shop too. FASTSIGNS franchise sign shops have been designated recession-proof by Franchise Business Review. FASTSIGNS responded with this: “This award is a recognition of FASTSIGNS providing our franchisees the tools and systems to run a successful small business even during turbulent times, while also delivering a service that almost every business or organization will need even during times of crisis.”

When you think about it, the part about “delivering a service that almost every business or organization will need even during times of crisis” is really the critical point here, not so much the bit about “tools and systems” from the franchiser.

So, you should find it encouraging that a research firm has found that sign shops are recession-proof. Now it’s up to you to build your business model accordingly.

Why not take your signs online?

The thumbnail version:

  • The pandemic forced a permanent revision of business models.
  • Should your business model now extend your reach and include an online service?

The full version:

If your shop offered signs online you could include all the techniques and substrates you offer. Maybe you could expand your offering to suit far off customers with products that have no local appeal. This would be possible because your business activity wouldn’t be confined to your local area—you could extend your market to include at least all of North America.

Has this been done? Of course it has, by many of your competitors. The trick though is to do it better than anyone else. Better quality and better service, including next day shipping.

If you want a good example of what I’m talking about, check out in California.