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Dale Salamacha

Say NO to Sign Projects That Steal Your Time

Resist jobs that rob your company of its most valuable and limited resource.




This project for the San Antonio Spurs was awesome to land but not as profitable as more standard-sized projects. This project for the San Antonio Spurs was awesome to land but not as profitable as more standard-sized projects.

EVERY NEW YEAR BRINGS plans to change. How to make this year better than the previous one? Hopefully, better than all previous years! We call them resolutions, and by February, most of our resolutions have already fallen to the wayside.

Only strong, resolute individuals stick to their plans and goals, as “life” takes over for the rest of us and we fall back into our same routines. Maybe that’s because our resolutions are too big, too difficult or just not defined enough to follow through on a consistent basis.

But I’ve come up with one that I’m sticking to. It’s fast, it’s simple and it’s fun to say! From here on out, I am committed to saying “NO!” more often.

Scan this to watch “SunTrax Portal Sign Part 6: The Install” to see one of the massive projects Dale plans to give a miss to from now on.

For all of my employees, this is a very welcome change. You see, I’m what’s called a “people-pleaser.” I didn’t realize I was one (I don’t even like the way it sounds), but apparently, I like to make people happy and to feel that I am helping them. And when you own a signshop, you can do a myriad of things to help people.

I’m not talking about cutting something for a friend on the router table. I’m talking about ego-driven, large-scale projects that steal away your most precious resource — time. Remember, there are only 2,080 hours a year to get work done (without overtime, of course), but if we want to enjoy a solid work/life balance, around 2,100 hours is all you have.

And say you have a 10-person shop. That’s 21,000 labor-hours you have to expend throughout the entire year. That’s it.

Over the holidays I poured through our client list, ranked in order of how much they have spent over the past two years. I discovered that 11 of our clients are responsible for half of our revenue. The next 20 made another 30%. Then 200 more spent $500 each. Now, we are a fairly big shop, so we don’t want those $500 projects. They’re not what we are geared up for.

However, every year we’ve been doing one large project. Large like $500-750K. And every year that one project takes control of our shop. We spend far too many of our yearly-allotted hours on that one project. And honestly? It has never worked out well for us. Know why? Because we’re not geared up for that type of work either, so we typically lose our butts on that one job.

And to make matters worse, that project always interferes with our Top 10 clients who year in and year out, drop $2 million! So this year, I am resolutely determined to say NO to those large-scale, ego-driven projects.

My partner Rick says we no longer need the reputation-building, giant projects anymore. They’re not for our steadfast, loyal clients. They rob the valuable (very limited) labor hours we have to dole out to all of our clients. What we need is to make money. And since we have only so many hours in a year to get work accomplished, we better make damn sure that’s exactly what we’re doing.

If you don’t evaluate your projects, you run the same risk we do — not taking ultimate care of your best clients. While it is cool to say, “Look at this giant project we did,” invariably, those one-offs take too much of your time, cost too much, and worst of all, they alienate the rest of your client base.

Here’s a secret: Your best and biggest clients don’t give a damn about your other clients. All they care about is what you are doing for them! This year, the rest are getting a Big Fat NO!




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