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Family Members Work at My Shop – How Can I Get Them to Take Projects More Seriously?

The key lies in reestablishing the boundaries between business and family.




Any idea of classes or workshops one can take to improve shop drawing skills for large fabricated items?

Eric E. Larsen of both Empire Architectural Design and Wagner Electric Sign Co. (Elyria, OH) recommends trying a local community college that offers drafting classes. “The problem is that most sign companies use Corel or other programs not taught with drafting classes in many colleges that I am aware of,” Larsen says. offers some individual Corel classes as does Corel itself at “I have been using Corel since version three and admit I only use maybe 20% of its capabilities for our detailed and engineered drawings,” Larsen says. “Best bet is to find out what software a sign company is using and search their product classes or find one of the many books available that include step-by-step instructions for your program.”

Do you think it is fair for a sign company to dictate to you payment terms, etc., when they are hiring you to do a job install that they cannot do?

Whether it’s fair (or not) is a matter of point of view. The more important matter seems to be what to do about it. As the “buyer” in this potential business arrangement, the sign company dictating the payment terms is free to offer as much or as little as they want for the installation services they are seeking. If they can find a “seller” at the price they offer, they will have successfully dictated the terms. If they can’t, they’ll have to offer more money to potential sellers — perhaps to the point of meeting the payment demands of a company that can do the install — and thus not dictate the terms. Or maybe the two parties could negotiate. Whatever the case and fair or not, feel free to turn down any subcontracted install job that doesn’t meet your payment terms.

In working with family, where they say they recognize you as the most knowledgeable about the industry and the current client base, how can you get them to respect you and take projects more seriously and with a sense of urgency?

Ah yes, families and sign companies go together like … The problem here, as is often the case, is that the family dynamics — which significantly impact relationships and are not always conducive to running a successful business — seem to be overriding the company’s priorities. For example, if the “baby of the family” were rightfully to assume charge of the family company in adulthood due to knowledge, effort and experience, older siblings and family members, despite being less experienced if they joined the company later in life, might have difficulty respecting or taking the youngest sibling seriously. The solution involves reestablishing the boundaries between business and family and reminding family members that when it comes to the sign industry and its current client base, you are their professed, recognized authority and thus they should take you seriously. Of course, this is a bit easier if you are also the head of the company. But even if you aren’t — yet, we hope! — they need to keep family and business relationships separate, for the good of the family … and the business.

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