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How to Prevent Customers from Price-Shopping Your Designs

We can’t offer legal advice, but we do our best to address this concern in the latest “Ask Signs of the Times.”

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How do you attract new hires to join your team? Seems like posting open positions on job sites isn’t cutting it.

We receive at least one question like this every month. As everyone knows, hiring has become an increasingly greater challenge, so we’ll address the question with special attention paid to the word “attract.” Last month, guest columnist Dan Antonelli of KickCharge Creative (Washington, NJ) touched on this when he wrote, “When you hear sign companies lament not being able to find the right people, it’s always ‘a lack of qualified candidates,’ never how their culture and image may turn off prospects.” (See ST, March 2022, page 43.) Consider just how “attractive” it would be to work for your company from an outside perspective. “Does your own branding speak to the idea that you understand its importance? Are your website, interior signage, business cards, truck wrap, social images — all branded in a uniform manner? If not, why not?” And if not, maybe that’s one reason why you’re having a hard time attracting new hires.

Are there any sign fabrication certification and/or training courses?

Signs of the Times is unaware of any major certification or training programs, and the problems caused by this vacuum also extend to hiring experienced or qualified people. Unlike other trades (electricians, plumbers) the sign industry has no specialized schools or programs, so hands-on training outside of one’s own shop already outfitted with the equipment is hard to come by. However, some manufacturers of equipment make information available to their customers regarding how properly to use and get the best out of the machinery. You might start there and also ask if they have further suggestions.

What is the best way to keep potential customers from taking our designs and price-shopping with other sign companies and, even more importantly, having another sign company use our artwork to produce the sign we designed?

While we can’t offer legal advice, one way to deter potential customers from taking your designs and shopping them or having them produced by other sign companies is — before showing potential customers anything — to ask them to sign an agreement promising not to do that. (This would not have to apply to existing customers.) Potential clients will be willing to sign or reticent/refuse to sign. If they refuse at this point, is losing this kind of customer a bad thing? Of course, they could sign and still shop your design, but they would be doing so knowingly, and most professionals would not act in bad faith. Let’s say someone signs the form then shops your design and another sign company fabricates it. With the agreement violated, both you and the customer will know what went down and no one will be surprised by the end of the relationship. All that said, the ethical potential customers should have no problem and will know not to shop your designs inadvertently, which surely some well-intentioned but admittedly clueless potential customers do.

Want to see your questions featured in this department? Send your emails to: ask@signsofthetimes.com

Signs of the Times has been the world leader in sign information since 1906. Contact Signs of the Times' editors at editor@signsofthetimes.com.

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