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Paula Fargo

Success Is 10% Inspiration

“… and 90% perspiration,” as Thomas Edison famously said.



AS SIGNSHOP OWNERS, what makes us perspire? It’s so easy to sweat the small stuff (see what I did there?) and get mired in the details of the day to day:

  • Have you seen that job jacket?
  • Who was supposed to order that toner cartridge?
  • Why hasn’t the trash been picked up?
  • Can you tell me our Amazon login again?

I’m going to realign you with the TRUE perspiration in your job, and if you get these components of Edison’s “90%” right, your success as a signshop owner will skyrocket.

30% Expectations

If you clearly establish your expectations with your constituents — employees, customers, vendors, advisors — that is half the battle won or lost right there. It is next to impossible to hold someone accountable if they are unsure of what you want them to do. Be transparent with what you want, don’t make people guess, and please don’t assume they can read your mind. I don’t know you or your amazing staff, but I will say with a high degree of certainty that they cannot read your thoughts clearly enough to get things right all the time. Often setting expectations for your team and vendors will help clarify matters in your own mind and end up improving processes and outcomes for everyone involved.

30% Responsiveness

People, we are in a fast-turn time business. You need to be responsive to your constituents, and in return, you should expect responsiveness from them. If your employees need guidance on a project and you delay responding to their request, what signal are they receiving? Even if your answer is, “I’m not sure right now, let me think about it and I’ll get back to you within 24 hours,” at least they know you’ve gotten their question. And if you don’t respond quickly, you won’t have a leg to stand on if you need something from them and don’t get a quick answer. Same goes for clients: Give them immediate responses and no fingers can be pointed at you for any delays that may ensue. If your vendors and advisors are not responsive enough in your opinion, maybe your expectations haven’t been clear. If you have plainly expressed what you need in terms of their responsiveness and they still are noncompliant, it might be time to look for a replacement — someone who values your time and business more.

30% Follow-up

Responsiveness without follow-up is like peanut butter without chocolate — they obviously go hand in hand. You can give the fastest quotes in the east, yet if you don’t follow up, how will you know what the status of the job is? Following up is hard — it requires organization and discipline — and can often be highly disappointing when you see how unresponsive some people can be. Many organizational tools and hacks can help you to make sure you follow up appropriately, both old school (I print out the top copy of the most recent email exchange that I sent and keep it on my desk until I get a response or the matter is permanently resolved) and new (there are tons of apps to use, both in your email software and your print-management software, if you are a techie-type).

These three habits are not out of reach for any owner who wants to up their game. You don’t need any special training or tools or staff. It takes a while to establish a new habit, and these three are worth the schvitz!




Introducing the Sign Industry Podcast

The Sign Industry Podcast is a platform for every sign person out there — from the old-timers who bent neon and hand-lettered boats to those venturing into new technologies — we want to get their stories out for everyone to hear. Come join us and listen to stories, learn tricks or techniques, and get insights of what’s to come. We are the world’s second oldest profession. The folks who started the world’s oldest profession needed a sign.

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