When signs are wasted money

A sign that tells you exactly what the business does.

Does your shop offer sign advice to prospective customers? Apparently some sign shops do not because I’ve seen some really pointless signs that don’t come close to doing their job of promoting a business.

I interviewed a coffee shop owner in South Africa when I was writing my book, Characters Who Can Make Or Break Your Small Business.  He told me that the elaborate sign on the outside of the shop had been designed by his girlfriend who was a graphics art student. The sign consisted of a coat of arms in intricate detail with the name of the coffee shop in very small wording. It was beautifully rendered but here’s the problem . . .  It was totally useless as a coffee shop sign.

This coffee shop was situated on a fairly busy road with passing vehicle traffic but very little foot traffic. What he should have had was a sign in big letters that simply said “Coffee”. Anyone in a passing car only has a second or two to see what his business is about. A fancy crest with no particular message was not going to entice anyone with a need for a caffeine fix.

I don’t have an image of the coffee shop’s sign but I’m including an image of a florist’s shop in Adelaide, Australia that makes the point.

Join the SAC!

We’ve reminded printers of this before but it’s important enough so we’re dong it again . . . Join the SAC (Sign Association of Canada) if you’re not already a member.

Membership in at least one trade association is an important way to stay in touch with the latest developments in the industry. Knowing what’s happening, what’s new, and what is being discussed is how your shop keeps pace with the competition. There are of course other benefits too such as membership savings. And don’t underestimate the creativity that can be awaken in you just by leafing through the monthly magazine—an article, an ad, the editorial; they can all do it.

Covid-19 spawns a new business service—certifying that you’re safe.

I swear, I’ve got a great service for you!

A couple of  months ago I read an article that warned of a flood of post-virus selling activity. The writer warned too that some of the products and services would be questionable and unnecessary.

I was reminded of this article a few days ago when I received an email from a company playing on business owners’ concerns about safety of their employees and customers as we begin to reopen. The email came from a company with a name that implied that if they took care of the sanitizing of your premises you would be certified as “safe”.

Here’s an excerpt from the email: ” <name of company> takes a detailed second look at your safety plans and procedures.” Really? Surely every small business owner is capable of implementing safe distancing, face masks, and sanitizing without the “advice” of an outside service?

Beware of bogus services and products offering to solve issues that can easily be solved without their intervention.

The business wisdom of Robert Townsend 50 years later

Robert Townsend was born 100 years ago this year. Fifty years ago this year he published his “World’s number one bestseller” crammed with great business advice.

Here is his section titled “Telephone Operators” which although written in the not-so-PC language of the time and referencing technology that has since changed, nevertheless has a message about your business telephone that’s as relevant now at it was then:


If I ever design a head office, executives row will look like the cubicles of a Trappist monastery, and the telephone switchboard area will look like a Turkish harem. Money spent on offices for the management is largely wasted. If they are any good it will be apparent to anyone after a few minutes no mater how plain or fancy their office is.

On the other hand, how would you like to try doing the telephone operator’s job for a day? Remember, you’re the company’s first contact with the outside world—you’ve got to be alert and bright and helpful and quick. You’ve got to know where everybody is all the time. I’d spend money to make the switchboard girls comfortable. The best operators in the area would be lined up for the job” 


The BOCSIes are back. Are you entering this year?

The Best of Canada’s Sign Industry Awards (BOCSIes)  run jointly by Sign Media Canada and the Sign Association of Canada honours the top work of sign companies in 12 different categories.

Yours is a sign company that produces work in at least one of the twelve categories. Why not enter and make everyone associated with your shop proud? Besides, doing well in competitions of this sort can only be good for business.

Here’s your link to more information and the way to enter: www.bocsi.ca



You know printing-speak? Here is your “terms” test.

How many of these printing term can you define? A link to the answers will be at the end.

No cheating . . .

  1. Die cut
  2. Kiss cut
  3. Colour gamut
  4. Spot colours
  5. Vector files
  6. Raster files
  7. DPI
  8. Spot UV effects
  9. RIP software
  10. Designs software
  11. Gradients
  12. Colour profiles
  13. Overlaminate
  14. Take-up reel
  15. Tunneling
  16. Popping the laminator
  17. Eco solvent ink
  18. CC

How many do you think you can define accurately? Check for the answers by clicking here.


Cleaning signs and graphics — a whole new emphasis

The wrong cleaning product could wreck a sign or graphic.

Coronavirus has brought with it a whole new emphasis on cleaning. Cleaning everything repeatedly with alcohol-based, chlorine-based, and other cleaners is for now, a way of life and a way of doing business. This includes cleaning your products—signs and graphics.

But cleaning presents a challenge. Which of the cleaners are suitable for which signs and graphic materials? The wrong product could bot only wreck the printed surface of a sign or graphic but the adhesive can be adversely affected as well.

So, to help printers advise their customers in the proper cleaning procedures for their signage and graphic displays, David Morgan has published an article, “Cleaning Up – keeping graphics hygienic without damage”, in the June 2020 edition of Sign Media magazine.

Just a few minutes spent reading this article could save you a lot time, money, and headaches.

Tips for when your Roland is down

If your Roland is forced to stand idle for some time (such as during the Coronavirus lock-down) there are some maintenance measures you should take to ensure that when you’re ready to fire it up again, it will function properly.

The common concerns of course involve clogging. Manual cleaning before shutting down will help ensure that clogging and related issues don’t occur. In any case, regular cleaning even during normal operating times is essential to keep the equipment in good operating condition.

In addition to all this, turning off at the front panel but leaving the primary power source on (per the switch at the back) will allow the automatic maintenance system to kick in while you’re away.

And, of course, if away for an extended period of time, keep the equipment covered as protection against dust.

Preventative maintenance is a very good habit to develop for all equipment but particularly so for sensitive printing equipment.

Is your website ready for re-opening?

Updating the website in time for re-opening

I’ve just toured a few industry websites. The overall impression is that whatever shop owners have been doing during the lock-down/slowdown, it has not been working on their websites. Outdated information, typos and other shortcomings create a bad impression.

Part of getting ready to re-open should include a website review and update. There’s going to be some uncertainty about who is still in business in the “new reality” and who isn’t. Your website should help get out the message that you are open and ready to roll.

Tell you what . . . if you have an updated website ready to roll into the post-Coronavirus era, let us know and we’ll give it some exposure. Email michael.best@screenflex.ca.



Cambridge is back!

Getting back to printing again!

Stanley’s Cambridge office had to shut down as mandated by the Province of Ontario. Meanwhile, Edmonton, Calgary, and Richmond all remained open for business, as we previously mentioned. Now with Cambridge open again, Stanley’s is able to fully support all its customers through all four branches, albeit with certain Coronavirus precautions in place.

Orders should be called or emailed in for shipping or picking up at an agreed time. In the interest of the safety of all while the possibility of infection exists, if you’re picking up an order it will be set aside and ready for you close to the door. Precautions will be in place during the paying process and please keep in mind the two-meter social distancing recommendation by health officials.

Sure it’s all very inconvenient, but with the right attitude we’ll get through it.

Preparing the shop for reopening with a facility plan

Planning for safe distancing is essential before you re-open.

The purpose of a facility plan is to make the workplace safe for everyone. The first step is a pre-opening assessment of the risk areas with a view to social distancing.

Identify the flow of work and people then re-arrange the location of equipment, install signage, and set up hand-cleaning stations in a way that allows for social distancing. When safe social distancing is not possible, you should provide personal protection equipment. The nature of this equipment will differ depending upon circumstances but could include masks and face shields.

As time passes there will likely be changes in the measures advised by health and local authorities. This means that you need to be aware of these changes and update your facility plan accordingly.

A good facility plan will help everyone get through this difficult time safely.

Three things you need as your shop returns to normal

You need three key things

All regions of Canada are reopening or are at least anticipating reopening. But these are unusual and challenging times. When we reopen things are going to be different from the pre-virus era when we had to suddenly shut down or at least slow down.

You are going to need three key things to effect a successful reopening:

  1. Safety (social distancing, hand washing, masks, notices etc.);
  2. Liquidity (cash to operate); and
  3. Creativity (adjusting to and taking advantage of a changed way of doing business)

If you’re not sure how to deal with any or all of the above, seek advice. They’re all going to be important for your shops’ survival for at least the foreseeable future.

The wall in wall graphics

Who knew the wall looked like this?

A wall obviously has to be prepared properly if adhesive is going to have any chance of adhering properly. This then requires a detailed inspection of the wall.

For instance, what type of paint has been used? Keep in mind that washable paints are likely to make it difficult for adhesive to do its job. A textured surface wouldn’t be very helpful either. Both may require sanding or some other treatment for a smooth and more adhesive-friendly surface.

All of this means that an on-site wall inspection is a very important first step in the process of taking on a wall graphics job. Obvious, right? Apparently not to everybody.

Planning to reopen? Confronted with negativity?

Seeking advice from a mentor could relieve the stress.

Right now you and a hoard of other shop and small business owners are fretting over the “new normal” and whether or not they should be part of it by reopening.

For some it’s a daunting question because it’s not just going to be a case of throwing a switch and all will be fine again. There’s going to be a lot of adapting to do.

And as you’re contemplating all of this, people close to you will be offering their opinions, and much of it could be disturbingly negative or critical. But you need to keep in mind that you should take into account all opinions and evaluate their validity.

If you find the process emotionally wrenching get some help from a detached, objective source who can take the emotion out of decisions. Your accountant, financial advisor, or a mentor should be good resources.

Some labels and decals are a waste of time and money

Labels, stickers, and decals shouldn’t have to be read like this.

Here’s something your label and decal customers should understand. Some apparently don’t, and it’s costing them.

An elderly family member recently received an innovative gift of candy made into an attractive package. Here’s the conversation that followed:

“Wow, that sounds like great idea! Who made it?”

“Hang on, I’ll tell you . .  there’s a sticker on the back . . .”

“Okay, just give me the store’s name and number.”

” I can’t see it. The print is too small. I’ll see if I can find my other glasses . . . ”

“Oh, never mind.”

A short, simple conversation with a big lesson for your customers — there’s no point to spending money on stickers, labels, and decals if they can’t readily be read. Not only is the cost of the sticker, label or decal wasted, but a business opportunity is lost. A double whammy!



Businesses returning to work are going to need signs

A recent email from a business-consulting firm was suggesting that businesses getting ready to re-open should consider a number of measures to keep everyone safe from COVID-19 infection. They posed a series of questions in this regard.

One of the questions should be of interest to all sign shops because it represents a business opportunity: “Do you have signage in place that will nudge the right behaviors?”

When you think about it, re-opening businesses are going to want signs to remind staff to wash their hands, keep a safe distance, and so on.

A bit of proactive inquiring could result in sign-printing opportunities for your shop.

Now is not a good time to freeze like a deer in the headlights!

Don’t freeze like a deer in the headlights

I was in a discussion expressing concern about the fact that while a lot of small business owners were facing uncertain futures the longer this virus situation drags on, they don’t seem to be doing much about it. For instance, they’re registering for helpful (even free) webinars in much smaller numbers than I would have expected.

The response I got was insightful and I want to pass it on (slightly edited): “We talk about the fight or flight options in challenging situations but currently there’s a third option being adopted by small business owners—freeze.” The explanation continued . . . “Most (small business owners) are paralyzed from uncertainty and exhausted by the change. The variables of a fast-spreading pandemic and an economy that was already slowing have collided at dizzying speed. People are also exhausted by the volume of webinars and even if they want to learn, they do not know who to lean on for information. It’s a disorienting time.”

Here are some suggestions for considering your business’s options:

  • The freeze option is not an option.
  • “Fight” sounds brave and macho but a realistic assessment might suggest “flight”.
  • Objective, realistic input by a third party may be what you need.
  • An accountant or financial adviser can help you decide between fight or flight.
  • Read as much objective material as you can about the economic outlook.
  • To understand the virus and its impact, consider the opinions and assessments of scientists.
  • Stay in touch with as many trusted and knowledgeable sources as you can about all matters pertaining to the current circumstances.

These are difficult times but, to repeat, freezing in the headlights is not a good option.

A Webinar tomorrow (Tuesday 28th April): Changing Tides: The Virus, The Economy, and “The Dance”

Matt Symes of Symplicity Designs is offering this important no-charge webinar as a service to small businesses. Matt has kindly agreed to include Stanley’s customers.

You can register here for this webinar that shouldn’t missed . . .

Changing Tides: The Virus, The Economy, and “The Dance”

Since the 18th of March, our goal has been simple: save as many small businesses as possible.

73 live webinars.

1800 leaders tuned in.

We threw away the entry level paywall and tried to help leaders make quicker and better decisions.

Small business is too big to fail and entirely too complex to save with a single answer.

Canada lost 1M jobs in March. 490,000 of those job losses from businesses with less than 20 employees. Service has been hit hardest and first. It will be the last to come online.

Women have been hit hardest with a higher representation in the service sector and they are carrying more of the burden at home.

There is some good news – Canada is flattening the curve.

But a flattened curve is just the start. A world with more than 30 forms of a mutating virus with no known treatment plans and more than 16 months from a vaccine.

We are unevenly entering “The Dance.”  We know that masks, heavy travel restrictions, and a ban on large gatherings will remain in place for quite some time. Flare-ups, like we’re seeing in Hong Kong, Singapore, and China will become part of our regular life.

Safety will be at the forefront of our thoughts.

Businesses must transition to the Low Touch Economy. Changing buying habits will mean businesses will need to rethink their offerings, their capabilities and their ability to change.

Our mission remains the same: save as many businesses as possible. Now, that means supporting this journey to a low touch economy.

Join us Tuesday for our brand new webinar Changing Tides at 1 PM ADT.

Colour selection when designing large-scale prints.

Here’s a tip for designers or anyone working on a large scale design at this time.

Thanks. Great tip!


A mistake that people make with colour when designing large-scale prints is that they neglect to set their design software to CMYK mode rather than RGB.

It’s true that RGB features more colors, but printers use CMYK colors. Also, CMYK ensures that you’ll have more accurate color rendition on your large­ scale print

If, like most designers, you use Photoshop, in order to switch, choose “Image” then “mode” and select “CMYK color.”

Happy designing while we endure this “lock-down”.

Social media 80/20 rule

Useful information will engage your audience.

Lets’s take a bit of a break from the COVID-19 thing for a moment. Well, somewhat of a break because this topic is relevant to these times when many small businesses are turning to digital and online platforms to make up for the access to customers lost because of the virus.

Crystal Lengua writing for Sign Media Canada addresses what she calls the “Social Media 80/20 Rule”. This rule holds that for social media to work for you there has to be a proportionate balance between useful content and promotion. In other words, bombard your readers with promotion and you’ll lose them; you must offer useful content.

Lengua’s model is 80% quality content and 20% business promotion.

So, as we work on the transition to a greater online and social media presence, this is useful advice to keep in mind.

Considering borrowing for your business? Beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Not all lending sources are legitimate (or safe)!

I received an unsolicited email with this subject line two days ago:

“Does your business require FAST capital due to the COVID 19 virus epedimic?”

Among other things, the email said: “Call me today to discuss the next steps towards relieving capital obstacles. I handle all A, B, C, and D credit situations.”

First of all, the careless typo “epedimic” doesn’t do much to convey confidence. Also, the content of the email brought to mind an image of a lender with a disfigured nose, in a beige raincoat, black and white brogues, and carrying a violin case. You get the picture . . .

PLEASE take advice from an accountant or reliable financial advisor before being panicked into borrowing to help your business survive at this time. And if you do decide to borrow, beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Staying on an even keel while socially isolating

Prof. Lea Waters

An Australian psychologist, Professor Lea Waters, recently released a video in which she offers some good advice for keeping ourselves on an even keel during the current Coronavirus crisis.

Here are the key things she urges that we keep in focus:

  • Happiness
  • Joy
  • Awe
  • Wonder
  • Love
  • Compassion

Want to see her entire talk? You should be able to find it quite easily with Google.


Stanley’s operating update

Stanley’s offering curbside delivery.

Stanley’s Edmonton, Calgary, and Richmond offices are open to serve printers but Cambridge is still closed per an Ontario Government directive.

Orders are being taken on the phone and by email. The open offices are working on a reduced schedule so it’s wise to call before picking up an order.

Curbside delivery is available. If you make your presence known when you arrive for a pickup and open your trunk, someone will bring your stuff to your car and put it in the trunk. This is all in the interest of social distancing to keep everyone safe.

Here is contact information you may need:

Edmonton: 780 446 4238; doug@stanleyssigns.com; barb@stanleyssigns.com; rob@stanleyssigns.com; sandy@stanleyssigns.com

Calgary: 403 243 7722; wendyw@stanleyssigns.com; graham@stanleyssigns.com

Richmond: 604 873 2451; howard@stanleyssigns.com

Cambridge: 519 620 7342; craig.blais@stanleyssigns.com

Outside sales: 416 832 3162; alfredgunness@gmail.com

Who is your social media target?

Are you appealing in the right verbiage to to the right audience?

So you’re quite happy with your shop’s website and you’re actively promoting your shop on Facebook.

But who is your audience? Do you in fact know for sure and are you targeting that audience appropriately?

Social media experts tell us that in order to get the message right and directed at the right audience, we need to create an ideal customer persona. With that persona in mind we can then craft our marketing messages to maximize appeal and reach the widest, most relevant audience. And it’s okay if you find that you have to use verbiage not commonly used in the sign industry.

So, to repeat, who is your audience and are you targeting them appropriately with your website and social media platforms?


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

We’ve mentioned the diversifying trend among sign shops before and now Sign Media Canada Magazine is reporting on a great example in Alberta.

Under the title “Colour Overdrive” in the April edition, they tell the story of how Lygas Co. is offering textile and signs locally and online. In addition to the diversification aspect, the online aspect is actually another lesson that shops should be considering. And this is not only because you may also be in a small place like Didsbury, but because regardless of where you are, the Coronavirus experience has highlighted the value of offering product online when the traditional brick and mortar way of doing business is compromised.

Read the article and consider the concept for your shop.

Stanley’s adjusting business practices to accommodate virus precautions


Stanley’s is taking special precautions to protect staff and customers while this COVID-19 crisis continues. This applies to the Edmonton, Calgary, and Richmond branches until further notice. The Cambridge office has been closed for two weeks at least per an Ontario government order.

These are the changes that have been implemented:

    • Face to face contact between customers and staff is being avoided. Orders and consultations are being conducted by phone or email only.
    • Staff in attendance are being limited and members are being rotated.
    • The office doors are being kept closed and orders are placed in the foyer for pickup.
    • Door handles and all other items likely to be touched in the course of business are being sanitized regularly.

Customers can boost these precautions by bringing antiseptic wipes with them and wiping down containers and boxes when they pick up their orders.

It’s a bit inconvenient for everyone but it’s in the interest of being able to service printers’ needs safely.


COVID-19 and appropriate business practices

Just days ago we published a post on the textile blog about appropriate business practices in this time of crisis. You can read it here.

Then at about the same time the sign in the illustration with this post appeared outside a mall in Calgary. Complaints followed in short order and the sign was removed and an apology issued. This is good but one must ask, what was this business thinking?

It of course also raises a question we’ve explored before about whether a sign shop should take orders for obviously problematic signs. Should sign shops impose standards on their customers or at least try to talk them out of potentially problematic signs?

This is not only a moral issue (in this case using medical materials in critically short supply to sell sandwiches) but a business issue if a problematic sign becomes associated with the printer. All it will take for that to happen is for a journalist to include the print shop’s name in a report.

All stuff to contemplate.

Stuff to do and think about when it’s slow . . .

If you’re still busy during this period of isolation, good for you. But if you’re not so busy with your usual business activities you’ll have time to attend to other, sometimes neglected, matters.

Some of those things include working on your business model, re-thinking plans, cleaning up the shop, and making sure your accountant is helping you participate in the various government assistance programs.

And since design is a key element in running your sign shop, here’s something from art designer and director, Mike Monteiro, to reflect on too: “A good designer finds an elegant way to put everything you need on a page. A great designer convinces you half that s*** is unnecessary.” It applies equally to signs.

Coronavirus uncertainty? Communicate with your customers!

Some, but not enough businesses are addressing coronavirus uncertainty as it affects their customers.

Are you open for business? Are you shut completely? If so, for how long? Are you operating but on a limited scale? Customers have questions in this rapidly-changing situation and you should do what you can to keep them informed.

Tell them what you’re doing or not doing, and update your information daily. This is where your social media platforms, email, blog, and even the telephone, can be useful tools at this time. Use them.

When all this is over, don’t you want your customers to remember that during a time of confusion and uncertainty, you cared enough to keep them informed?

It’s smart business.

Lamination and procrastination

Diminished optical clarity. Out-gassing is essential when laminating.

We’re constantly told that procrastination is a bad habit. But in the sign industry, in some circumstances, it’s a good habit, in fact, an absolute necessity. We’re talking about laminating solvent-based ink prints.

The solvent in solvent-based inks penetrates the print media and carries the resins below the surface. The solvent then evaporates leaving the colour behind. It’s the evaporation process that requires you to wait about 24 hours before laminating. This solvent-escaping process is referred to as out-gassing.

Laminating before the out-gassing process is done will result in diminished optical clarity.