Interview With: Glenn Taylor, Owner
How did you get into the sign business?
I was drafted. My father was the regional advertising manager for JC Pennys back in the 70′s. He would handletter showcards, trucks and small signs on the side for extra money. He would drag me around from one job to another as a helper. In 1978, he quit his job and moved the family to his hometown of Wilson, NC to follow his dream of having his own sign shop. I was 17 at the time. Dad would wake me up at 5am unannounced and have me help him letter a billboard or install a sign.
Later after college and a brief stint in retail sales in Pensacola Florida, I moved back to Wilson. By this time dad’s shop had several employees but none of them were suited for billboard work due to the fear of gravity. Dad asked me if I would help out for a couple weeks while I was looking for a job. Two weeks became 23 years.
What is your favorite kind of sign work? Why?
My favorite is probably sandblasted and carved. There is something therapeutic about working in the woodshop and creating something unique with your own two hands.
What are your biggest challenges in the sign business, day to day?
For me the biggest challenge has been dealing with lowball pricing by competitors, particularly those fairly new to the industry who do not understand the value of signs and begin lowballing as a way to attract customers.
Do you have any funny customer stories?
Probably more than I care to remember. One of my favorites is when a client called me asking when we were going to install their sign. I asked her, “Have you looked out the window?” There was a moment of silence and then what I can only describe as a blood curdling scream. She was all excited. She had no idea we had come, installed the sign and left while she was in a business meeting.
Last Monday I got a call from a guy in a nearby town. His partner had called a few months ago about the possibility of redoing their website.
I never heard back from them until this morning. He was anxious to get started and wanted to know if I could remove the old site and put up some sort of “coming soon” page. He really wanted me to do it today if I could. Apparently the members of the club had been hounding him about the site and he finally got tired of it. I told him I’d try to get something for him today. He said he didn’t care what it looked like.
I knocked it out while eating lunch.
I called him to let him know it was done and to look it over to see if it met with his approval. Moments later there were howls of laughter over the phone. He loved it. He’ll be coming by on Friday to discuss the permanent site and pricing.
Well, while I was gone on an errand he apparently was so happy that he drove 20+ miles and gave the boss two crisp $100 bills. I hadn’t given him a price but he told her that if it was more to let him know and he’d take care of it when he came by Friday for his appointment.
What’s your favorite thing about the sign business? Your least favorite?
My favorite thing is having a happy customer who’s excited about the job we did for them. It gives a sense of accomplishment that is hard for me to describe.
My least favorite is the stress. There are days when I have to get a job done that particular day and it becomes the day when every brother’s son, salesman and politician has to call or walk in to see me. One day became so unusually bad that I locked the front gate. My mistake was in not parking my truck inside the bay so no one could tell if I was there. About 30 minutes after locking the gate and was busy working on fabricating some columns, I happen to look up and see a client standing at the door. He had climbed over the barbed wire fence because he just had to talk to me right then about a possible project and I wasn’t answering my phone.
What equipment / software / materials do you work with every day that you couldn’t live without?
I’d have to say it was my computer. The majority of our work today is out-of-town or out-of-state and even overseas. The need to be able to communicate with our clients effectively has become such a necessity whether it is through e-mail, file and image transfers and even net-meetings.
How do you use EstiMate on a day to day basis?
I have two copies of Estimate installed on our network. One for my office and another at the counter in our lobby. Often while I’m on the phone with a potential client, I’m able to begin working up a quote right there on the spot. I’ve had situations where they’ve asked me how soon I can get them a quote and I tell them to check out their fax machine. I’ve completed the quote and faxed it to them while we were still on the phone together.
At the front counter, any of us at the shop can put together a quote for most types of jobs while the walk-in client waits.
What impact has it had on your operation?
It has helped us communicate more effectively with the client and build our credibility in their eyes by making us look more professional and on-the-ball. With Estimate we are more consistent in our pricing regardless of who is doing the quoting. I like the fact that I don’t have to be the one to price out every single day and still have confidence that the quotes done by others are correct.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in the sign business?
Two things. First, buy a copy of Mike Stevens’ “Mastering Layout: The Art of Eye Appeal”. Stevens’ book really opened my eyes about proper layout and effective design.
Second but no less important, learn not be afraid to charge what the job is worth. I had the opportunity to meet Butch Anton several years ago at a seminar he was giving at supplier’s open house. What he said had a profound effect on me – “You can’t get it if you don’t ask for it.”
Lastly, know why you charge what you charge. I’ve met shop owners who had no idea what their shop rate should be and would pull the numbers from thin air. I’ve introduced a few of them to EstiMate, using it as a tool to help them discover what it really cost them to open their shop doors every day and produce the jobs that they do.
If you wanted to be known in the industry for one thing, what would that be?
A nice guy who does good work and enjoys helping other people do the same.
Where do you want your business to be in one year? Five?
A year from now I want the business to be stronger both financially and in terms of market share.
Over the years, our shop has expanded its services to include screen printing, web design, brochures, business cards, and product design. Five years from now I suspect that signage will cease to be our primary service and we will be focusing on being more of an image builder for other businesses.
Tell us something personal about yourself – your hobbies, interests?
One of my dreams is to find the 1969 Mustang Fastback I used to own, restore it and travel across the country.
My grandfather turns 88 this year. After he and my grandmother moved in with my mom this past year, he handed me the keys to his 1970 Chevy CST-10 pickup. I remember him taking me fishing when I was a kid. He’d hook up his Grady-White to the back of that pickup and off we’d go early in the morning headed for the James River. There are a lot of happy memories in that truck. I’ve just started working on restoring it and hope to have it completed before he passes away. I want to ride with him at least one more time to the river.
A Gallery of Work By Creative Graphics (click to enlarge)
Creative Graphics, Inc.
619 Park Avenue
W. Wilson, NC 27893
“My favorite thing is having a happy customer who’s excited about the job we did for them.”