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Media1 Solves Its “Identity Crisis”

Shop rebranding pays dividends

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Dale is president of Media 1 (Longwood, FL).

When we first moved into our current location in 2004, we thought it was amazing; moving from a 6,000-sq.-ft. shop to 10,000-sq.-ft. digs was a huge step forward for us. The old shop’s décor had become somewhat dated. We had purple and red textured walls with indirect, purple neon shining up onto them, and brushed-stainless-steel, French entry doors (hello, 1990s). We were beyond ready for an image makeover; our business had grown to the point where major corporate clients visited us. We needed our workspace to put our best foot forward. Our landlord supplied new carpet and a paint job, and we discarded all of our supplies, and started fresh with everything from wall art to trash cans.

At the time, there were only eight of us, and we only had a handful of desks. However, our company has grown to 28 employees today, and several junctures during our growth have provided opportunities to renovate our facilities to improve productivity – and fun.

We got busier, and grew. One day, we realized that the 10,000 sq. ft., which seemed cavernous at one time, had become cramped. In 2010, we made a deal with our landlord and leased 10,000 sq. ft. next to our original facility. We knocked down a wall and moved the wrap department into the larger space, with an adjoining office for that staff’s use. We also use that space to store finished signs that await installation. But, we keep that section clear to allow our expert wrap installers the workspace they need.

New expansion
Roughly six months ago, we decided to reconfigure our space again; the design department sorely needed expansion. We knocked down a wall in the offices that previously housed the design department on one side, and our conference room on the other. Our design department gained the entire room, and we moved the conference room into our newer office next door.

However, once we broke the walls to create an open space, we realized just how dirty and funky our brown, eight-year-old, commercial-grade carpet actually had become. It was bad – crime-scene bad. We replaced the carpet in the design room, and to match it, we painted the walls.

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We decided to go even further. Once we’d chosen to paint the walls, we brought our countertops and workspaces up to date with new surfaces. We moved the redo to another level when Charlie, our IT guy, said, “It sure would be nice to have a 32-in., tilt-mounted monitor on this wall to serve as a client-presentation area.”

And we couldn’t stop there. Having invested all this time and money into our design area, we decided our front office, which customers would see first, should reflect a contemporary, forward-thinking atmosphere as well. So, our remodeling adventure continued.

Now older and fiscally wiser, we decided our best strategy would be to contact some of our clients who do this type of work. The power vehicle graphics hold for bartering opportunities is amazing! Several vendors were happy to trade out services in return for a promotional wrap.

A flooring company (and reliable client) agreed to install new carpet and vinyl-composition-tile flooring throughout our front offices, kitchen, production and printer rooms. Also, the parents of my Media1 partner, Damon Coppola, own a remodeling and construction company, so we contacted them and received a great bargain on all drywall and painting work.

While in our shop, they noted our need for cabinetry for our drab kitchen. Conveniently, they had beautiful, custom kitchen cabinets handy from a home they’d remodeled (aren’t parents great?). After they’d installed the cabinets, we couldn’t leave those old toilets in the restrooms; clients actually use them! Realizing this would become an asset to the building, the landlord stepped up and purchased new commodes.

Within a month, we’d repainted and remodeled the entire front end of our offices. Since then, we’ve worked on our wall decor. Being a sign company, showcasing our fabrication skills in displaying our portfolios, ST articles featuring our work, etc., was essential. As I wrote this, we weren’t yet 100% finished, but we’ve finished the primary elements, and can add to them as our schedule allows.

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Once again, we’re enjoying the same “new” feeling we had eight years ago when we first moved in. Clients have raved about our shop’s new, more modern look. And our employees feel much better coming to work every day in a more inviting space.

Words to the wise
Some of you may object to such an investment. You’re way too busy, you say, managing existing business and pursuing new customers, to worry about fixing up your shop. You don’t want to sink a chunk of money into a remodel; it’s just a sign company, right? And, maybe, like us, you’re renting your facilities.

I say, wrong. We’re not just sign companies; we’re imagemakers. Your customers come to you, perhaps choosing you over the signshop down the street, with the goal of you making their company look better! That’s what we do, right?

Whatever our customers’ line of work, it’s up to us to ensure they get the nod over their competition. So, your workspace must reflect how much you care about your own image and organization; this translates to your bottom line because it helps you close the deal. Clients wants to work with a sign company with a successful, well-organized, clean image, because that’s what they want their signage to convey.

As I mentioned, we restrained spending, and completed much of the work ourselves. When we were finished, our company was transformed. Customers appreciated our new organization and flow, and this increased our business. And, a funny thing happened; a whole new breed of client started showing up: bigger clients that operate fleets of vehicles that need wraps, as well as nationwide accounts such as restaurant-chain, theme-park, mall and airport operators. This didn’t happen simply because we retooled our shop; we grew because we made our work-place a reflection of our renewed vigor for the sign industry.

We started selling more work, at a slightly higher profit margin. Our environment was conducive to greater business; if you build it, they will come.
 

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Renovation tips
• Plan your remodel with the goal of a cleaner, more organized shop
• Sign companies work for a wide cross-section of businesses. Look at what your clients do, and see who meets your renovation needs. Remodelers, painters, flooring installers, heating and cooling equipment, furniture retailers, etc. We’ve found many customers receptive to trading out work.
• Do what you can yourself. If you have a custom paint shop, paint your own walls. If you’re a wrap company, decorate your own walls. If you have a full-service fabrication shop, build your own desks.
• Display the best of what you do. After the remodel is done, decorate your walls with samples, canvas prints, 3-D lettering, etc. Whatever your specialty, present it on your walls. Enlarge photos of your work, news and magazine articles – anything a client would enjoy reading or looking through.
• Realize that your wife or girlfriend has a better eye for decoration than you, and ask her for suggestions and ideas. My fiancé, Christy Barker, designed my personal office – paint, furniture, décor, everything!
• Have fun! We’re all in business to make money, and understand it’s, technically, “work”, but if we can’t have fun while designing and building signs, then why are we doing it? Let your shop reflect your excitement for your work; it will show in the final product. Then, look for several things to grow: positive feedback, your customer list, and, finally, your bank account.
 

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