Vendor Partnering for Architectural Signage

A Checklist for Saving Money and Creating Greater Project Value

As you know, signage is generally purchased through a bid process, the theory being that this helps keep costs (or at least upfront costs) down.

But will you be creating actual value for your project by selecting the lowest bidder—and then turning that bidder loose on a project you’re now bringing to a successful conclusion?

Price is not the only value proposition.

You might want to consider a different approach to the challenge: vendor partnering. It has worked and continues to work for our company and, more to the point, for our customers and their clients.

Vendor partnering is simply collaborating: by working together from the launch of a project, opportunities arise for greater cost savings, timely completion and, ultimately, increased property values for clients.

While some of the following tips for vendor partnering with an architectural signage firm may seem self-serving, we sincerely believe they can help you not only achieve but also exceed the goals you’ve determined for your project.

  1. Experience is fine. But the depth of that experience is what counts. Most signage manufacturers have some experience in most industries, but the depth of that experience varies widely. The greater the experience in a specific industry, the more the vendor partner will be able to leverage its experiences to add value to your project. This is because the partner knows how to streamline the design, production and installation, resulting in time, cost and headache reductions.
  2. Your vendor partner should not only know that “the devil’s in the details”—but also be willing to beat the devil on your behalf. You have enough on your plate: focus your time where you can be most productive. Free up your team to generate more business, not baby-sit your vendors.
  3. Your needs and objectives are worth asking about—in depth. Your vendor partner should ask clarifying and thought-provoking questions to ensure that he or she has a complete understanding of your project.Your partner should be willing, able and confident enough to make recommendations that will add worth to your signage program—such as, value engineering, upgraded design, and more efficient way-finding, among others.
  4. Field trips can be enormously gratifying. If possible, consider visiting your vendor partner’s plant to get a feel for the company’s craftsmanship and manufacturing processes. Many times it is what you don’t see in the finished product that makes the difference.For example:
    • Preparation is the key to getting paint to stick. How does your vendor prepare your material?
    • Are the adhesives warranted by the manufacture for the specific use?
    • Are installation details clearly spelled out on the proposal and what assurances are there that they’ll be followed in the field? Most signs look fine when first installed: The real test is how they look 5 or 10 years down the road.
  5. Remember: your vendor partner’s employees actually work for you. Would you hire the architectural signage company’s employees? Do they have experience and expertise as, for example, account executives, estimators, and project and production managers? Can they lead as well as they follow? Is there an air of collegiality among them?
  6. Require references. “Trust, but verify,” as the saying goes. Verify first! Make sure that other partners and clients have had their expectations exceeded. When checking references, ask about all the criteria discussed in this paper. A successful vendor partnership is built on trust—and results.
  7. Can your vendor partner crack the code(s)? Code compliance is often very complex in the signage business. Be certain your signage partner understands and will take care of every detail to comply with appropriate codes, regulations and agencies. Then get a good night’s sleep.
  8. Your signage partner should be a strategic thinker—and doer. In addition to delivering on time and on budget, your vendor partner should maintain the same standards you do when selecting suppliers: excellent, timely work and competitive pricing.
  9. Has your vendor partner developed a program for ongoing maintenance and support? Most projects require additional support after the initial installation is complete—a process that needs to be seamless and easy for you to use, as well. Does your partner have an automated or web-based eORDER system? Is your partner prepared to handle any issues that might arise from damage or business changes?
  10. Finally, ask yourself if you’d work with this company again. Building strategic partnerships with your signage vendor can allow you to reshape your own operations in a way to realize greater savings than you might by working through the bid process. If you opt to work with a vendor partner that keeps promises, meets deadlines, keeps you posted, and works effectively with all suppliers, vendors and government agencies, your project—and, just possibly, your life—will be bound to improve.