Disruption Foreshadows Change

I grew up in a family sign business my father named “House of Signs”. This was way back in the days of paint brushes, silkscreen printing and the Yellow Pages. Back then, prestige was measured by ad size and placement in that cherished, annual publication. Our trucks and ‘the book’ were our sole advertising tools.

We’d sit and hope the phone would ring (not exactly a proactive marketing plan). Well it worked, sort of. I learned at a young age, however, that nothing happened until somebody sold something, whether the phone rang or not.

Being unskilled in sign painting and tired of pulling a squeegee, I eventually asked my father if I could try outside sales. “Sure,” he said, “but cut your pony tail off!” I’ll call that disruption #1, and the beginning of many more to come. Little did I know I’d stay in the business for 40 years or that we’d become a nationally respected brand. (No help from the yellow pages I should add). OK, back to disruption.

Hand painting on trucks, walls, windows or plywood was feeling the affects of mail order ‘die-cut’ pressure sensitive letters. Shortly thereafter came computer driven vinyl cutters offering dozens of fonts. Digital technology had arrived. “Hey Dad, we need one of these”. Not what a sign painter wanted to hear but we knew and accepted that the respected, and centuries- old art of hand painting signs was over.

On and on the changes came. CNC routers took the place of band saws and foundry cast letters. Large format digital printers eliminated the canvas banners we would so often make. Laser cutters, machines inserting Braille dots and then Fast Signs franchises sprouted up around us. Seemed the only constant was change and that old adage ‘nothing happened until somebody sold something’ was always present in our minds.

So, how did we grow, prosper and make it to our 61st anniversary? Plain and simple: we accepted that change was a constant, and that we needed to join the disruptors before we became disrupted – and obsolete!

In closing, I’m on a flight to NYC to join other forward thinkers and disruptors. Mission: learn more about the roles that LED technology will play in branding, story telling and place making. The business side of our craft is now more exciting then ever. Or as I like to say, “the future looks bright!”