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Business Management

Signshop Without a Sign

A celebration of the 40% with four or fewer employees — per March 2022’s Big Survey.




HAVING A SIGNSHOP in the middle of nowhere has its disadvantages, far outweighed by the advantages. In the 37 years of operating, I have never had the pleasure of salespeople walking into my shop. Is it my remoteness or the three locked doors they would have to go through? I am not to be found in any of the 33 pages of our Yellow Pages. The category goes from Shower Doors to Snow Removal, skipping Sign Shops altogether.

I can be found in the middle of the Allegheny National Forest in a small town of 85 people centered around a tavern with great food. Luring travelers to this touristy region is my happiest function. You will find my shop on the speed dial of most companies, healthcare facilities, retail outlets and the Who’s Who and What of anyone else grinding out a living in this 80-mile circle.

Referrals and word of mouth are a way of life rather than a 12-month marketing strategy. The chambers of commerce and tourist-promotion agencies are so kind in their recommendations. They use eloquent wording you can’t buy or bribe a public official for: “Sign Design of Westline produces beautiful signs and storefronts giving our area the look and feel of a world-class destination.”

Being involved in your community is also an effective way to be at the tip of the tongue of on-the-spot referrals. Board of director vacancies often result from someone who just resigned because they couldn’t put up with the group any longer. Because of by-laws, normally you can’t make a profit from the quality signs and presentations you provide (donated labor/material reimbursement is the way to go), but you built their image and left them in a nicer light.

Now it is your turn to resign or finish out your term. The more groups and organizations you become part of, the more leaders of the neighboring towns you service become your clients. “I wonder if Jerry would have any good ideas as to how this should look.” Hit speed dial here — you are just one index finger away.

Coming from the deepest depths of the newly formed Brain Squad, I have been offered this column to give a voice to the small signshop with a few to no employees. There is no such thing as a one-person signshop. We always have a friend or relative tucked up the next hollow that can help us with the two post holes and 12-ft. “six by sixes.” Rental high-lifts are affordable and abundant. My graphics and digital prints are farmed out to loyal suppliers. Our first three zip code numbers match, meaning I am on a next-day delivery service. They maintain the plotters, cutters, colors and technology, freeing me up to put in my 60 hours elsewhere.


This will be a fun place. We will keep you abreast of the large contributions small shops produce. Not all great ideas submitted to the Brain Squad come from the shops with five cranes, 10 bucket trucks and 75 employees.

Stay tuned for upcoming articles to include road trips, rural material management, visiting signshops, and an entire column on producing shop gadgets/goofing off.

Jerry can be reached at



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