Category Archives: General

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.

Legal location of signs

The thumbnail version:

  • Sign locations are subject to local bylaws
  • Do you know your local bylaws?

The full version:

A recent article in Sign Media about Summerside, B.C. passing a bylaw to prohibit the placement of election signs in the downtown area is a reminder that there are bylaws governing sign placement in many jurisdictions.

This raises an interesting question . . .  Do you know your local bylaws as they apply to sign placement and are you able to advise customers accordingly? It of course assumes that your shop offers a decent level of customer service that goes beyond just churning out signs with no value added elements at all.

In a competitive market place where successful shops look for ways to differentiate themselves from the competition, advice on legal and effective sign placement would be a smart added-value element.

Inspiration for small sign shops and startups

The thumbnail version:

  • An Inspiring story for small shops and potential big-city dropouts.

The full version:

The sign industry in Canada includes a large number of small shops, some filling niches in smaller communities. One such shop was featured in the February edition of Sign Media Magazine. And aside from the entertainment value of the interesting story about Blain Buchanan of Blain Buchanan Signs in O’Leary, Prince Edward Island, there’s the inspirational value.

O’Leary is up near the top end of PEI and has a population of just over 800. Buchanan has been running his sign and trophy shop there for almost 20 years.

If you have been rethinking your circumstances, or if you’ve been reevaluating what’s important to you and how you want to live the rest of your life, it may have led you to consider dropping out of the rat race. Perhaps you’ve considered using your talents to start a sign shop to serve a niche market or a small local community. if you’ve been thinking this way, you should find Buchanan’s story inspiring.

A small town existence and small sign shop ownership is not everyone’s cup of tea. But for some of us a laid-back village or small town existence free of some of the stresses of a big city existence, is very appealing.

I’ll bet that there are a lot of similar sign shops dotted around Canada and that wild horses couldn’t drag them back to a big city.

Registration for World Out of Home Organization’s congress

  • Mores shows and conferences are returning.
  • The World Out Of Home Organization’s Global Congress is scheduled for Toronto.

The full version:

Registration is open for the World Out of Home Organization’s (WOO) in-person Global Congress to be held in Toronto on May 25-27 at the Sheraton Toronto Centre Hotel.

There will be an international speaker program and an exhibition at which exhibitors will have an opportunity to meet media owners face-to-face.

Pre-dinner drinks on Wednesday, May 25 will be followed by a full-day Congress on Thursday, May 26. On the evening of the 26th there will be a dinner and awards presentations. On the 27th of May you can enjoy a further full-day Congress. On the Friday night WOO’s informal closing party will take place and will include cuisine and live performances.

You can find more information by clicking here.

The BC Sign and Graphics Expo 2022 has been cancelled

The thumbnail version:

  • Pandemic uncertainty cancels a BC expo.

The full version:

While some shows and conventions are being scheduled for this year following what appears to be a post-pandemic confidence, others are being cancelled or postponed due to lingering uncertainty.

One of the cancellations is the BC Sign and Graphics Expo 2022 that had been scheduled for April 1st and 2nd. The organizers, the BC Sign Association and the Sign Association of Canada, have sighted the unpredictability of the current gathering restrictions and a concern for health and safety  as the reasons for the cancellation.

We’re still in a state of pandemic uncertainty which not only makes show and travel planning difficult but raises questions about the efficacy of attending these large gatherings.


Featured: Roland TrueVIS VF2-640 printer

The thumbnail version:
  • Roland has released the TrueVIS VF2-640.

The full version:

Roland says that the new TrueVIS VF2-640 large-format printer offers the richest and most vivid TrueVIS colour output yet. They also say that It allows users to build their brand, reputation, and success with unmatched colour output and the ability to target specific colours.

The promotional material for this new printer includes some bold claims: “Featuring award winning TR2 inks and new Green and Orange ink choices to target previously unreachable colours, the 1626-mm (64-in.) VF2-640 printer is the ideal solution for sign and graphics professionals who want to recreate brand colours for their clients. It allows users to get consistently brilliant results on signs, vehicle graphics, displays, and other applications with approximately 260 new spot colour references for Orange to Red areas and Blue to Green areas. These spot colours are available in the latest edition of the included VersaWorks 6 raster image processor (RIP) software that combines with a new True Rich Color 2 preset to maximize the potential of both printer and ink for outstanding vibrancy, neutral greys, smooth gradations, and natural skin tones.”

For more on the new TrueVIS VF2-640 and other Roland printers, call Rob at Stanley’s Edmonton office – 780 424 4141.


Significant increase in attention to outdoor advertising

The thumbnail version:

  • It’s another pandemic-influenced development.
  • Brands are increasing their out-of-home advertising budgets.

The full version:

A recent weekly newsletter from Courier reported that OOH advertising such as billboards, posters, and other marketing messages in public spaces had become a renewed focus for brand advertising. The reason? Well, a recent survey in the US found that 45% of Americans are paying more attention to outdoor advertising than they did before the pandemic.

Since in these matters there’s often not much difference between consumer behaviour in the US and Canada, it’s fair to assume that if a similar survey were to be conducted in Canada, there would be a similar result.

If you’re in the outdoor advertising arena of the industry, or if you’re looking to expand into it, this is an interesting finding.

Marketing strategies

The thumbnail version:

  • More precise, succinct advice from the BDC
  • A marketing strategy in seven steps

The full version:


Here are the seven elements of a marketing strategy per the BDC:

  1. Conduct a survey: Establish who your target customers are and what they want from your shop.
  2. Pamper your existing customers: It’s said to be five times easier to sell to an existing customer than to acquire a new customer. Look after your existing customers.
  3. Commit to online marketing: The internet provides a 24-hour marketing channel. Make sure that you use it. Is your website up to date?
  4. Use all your real estate: Signs and banners on your shop front and your business vehicle help to promote your brand. But remember to focus on what you do, not on your name.
  5. Work at public relations: A media story costs less and is more credible than an advertisement. Build relationships with the media.
  6. Turn employees into ambassadors: Your employees fan out into the community after work. Encourage them to talk up your business.
  7. Give back: Find a way to give back to your customer community. It generates goodwill which generates business.

These are all good items to pursue and use to your shop’s advantage.

Signs that don’t say anything

The thumbnail version:

  • Sign clients apparently need advice
  • You can make a valuable contribution

The full version:

This is not a new situation. In fact we’ve discussed it here before but it’s an important topic worth another visit.

A truck in the Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, Canadian Tire parking lot recently caught my eye. More precisely, the sign on the truck caught my eye, It was big and unmissable. It was just one word, apparently the name of a business. The word gave no clue as to the nature of the business and furthermore, I can’t remember the word. And therein lies the utter failure of the sign—it failed in its purpose

Can anyone doubt what this business does?

It’s obviously the fault of the business owner but it could also be the fault of the printer for not advising the customer that a sign that doesn’t say anything worthwhile is a waste of money. And this is not an isolated incident, so we have to ask, what’s the point of such a sign? And why is the sign industry failing to advise customers as to the purpose of a sign and why their sign is not meeting that purpose?

There’s an opportunity here for your sign shop to impress customers with some good, thoughtful advice.


Review your pricing policies

The thumbnail version:

  • A formal price review policy is best
  • You want to be sure that every sale contributes to the bottom line

The full version:

It never fails to amaze me how many small businesses fly by the seat of their pants when it comes to setting prices. And then to make matters worse, they will discount those hit-and-miss prices generously on occasion without any understanding of how much it is eating into their margin and ultimately eroding their bottom line. This is all because they have no well-considered pricing policy.

So  what does a well-considered pricing policy consider? These four elements:

  1. A review of hourly costs to determine the labour and overhead component of your costs. Add up your annual payroll, payroll costs, rent, utilities, maintenance etc. and divide by the number of chargeable hours your employees are working (producing product) each year. To this figure add your profit mark-up and you’ll have the labour component of your price.
  2. Review industry (competitor) prices to see how your calculations stack up. This is where you have to gauge how close you have to be to your competitors to attract and retain customers. But (and this is a big but) you cannot price strictly according to your competitors because their cost structures are likely to be very different from yours. This is why you do step #1—so that you’re tuned into your own reality.
  3. You need to then know your material costs. If you’re always fully aware of what these potentially fluctuating costs are, you’ll be able to add accurate amounts into your pricing calculations. You’ll also be in a position to understand if you should change suppliers or negotiate better prices.
  4. Be very wary of the lure of high-volume deals that are contingent upon a volume discount. To gauge whether or not they’re profitable after the discount you’re being asked to give, you’ll need to have completed the previous three steps.

If every job contributes your pre-determined profit requirement, and provided you don’t absorb a lot of paid-for idle time, you can’t go wrong.

Novelty items printed on Roland BT-12

The thumbprint version:

  • Roland D2G for printing novelty fabric items

The full version:

Last October your read here about Roland’s direct-to-garment digital printer, the BT-12. One purpose of the post was to point out that graphics and sign shops were diversifying into fabrics as an additional income stream. Well in a recent post Roland shared some great ideas for items that can be printed by the BT-12.

Among a number of different fabric bags being suggested, the one that caught my eye was a wine bag. I agree with Roland that wine bags present a number of online and direct sales possibilities. They’d be good for personalized items for weddings and other such events, for liquor stores, for wine suppliers, for vineyards, and probably a dozen other ideas if one put some creative thought into it.

If you’re looking for an additional income stream for your shop, a BT-12 would be worth considering. Give Rob or Graham at Stanley’s a call.


An industry survey looking for your knowledge (there may be a $100 Amazon gift card in it for you)

The thumbnail version:

  • Share your knowledge of the self-adhesive graphic film market

The full version:

Sign Industry Canada’s website has a link to a survey. They want to hear your opinion of the the self-adhesive graphic film market. They offer the assurance that your responses will be collected anonymously and will only be used for this research.

You may want to consider participating as a contribution to the industry after you’ve satisfied yourself that you’ll have access to the results of the survey—that’s the least you can expect. The possibility of winning a $100 Amazon gift card is nice but shouldn’t be the reason for participating; making a contribution to the betterment of your industry should be the incentive.


The thumbnail version:

  • SAC’s Mentor of the Year award serves as a reminder
  • Mentoring helps overcome “re-inventing the wheel”

The full version:

A mentor can make all the difference.

I’m a great believer in mentoring. I want to encourage you to be too, either as a mentor or a mentee. An excerpt from my book, Characters Who Can Make or Break Your Small Business, is appropriate here, “In the world of small business, ‘mentor’ describes an experienced and knowledgeable person willing to share his or her knowledge and expertise with a less-experienced and less-knowledgeable business person, the mentee.”

And to round out the picture a bit more, another excerpt from Characters, “The first two qualities a small business mentor must have are obvious: knowledge and experience. They’re so obvious we don’t need to explore them here. The third is not so obvious, but it’s certainly essential.

The third quality stems from a presumption that small business mentoring is free of charge. Those who are experienced must share knowledge with those who are inexperienced. This is how civilization advances. If the sharing can be done without charge, so much the better.”

So, either a mentor or a mentee be (to borrow and mangle an old expression).

2021 BOCSI winners announced

The thumbnail version:

  • The BOCSI winners have been announced
  • Plan to enter next year

The full version:

Every year I urge that you enter your sign shop in Sign Media Canada and the Sign Association of Canada’s Best of Canada’s Sign Industry awards. The exposure would be good for business. Winning would be great for business, and morale, and maybe free beers down at your local.

In addition to the sign company of the year award, the 2021 winners in each of the twelve categories have been announced. There’s a category for every shop, including yours:

  • Out-of-home media
  • Building signage
  • Commercial tenant signs
  • Digital signage
  • Display graphics
  • Fascia signs
  • Free standing signage
  • Illuminated signs
  • Sign systems
  • Vehicle graphics
  • Unique signs

See you in the winners’ list next year?

Sadly, a true story about pricing

The thumbnail version:

  • Pricing can make or break your business.

The full version:

Av few posts ago I discussed the importance of pricing. To further reinforce the point, here is a true story (only the names have been changed) told in excerpts from my book, Characters Who Can Make or Break Your Business. It’s about a textile screen shop, but is equally applicable to a sign shop.

To set the scene . . . Greg had resigned from a large shop, Nordic, to start his own operation, taking one of his former boss’s biggest customers with him. This big customer was going to be Greg’s only customer.

“I visited Greg’s new business about a month after he started up. He proudly gave me the grand tour, boasting, ‘It’s so totally cool that I’ve created this happening place.'”

To paraphrase for a moment before returning to the excerpts . . . He was busy, with three or four employees churning out Tees on a big, brand newly-leased automatic press. It sure had all the signs of being, as Greg put it, a “happening place.”

“Greg was very pleased with himself for having ‘stuck it to Nordic.’ When I asked whether he’d managed to negotiate a good price with the customer he said that he’d only had to give them a slightly better price than Nordic was charging.

Consulting an accountant could have prevented this disaster.

I asked whether an accountant had checked the viability of his pricing and he assured me there was no need for that because if Nordic was making a lot of money at those prices, then he would too.

I had not been invited to offer business advice and when I sensed that I might be crossing a line I refrained from sharing my immediate thoughts—You did what? You just assumed that Nordic was making money at that price? You didn’t take into account your own overhead structure and cash flow commitments? You didn’t consider Nordic’s economies of scale? You plunged into this after undercutting Nordic’s already low price and without any understanding of how that price was calculated?”

Jumping ahead to the last excerpt . . . “Six months later we received a package from a firm of trustees in bankruptcy and wrote of Greg’s bad debt . . . ”

I don’t think this pricing story needs any more explanation.

Sell a concept to your local authorities (you do the signs of course).

Here’s and idea that popped up on LinkedIn.

It could be a good project for your shop that goes something like this:

  1. Approach your local municipality and remind them that your city/town/village has a littering/graffiti/dog poo problem.
  2. Tell them you have a great idea for helping to solve it by raising awareness in an eye-catching humorous way.
  3. Show them a mock-up of a sign like the one here.
  4. Crunch some numbers and give them a price for you to produce the signs.

If you do it right, it could pay off very nicely.

Market trends in inkjet

What does this trend mean for the future of my shop?


Do you know that the fastest growing applications for inkjet printing is building graphics and that fine art and photographic reproduction are in decline? What does this mean for your shop? Time to refocus?

How serious are you about promoting your graphics shop?

Many small graphics shops are like many small businesses in general, they’re reactive, not proactive. They sit and wait for customers to turn up, they don’t go looking for them. One of the biggest reasons for this is that many small business owners are technicians and would rather do anything other than sell. Or they may just be among the 30 to 50 percent of introverts to whom selling or self promotion does not occur naturally.

The problem is that in a competitive market, proactive marketing and selling is necessary if your business is to survive and thrive. In most cases there is no way around it. So what to do? Well, the obvious answer is to hire a competent salesperson to fill the void. But if the business can’t afford a salesperson or if you’re pretty much the sole employee, then a sales course might be called for.

No, you don’t have to be like this to promote or sell your business.

You might balk at the idea of doing a sales course, but don’t. You don’t have to turn yourself into the salesperson you think you could never be, but understanding some of the psychology and science behind selling can only benefit you. You can then pick and choose the techniques or ideas that you feel comfortable with and do a better job of promoting and selling your business. We’re all in sales in one way or another but we don’t have to fit the stereotypical image of a loud, fast-talking, pushy person.

Proactively promoting or selling your business is going to take you a lot further than sitting about waiting for customers. How you do it is up to you but I’m afraid you can’t avoid it if you want your business to realize its full potential.

Taking the initiative with sandwich boards.

If individual pub owners can do it, why not a sign shop?

Sandwich boards are produced by pretty much every sign shop as one of many products. But it seems that sandwich boards are an art form on their own. There are elements to sandwich boards that are unlike other advertising mediums such as billboards, POP signs, banners, and even digital displays.

For one thing, sandwich boards employ, puns, humour, and even expletives to attract attention and convey a message. For another, they are most commonly used by restaurants, pubs, spas and other small businesses that strive to draw in passing foot traffic. In short, they have a purpose and character all of their own.

This makes one wonder why there aren’t sign shops that specialize in sandwich boards. They have so much potential for creativity. There are a ton of sandwich board graphics and text ideas on the internet which are bound to appeal to restaurant, pub, and coffee shop owners in particular. And once someone really puts their mind to it they’re bound to come up with eye-catching phrases, puns, and graphics not seen before. What about a concept whereby customers are offered printed sandwich boards that can be rotated, say, weekly.

There surely has to be a business idea here for an enterprising sign shop owner. looking for an edge in a competitive market.

Partnership issue?

It goes without saying that a sign shop is not going to be successful if the necessary technical expertise is not there. But the other area of expertise that shop ownership demands is business management. Without it a business is severely handicapped. In fact, it’s usually the lack of one or more aspects of business management that will sink a shop—even a technically competent shop.

One aspect of business management that causes some small businesses to fail is the question of partnership. Do you take a partner or do you go it alone? What do you need to consider before entering a partnership? And once you’re in a partnership, how do you manage it to avoid conflict and ensure harmony?

These are all serious questions because if you get it wrong the survival of the business could be at risk. Yet time and again small business owners will enter into partnerships with hardly more thought than they put into the selection of their morning coffee. There are many aspect to consider—personality compatibility, work ethic compatibility, strategic priorities, money expectations, division of duties, to name just a few.

Sometimes it’s something seemingly simple that can destroy a partnership, and hence a business. Here’s one I’ve seen occur in screen printing and graphics shops. It’s seems really silly and it’s not something you’re likely to think about when considering a partnership, but it can cause a lot of friction between partners and even result in a split.

It’s not fair! You’re out having a good time while I’m stuck in the shop until late.

A and B enter into a partnership to launch a sign shop. A is the technical person and B is the sales and marketing person. As is typical of a new business, the partners put in long hours. A’s hours are spent in the shop until late most nights while B is out in bars and restaurants with potential customers. This is fine for a while but after a few months of slaving away in the shop, A begins to see B’s activity as more fun than work. Resentment creeps in.

Is this something adults should be able to handle? Of course it is, but often it’s not handled in a rational, adult way and the partners begin to squabble until eventually they can’t get along at all.

This is why partnerships should not be entered without a lot of prior contemplation. Have frank exploratory talks with the potential partner, not just about the potential positives bit also about the likely negatives. Seek advice from experts and people involved in business partnerships. Don’t put your sign shop at risk because of a poorly conceived partnership.

Don’t forget about better alternatives.

Thanks! That’s a much better solution.

Customers usually favour the kind of business that offers them more than just the product they request. This applies to sign shops as much as it applies to any other type of business. Customers don’t always know what they need and ask for something that might not be as effective as something the supplier can suggest.

Just by offering service beyond what is being requested, particularly if it is helpful to the customer or saves them money, a supplier can create customer loyalty and even generate referrals. Customers talk about positive buying experiences.

For instance, a customer requesting a sign might be much better off with a banner. But they may never realize this if you, the expert, don’t bring it to their attention. They might not realize the flexibility a banner offers. A banner can be printed on both sides, it can be used indoors or outdoors, it can be hung or be free standing, it can be vertical, horizontal or square. A banner can serve almost any purpose—advertisement, announcement, or business name.

It all depends on the intended application, but that’s where your value-added aspect comes in. Instead of just taking the order for a sign, suggesting a banner might be a much better solution for the customer—they just wouldn’t have known it on the way into your shop, but they’ll know it on the way out. And they’ll be impressed.

Today a banner might be a better alternative and tomorrow it might be something else. But it’s the fact that you’re demonstrating a concern to deliver the best result for your customer that will differentiate you from your competition.

Don’t accumulate junk

Accumulated junk..

Here is a tip for your business and home . . . Don’t accumulate stuff you don’t really need.

Not only is it silly from a financial perspective, bad from an ecological perspective, and a source of clutter stress, but it’s guaranteed be a major headache when you move.

We all move businesses and homes sooner or later and it’s then, during this high stress time, that you want to avoid having to make decisions about shipping or chucking. It’s the very worst time and circumstances in which to have to make these decisions.

The answer is to commit to an ongoing process of acquiring and keeping only what you really need and use. Chuck out, sell or donate the stuff you don’t need. Do this regularly. Do this in your home and your business. When moving day arrives, you’ll be very pleased that you didn’t leave the ship or chuck decisions to the very worst time—right before your move.

And in the meantime, between moves, you’ll live a less cluttered, less stressful, existence at home and at the business.

Not so static media

How can I make static media less static for my customers?

In an era when digital media is muscling in on the traditional sign and billboard territory of static media, there are encouraging accounts of static media remaining relevant by effectively employing creative ideas.

Sing Media Canada recently reported on one such creative idea. A division of L’Oreal Canada placed static ads that were not so static in fitness clubs in Toronto and Vancouver. The not-so-static aspect involved a sample bottle of Lipikar body lotion attached to the static ad. While the ad promoted the product, the sample bottle enabled club members to try it.

Not only was it a clever idea enabling interaction between a static ad and its target market, but it was cleverly based on research that showed that 85 percent of gym users run errands within two hours of a workout. The hope was that the target would buy the product while a favourable impression of it was still on their mind.

How many static media customers do you have who could benefit from this kind of creativity?         

Is poor taste poor business?

Now THAT is really bad!

Every now and then a billboard or sign makes news because of perceived poor taste. They’re often of a political or sexual nature, and often they’re pretty bad. I realize that “bad” is a matter of interpretation but some that have made it onto the news really do cross the line. However, this isn’t about the degree of “badness”, it’s about whether your shop will take a print job if the image or text is “bad”.

Is it good business practice to take any job regardless of content? Is there a downside for your business being associated with a controversial sign or billboard? Is it fair to expect your staff to work on any job no matter how much it might offend them? Have you considered what you might do if approached to print a “bad” job?

One wonders about the production process behind these signs and billboards. Is the print shop proud of it’s work? Does it even care?

Does your shop care?


Demonstrate your Roland

At the recent Adobe MAX 2017 in Las Vegas, Roland collaborated with Coca-Cola in an interactive project. Attendees were able to design their own Coke bottle labels which were then produced on a Roland TrueVis VG-640. Apparently it was a huge hit with thousands of attendees taking home a Coke bottle with their very own label design.

People are charmed by the gesture of giving.

So what did this project do? Well, it demonstrated a few well-known traits of human nature. First of all, people are intrigued by the connection between creativity and technology—as in seeing their own label design on a Coke bottle. Then people also like receiving something for nothing—like a free Coke—because we’re all charmed by the gesture, even if the gift is something simple. And we all have a tendency to collect curios to remind us of a pleasant place or experience—like keeping a Coke bottle with your own label on your “trophy” shelf. And finally, we like to show our “trophies” to family and friends and tell them about the experiences they represent.

This was a clever project. Adobe got to show off their design software, Roland got to show off what their printer-plotter can do, and Coke got to promote their brand.

So what a small Canadian graphics shop can learn form this is that the human traits on display in this project can be used by it too the basis for marketing tools, either individually or together. The scale will be different but the principle will be the same—find a way to attract attention to your shop and it’s capabilities by giving away samples of what your Roland can do. Consider partnering with someone else to your mutual benefit. If the big guys (Adobe, Roland, and Coke) can do it, why not smaller guys too?

Expanding your income-producing capabilities

Selling more to existing customers is said to be a lot less costly than finding new customers.

For a small sign shop with, say, a Roland printer-plotter, this could mean finding more printed items to offer—there’s almost an unlimited variety of stuff you can print on your printer-plotter from lawn signs to T-shirts. Couple a little research with some creativity and you could produce an offering of products to enable you to proactively approach customers instead of waiting for them to approach you.

A Roland desktop engraver.

But even if you extend the range of output your Roland printer-plotter, what about the types of signs it cannot produce? What about engraved signs? You know, washroom signs, name plates, and so on. This is where you may need another piece of equipment such as an engraver (you can get desktop engravers without a huge capital outlay) and start offering engraved signs. You’d do your homework first of course and crunch all the numbers. But who knows, it might work out to be an additional income generator.

And if one idea doesn’t work out, keep looking. When you add a new item to your product offering, tell your customers and the rest of the world. It’s a much better strategy than sitting waiting for customers to approach you for what they think you may be able to produce.

Every staff member is an ambassador for your sign shop

The face of a dislikeable customer service person. It’s going to cost you business.

In spite of it often being pointed out that people like to do business with people they like, some business owners and staff still don’t get it.

Here’s a story of how a sign shop just lost a customer because of two staff members doing their best to be dislikeable. And the worst part about it is that they lost a customer over something unrelated to printing. We can all learn a lesson from this experience.

I’ve used this sign shop in question in the past for various small printing jobs such as personalized mugs, mouse pads, and plaques. Not big jobs but then they have no idea who I am. Like any other “small” customer I could have been someone involved in politics who may one day need lawn signs, or someone associated with a company who may one day need a big order of POS signs. Just because someone has only bought a few mugs and a couple of mouse pads in the past, you can’t make assumptions about future purchases.

Anyway, I knew that they also served as a FedEx agent. So when I recently had a FedEx parcel for pickup, I took it to this print shop. Two people were sitting at desks each about ten feet behind the front counter. Without getting up one of them asked me what I wanted. I told her that I had a FedEx parcel to drop off. She told me to just leave it on the counter. I said I’d like to have it weighed since I didn’t know the weight and I also didn’t want to leave a $1,200 original pencil drawing lying on the counter. She reluctantly got up, weighed the parcel, and sat down again. I asked about insurance and was told that since I was paying FedEx I would have to call FedEx for that information. If I were paying them, she’d find out about the insurance. The second person agreed with her. They weren’t going to help me.

The indifferent attitude and no attempt to be helpful was a big turnoff. I took an immediate dislike to them and, by extension, the sign shop. And since people do business with people they like, and avoid people they don’t like, they lost me as a customer. Okay, so they will survive just fine without my occasional mug and mouse pad orders, but what if I were a customer with a big sign order coming down the pike?

Every staff member needs to understand what being dislikeable can do to your business. Do your staff members understand this?


The wordless billboard

Message delivered in a nanosecond.

We’ve all heard that a picture is worth a thousand words. I doubt if there’s ever been a better example of the wisdom of this expression than a certain YMCA billboard. It had a basketball hoop sticking out of the middle and the YMCA logo in the upper right corner. There was nothing else on the billboard. A basket ball hoop and a logo on a plain white background — nothing else.

Only a complete idiot or someone intentionally obtuse wouldn’t instantly understand the message. It could be absorbed in a nanosecond. You’d have to be driving by at way over any legal speed limit to not have time to get the message. Leonardo da Vinci once said: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” He probably didn’t have billboards in mind but the concept applies to billboards. This board imprinted on one’s brain an image of a basketball hoop and the YMCA logo — message delivered. But better still, you can bet people told their friends about the clever billboard — message delivered some more.

I hope the designer won an award or at least received a handsome bonus. This board was sheer genius. Not all messages can be delivered this way but, with some thought, there are probably many.

Winter supplies deliveries

I’ve planned my supplies for winter.

Winter in Canada can mean shipping problems. If you’re a sign shop receiving vinyl and ink deliveries for your Roland, you should know that these items are okay to ship even when it gets really, really cold like down around minus 35 Celsius. But what you must also know is that these items have to be brought up to room temperature before you use them.

If your shop does graphic screen printing, keep in mind that one of the products most sensitive to freezing is emulsions. They will separate when thawed after freezing and cannot be reconstituted once that happens. UV ink can be shipped in low temperatures but must also be brought up to room temperature and stirred before using.

If your shop does conventional textile screen printing you don’t have to be concerned about plastisol inks freezing. But again, they too must be given a chance to warm up to room temperature and stirred well before you attempt to use them. And be careful to not put plastisol containers near a heat source to thaw because you could trigger a gelling reaction in the bucket, particularly if you get distracted and leave the bucket there for longer than you should.

Some shippers offer heated service but it’s of course quite a bit more expensive than regular shipping. And heated service has been known to fail if a vehicle breaks down or if the shipper is careless about overnight storage. Also, heated shipping is usually only offered between main centres. So if you’re outside a main centre, say, in a rural area, your winter shipments are at risk even if you request heated shipping.

All of this is just not worth the cost and hassle. If you’re concerned about winter shipping, call Stanley’s and discuss it with them: Cambridge – 1 877 205 9218; Calgary – 1 877 661 1553; Edmonton – 1 888 424 7446; Richmond – 604 873 2451

The money thing . . . employment or your own sign shop?

Industry salary survey.

Signmedia has conducted its 11th annual survey of the sign-making industry in Canada. It was an online survey to be completed by 4th September, so if you didn’t participate it’s too late now. However, when the results are published you should make a point of studying them.

If you’re employed in the sign-making industry you’ll want to know how your pay stacks up against the industry norms in your part of the country. You may also want to know how it stacks up against other parts of the country. This is the type of information that helps you plan where you choose to work and live. If you’re not realizing your market value where you are now, you may want to do something about it.

If you own a sign shop with employees you’ll want to know how your payroll relates to market norms. It’s useful information that may help your planning and budgeting. Your employees are likely to be aware of the results of the survey so you’d better be too.

If you’re a one-person sign shop owner or have just a couple of employees, you’ll also be interested in the survey results. You’ll want to gauge whether you may be better off as an employee at a big shop rather than an owner of a small shop. However, like so many small business owners, the pay may be secondary to your need for independence. The numbers may not matter. Or perhaps you already know that you do better with your small shop than you would do working for a big shop. And that’s fine but you should still study the survey results to at least you’ll be aware of how you compare with the rest of the industry.

So, regardless of your circumstances in the industry, check out Signmedia’s salary survey results.