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Business Management

Growth by Maintenance

Can a systematic approach serve both sign companies and end users?

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Todd Cunningham noticed two things over two decades. While with former giant CompUSA for a dozen years (including all of the 1990s), he inherited a detrimental situation: All maintenance was being outsourced. Unsuccessfully. He convinced management to bring it inhouse and developed a program. Sales doubled because service improved.
A decade later, he watched imagePoint implode as both sign companies and end users were left holding the bag on signage maintenance, among other concerns. In the past two years, many other sign companies have folded.
Todd believes he’s developed the solution with his founding of Preferred Maintenance Co. (PMC) in June 2009. The product is the Maintenance Performance Guarantee (MPG). In a nutshell, it allows sign companies with any level of maintenance competency (including “none”) to sell a maintenance package to end users, even if a competitor built the sign. It provides the end user with a three-year guarantee that its sign(s) will be maintained, even if the sign fabricator goes out of business. After the three-year period, subsequent two-year contracts are available.
In less than a year, approximately 600 sign companies have joined, Todd reports. Some have qualified themselves as having maintenance capabilities. They may be dispatched to provide service. Other companies, who don’t provide any actual maintenance, have qualified themselves with PMC to only sell the MPG. Training and qualification primarily occurs via webinars.
If you’ve qualified yourself, selling the MPG program with a sign is merely optional, not required. The sign company may feel comfortable continuing to self-insure any maintenance contract.
However, if you sell the MPG package (and receive a commission), you won’t have to field any subsequent calls from the end user. You won’t have to provide any replacement parts.
If you build the sign and sell the MPG package, and something goes wrong in the first 90 days, PMC will field the call (from Day 1 on), but the call would be dispatched back to you. On Day 91, PMC takes over and pays you if you’re sent out on a service call.
PMC has call centers in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and Kansas City, with sign-industry veterans manning the lines to handle maintenance-related calls.
Unfortunately for the sign industry, and fortunately for PMC, finding people with 5 to 10 years of electric-sign industry experience hasn’t been an obstacle. These 15 to 20 technicians often can determine if onsite service is required, or if the situation can be remedied over the phone. Currently, Todd guardedly says PMC can maintain any electrically powered sign.
Todd has based several components of the MPG package on concepts he developed at CompUSA. By providing peace of mind to the end user, Todd sees the MPG as a great selling tool. Because it’s backed by insurance companies, the maintenance is guaranteed even if PMC goes under. And with no deductibles. If the end user changes ownership, the contract is fully transferable.
Although the service range includes the U.S. and Canada, Todd has concentrated locally, as evidenced by his Texas Sign Assn. membership. By year’s end, he hopes to have 2,000 resellers, and he believes he’s on track.
Todd has an agreement with Sign*A*Rama and expects to reach an agreement with other top sign franchises.
Similarly, in September, Todd plans to announce an agreement with an estimating software company (with 1,600 customers) whereby MPG will be a standard component. On May 17, he announced an agreement with Andover, KS-based LED Sign Co., whereby its EMCs will carry an MPG guarantee.
Also, the MPG program can be sold for any sign, regardless of fabricator, with the following caveats: less than nine months old, in good working condition, with a copy of the original invoice for both fabrication and installation, and 90 days remaining on a parts and labor warranty.
Progress is tracked on an MPG website, with appropriate access codes.
Conceptually, this seems like a great idea. Your level of participation is completely optional. There’s nothing to buy. Your only investment is time in the form of training and qualification. You need zero maintenance experience or capability, yet you can receive a commission selling a maintenance package.
And, perhaps most importantly, if this can help elevate the status of the sign industry in the eyes of end users, even non-participants can win.
 

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