Roland has updated VersaWorks

The thumbnail version:

  • Version 6.12.2 now available.

The full version:

Roland has updated VersaWorks (6.12.2) to change some items and add others. First of all, the remaining media length has been added for roll-to-roll devices under “Media Status”. This means that if you set the media length when you load a roll, VersaWorks will now show you the remaining length. Another addition is the file name of your job to the “Job Property Label” section of  the job settings. This allows you to add the file name to your annotation during printing.

Changes include the relocation of the “Overprint” function from the “Print controls” to the “Quality” section, and the ink quantity unit of measure from cubic centimeters (cc) to milliliters (ml).

It’s these kinds announcements that make an occasional visit to the Roland website a must. Getting the most out of your equipment with the latest software updates makes business sense.

Outsourcing design services (with video)

The thumbnail version:

  • Outsourcing can answer your designer issues

The full version:

Easelly is a graphic design outsourcing service that is enjoying rapid growth based on the realization that many sign shops have difficulties finding and retaining top-notch designers for any number of reasons. It’s not unusual for good designers to receive better offers to move resulting, thereby resulting in rapid staff turnover and inconsistency. Some shops are too small to keep a full time designer busy. Some shops have an ebb and flow of work thus not always needing a designer on the premises.

These and other designer issues can be solved by outsourcing the work to a service such as Easelly. Want to know more? Watch this video.

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.

Show season to resume?

The thumbnail version:

  • Industry shows are being scheduled for the next few months
  • Will the pandemic derail plans again?

The full version:

What are the chances this will be bustling again soon?

The 2022 BC Sign and Graphics Show is scheduled for April 1st and 2nd in the Delta Hotels Burnaby Conference Centre. Attendees are being asked to wear a face mask and to be double vaccinated. There is no mention of whether these precautions are mandatory nor is there any recognition so far of the fact that medical professionals are saying that without a booster shot people are not fully vaccinated. Furthermore, there is no stipulation as to a face mask standard given that it has recently been suggested that single fabric masks are inadequate (no better than face decorations) and that 3-ply masks should be a minimum requirement.  This might all be clarified later.

If you’d like to travel further afield, the ISA International Expo has been scheduled for May 4th to 6th in the Georgia World Congress Centre in Atlanta. There is no mention of any COVID precautions on the ISA website.

If you read the promotional material for these shows you won’t find any mention of the pandemic (except the cursory stipulations for the BC show). Given the way things have unfolded in the past two years you may want to exercise some caution when considering attendance at these or any other shows. For one thing, travel and medical insurance would be a very wise move.

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.

Supply chain disruption update

The thumbprint version:

  • World-wide supply chain disruption continues
  • End not in sight yet

The full version:

Supply chains still disrupted.

The industry is till feeling the impact of the world-wide supply chain disruption. Equipment manufacturers are still having a hard time locating parts with the result that equipment and parts remain backordered. If there is any good news it’s that the Roland turnaround times seem to be better than a year ago.

Media shipments currently have an ETA of February. Feel free to call any of the Stanley’s branches for updates on availability. The crew are doing what they can to keep everyone producing.


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.


Promoting your sign shop

The thumbnail version:

  • Roland supports startups and small shops
  • Roland’s website is a good resource for advice

The full version:

It’s interesting to hear from Roland that many of their customers are business startups. And, as they quite correctly point out, being capable of starting a business that creates and produces great graphics is one thing, but being able to promote that business and generate sales is an entirely different thing.

To Roland’s credit, they don’t just offer advice on technical matters, they also from time to time  publish useful non-technical information to help with the business aspect of a small shop. The most recent such article on the Roland site is titled, “Advertisement and Promotional Design Advice for Business Startups” The title is a little misleading because even if you’ve been in business for some time, the advice could benefit you too.

It includes advice on all aspects of the preparation of promotional material such as: creating an eye-catching headline; copywriting; and designing.

We don’t have room here to explore the topic in depth. For the details you need to read the article on Roland’s site; it’s good stuff.

Coming up for two years into the pandemic

The thumbnail version:

  • Two years in and survival tips are the same as they were after a year
  • Diversification and an online presence are still good tips

The full version:

It’s coming up for two years and what we thought was going to be a year of surviving the pandemic has dragged on. Admittedly, some have thrived on the pandemic, but for many small shops it has been a survival game.

Just as we said almost a year ago, it’s always useful to know how colleagues and competitors in the industry cope. And also as we said a year ago, you can be sure that COVID-19 isn’t going to be the last “disaster” the industry and your shop is going to have to negotiate. Being aware of how others are coping is helpful.

Lat year Sign Media Canada interviewed sign shop owners who, among other advice, offered two useful insights. They’re worth repeating:

Geoff Orlick of Quality Designs in Campbell River: “Diversify, diversify, diversify. The sign industry is vast and fast moving. Listen to your customers’ requests for products you don’t sell, and when the same product request is made repeatedly, it’s time to broaden your production base.”

Ernest Florentino of Sign Den Graphics of Mississauga: “One great lesson I learned with this pandemic is the importance of having a strong online presence. You need to have an effective website, and you should make use of social media, particularly Instagram, to post recent jobs and highlight products you specialize in.”

Good advice from colleagues.

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.

The five-step boost to revenues with after-sales follow-up.

The thumbnail version:

  • Follow 5 steps to boost revenue after a sale

The full version:

The BDC issues really useful material for small business owners. They are well written and brief. With very little reading you can pick up valuable ideas and tips. For instance, a recent example is a list of five after-sales steps you can take to encourage additional sales:

  1. Send a thank you note after a sale. You want to keep it brief as people tend not to read lengthy notes but, that said, you can include useful information that the customer might be able to use to better appreciate your product and to contact you when they need more. A quick thank you email can do wonders for elevating the reputation of your brand.
  2. After a week or two you might check in with the customer to make sure that the product is performing as expected. You don’t want to become a nuisance but a quick check will almost certainly be appreciated.
  3. Communication is an essential element in maintaining a relationship with a customer. Again, you don’t want to overdo it, but occasional high-value content can only strengthen the relationship and keep your name in front of the customer.
  4. Further sales will often follow from existing customers. This is why you pamper them (but again, without crossing that line to become a nuisance).
  5. Referrals from happy customers with whom you have a good relationship are an invaluable source of “free” advertising. Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals.

These are simple and easy after-sales follow-ups to do. It should be your shop’s standard practice.

See you in 2022!

The thumbnail version:

Relax and reflect

  • 2021 is in the way out  – today is our last business day of the year.
  • Now it’s time to relax and reflect.
  • We’ll be back an raring to go on Tuesday the 4th of January 2022.

The full version:

As we said in the annual holiday hours email, 2021 has been another roller coaster ride and now we all deserve a rest to relax and reflect. Here is the rest of the message . . .

We’ll, we’re just about done with this year and looking forward to a more “normal” year in 2022. The question is, will we still recognize “normal” if we see it?  

But for now we all deserve a break. Let’s make the most of the holidays and come back refreshed in January ready to put out some great work.

We will be closing at 4.00 pm on Thursday the 23rd and reopening on Tuesday the 4th of January, 2022.  

The crew at all four Stanley’s branches wish you and yours the best of the season and a happy and prosperous 2022!

Describe your business in a sentence

The thumbnail version:

  • Can you tell a total stranger what you do in one, enticing sentence?
  • If you can’t do it right now, you need to work on it.

The full version:

You have some thinking to do.

We’re talking of course of the old but still good concept of an elevator pitch. Preparing a single sentence description will force you to focus on what you really do, what your shop does that could capture the interest of a total stranger.

So, for instance, “We print signs” is lame and hardly likely to arouse any interest in anyone other than some person perhaps in desperate need of a sign at that moment. Much more captivating would be something like, “We design and print signs that help our customers stand head and shoulders above their competition.”  It’s still not the greatest elevator pitch but it’s much better than “We print signs.” You get the idea.

An important aspect of this is that in developing your elevator pitch you’ll be giving some thought to what your business is really all about. And that’s a good thing to revisit as you prepare to begin a new year.

Customer churn – troubleshooting

The thumbnail version:

  • Customer churn explained.
  • Troubleshooting customer churn.

The full version:

Customer churn refers to the loss of customers over a given period of time, and the customer churn rate is the rate of loss expressed as a percentage of all customers. It’s most commonly used with reference to online subscribers but is equally applicable in a non-digital sense.

A friendly chat with customers can reduce churn.

In the previous post we talked about letting go customers you’d rather not have. Now we’re discussing retaining customers you’d like to keep but who, for one reason or another, are showing signs of disengaging from your business. And one reason you’d like to keep them is because it’s easier to sell to people who have been customers in the past than it is to attract new customers.

The key is to be proactive and not wait until they leave but to instead look for signs that they may leave and then deal with it. Some of the signs include a long interval since the last purchase, not opening your emails, or unsubscribing from your email list. But in order to spot these signs you must constantly monitor your customer base.

You then need to troubleshoot. But you can’t troubleshoot if you don’t know what the trouble is. The best way to find out what might be going is to have a chat with the customer and address whatever issues may be bugging them.

Customer churn—it’s just another one of those business realities that you have to deal with.

Dealing with the unhappy customer (it only needs to go so far)

The thumbnail version:

  • You will inevitably have unhappy customers from time to time.
  • How you deal with them will directly affect future business.
  • But you don’t want to retain them at all costs.

The full version:

The unreasonable customer. Let them go.

They will always turn up, the unhappy customer. I’m not a believer in the old adage about the customer always being right because, not only is it untrue, but if that’s the prevailing belief, then it invites unreasonable behaviour from those occasional customers from Hell.

But assuming your shop has a reasonable customer with a reasonable product complaint, then whomever has to deal with the unhappy customer could do worse than adopt Starbucks’s LATTE approach (Listen, Acknowledge the problem, Take action, Thank them, Explain what you’ve done).

Any reasonable person should respond well to LATTE. If they don’t, they may not be reasonable, and you may not want to retain them. Life is too short to spend time battling with energy-sapping, unreasonable customers.

Optimistic for the industry in 2022?

The thumbnail version:

  • A survey of industry leaders suggests some optimism for 2022.
  • The survey  preceded the Omicron surge.

The full version:

Sign Media interviewed industry leaders about their impressions of 2021 and their forecasts for 2022. It’s the forecasts for 2022 that are the more interesting aspect of the article. The survey was of course pre-Omicron so it will be interesting to see if they do a post-Omicron follow-up.

But for now the consensus (though some were more optimistic than others) is that the supply chain problem will continue well into 2022 and will get worse before it gets better. Some felt that returning conventions and trade shows would give the industry a boost in 2022 but, as we now know, the recently-arrived Omicron variant might have different plans.

How do you see 2022 unfolding and are you adjusting your business plan optimistically or pessimistically?

Results of the annual industry salary survey

The thumbnail version:

  • The 2021 salary survey results are out.
  • Not much has changed.

The full version:

Except for a percentage shift here and there, not much seems to have changed in the industry in the past year.

Here are some results that caught my eye:

  • Most responses came from Ontario again (40 percent).
  • BC was next with 20 percent (so 60 percent of responses came from just two provinces).
  • It’s still a male-dominated industry at 75 percent male to 23 percent female.
  • 83 percent of respondents were over 40 years old. (Question: Why aren’t the younger members of the industry responding?)
  • Almost half of respondents have been in the industry for more than 20 years.
  • 44 percent of the respondents were business owners.
  • 83 percent said that COVID had an impact on their business revenue. 70 percent of those said their revenue was down.

Surveys are only as good as the degree to which the respondents are representative of the population being surveyed. Keep this in mind as you read the full survey results.

Amid COVID doom and gloom, OOH sparkles

The thumbnail version:

  • OOH market slated to grow next year.
  • COVID hasn’t managed to slow it down much.

The full version:

Your OOH, for instance, can be on any vehicle, not necessarily your own.

If your shop is in the OOH (Out-Of-Home) market, Sign Media Canada has good news for you—your market is expect to grow quickly over the next couple of years. If your shop is not in the OOH market in any big way, perhaps it’s something to consider as we move into a new year still dogged by a COVID-damaged economy in which new revenue sources are being sought.

The driving force behind OOH is said to be it’s advantage of being seen over and over again, sometimes for months, thus building awareness more effectively than other media with shorter exposure. In the case of truck-side advertising it moves about, reaching a wider audience.

There are a lot of interesting observations in the Sign Media article (which you should read)  but one that says a lot for the effectiveness of OOH is that, ” Research shows 45 percent of consumers feel OOH ads located close to where they shop provide useful information which in turn inspires those all-important purchase decisions.”

An OOH focus for your shop in 2022?

Advice from Roland — worth checking their blog

The thumbnail version:

  • Roland often offers useful advice for more productive use of your equipment

The full version:

From time to time I remind you to check your suppliers’ websites, not only for the latest news on new technology, but also for tips and advice on getting better productivity out of your existing technology. Roland is one of the sites you should visit regularly.

A recent Roland post addresses step-and-repeat:  “With the popularity of printed patterns for applications like heat transfer vinyl, wall coverings, and wall graphics, it’s a great time to revisit an old favorite – “Step and Repeat.” The effect is taking a single pattern or design and repeating it in a pattern without having to design at full size. Think wallpaper, background logos on a banner creating a watermark effect, or even patterned vehicle wraps.”

The post then includes a detailed step-by-step guide to using the step-and-repeat feature.

This is just one example how an investment of a few minutes could save you hours, and hence, dollars.

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.

A creative OOH campaign

The thumbnail version:

  • A creative OOH campaign can spark other ideas

The full version:

Apparently 58 percent of food produced in Canada ends up being thrown away. Yes, I know . . . disturbing and disgusting! Well, according to an article in Sign Media Canada, Hellman’s Canada has decided to draw attention to this with a pilot project in Peterborough, Ontario.

They’ve undertaken an out-of-home campaign by placing messages on the sides of half of the City’s garbage trucks “suggesting these trucks are Canada’s most popular food truck as it carries away the food that is thrown away by Canadian households to landfills.” A great idea and a clever campaign. But from our perspective, that’s just half the story.

The other half of the story is that the campaign demonstrates a degree of creativity that should arouse the interest of anyone with a creative role in the graphics industry. This is how great ideas are born—when one idea give rise to another. And then that new great idea becomes a money-maker for a graphics shop that sells it to a client.

Give it some thinking time. Maybe this will spark an idea in you.


A negative mindset is bad for business

The thumbnail version:

  • It’s easy to adopt a negative mindset when things aren’t going well
  • Shifting to positivity helps weather the troubled times

The full version:

It’s not difficult to lapse into a negative mindset when things are not going well. For instance, the current pandemic has been a real drag for some. The problem with negativity is that your mood affects everyone else around you, particularly if you’re the boss. And a ‘down’ worker is not a productive worker.

A better alternative for all concerned is to maintain an upbeat outlook; to put a spring in your step. But let’s not kid ourselves, doing this is as difficult as it is necessary. So here are some tips I read somewhere but unfortunately I don’t remember where in order to give the originator proper credit:

  • Say “yes” to a challenge. Make it work. Find a solution. Figure it out.
  • Know why you’re doing what you’re doing. Know your purpose.
  • Be on top of your work/life balance. You need a break. Downtime changes perspectives and refreshes.
  • Remove negative influences (people and objects).
  • Work for victories in even small things. Victories invigorate.
  • Look for the company of positive people.
  • Fire the negative customers who exhaust and depress you. Actively seek positively-minded customers.
  • If you suspect that you are clinically depressed, seek professional help.

Chin up!


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?

Promoting your shop

The thumbnail version:

  • An out-of-the-blue email sparks a question
  • What are you doing to promote your store?

The full version:

An email arrived out of the blue in my inbox a few days ago from a sign company I’ve never communicated with. I have no idea how they found my email address. And while I don’t like unsolicited emails, I’m pleased that these guys found me because their email provided an idea for a post for this blog.

That question is this . . . What do you do to promote your shop? I’ve raised this before but this sign company served up a great example of a promotional email. It used Black Friday as the excuse for the promotion by suggesting that they had a variety of signs and banners for creating displays to get your store’s Black Friday message across.

They listed illustrated suggestions that included banners, custom decals, foam core signs, acrylic signs, aluminum signs, wooden signs, and PVC signs.

So what do you do to announce to potential customers what your shop offers? And if you’re not announcing, how do you expect anyone to know?


Growing a graphics shop requires hustle (and vehicle wraps)

The thumbnail version:

  • A graphic shop success story
  • Secrets laid bare

The full version:

The Canadian graphics shop that prompted this post is not the point of the post. The point of the post is that explosive growth and bottom-line success can be achieved even in adverse circumstances such as a pandemic.

So, how did this shop do it when most others in the industry were sitting around wringing their hands and wondering when things would return to “normal”? Well, it turns out that it’s about hustle.

As the story goes, in the early stages of the pandemic they laid off staff as incoming business declined. Then, instead of wondering when business would return, they went out and hustled. It paid off. They rounded up business and re-hired the previously laid off staff. So that’s one clue to success in this story. But there is another.

The other clue is that this shop’s success has a lot to do with vehicle wraps which they confirm (and as I have pointed out before) is a growth market. And again, in boasting about their success they were happy to disclose to their competitors (that’s your shop) that it’s all about chrome delete, colour accents, and roof and hood wraps, in loud and bold colours in different vinyl finishes.

So, there you have it. The secrets to growing a successful graphics shop laid bare.

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.

E-commerce business? You must have great graphics.

The thumbnail version:

  • COVID has boosted online business
  • It’s competitive—you have to do it right
  • Sharp, attractive images are essential

The full version:

Online business got a boost from COVID. And now that it is in full flight, online is going to remain a significant part of the future of commerce. This is good news for small businesses, particularly those selling digital (non-physical) products and services such as artwork, e-books, design services, website development etc. (you get the picture). Now technology makes it possible for them to compete with larger businesses on a more level playing field.

Man, that stuff doesn’t look so good . . .

But all of that said, the small businesses still have make sure that they match their larger, better-resourced competitors in confidence-boosting appearance. One way to do this is to have sharp imagery in all online platforms, particularly websites. It’s not an option. Anything less than excellent graphics and imagery is going to cause potential customers to hesitate. It’s just the fickleness of human nature and there is no way around it.

This is not as onerous as it might sound but you will have to make some investments in equipment and photo editing software if you’re not going to hire a photographer.

So why the necessity to address this topic on a blog for a graphics industry? Because even this industry has its share of shops posting sub-standard images online. Don’t let your shop be one of those.