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Heidi Tillmanns

4 Things to Consider Before Expanding Your Shop

If you want to scale up, you can’t just throw spaghetti at the wall.




SO, IT’S BEEN A few years. The little sign business you started with an idea, courage and a few tools has grown. You now have employees, a shop and you’ve learned from your mistakes. Those first few years were tough, and you second-guessed yourself daily. Yet the phone kept ringing, orders kept coming in and here you are. Congratulations. You are no longer a “little” business. But are you where you want to be? You may take a paycheck and make rent yet still see your business as stagnant. You know it’s time to grow! However, expanding your business is scary and thrilling all at the same time. How do you do that without falling flat on your face and losing all that you’ve gained?

You must first know your “why.” Why do you want your sign business to grow? Have sales slowed down? Is there too much competition and your company doesn’t stand out from the rest? Are you bored out of your mind from the repetitiveness? Once your motive is established, you are ready to sit down and create the 2.0 version of your business.

Instead of throwing ideas at a wall and hoping something sticks, it’s important to take deliberate action. Growing a business requires an innate understanding of exactly what you want to achieve. Creating a business map of your growth provides a narrative that helps clarify the purpose and goals of your new vision. It’s an easy way to communicate to others where you want your sign business to go. Be open to feedback from others to assure your map evolves along with your growth.

Here are a few considerations as you develop your new business model/plan:

What’s the state of the sign industry?
If you have your finger on the pulse, and are anticipating changes to the industry, you are poised for the change you are craving. You will see growth opportunities available that others may be overlooking. This will make your business stand out from the crowd and push it to the forefront of the competition. Attend sign shows, participate in or create your own sign business network meet-up and of course, read Signs of the Times magazine on new and developing systems and technologies.

Keep adding value
Offering more value than anyone else in the marketplace is key. It elevates your sign business into a league of its own, provides great talking points when networking and most importantly, gives customers a reason to return. Sometimes it’s a little thing that makes a huge difference. Do you call up your clients to see how they’re doing and if the sign you made has been effective? How about providing useful advice on the choices, size and placement of copy on customers’ fleet trucks that increase their leads and sales?

What are your customers asking for?
Growing a business is a lot easier when your sign clients are asking for a specific product or service you know you can deliver. Do your research, anticipate your customers’ needs, work through costs, know your ROI and go from there. It’s easy to get comfortable and do what you know, but growth doesn’t happen in that space.


Stay flexible
Yes, your first idea may not be the best one. Nor, too, the 100th. That advice you thought was fantastic turned out not to be; learn from that. Plan for flexibility. Understand change is necessary for any kind of growth. If you stay true to your company’s core values and develop products and services your customers want, your sign business will grow — rising above your competition to the level you want it.

She is the director of trail and infrastructure for the Trans Canada Trail in Dundas, ON, Canada. Contact Heidi at [email protected].



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