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Brain Squad

29 Must-Try Ideas for Sign Pros in 2022

Hacks, reminders and other tips for the year ahead, as proposed by your peers.




OVER THE PAST year, Signs of the Times’ Brain Squad, industry columnists and editors have shared more than 100 tips to help signage and graphics professionals enhance their businesses and careers. Below is a look back at some of these helpful action items for sign pros heading into 2022 and beyond. As you set your New Year’s resolutions, don’t forget these must-try ideas.

Charge more for your lowest-priced work to eliminate unprofitable, time-consuming orders.

WHY? It’s no secret that costs are rising, and your prices should rise accordingly. While you might lose a couple of sales, you may also find you don’t need those small-spending clients, and loyal repeat customers will respect necessary increases.
HOW? Up your minimum on items like graphic design. Stand firm on your prices, be confident about your markups and present them as reasonable to clients. Just give them the price and let them decide.
SOURCE: Wendy Zaccagnini, Zucchini Ink, Clayton, NC. Read more.

Be a cross trainer.

WHY? Diversifying skill sets and making sure employees are able to work in multiple areas can keep business in operation when unexpected events arise.
HOW? Melvin La Pan, Fastsigns of Augusta (Augusta, GA), says the company has “ramped up training efforts to make everyone even more efficient at doing different jobs in our business.”
SOURCE: Melvin La Pan, Fastsigns of Augusta, Augusta, GA. Read more.

Charge for graphic design.

WHY? Designing is not only time consuming, it can be a waste of time if the customer doesn’t order the sign.
HOW? Consider holding off on design until you’ve received a 50% deposit for the project, or charging an upfront fee based on estimated time commitments.
SOURCE: Signs of the Times Brain Squad. Read more.

Up your channel letter game for discerning customers.

WHY? The over saturation of pre-coated coil letters with flexible trim cap has given the trusty channel letter a negative stigma among some. Many clients, architects and design firms are no longer content with basic or bare-minimum standards.
HOW? It doesn’t take much to upgrade this industry staple. Transition to faces without trim cap. Instead of the typical reverse-can “halo” letter, recess the face to create a more dynamic daytime view or offer push-through components that convert a welded or machined letter into a dual-lit variant.
SOURCE: Gabe Griffin, Clear Sign & Design, San Marcos, CA. Read more.

Pay close attention to printer profiles and laminator alignment to properly prepare quality wraps.

WHY? Not all materials for printing are the same, and neither are their profiles. The wrong printer profile can have a negative impact on both the color and installation.
HOW? Download the profiles for the material you’re printing your wrap on, as well as the environment. And ensure the printed vinyl and over-laminate are perfectly aligned without tension. This will allow you to laminate entire rolls with ease.
SOURCE: Adam Sumner, Wrapix Imaging, Burbank, CA and Kyle Kittrell, Vinyl Images, Fenton, MO. Read more.

Losing supply orders to larger companies? Order materials as late as possible.

WHY? By ordering at the last minute, you will know immediately if your supplies will be on the delivery truck the next day or if the materials you need have already been reserved by larger companies.
HOW? If you have a small shop, wait until the last day before your supplier does their regular delivery run to place your order.
SOURCE: Jake Zani, Rule Signs & Graphics, Randolph, VT. Read more.

Plan every detail meticulously for crane installs with tight timelines.

WHY? The stakes are high with crane truck installations. From equipment choices and sign delivery to permits, weather and staffing, the more prepared and in-tune your team is on game day, the better.
HOW? Schedule delivery and installation times and estimate how long each step of the install process will take. Don’t forget to take into account cure times on concrete, epoxy and adhesives.
SOURCE: Signs of the Times staff. Read more.

Appreciate pay, benefits and work life from your employees’ perspective.

WHY? It’s a tough recruiting market for small business owners. Holding onto solid staff members and creating a “keeping” culture is key. Doing things the way you always have may not be the right recipe for the work world of 2022 and beyond.
HOW? Check your attitude toward employees seeking more and be open to candid conversations about job satisfaction. Reality-check your market and react accordingly, including increasing prices and employee pay. Be creative with bonus systems. Connect with your team and consider simple events and fun activities that help boost morale. Keeping your star players is worth it.
SOURCE: Maggie Harlow, Signarama Downtown, Louisville, KY. Read more.

Have backup systems in place in the event a computer program or printhead fails.

WHY? It’s important to be able to handle any emergency print job. But printheads can get clogged, materials can run short, internal networks can go down and PCs can malfunction.
HOW? Be prepared. Make sure to stock extra printheads, ink and vinyls, and have vital programs installed on a second computer just in case. ‘
SOURCE: Victor Ramirez, Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Chicago. Read more.

Lettering won’t stick when you’re applying vinyl graphics to an older vehicle? Here’s a solution.

HOW? Use carburetor cleaner. Spray it on just as you’re getting ready to apply and wipe it off.
WHY? The graphics will stick like a dream to the vehicle.
SOURCE: Meri Lindenmuth, G&L’s Sign Factory, Bethlehem, PA. Read more.

Ensure your trim-cap station is well staffed to avoid bottlenecks during channel letter production.

WHY? If you can’t increase your trim-cap capacity, increasing your production with a channel bender will not help you get more product out the door. Your trim-cap department must be able to keep up.
HOW? Move your benders to trip-cap duty after purchasing your machine to avoid slowdowns in the lineup.
SOURCE: Noah Pettit, South Water Signs, Elmhurst, IL. Read more.

Cater to budget-conscious customers.

WHY? Lower priced solutions don’t need to look cheap. For instance, Madison Graphics Co. (Sun Prairie, WI) owner Adam Hegge noticed that he’s recently been selling a lot more partial vehicle wraps, not full ones.
HOW? Hegge often gives a price on a full vehicle wrap, then, after the customer cringes, he makes a budget adjustment. He tells these clients, “The way we do a partial makes it look like you didn’t run out of money,” which, he stated, has been a very successful sales pitch.
SOURCE: Adam Hegge, Madison Graphics Co., Sun Prairie, WI. Read more.

Try using adhesives instead of screws, nails or welding during fabrication.

WHY? Heading into 2022 you can find the right adhesive for virtually any job. They’re often more affordable and save time in contrast with mechanical methods.
HOW? Ensure that you’re using the right formulation for a specific project. (For example, you wouldn’t use wood glue to join metal and plastic.) Always examine the spec sheets for proper use and longevity. In most cases, you can find the right adhesive for your needs.
SOURCE: Chris and Kathi Morrison, The Image Specialists, Clements, CA. Read more.

Be very specific about your neon warranties.

HOW? Spell out exactly what you’re willing to cover as well as what you’re not. Take all environmental factors (is the sign inside or outside?) into consideration.
WHY? Neon signs can be fragile. You don’t want your client to think you’ll replace the sign if, for example, it becomes damaged in a hailstorm.
SOURCE: Alex Perry, Right Way Signs, Chicago

Have sales communicate with production early on projects.

WHY? Production often has an idea that sales may not have thought of to provide a better end result or save money.
HOW? Ask salespeople to check in with production staff at the beginning of a project to get their input.
SOURCE: John Hipple, Sign Designs, Joplin, MO

Don’t underestimate how the contacts you make in your personal life can influence your business.

WHY? The people you meet at your kids’ sporting events or local volunteering efforts can become your biggest customers.
HOW? It’s important to foster your personal relationships as much as you can. If you’re kind and helpful, and sincerely interested in what someone does, they’ll remember you and come to you when they need something.
SOURCE: Gina Kazmerski, Image360 Woodbury, Woodbury, MN

Up your deposit requests, especially for small orders.

WHY? It’s a huge time saver for the shop and the client.
HOW? Get 50% deposit orders over $500 unless a PO is created. For orders less than $500, get 100%.
SOURCE: John Hotaling, Signarama Woodstock, Woodstock, GA

Avoid a one-star review.

HOW? Start by writing the five-star review you’re hoping for. Make this your manifesto and share it with your team.
WHY? Now design every touchpoint in your business to make that review a reality.
SOURCE: Bernadette Jiwa, brand storytelling expert. Read more.

Remember to regularly change air filters.

WHY? New filters perform better against print odors and virus/bacteria exposure.
HOW? Check the recommended lifespan of your filters and make sure not to exceed it.
SOURCE: Larry Mitchell, SignChef, El Dorado Hills, CA

Reduce hot spots, weird lines, shadows and LED module dots in channel letters.

HOW? Diffuse the letters’ polycarbonate backs with diffuser films/vinyls or by sanding the polycarbonate until obtaining a frosty finish.
WHY? This will reduce unwanted reflections and help “trap” the light.
SOURCE: Mars Bravo, Signs from Mars, Los Angeles. Read more.

Use sign blanks instead of cutting your own.

WHY? Even though they cost a little more per sign they’re so much faster to produce, saving time and money in the long run.
HOW? Order sign blanks on projects that have multiples of the same size. It’s a simple change that can have a huge impact.
SOURCE: Chad Lawson, Sign Pro of Skagit Valley, Mount Vernon, WA

Do a pre-installation “flight check”

WHY? If your install team doesn’t have something vital, store runs cost time and money.
HOW? Create a checklist and make sure your installation trucks have all the tools and supplies necessary for the job(s) before leaving the shop for that day.
SOURCE: Jeremy Vanderkraats, Signs by Van, Salinas, CA

Teach young employees about your business.

WHY? The sign industry has so many facets, so many different types of signs and jobs to create them.
HOW? Spend time teaching your younger people. Pick a topic and put together a brief class twice a month. Paul Lachapelle, Signs Plus Inc. (Bellingham, WA) recently covered LED lighting systems and was surprised how much that some staff didn’t know. “They were all thankful for the lesson, and it was time well spent,” he reported.
SOURCE: Paul Lachapelle, Signs Plus Inc., Bellingham, WA

Increase your sales with more follow-ups, not more estimates.

WHY? Statistics show it takes up to 12 follow-ups to win most business-to-business transactions. Winning even 5% of that business could have a big impact on your bottom line.
HOW? The most important thing is to keep at it. Remember that stat: 80% of sales occur between the fifth and 12th follow-up!
SOURCE: Maggie Harlow, Signarama Downtown, Louisville, KY. Read more.

A good vehicle wrap design focuses on the brand.

WHY? Few other advertising forms give the viewer such a short time to see the message.
HOW? A good wrap needs only these aspects: strong brand implementation, (sometimes) tagline messaging, a web address and (maybe) a phone number.
SOURCE: Dan Antonelli, KickCharge Creative, Washington, NJ. Read more.

Buy a real camera.

WHY? Your business relies on photos for marketing, promotions and social media among myriad untold other uses, but don’t rely on your cellphone to do it all.
HOW? Technology is still such that a real camera, preferably a DSLR, is so far superior for getting images you can crop and manipulate for ads and marketing materials that no business should be without one — along with a couple of staff members whose job it is to know when to point it and shoot it.
SOURCE: Signs of the Times staff. Read more.

Consider wholesale sign work.

HOW? Focus on the product you have the most leverage with. Choose a product for which you have distinctive skills, unique equipment or an affordable way of fabricating. Keep in mind that wholesaling commodity products like decals or engraved signs can be harder to make a profit on.
WHY? Building your business through wholesale work is a great way to bolster your bottom line and productivity. But it’s not the right path for every shop. So do your due diligence and prepare yourself for the journey!
SOURCE: Wendy and Lloyd Graves, inSIGNia Wholesale and Signarama Louisville (East), Louisville, KY. Read more.

Embrace your frenemies.

HOW? Stop viewing your local competition as enemies to be vanquished. Instead, look for opportunities to cooperate.
WHY? There’s plenty of work out there for everybody. You can gain a lot of knowledge and insight by partnering with other shops instead of viewing them as an enemy.
SOURCE: Mike Thomas, Valley Sign, Orting, WA. Read more.

Don’t forget about work-life balance.

WHY? Finding an equilibrium between operating a business and taking care of your family is crucial to your personal growth.
HOW? Your kids only grow up once. Your health should be at the top of your priority list.
SOURCE: Krystal Miszewski, Candy Wraps, Orlando, FL. Read more.

What strategies get you through the work day? Send your tips to our inbox at And for more pro tips, look for them in Signs of the Times’ email Bulletins, which you can sign up to receive here.



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