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SignLab from CADlink


Your Sign Business is…a business. Run it that way!

Ah yes, comfort. We all love to feel comfortable. We all tend to seek out comfort, complacency, and at times, we simply just get too sloppy in our business transactions.

By Mark K. Roberts

For instance, here is a scenario that I was fortunate to get out of, and even more fortunate for me, I got out of it with most of the money that I was due.

2008 Sign Price Manual from SignPrice.com

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  • In January of this year, I had a sales meeting with one of my larger clients. He owns a chain of dry cleaning stores. For years I have lettered his windows, trucks, provided him with internal P.O.P. signage, and many other of his sign and graphics needs. At this meeting, he wanted to create a completely new advertising program for his storefront windows. Wanting to get away from discounting his services, he suggested that I develop a new slogan for his company, which would take the place of his discount message that was already in place on fifty-five of his store front windows. No problem.

    I developed the slogan and he approved it. Next he told me that he wanted to divide his stores into three groups. The windows in-group one would be re-lettered immediately with the new slogan, in addition to the price for laundering Men’s shirts. Since I already had the storefront vector images safely in my computer, I generated new graphics for all of the stores so he could approve them before I began.

    After reviewing the graphics and my list of the scope of work, he verbally told me to begin, which I did. After a week, the first set of store windows were stripped and re-lettered with the new ad program. I submitted my invoice and I was paid within ten days. No problem. Life is great. The owner told me to wait about a month before beginning on the second phase of the project. I told him that was no problem (meaning I was glad…I had plenty of work going on) Then I made a mistake. The “plenty of work “ going on quickly mushroomed into “way too much work going on”. I was blessed with a tremendous amount of sign projects all at once. So I did what I thought was the right thing to do…. get the work out! This translated into a couple of extra months, and then another month.

    Since I was dealing with a twenty- year customer, and up until now, all transactions were on a “hand-shake”, why change the game? I had his verbal agreement, and all of the stores had been designed and the graphics were all inside the computer, just waiting for me to press the buttons. And press the buttons I did…without calling the customer first.

    During those three months that have just “flown by”, there was a sudden decline in his business. Dry cleaning has been getting very competitive, and now he needed to return to his old discount structure. So, how was I to know? I had just printed and cut the complete set of graphics for eight stores and during the installation on the seventh store, the customer frantically called me on my cell phone. He wanted to know what I was doing. I told him that I had fallen behind in my schedule, and I was now completing the project that we began in January.

    He voice was in panic mode. He told me to go back to the last six stores and add his “percent off” message to the windows. He was losing a lot of business without giving his normal “discount price” for dry cleaning. Would I have known this had I called him and confessed that I placed several other projects ahead of his projects? Of course, but I really did not want to admit that I was doing several other projects at the same time. All customers want to feel that they are at the top of your list…and they should feel that way. Unfortunately our actions at times tell them differently.

    Fortunately for me, there was one remaining window at each of the previous stores that was free of all lettering and graphics. So I did the right thing…I cut and applied the “percent off” discount message to all of the stores in that division…at no charge. This was the best way out for me, and for a retail price of $390, I made my long time customer happy, and I was paid in full for section two of the project. Since I am now beginning the final part of the project, my client and I are now on the same page, the graphics have been printed and cut, and everyone will be pleased when the job is finished.

    What I learned from this lesson was something I already knew. This business is a business. When schedule delays and conflicts come up, we need to keep our “work in progress” customers informed. We also need to stay in touch with our customers during lengthy projects just to make sure that what we are providing for them is indeed providing them the additional business they are looking for. Communication is the key. Picking up the telephone and staying in touch is what builds customer and client confidence. So even after twenty-five years in this business, I am still learning…and I am willing to keep learning more and more. As a matter of fact, I better get back to work right now!

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