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Sign Company Owners and Managers in Depth

Age, gender, ethnicity, education, top priorities and their biggest pet peeves.

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LOOKING AROUND ANY major industry event will suggest about 4 in 5 owners and top managers of sign companies are, well, older white men. We confirm that here : ) but also a few things you may not have known, such as the type of work some sign pros wish they could stop doing.

11. What’s your race or ethnicity?

Asian
2%
Black or African-American
1%
Hispanic, Latinx or Spanish origin
4%
Middle Eastern or North African
0%
Multiracial
1%
Native American or Alaska Native
1%
Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
1%
White
81%
Prefer not to answer
https://signsofthetimes.com/?p=212149&preview=true

7%
Prefer to self-describe (American, human)
2%

INCREMENTAL INTEGRATION? Though still the vast majority, White respondents are down from 88% in 2022 and 85% last year. Nevertheless, shop owners and managers remain older, white men for the most part.

 

OUTNUMBERED, UNDAUNTED. Like last year, four times as many men responded as women, underscoring the lack of female ownership and management within the sign industry.

13. How old are you?

Under 20
0%
20-­29
1%
30-­39
6%
40-­49
19%
50­-59
28%
60­-70
36%
Over 70
10%

EXPIRATION DATE. About 3 in 4 respondents are 50 and older, with nearly half 60 or older. Looks like sign installers aren’t the only ones pushing their sell-by dates.

14. What will be your No. 1 priority this year/for the next 12 months?

Growth
33%
Boosting profitability
41%
Bringing in new technology
1%
Clearing old inventory
2%
Cutting expenses
2%
Surviving
2%
Preparing to exit the business (succession, retirement, etc.)
13%
Other (combination of above, new space, streamlining, ecommerce)
6%

I WILL SURVIVE. Down from 2022’s 11% and last year’s 7%, surviving is the top priority for only 1 in 50, while growth and boosting profitability both ticked up.

15. On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is “very pessimistic” and 10 is “very optimistic,” how would you rate the outlook for the following?

16. What is the highest level of your education?

17. What is your biggest pet peeve about working in the sign industry?

MOST COMMON Frustration with over-regulation and the permitting process, finding qualified and reliable employees who will stick around, unknowledgeable or inexperienced project managers, clients with unrealistic expectations about cost and project time, and intense competition that drives down prices.
MOST UNIQUE One respondent is dissatisfied with having to spend long hours on a screen. A few are annoyed that signmaking is not treated seriously — “It’s an art that really isn’t recognized as an art,” as one respondent eloquently puts. One has a very broad pet peeve: “The non-perfect world in which we reside.”

18. What kind of signwork do you wish you could do?

Large remodels, 3D printing for ADA, laser engraved/cut items in-house, Las Vegas and Manhattan-type spectaculars, more neon — a dying art, painting — lettering, murals, EMCs, digital signage and interactive displays, vinyl wraps, metal fabrication, channel letters, 3D wood and pole signs, DTG printing, signs for parks and large outdoor community spaces.

GRASS IS GREENER. Who doesn’t dream about doing Vegas and Times Square spectaculars? Other wishes in this list certainly seem within reach.

19. What kind of signwork do you wish you could stop doing?

Small walk-in retail customers and small, tedious orders, stickers, menu boards, political yard and real estate signs, banners and door graphics, Coroplast signs, installs — especially in cold weather, lying on my back or working on a ladder, vehicle wraps — but it’s too profitable, ADA signs, contract work.

GRASS ISN’T GREENER. We couldn’t help but notice how some types of signwork in this list match those from before. One respondent sums it up best: “That’s a trick question. A true signage professional doesn’t stop.”

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