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Maggie Harlow

Problem-Solving Techniques That Signshops Can Use to Control the Chaos

Take a breath and think of mistakes as a prelude to new learning.

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FOR LINDSEY WOOD, the sign business is a natural place. A visual communications major who loves digital design, photography and even drone photography, her career in signage began after eight years as a supervisor/manager for Office Depot. Now at Signarama Somerset (Somerset, KY) with the title, “design and production,” she is kept very busy.

Lindsey Wood

Lindsey has always been detail-oriented, as well as visually creative, but she has learned one of her other super powers — problem solving — by working in this industry. And because you also have worked in the sign business, you know a key component to running a successful retail sign store is keeping calm and composed in problematic moments, and focusing on how to solve them affordably and elegantly.

Lindsey recently displayed this superpower when a pontoon wrap didn’t go, shall we say … swimmingly? “This was my first pontoon wrap,” Linsey said, “and the measurements ended up being at least 4 ft. off on one side of the pontoon.” Because the design was very complex, she had to figure out precisely where the material would end and start again, and plan for that additional material to appear seamless. “I called a friend for advice,” she said. “Once reprinted and applied, it was like there was never a problem.”

All of us learn things the hard way from time to time, but it’s not always the best way and certainly isn’t the only way. Here are some of Lindsey’s suggestions for how to get through your next problem project:

  • Problems should be approached in different ways. Just because you’re holding a hammer doesn’t make every problem a nail. Be open to considering any alternative and better methods. “I usually come at problems in a methodical way,” Lindsey said. “This problem required a more analytical approach.”
  • Seek team input or phone a friend! “It’s extremely helpful to have knowledgeable mentors and vendors,” Lindsey said. “I went back to the shop and called a friend for advice.”
  • Data! “Take as many notes as you can,” Lindsey said. “I took photos from different angles and used scrap backing paper to mark where the graphic should continue.”
  • Relax and breathe — don’t rush. “Take your time; you’ll do fine,” Lindsey’s mentor reminded her.
  • Be honest with the client! Hiding or disguising your situation will only undermine trust and your relationship. Telling a client honestly what you are dealing with means you are building a foundation for a long-lasting business relationship.
  • Learn the lesson from the problem!

Problems and mistakes are inevitable in business, but they are great teachers if they are not deal-breakers. We take the lessons and apply them in the future. With good habits, you will improve your skills. “Don’t be afraid to take on the job — mistakes may happen, but you will learn from them,” Lindsey said. “Make sure you’ve got enough material for mistakes. Prepare yourself for hang-ups. Remember to take notes for what did and did not work.”

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Maggie Harlow is the CEO of Signarama Downtown Louisville (Louisville, KY), one of the largest and most prestigious locations for the global sign franchise. Contact Maggie at [email protected]

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