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Heidi Tillmanns

Do You Hate Hiring New Sign Employees? Use These Strategies to Dull the Pain

A sign manager who has been there and done that shares her recipe for creating the team that you need.




LATE NIGHTS AND exhaustion are two indicators it’s time to hire. There just isn’t enough you to go around. The key to any great organization is its team and building that Dream Team is all on you, Coach. Big or small, the task of hiring begins and ends with the visionary who got the company this far.

In my 30-plus-year career in the sign industry, I have hired many. It was the part of the business I liked the least, other than accounting and climbing ladders. In the beginning, it was anxiety inducing. As years went on, I learned successful strategies not only to attract but keep key players.

Be Clear

Step one: Write a job description. Craft it as if you’re writing a recipe for the ideal candidate. Do not cut and paste your competition’s ad hoping it will become a magic formula for your similar position. If you need an installer with specific certificates, say so. Same for all your other positions. Don’t be vague or you’ll attract candidates who are equally as vague in their career goals.

Be Picky

Hire good talent only. Be ready to hire exactly whom you need; do not settle. You cannot ‘will’ anyone into a role. Yes, that may mean more time spent with interviews. But it will be worth it and may also produce a second or third candidate for this or another position.


Money matters. Research what current compensation is in your area for the position you want to fill. You must be competitive, creating a budget where bonuses and raises can be earned. Know about other benefits offered such as extended leave, a retirement plan or additional health insurance coverage, and be sure to budget that as well.


A lot of satisfaction comes from learning a new skill. Providing educational opportunities will enrich the skills your employees already possess. These do not need to be year-long college courses, but perhaps webinars, trips to a supplier’s meet and greet, or sign conference training seminars. Be open to suggestions, asking the team what they would like to learn individually and as a group.



Now that you have the team, keep them! Always remember you are a team and the goal is to move together to serve the community with quality work and service. Tell them that … often! Have regular meetings both structured and free flowing, where open communication is encouraged. Actively listen and notice who else is actively listening. These are the people engaged in the issues and invested in your company. The breakdown of any relationship occurs often from the inability to communicate. Be sure to also create space for one-on-one, private conversations for those needing that safe space.


Celebrate every win. There is nothing like raising a toast on a hot Friday afternoon to a week well done. Yeah, it may not have been perfect, but there is always something to recognize. Compliments and high fives are wonderful for morale. Remember birthdays, too. A simple email or mention at a monthly meeting (where there is cake) is a gesture in connection, as it acknowledges a life event we all share. Your team spends one-third of every workday together; connection matters. Create an inclusive culture where everyone is welcome.

As a business owner, I know the heartache of a wrong hire or having one of your leads decide to go. Yet, there is no better feeling than looking at your crew and knowing they would all have your back. If there is one thing you need to work on every day in your sign business, it’s to be the person your team (and yourself) need you to be.

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



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