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Maggie Harlow

How Infinite “Do-Overs” Can Help Your Sign Business

That forgiving rule from kids’ games aids every facet of management.




YOU CAN CALL it persistence. You can call it tenacity. But I like to call it a “do-over.” Growing up in a small town in upstate New York, I remember the games my friends and siblings played outside until the streetlamps came on. One unique thing about those childhood games — whether wiffle ball, kickball, basketball or tag — was the magic of the “do-over.”

We all know what this is: During your turn if something goes wrong, you get to try again. Sometimes it’s a terrible pitch or roll of the kickball. Or maybe a dog runs across the field. But sometimes we grant a do-over because someone did so badly, we feel they should have another try.

After 33 years in the work world and 20 years of running my own sign company, I can look back and realize that much of my success stems from my ability to grant myself do-overs. If you’re successful in life and work, you too have used a do-over from time to time!

Success doesn’t come from doing everything right the first time, or from massive talent and expertise, or from being lucky. Success is the result of trying something, failing, trying again, failing again and repeating that process until you get things right.

A Do-Over

For me, do-over is the best term because it tunes into that childhood willingness to try. I think kids understand better than most adults that failure is a key part of the learning process. With a do-over kids give themselves and others the grace and space to try again, for whatever reason they wish.

Relook at your own business and ask yourself, “Am I ready for a do-over?”


“The do-over was one of childhood’s most powerful rites, for it exerted our dominion over the laws and space and time.” — Unknown

Here are some things in my business that required do-overs. Some of these still need more do-overs. Some may be familiar.

  • I’ve hired and fired or lost countless employees. Some good, some bad. Sometimes I made a bad mistake with an employee and learned how to do better. Far from perfect but allowing do-overs in my hiring has contributed to creating an all-star team of wonderful people.
  • My marketing efforts are always a work in progress. Sometimes I’m on top of my game and get lots done. Sometimes I lose track and realize I haven’t posted in days! I give myself permission to restart the effort.
  • Customer do-overs are some of my favorites. I ask clients for feedback and use it to teach myself and my team how to be better. Listening with curiosity for possible do-overs is often what turns my unhappy client into the most loyal one!
  • Capturing incoming leads and opportunities had been a recurring failure for the first 15 or so years of my business. It was always overwhelming and hard. During the pandemic, I was forced to try something new — an online “leads board” shared by the entire team. I learned from my mistakes, put time and effort into focusing on the tool, encouraged and held accountable my team. Now that leads board is among my greatest successes in business, ensuring all clients are acknowledged and cared for!

Granting myself infinite do-overs means I can always try again. Sometimes a do-over is trying something else, firing an employee, delegating a role, bidding on a client you haven’t won business with. Sometimes a do-over is to stop doing something, like what we stopped doing for a while this year — installs for other sign companies — as we are struggling to handle our own clients!

Channeling that childhood willingness to try again can make your redoubled efforts feel less like failure and more like learning.

I’m sure many parts of your business could use a do-over! Instead of beating yourself up or deciding you’re just not good at whatever, revisit the attitude of your favorite childhood playmates and grant yourself, and your team, that do-over, infinitely.




Introducing the Sign Industry Podcast

The Sign Industry Podcast is a platform for every sign person out there — from the old-timers who bent neon and hand-lettered boats to those venturing into new technologies — we want to get their stories out for everyone to hear. Come join us and listen to stories, learn tricks or techniques, and get insights of what’s to come. We are the world’s second oldest profession. The folks who started the world’s oldest profession needed a sign.

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