Teresa M. Young is the president and CEO of Sign Biz Inc. (Dana Point, CA) and founder of LobbyPOP, schoolofsignarts.com and ecosignage.org. She also serves on Signs of the Times’ Editorial Advisory Board.
What was your inspiration for joining the sign industry?
When I was a very young girl, I entered a grocery store contest where you got to color in this graphic of a city street with pennants hanging over the street and signage. And I won! My family won a gallon of ice cream every week for a year. For a kid, that was pretty heady stuff. Maybe it was a sign of things to come – no pun intended – that I wound up in the sign industry and coaching entrepreneurs. It’s a joyous thing for me.
For those just entering the industry, how would you describe Sign Biz Inc.?
A full-service business development company with lifetime membership rights for all entrepreneurs who enter into our program. They go through our training, and are equipped with a full-service sign package – we do all of the demographic studies and the site selection work. We develop their logo in concert with them. We do all of the marketing. We provide the proven programs based on a $100,000 market research study that we engage in to make sure we are approaching the marketplace properly.
How well have your members embraced technology?
Most of [Sign Biz’s] members have very nice websites. I know that they’re savvy with SEO because we teach that at our annual convention. I believe that our group is extremely well-educated on the latest technology as well as the latest systems for marketing, including a website, website landing pages and the difference between SEO and search engine marketing. They’re always on the first Google result page for their region. They have a firm grasp of that.
Last year in our July issue, I wrote about how sign companies pursue different strategies regarding SEO, websites and online marketing in general. The contrast is interesting.
Ten percent of your client base goes away each year; you have to replace them. The new buyers coming in are of a different generation, they always go to the web first to do a Google search to see who is closest, and they’ll go and view those websites. They chose by proximity, and then they chose by what’s on the site. If the site is not up to date, does not work on a mobile device or if it’s not reflective of [the company’s] current product offerings, they’re going to fall off that list. At some point, that client base will erode because their client base will retire. These days, a good, mobile-optimized website is vital.
It’s no secret that this industry is dominated by males. I was wondering if you could describe your experience as a woman in the industry.
When I owned my signshop, I would pretend that there was this boss that I would have to check with to see if I could give some type of a special rate on a particular product. The only times I would do that was when it was apparent – here I am in my mid-20s – somebody did not believe that I owned the business or wanted to challenge my position on something related to the products. [So], on rare occasions, I would pretend that there was a boss I would check with.
I grew up with five siblings – four girls, and the youngest is a boy – and I’m the oldest. So in my world, I never saw a distinction between men and women in business and authority. Certainly, I’ve experienced behavior on occasion from males in the industry who at first might not have given me the credibility or the credence in my role. However, it seems that 99% of the people I have encountered – most of whom are men – in the industry and on the boards I’ve served on have actually been very attuned and supportive. It’s felt like an egalitarian playing field for me. I’ve been so honored to have been the first woman – and still the only, I believe – to chair the International Sign Association’s Board of Directors, and one of only two women to chair the California Sign Association Board. These were comfortable places for me. I’ve been so delighted to give workshops and seminars to women. I’ve been pleased to share my experience.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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