Growing Pains // Luc Michaud of Signtek Industries

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Michael, Peter, and Bryant tackle how to manage rapid growth in your shop. The guys interview Luc Michaud of Signtek about how his shop is tackling their own growth challenges.

Bryant Gillespie: All right guys.

So we're here.

We've got the third addition of
the better sign shop podcast.

hi, Mike.

Hi, Peter.

Nice to have you guys.

Michael Riley: Hey

Peter Kourounis: Bryan.


Are you nice to be back?

Nice to be back Bryan.

How are you doing?


Bryant Gillespie: I finally
made it back from vacation.

We were on the road.

It felt like for two days.

I don't think it was quite that long,
but man, what a time I could tell

you lots of stories about being in.

A confined space with six women.

Not fun.

Michael Riley: I feel your pain.

I just had family descend on
our house this weekend with

four teenage girls in tow.

And if I had any hair left on my
head, it's probably gone by now.

It's been a long one.

Bryant Gillespie: Wow.

My kids pull out my hair and
I'm rocking the long hair now.

, it's easy prey.

I think

Michael Riley: I just
pull my own out and we

Bryant Gillespie: got Peter back
from the hospital or the sickness.

Michael Riley: Glad you're
feeling better, Peter.


Peter Kourounis: you.

Thank you.

The voices here, the breathing is good.

Ready to rock and roll.

The two levels are high.

The two levels are good.

That's great.

You guys are never gonna believe this.

You guys are never going to believe this.

This is breaking news here for me.

Very wow.

A wow moment for me.

A wow moment for me, kinda scared here.

I I was just sent a I was just sent
a gift by a gentleman who is wow.

I'm so sorry.

I'm so taken back by this.


I was just sent a gift and I thought it
was an Amazon box, so I opened it randomly

thinking it was like one of my random
Amazon purchases, but no, it was a gift

sent to me by a former employee of mine.

His name is Pablo Torres.

So shout out to you Pablo.

And he just published his first graphic
design book called visual identity.

Here it is right here.

And he gave me a note here and
he said read the third page,

which is a he thanks me as being.

Primary mentor for writing this
book for that's pretty cool.

He mentions me here in the
spine of his book here.

I don't think I'd ever expect
that I'm actually like really

taken back by this right now.

I'm almost gonna cry here, but yeah,
so that's a, I'm gonna read this book,

VI visual identity by Pablo Torres.

Go get it.

Little plug for him here.

Go get it on Amazon.

It's a great graphic design book for
those graphic designers out there.


Little story about Pablo Torres.

In 2011, he was an employee of mine.

He was a graphic designer
coming outta college.

English was his second language and
I taught him how to be a designer

and assign business and he gives me
a lot of credit for that in his book.


That's quite exciting for me.

That's a first I'm

Michael Riley: actually mention.

So is that book like specifically
about sign design or it's

about, is it more like a

Peter Kourounis: general
graphic design book?

It's about business visual identity
in terms of what sign shops can

and graphic design shops can do

Michael Riley: for your business.

That's really awesome.

We'll put a link to that book
up on the website, the show

Bryant Gillespie: notes, if we can
ever figure out the show notes.

I think we've had two episodes so far,
no show notes, so we'll get that figured

out so we can promote Pablo for sure.

Michael Riley: Yeah.

Yeah, definitely.


Everybody buy Pablo's book

Peter Kourounis: ever go,
everybody go buy Pablo Torres's

book visual identity on Amazon.

Michael Riley: Yeah, we just try
to get Pablo on the show someday.

Let's do it'd be a great guest.

Peter Kourounis: Let me see
if I could make that happen.

Michael Riley: Yeah, that'd be awesome.

Bryant Gillespie: Yeah.

For the new listeners, so this
thing has taken off a little bit.

How about we take a minute to
introduce ourselves, Mike sign money.

You go

Michael Riley: first
sign, money sign bunny.

My name's Mike Riley in the sign
industry for about 24, 25 years or

so now used to own a decent sized
sign company and sold it about seven

or eight years ago and moved across
the country to the west coast.

And now I live in Oregon and I renovate
my house and design signs for other

sign companies now on my pajamas.

So life is good in Oregon,

Bryant Gillespie: Tim, the
tool, man Taylor, over here.

All right, Peter.


Spill the bow for

Michael Riley: everybody.

Peter Kourounis: Yep.

My name is Peter CORs and I am a.

Graphic designer by trade.

I have a unlimited graphic
design company as well, and I

also own a fast signs franchise.

I'm the only sign shop
owner of the three of us.

So that is that is, that seems to be
the the adage here in this group here.

But I bring a lot at the table to, from a
standpoint of business coaching marketing

expertise and various different levels
of systematic approaches that sign shop

owners should follow here coming from
a franchise model, having developed

a franchise within the sign industry.

It's I'm very passionate about following
a process, being systematic with your

business and ultimately helping you lead
to growing and scaling your business.

Bryant Gillespie: maybe we
should, next time we should do

the introductions for each other.

I think that would be
fun, but yeah, I'm Bryant.

The founder of better sign shop.

I have been in the sign
industry for X number of years.

I, a number of years I
don't know how long it is.

Like 17, maybe.

I've got three rotten little girls
that pull out my long hair and I feel

like by next year I might look like
Mike, by the time we get done here.

But when I'm not messing with them
or getting ran over by the girls,

I'm helping everybody improve
their systems, processes, whatever

Michael Riley: hey, will you guys give
me like one second since we're gonna

edit this out and I'm really sorry.

We're gonna leave this with something.

My cat shit on my desk.

Bryant Gillespie: I
think we'd leave that in.

Yeah, I don't

Peter Kourounis: think, I don't think
you got, can you please leave that in?

Bryant Gillespie: All right.

So today's topic guys is growing paints,
which could mean a lot of things, but

in the course of today, it is when
your shop is scaling from, let's say

250,000 or a handful of employees to
20 employees, the 30 employees, and

what kind of impact that has on the.

Michael Riley: yeah, we
touched on this a little bit.

I think in our first episode actually
about particularly about growing too

fast and, taking every job that walks
in the door and how you can really

damage your reputation or even put
yourself out of business, if you

grow without any sort of guardrails
on that growth without managing it.

And I've definitely seen a a lot of
businesses, not just in the sign industry,

but businesses in general, my former
customers that they grew, way too fast

way too quickly and experienced some
serious growing pains because of that.

And it's a real rock and hard place that
you're stuck between, the traditional

business mentality is grow or die.

So I think as an entrepreneurs
it's hard to you.

Turn away any work, especially where
you're in that growth phase where

you're trying to go to the next level.

And it's easy to get caught
with your pants down, for sure.

Bryant Gillespie: When you're small, I
think you're you do have that mentality of

Hey, this job is coming through the door.

I just walked right in.

And often you, you do walk-ins so Hey,
this $200 job, or this $50 job came

through the door, I'm gonna take it.

We're gonna do it.

Michael Riley: Yeah.

It's terrifying to, to think
about turning away money.

You're trying to eat, you're
trying to pay the bills and.

And if you have employees at that point,
you're trying to pay them as well and

not have your payroll check bounce.

So it's definitely an intimidating
spot to be in for sure.

And I think knowing when to say yes
and when to say no is probably one

of the most essential tools in a
small business owner's tool belt.

Peter Kourounis: It's actually
interesting that you say that.

I actually think that's the pivotal
point for when somebody realizes that

they need to grow that statement right.

There is that if they are knowledgeable
to the, to, to a point where they can

say no, they've reached a certain portion
of their entrepreneurial lifestyle where

they value their time over the dollar.



So that kind of lends itself to a certain
growth spurt in entrepreneurial shift.

I remember taking every single order
that came in the door too, but at a

certain point, you have to realize that.

I think a lot of small business
owners out there, small shop owners,

I'll take the, I'll take your logic.

Like they need to make that payroll check.

And a lot of them use
that barometer, right?

As a barometer, I need to do
$5,000 to make payroll this week.

So I need to take every dollar I can.

And I've spoken to several business
owners that operate that way.

And typically when you have that
mindset, it lends itself to a to per,

to such a small scale business, right.

It which it might be actually even
harder to run than a larger scale

business when you're relying on that
next order to pay your bills, nothing is

more stressful and more pressure packed
than that than that piece right there.

Growth comes in many different forms,
but in my opinion, just what you said.

If they can get to that level where
they can say no, that means that they've

already surpassed that portion of that
pressure packed decision that they need to

Michael Riley: make.


Or even if they haven't necessarily
gotten to that point yet, if they

just, everybody goes into business with
a vision in their head of what they

want their company to look like and an
ideal type of customer, or, an ideal

type of job or work they want to do.

And it's really easy to just abandon
that vision too, when somebody's

waving money in your face as well.

So not just controlling growth from a
financial standpoint, but also controlling

the direction of your company and
the, if you're taking every job that

comes in your door just to make ends,
meet and pay the bills that might not

align with the vision, the long term
vision you have for your business and.

As you emerge from that growth
period you very well could be in

a different business than you.

You started out in if
you're not careful as well.

And I've seen that happen to a lot of
people it even happened to me, to, to

Bryant Gillespie: one degree I was
gonna be my next question, man.

Was what was the vision when you
started and where did you end up?

Michael Riley: For me, I started
out wanting to make, really high

end hand carved, dimensional,
gold leaf, sandblasted, the kind

of stuff in new England, in a
coastal touristy town, right?

Like just picture high end
signage in a rust belt city

in Ohio that's hard to sell.

the market for it.

Isn't huge.


And you a few years into my
business after starting my business.

I guess seven or eight years after
starting my business the economy really

took a nose, dive, the financial.

Crash in 2008, 2009.

It definitely upended
the business environment.

I think, everywhere, not just in, in
Dayton, Ohio, across the board the board.

Yeah, absolutely.

So all of a sudden, nobody was
buying gold leaf, hand carved signs.

They were buying going
out of business banners.

So on one, I mean on one hand it's
smart business to pivot when the, the

business environment drastically changes
like that, cuz that's a case where

either you adapt or you die, it's not
necessarily like a grow or die thing.

But you do abandon your vision.

And for me, like we came out of the
recession session as a more of a wide

format, grand format type operation.

And we really, weren't doing very
many signs at all after that.

I mean, we definitely move in
a different direction and I,

in hindsight looking back like.

I think that was the right business
decision to pivot and go where the

market was demanding that we go.

And we came out of it, a very strong
company, and we saw a lot of competitors

drop like flies, but it, wasn't
what I started out wanting to do.

And my satisfaction with
the business definitely.

Took a nose dive as well, because
we were no longer doing the types

of signs that I wanted to do.

We were, meeting the market demand
which, I think mentally takes

a toll on a business owner too.

If you're cranking out work that
you just don't want to do, you

don't enjoy doing profitable or not.

Bryant Gillespie: I think that's one of
the trade offs that you have to make in

this industry though, as well is you get
some of these really nice projects that

you enjoy doing, and then you get 10
times as many banners or crappy projects

that you just, they pay the bills, right?

So you, that next

Michael Riley: hit, but I think a
lot of people are, I think a lot

of people are really lucky in, in
just in their geographical, location

where they're in a place where, their
market, their local market supports

whatever type of signage they wanna do.

And other people, like me, like
my market just didn't support it.

I hear a lot of people say.

you can sell any type of sign anywhere.

It's just the way you sell it.

And I don't really buy that.

That's not necessarily true.

I mean, there are business markets that
just aren't gonna buy certain types of

signage, no matter how well you spin it.

Or at least they're not gonna the market.

Isn't big enough to actually support
anybody other than, a one person operation

working out other garage or something.

Not that there's anything wrong
with that, but I mean, in Dayton,

Ohio, you, you can't run a large
sign company making just gold leaf.

So that's just not gonna happen
where like you could, if you

were in Cape Cod or something.


So there's a bit of a self betrayal
that goes into growth as well.

Like you have to put your personal wants
and needs and visions for the business,

not necessarily in the back burner,
but you've gotta give them space to.

Exist with the reality of business
and managing that, is just as

difficult as managing growth, I think.

And it's tough

Bryant Gillespie: was for me anyway,
I, my journey into signage was really,

and we've talked about this before, but
it was really just, Hey, I can actually

get paid to make cool shit for people.

And that was for a long time, that was
enough, so I, and as you keep going in

the industry, like you get a little more
jaded and one day you wake up and you're

doing nothing, but yard signs all day on
a C E T flatbed printer that you despise.

But yeah, I feel like it's, it is
definitely a journey and I kinda look

at it as you're, when you're growing,
like you're first starting out,

you're growing, you hit that period.

Like you're coming up to the top of the
hill, and you, you you think, oh, Hey,

this is what's gonna be over the hill.

And I know where we want to
go at this point in time.

But when you get to that hill point where
you're like something like I could see

it now it's it, you have definitely a
different perspective than what you have

when you started, which, I feel like
listening to you talk about the different

type of signs that you did, or didn't want
to do, obviously that's in hindsight, but

in the moment in the fog it's hard to.

Exactly which way to go.

And, you trying to shove some of
those feelings down of Hey, I don't, I

really, I don't wanna do this sign, but

Michael Riley: But I feel like I have
to cuz I I wanna make payroll this week.


Bryant Gillespie: Or, Hey, I don't want to
add three more employees to the business,

but I have to manage this growth or, I
have to buy this equipment or, it doesn't

have to be taking on that particular job.

It could be any one of those things
that you do to grow or to support

the growth that you're experiencing.

Michael Riley: Right.


And I think the flip side too, it
too, a lot of people don't consider

when they're thinking about growth as
well, is are you as a business owner

actually benefiting from that growth,
the business may benefit from the

growth, theoretically more revenue,
more employees, more customers, but as a

business owner, is that growth actually
buying you the lifestyle that you want.

Because we get into the industry cuz
we wanna make cool shit, like you

said, but the reality is we get into
the industry cuz we wanna make money.

It's a means to an end.

Are you actually enjoying
more of a free lifestyle?

Are you happy in your life?

Are you making more money as you grow?

Or are you just adding more stress and not
really making any more money or taking,

taking any more time off or vacation?

And that's a, and that's a trap that
I fell into in, in a lot of people as

they're going through the growth phase.

Oh yeah.

Experience as well.

Like I've, I've troubled my revenue,
but my paycheck is exactly the same

and I'm act, I actually lost a week of
pay vacation because I'm so busy now.

And that's, I think that's where
unmanaged growth starts to really

bite you in the asses when you step
back and realize oh yeah we're big and

we're busy and we're, dollar signs are
there, but my life hasn't improved any.

Or if anything, it's gone
backwards a little bit.

I'm more stressed out than I was before.

so I think evaluating your growth strategy
and where you wanna go with the company

from a very critical eye and really
determining how much do you want to grow?

How big do you want to get and how is
that going to mesh with your desired exit

strategy, lifestyle, lifestyle, whatever.


And nobody thinks about that.

Oh, I own a business.

That's cool.

I can do whatever I want.


No that's not how it works at all.

You slave to the business.

Yeah, absolutely.


A hundred percent.

Bryant Gillespie: Yeah.

This intersection of growth and
ownership and what it means for

a lifestyle work life balance.

We've talked about it on
some of our mastermind calls.

But we've got a guest
today on the podcast.

We've got Luke Maad is it?

I don't think I've ever
said your last name, dude.

Luc Michaud: Misha.

The B

Bryant Gillespie: MIS silent.


I hate butchering people's last names.

so we got Luke, me Misha with us
from Sytech in British Columbia.

Luke is one of the
owners of a growing shop.

And he's gonna join us today to
talk about some of their experiences

with rapid growth in the company.

Welcome aboard Luke.

Luc Michaud: Yeah.

Thanks for having

Michael Riley: me guys.

Welcome, Luke.

We're excited.

You're here.

Yeah, me too.

Bryant Gillespie: Just so we're
clear, this is not a swear free zone.

You can swear safe space.

No sense.

Luc Michaud: Don't I I've probably
said a precedent, but I don't

actually always need to swear, but

Bryant Gillespie: sometimes I do.


Michael Riley: yeah.

oh, it's a necessity in the sign industry.

Like you're not a true sign
guy, unless you just let it

fly when you gotta let it fly.

Like it's just, You gotta release the

Luc Michaud: tension

Michael Riley: somehow, right?


Bryant Gillespie: Yeah.

Give us a little bit about your shop Luke.

Luc Michaud: So Mike was talking
earlier about 2008, 2009.

And that's really, it's not,
our company started in 2005.

But of course, like everybody else 2008
to 2012 or so, was challenging period.

And at the time I actually
just worked for the company.

I started working with my partner just
as an employee in 2008 , and in 2012 I

was having a casual conversation with the
bookkeeper and my business partner at the

time thought we were breaking even, but
we were actually losing money, but nobody

really realized that until this casual
conversation with the bookkeeper happened

and I said, oh, at least we're breaking.

She's oh, we're not breaking even.

Oh, geez.

What like does tra know that,
and she's oh, I don't know.

It never really clued into, she was
doing her job and to be fair to her,

like her job is not to manage the money.

Her job is to make sure
everything the bookkeeping was

done line down to the penny.


That's so anyway, we sat down
and grilled her for three days

straight discovered we were losing
a little bit of money every month.

And that had been compounding month over
month for three years three or four years.

At the time we were just a small
little hole in the wall, so it

wasn't like a insurmountable number.

And in the, looking back, it looks a
little bit silly, but we were in the

hole and that's of when I came aboard,
cuz I was doing my own thing on the

side and we decided to put our efforts
together in trying to make SciTech work.

So from that point in time, 2012
until now we've averaged about 25%

year over year growth every year.


It's a lot.


And it's, all of that growth
has been natural growth.

Like we don't do advertising,
we don't have outside sales

reps even at least not anymore.

So that's just business.

That's coming at us, right.

Because of our position
in the marketplace.

And we try to take care of
people and stand behind our work.

And it's just the way
that it's come at us.

And when you're seeing that sort of
growth, when you're a $350,000 shop

that's something you can control and
it's not like earth shattering year over.

But the bigger and bigger
we get, we're about,

Probably eight, eight times a revenue
seven or eight times a revenue that

we were 10 years ago and now year
over year, basically if you're doing

2 million a year and you see a 25%
increase, that's a $500,000 jump.

Bryant Gillespie: Yeah.

That's a lot more dollar wise year.

Luc Michaud: Right.

As we're basically what we're discovering
now is that the bigger and bigger you

get, if you don't have things under
control, like truly under control

you start to hit a lot of roadblocks
and challenges and all your problems.

I think become, I don't know
if exposed is the right word,

but maybe magnified, right?

Everything matters more when you're,
everything's such a huge scale.

Michael Riley: yeah.

Bryant Gillespie: What are
some of those roadblocks that

you guys are running into now?

Luc Michaud: So big ones are, training.

Like we don't really have a proper
training system in place, much like

most shops, and again, when you're going
through this growth every year, all

the time, you're just constantly busy.

So you're plugging people into holes
and you're throwing them to the wolves.

, for the most part,

Bryant Gillespie: think that's
every side shouts training program.

Like it is just a sheet
of paper Hey, jump in.

Luc Michaud: Yeah.

You're like, here's the laminator, and
you show 'em how to load a roll twice,

and then you leave them in the room
cuz you've got other stuff to go do.



And of course by the trial
and error, they're gonna

mess up, we'll figure it out.

Roll after roll or yard after yard
of fucked up jobs that need to

jump right back on the printer.

Cuz we're at square one again and you.

It's, there's not much else
you can do in the moment.

Probably five years ago, we should
have been much more on top of getting

those pieces of the puzzle in the
place so that, staff can be trained

and that there's a proper workflow and
structure in place so that everybody

knows what to do in any given situation.

And we're in the middle
of building all that.

But again, the industry is so varied.

Like Mike's talking about, you can
do gold leaf sandblasted stuff, or

you can be making hard hat ducks.

Those are two vastly different
worlds and there's a lot of

information to put together and.

in order to train people and
we're in a geographic area that,

Bryant Gillespie: Yeah.

Tell us more about the area that
you guys are in, cause you guys

in a unique situation there.

I think

Luc Michaud: so we're in Canada, first
of all, which just naturally there's

more space between all the main cities.


But we are, so we're a hundred
thousand population city prince

George, and it acts as the main
hub for Northern British Columbia.

So we service as far as eight hours away,
west smaller communities out towards the

coast about three, three hours south.

And we're not, I guess a little bit
about three hours east as well and not

so much north, if we really wanted to,
we could probably pursue up there, but

there's a bit more competition up north.

So we have a central hub and it's
a pretty large geographic area.

If you're to drive from Williams
lake to terrace, that's.

11 or 12 hours.


Bryant Gillespie: That's a lot
of ground to cover for sure.

Luc Michaud: Yeah.

And being geographically isolated
like that too, at least previously.

Now we might maybe have the
benefit of being able to pick and

choose work a little bit more.

And we're figuring that out and
evaluating that if that makes sense,

but really up until this point we
really had no option, but to do a

little bit of everything, right?

So the guy who comes in and wants a
lawn sign, we're taking care of that

guy and the guy who wants to wrap his
vehicle, you're taking care of that

guy and the people that need commercial
window tint, we're doing that and channel

letters, so it's a very broad spectrum.

Bryant Gillespie: Yeah.

I think when you're doing that much
work or that, that scope of work or

that breadth of work, I guess you
could say it is really hard to be.

Really good at all of it, so it's just
Hey, we're getting the job done, but it's,

like some of those jobs are a struggle.

Luc Michaud: Yeah, for sure.

And the other thing we're experiencing
now is we go out all these people,

me and my business partner have all
the information in our heads and we

know all those variables and, what
does, just a simple logo deckle on

a truck need to be right materials,
how you're setting up your cut lines.

So it's easier to weed.

What size of text is too small?

What's gonna have the most impact all
the way from that type of job all the

way up to, one of us is responsible
for understanding all the ins and

outs of a monument sign, right.

Which is a vastly different thing.

So we have to get all this
information somehow out of our heads.

In a way that our staff can access
it and learn it and not rely on

us to be the ones that are of the
gatekeepers of the knowledge, I guess.

Bryant Gillespie: Yeah.

What is it, tell us a little
about your staff, Luke.

Luc Michaud: So we've got, I
believe 21 staff right now.

We acquired guess the other thing I
should say, yeah, we acquired a company.

Our main competition approached us
in the fall and asked us to make them

disappear to which we kindly obliged

Bryant Gillespie: I love
that's a great way to put it.

Luc Michaud: It's hard to say no,
when your main competition says,

Hey why don't you make us disappear?

And so we were able to
definitely benefit from that.

And the biggest, one of the biggest
pieces that was part of that deal that we

wanted was really the staff cuz as every.

Probably listening to this podcast knows,
trying to find good experienced staff in

the industry is it's a unicorn, right.

So we brought five people over there, but
then we the company we acquired was doing

about 60% of the numbers that we were.

So you're potentially talking a
60% jump overnight in, in volume.

Which five people couldn't
accurately cover for us.

So we're in this spot where we've
overhired in order to hopefully build

out all the structure in the back end
and get everything in place so that,

six months, a year, two years from now,
the crew that we have here can hopefully

do significantly higher numbers without
having to plug in many more bodies.

If any at all, what was the question?

Did I answer the

Bryant Gillespie: question?


Yeah no.

Yeah, you did great.

No, we were just asking about the staff.

Just trying to, oh yeah.


So paint the picture of all the
different pieces of the business.


So we got,

Luc Michaud: we've got
four production guys.

I've got three full-time installers,
I've got three designers.

I've got one pre-flight body who basically
is almost exclusively dedicated to getting

everything set up for rip and the cutters.

We've got me and my business partner,
a bookkeeper three quoting staff and

currently one CSR, but we're trying to
get another one to get her some help.

And then we have a little specialized
division where we do the local work for

Patterson outdoor advertising up here.

So changing out billboards and stuff.

So I've got one, one
body dedicated for that.

Bryant Gillespie: What do you
get ready to say something, Mike,

Michael Riley: or you just.

I'm just messing with my
microphone, just please.


for all of our listeners I gotta new
microphone and I can't get used to

having this thing right in my face.

So I'm fidgeting with it.

We'll probably cut

Bryant Gillespie: that out.

I see.

Yeah, we missed the the bag of chips from
the last call with Peter, where he is.

Peter's got the opposite of
Mike's microphone, where if you

could put it in the next room
and you could hear a mouse fart.

Was that, is that what you said daily?

Michael Riley: yeah, mine's the opposite.

Bryant Gillespie: I think that's a pretty
good picture of your business, Luke.

And thanks for sharing that with us.

What what questions do
you guys have for Luke?

Let's start 'em out with something easy.

Maybe then we'll give him like a
hard one throw 'em a softball, Mike.

I know you've got some.

Michael Riley: Luke, what is
your growth strategy, man?

How do you what is your plan for growth?

What are you trying to, to do?

Where are you trying
to go with the company?

I know you, you touched on that a little
bit but kinda expand a little bit on it.

Where your what's your five
year and 10 year plan or goal?

For growth.


Luc Michaud: We don't have anything
formalized per se, but I think both

me and my partner are our goal is
to not retract ourselves from the

business, but probably step back a bit.

Maybe we can do put in some four
day weeks and manage and control

a little bit more so than doing
the work if that makes sense.



Michael Riley: How do you
plan on achieving that?

Luc Michaud: Yeah, so essentially we, I
think we've known for a long time that

SOPs and training as well as maybe some
additional structures like employee

handbooks or, things along these lines
that again can get all the information

out of our heads and be readily
accessible for anybody who needs it in

any moment, as well as, having a front
end onboarding kind of training program.

And of course you can't learn
everything in the industry by

doing some modules online, right?

Like it's just too complex and
you need to get your hands on

to really, truly understand.

But we really feel like getting
somebody set up and having some

foundational knowledge and understanding.

You know what each piece of
equipment is for and how it works.

And some of the basic understanding and
knowledge before you even get them on

the table or in the production room.


So that's what we're working on right now.

And we feel like that'll, help
alleviate us from having to cause

what happens, you end up your staff
ends up being leashed to you, right?

Is you can send them away to work
on something, but they have to come

back and ask you for clarification or
approval or, material recommendations

or whatever the case may be.

And you, when you've got 20 people coming
at you from six different angles all day,

you really that's stressful accomplish

Michael Riley: yourself.

What about from a product standpoint?

I know, you said you guys are a
Jack of all trades when it comes

to signage right now, because.

You're in a smaller market.

So you have to serve all the needs
there as part of your growth strategy.

Do you see pairing back your product
offering to more of a core a core set of

products or, play to your core strengths?

Or do you intend to continue to expand
on that, offering everything to be

the one source for all your customers?

Luc Michaud: I think we're trying to
figure that out right now, cuz it's again,

the workload is like forcing change,
you know that 25% every time you turn

around I often say, I don't say this to
everybody, you always get the oh, we're

so busy and everybody says, oh, that's
a good problem to have, but it's almost

not like I almost wish, and I've said
to my business partner and other people

I just wish that two years in a row, we
could do the same numbers, two years in a.

So you can really get a handle on
like where things are at and what

you probably need to implement to
handle the workload that you're at.

The ne next year you could
actually work on all that stuff

and implement at least some of it.


But I feel like right
now there's 25% growth.

And then you think you got a bunch of
stuff figured out, and then the next

year, 25 more percent happens and you
need to reevaluate everything again,

because you were never able to implement

Michael Riley: anything from the, so what
would happen if you guys just started

saying no to certain types of work?

Like you're some of your more

Luc Michaud: kind of going back
to the same question, we're

going through that right now.

We're trying to figure out,
how do we adjust what we're

doing and what we're learning?

We ran some numbers and figured
out that so we've got 310 active

jobs in our system right now.

And we ran some numbers, turns out that
80% of those active jobs are $250 or less.

And the really shocking number is
when you run that and you total

up all those 80% of the jobs, like
volume of jobs, they actually only

account for 11 or 14% of the revenue.

Like I can't remember,
but it was under 15.

Michael Riley: So basically 80% of your
time is spent on 20% of your customers.


Luc Michaud: Like for us, less than 20%.


And it's you guys know, if you're working
in shop box or whatever, CRM you're on,

like how much extra time does a job,
that's $10,000 take to enter an input and

get all your details into the system than
a $300, partial vehicle graphic, right?

The front end time to, to get all that
information, qualify the customer, get

it into the system, have the designer
look at it, do the work, send the proof.

You're really not spending that
much less time on this little,

tiny job than you are on.

Volume or like large revenue job.


Bryant Gillespie: Agreed.

Yeah, I feel like so many people leave out
that when they start running the numbers,

like you gotta factor in that time of how
long is it gonna take to get the order in,

get it processed, get it onto production.

And so many people leave that out
of the process when they're either

calculating pricing or even just
looking at growth and staffing needs.

Luc Michaud: Yeah.

And so we're looking at it like how much
time are, am I, like I've got these people

that I'm paying to quote and me and my
business partner, quote I actually pulled

myself completely outta quoting a couple
weeks ago just to work on systems stuff.

By the way, I forgot earlier, I
do have one staff member who's

solely dedicated to working on
that that backend stuff with me.

So we can hopefully
actually make some progress.

But, we've got this quoting team that
we're paying and me and my business

partner we're talking and it's does it
even make sense to have these bodies?

So the talk is how do you manage it?

Do you assign one person to do jobs
that are $500 or less, but then

on a, and you're like, okay, then
at least those jobs are getting

taken care of and somebody's on it.


But the bigger question is, does it even
make sense to allocate a person to those

jobs or does it make sense to try and
not get those jobs in the first place?

So that those same three bodies, instead
of having two bodies to focus on the

bigger stuff, you could have all three
bodies being focused on generally larger

work it cuz if the smaller stuff only
counts for 15% of your revenue and you

have 20 staff, really, you shouldn't be
allocating more than two bodies, right.

To take care of that work.

Michael Riley: Right.

I'd be curious to know of that.

15% of your business, that's
the small nickel and dime work.

How much of that at some point becomes
larger, either becomes a larger customer

or becomes a larger job or, through repeat
work or is just a small job that a larger

customer, in the grand scheme of things
as larger customers is spinning with you.

Yeah, I think

Bryant Gillespie: I would prefer to rank
customers that way instead of ranking

each individual opportunity that comes
through the door, look at it on like

the customer level, because obviously
like it adds up at the end of the day.

And if it's like a lot of small
repeat orders for stuff that you've

already got the artwork for, why not?


As long as it's

Michael Riley: profitable, I think in
that case, it becomes more of a way,

how you manage it versus whether or
not this is the right customer, right.

Fit for you or the, the right
product for you to sell of.

The majority of the larger sign companies
that I have experience with, talking 2

million plus in revenue they all break
out their work in that way, the way you're

talking about where you've got like a,
whether it's a workflow or a process or an

actual, physical department that handles
that small nickel and dime work, or just

all the vinyl stuff or whatever it may be.

And they have a separate
kind of expedited, simpler,

more efficient workflow.

There's a dedicated project
manager to all those jobs.

They don't break out the sales front end
of it, where, your sales reps, whether

they're selling vinyl door hours, or
they're selling a $200,000 pile on

sign, they're still selling the job.

Who they handed off to
is where the change is.

If it's a small vinyl job,
they hand it off to the like

the retail department manager.

Project manager, and then there's
a small dedicated team of staff.

Cranks all that work all day long
and allows the rest of the shop

to focus on the high dollar stuff.

And that way you're not just getting
rid of customers that even though

the order is small, the customer
themselves might not necessarily be an

unprofitable customer that you wanna lose.

It just is a better way
of managing their work.

Coming through that doesn't
pollute the, the workflow for

the large high dollar jobs.

It's it seems to be the industry standard
way of setting it up when you get to

that point and definitely is effective.

And in my experience it
works extremely well.

Luc Michaud: That's that all works as
long as the customer's willing to wait,

cuz that's the other factor is time.


So cuz you know, it seems like a
lot of these small jobs are the

ones that need to happen right now.


So it, if the equipment's running,
am I gonna prioritize that

small stuff over the big stuff?

Just because it's small and we
can do it efficiently, but you're

not really doing it efficiently.

Cause kind.

I think what's happened with us at least.

And I don't basically all the signs point
to what's happening is that, or has been

happening, which we're trying to stop
is that small jobs come in and they're

small and they're simple and they're easy.

So you feel like this can
happen right now, right?

Because it's small and it's simple
and it's easy and you end up churning

all the small front end work.

So you've got something that came in on
Tuesday, that's done by Friday or even

the following Tuesday, but then you've got
other jobs in the system that are bigger.

They're $2,000.

They're really not any more complicated.

They're just bigger.

So say a vehicle wrap or a wall mural,
that's no different than making a hard

hat deckle in terms of time on the printer
other than slightly longer print time.


But that wall mural is sitting there for
three weeks and meanwhile, we've done.

78 little, $200 jobs,

Bryant Gillespie: so where's
the bottleneck there?

Is it in the front end, like the
sales and quoting side of it?

Or is it the design side or production?

you, where are things getting clogged?

Peter Kourounis: It's clogging

Luc Michaud: in design for sure, but not
really on the small stuff, cuz we did put

one specific designer on that small stuff.

But the production team, like it's
tricky, everybody's really green in there.

And because of our lack of structure,
we did have some structure and the body

that I moved over into the developer role
he's very like analytical and similar

to me, he'll look at the root and the
back end and understand the efficiency

map even if it was just in his head.


So he understands, okay, I'm
gonna laminate this stuff and then

I'm gonna put it on the cutter.

And while the machine's cutting it, I'm
gonna go weed or mask this other stuff.


Whereas this new crew, they're not
quite like analyzing things that way.

And because we don't have the structure in
there they're wrecking a lot of stuff and

they're working fairly and efficiently.

it's a compounding issue,
to be honest with you.

There's little stuff everywhere
that it all stacks on top of

each other to make a big problem.

Michael Riley: Alright.

So I have a question for
you at your sales volume.

I'm guessing that this is this
type of work accounts for what 200,

$250,000 a year in revenue, roughly.


As a round number.


What if you set up a sign shop within
your sign shop for that work only

where you have a dedicated plotter,
maybe the designer for that, where

you're these types of small, short.

Or quick turn jobs don't even
go to your main art department.

You've got yeah.

Designer dedicated to that.

And wear the designer slash project
manager hat for that type of work.

And they run the plotter.

Maybe you even have a or
250 grand a year in revenue.

I mean, you can justify buying a
$20,000 printer in a, another $10,000

plotter, 30, 40 grand in equipment.

And you've got a dedicated department that
doesn't bog down the rest of your work.

You know what I mean?

Like at my shop, I didn't really quite go
to that level at my shop, but I definitely

had a printer dedicated to short term work
or quick turn work where, you only run.

The fast rush jobs on this plotter
are on this printer and nothing else.

And it's always sitting there
dedicated, waiting, and ready for

those types of jobs to come through.

And they came through all the time
and that allowed us to, I didn't

have to worry then about where am
I gonna squeeze this rush job on?

I know I've got the capacity, cuz that
printer is sitting there waiting for it.

And it's not gonna interrupt a $30,000
job while I print a $200 sticker job.


And I've seen a lot of
shops go to that level too.

Like I said, I mean the best way to
describe it is a sign shop within the sign

shop or you create, you become a customer.

Your main business becomes a
customer of this little sign shop,

I guess, for lack of a better term.

Is that, would that be a possibility
for you guys to, to structure

that way that would allow you to
physically separate out that work on

the shop floor from high dollar work?

Or is that there's a lot of logistics
that go into that obviously.

Luc Michaud: Yeah.

I don't

think it would necessarily be impossible.

The, we do have a second printer
that I don't even have set up

right now from the acquisition.

which also happens to be a latex, which
kind of caters to that type of, yeah,

Michael Riley: there you go.

I mean, instantly dry.

I mean, you can turn it up.

Luc Michaud: So yeah, you could
maybe set it up where you had

essentially just a sales dedicated
sales for that type of person.

And then maybe you just had an old
school, like back in the day body when

me or Travis did everything just have
one body that took care of project

management, design production, install.

And that guy's just like the guy for
that, but even that's a little bit tricky.

Just the thing I'm wondering about is
like we do have, you asked the question

earlier and I don't think I answered it
is there are lots of clients, like we do

work for thinning and we do work for can
for which is a huge pulp and sawmill.

I don't know if you guys have can for
down in the states, there's probably a

little bit, but basically provide huge
amounts of pulp and lumber to the world.

So they're a huge client, but
we're generally doing at least

right now, smaller orders for them.


But so there are situations where there's
larger clients, where it still might not

make sense to put it through that separate
workflow, but it could maybe work.


Michael Riley: don't think it would matter
what the size of the actual client is.

If they're a, massive major corporation
or whether they're a mom and pop shop.

I mean, I think the de linear there's
really more be the size of that job

they're giving you at the end of the
day it's work and it's gonna be built

through the same company, regardless.

It's just dividing out the production.

So it doesn't bug down
the other flows, right?

Bryant Gillespie: Yeah.

You're just treating them
different on the front

Michael Riley: end of things.

And they would never even
know what was happening.

Like the customer doesn't need to know
that's the case or the way it's set up.

They just know they're
getting their shit faster.

Yeah, for sure.

Bryant Gillespie: Do you get any
pushback on your pricing, Luke,

especially for these smaller jobs?

Luc Michaud: The smaller jobs you
sometimes can, but we've recently

decided particularly, the other
conversation that's actually happening

internally with my business partner
is what, if we don't do what if we

just go straight B2B and we don't do
any people off the street work, right.

Could be something that would help
cuz it tends to be a lot of that

personal stuff is smaller stuff.


And you just could put it out

Michael Riley: that way.

That was a policy that
I enacted in my shop.

I, we just had a strict, if you're not
a business, we won't do work with you.

We'll refer you away.


And I always made sure I had a, a book
of good referrals for these people.


Like I, I didn't want to just kick
into the curb and tell 'em you're outta

luck, but that makes a big difference.

I, we all know that if you're working for.

The individual who wants
a sticker for his car.

I mean, he's, he is gonna
drive you nuts on that.

Cause they want it to be perfect
and they're gonna be picky and

they don't know what they want.

And that's a huge bottleneck.

It still has to be under a hundred bucks.


And they want it cheap too.

I mean, yeah.

And it's just the nature
working for the general public.


Or business owners generally.

I mean, this isn't a

Luc Michaud: obvious, we don't have
a formal policy, but what we've done

recently is we've just started quoting
those jobs, like stupid high, right.

Bryant Gillespie: Yeah.

That's a good way to do it.

One of the things minimum.


One of the things that worked for
us in the old shop was just, it like

shut the door, it's appointment
only if you've got somebody who

can you could either shift that too.

Or especially if you guys are bottlenecked
in production shutting the door and

walking away from that type of work.

If they can't get in,
they can't bother you.

Michael Riley: I'm a big proponent
of that as well, because the.

I don't care what size your shop is.

There is absolutely nobody on this planet
who needs a channel letter sign, right?

This second, it's a long term project.

You don't knock 'em out overnight.

It takes a while.

There's a lot of hoops to jump through.

It's no matter what that
customer thinks, it's not a rush.

If their hair's not on fire,
they don't need to walk in your

door and talk to you about that.


This second, they just don't.

And it's gonna be an interruption to your
business, set an appointment, talk to 'em

about it, clear some time to do it right.

And the larger you get, the less walk
in business is critical to your success.

People just don't walk in up the
street and say, Hey, I need a $200,000

pile on sign and I need it right now.

Bryant Gillespie: That
happens at fast sciences.

Michael Riley: I didn't say this time,

Peter Kourounis: Peter lay off,
there is nothing wrong with a

structured well orchestrated business
model that you just have to follow

everything that Luke's problems are.

I have it already because it's a system.

It's a system that they got
up on that you buy into.

You want SOPs?

I got it.

You want training?

I got it.

my Lord.

You guys give it a bad name.


Bryant Gillespie: been sitting
on that one for a while.


Peter Kourounis: got it.

Luc Michaud: That's why he's
been quiet for half an hour.

Peter Kourounis: not doing I've.

I've been sitting here.

I've been sitting here taking notes.


I like to learn a lot about a different
type of sign shop, particularly one across

the border that I know very little about.

I, what I know about Luke is
that he owns a sign shop and

that he rides a motorcycle.

That's all I know.

I don't know much more.

And that.

So I'm trying to take a
deep dive into another man's

Bryant Gillespie: perspective into what

Peter Kourounis: makes his shop work.

That's why I'm remaining silent, but then
you gotta drop fast signs like that, man.

Bryant Gillespie: I just
trying to get a reaction out.

You've been sitting there playing, I saw
you switch the camera like six times.

I just wonder what's going on

Michael Riley: since I'm on a lawsuit
kick today, I wonder how long it's gonna

take for the fast sciences corporation
to Sue us for shitting all over the

Luc Michaud: slander I got
no problem with fast signs.

I just, I wouldn't name
my company fast signs.

Cause I feel like you're just
inviting the wrong type of customer,

Michael Riley: I think it depends on
the type of business you wanna be in and

the type of customers you wanna serve.

I mean, I think there's definitely a
huge market there for quick turn sign

engine, trade shows and storefront
lettering and stuff like that.

I mean, I definitely
think there is I cannot.

And this is speaking from not ever having
been fast signs or anything like that.

I just cannot imagine trying to
compete in the larger electrical

sign market or, or higher dollar jobs
when your lead is fast turnaround.

Cause those jobs are just, they're slow.

I mean, they're long term
slow long lead time jobs.

And I just, I always have to wonder,

Peter Kourounis: let me put this to bed.


This is this this episode is not
a fast signs bashing episode,

but let me absolutely not.

Let me put this to bed for you guys.

And I'm not going to bat for fast signs.

I'm a fast signs franchise owner,
because I believe in a systematic

approach, they have a very good system.

When you implement a system, whether
it's a sales system, a marketing system,

a lead generating system, and it all
works really well together in UN.

Guess what you can do.

You can turn signs
around faster than most.

Whether it's a parking sign, whether
it's a printed sign or a post panel,

sign, it allow having a system allows
you to focus on creating a product

faster than most people that are
spinning their wheels in the mud.

Luc Michaud: So the divert I,
Pete and apology, I apologize.

That's the goal I'm trying to reach.

That's the crest of the mountaintop
fast signs is where I want to be.

Michael Riley: Peter, I
have a question for you.

I'll try and ride their coattails.

I have a question for Peter, cuz we're
on the topic of beating up fast signs

and I don't mean to get us off topic, but
like this is like a legitimate question.

And I'm curious, does the name fast
signs, prime your customers for

expecting unrealistic turnaround
times on certain types of jobs?

That's the biggest issue I have with fast
signs is actually the name of the company.

It, I believe it sets up customers for
unrealistic expectations, especially

if they're going out to get bids on,
let's say they want a bid on a monument

sign and they're going to two really
large electrical sign companies.

And the fast signs are they, is
that setting them up to expect

unrealistic turnaround times
from other sign companies?

I guess, you know what I mean?

Is it's sign

Bryant Gillespie: money,
Mike, cranking up the heat

Michael Riley: and I'm not saying
that like bad mouth, fast signs.

I'm genuinely curious.

I don't, I've always wondered that.

And I don't know from from
your perspective, owning a

fast sciences franchise, does
that create problems for you?

Cuz it, to me in my mind, it seems like
it would cuz like the world that I come

from a channel letter sign is an eight
to 12 week lead time period at a minimum.

If you want a monument sign, you're
looking at eight to 12 weeks.

I, is that creating, is it creating false
sense of urgency in the customer's mind?

And is it devaluing?

What, and I'm not talking about
like the final store hours or

parking signs, stuff like that.

I'm talking about high dollar signage.

Does that devalue that signage?

Bryant Gillespie: I'm gonna,
can I jump in for on this one?


I'm gonna take you.

I'm gonna take your side pilot on top.


I really think it's just about
getting people through the door.


As you got two hypothetical sign
companies, nothing about either one

of them, one is called fast signs.

The other is.

John's signs or, whatever, the
awful business names that some

people come up with are sign

Peter Kourounis: shots, sign tech.

Bryant Gillespie: Hey, now shots fired.

Which one are you gonna pick?

Peter Kourounis: I, no,
I can't fact truth here.

A fact, I created a business
model called sign techs which

was a sign service franchise.

So I don't, I actually really
like the name little fact there

about what I've done in the past.

All right.

Let me answer your question, Mike
and I'm gonna use Brian's analogy.


From a customer's perspective,
it, people can resonate with the

branding of a name, like fast signs.

If they know nothing about
company a, or company B, the name

represents what people are looking
for, which is a quick turnaround.

Very simplistic branding
approach red in blue.

It's got that American feel to it.


But from, to answer your question
a little bit more deeper, listen,

like we, fast signs is known
for certain type of product.

In fact the executives that might listen
to this podcast would be the first to

tell you that their approach is going
after vinyl related signs, interior

decor, that's their entire philosophy.

Now what you don't know about fair
signs is that is, that makes up a, a

significant percentage of their stores.

So all you guys that give fair
signs, a bad name, that's the model

that you understand, vinyl related
production, 1500 square foot building.

Quick turnaround vending 30% of their
outsourcing 30% of their work, but there

are a significant amount of us, I'd say
less than a hundred worldwide that, or I

should say, not worldwide you in the us
that manufacture just like you all do.


So getting a monument sign, getting an
on and getting a channel letter, sign,

a sign cabinet made and fabricated.

We do it, but do it a little bit,
again, I'm gonna fall back on the

same terminology with a bit of a more
systematic approach that allows us

to quote the customer faster, get
a mock up, done faster, schematic

done faster, potentially turn that
product around faster as well.

So in a way it resonates
with the name, but.

Fast signs in general the franchise is
built around systems and processes that

are designed to make you run a little
bit more efficiently than a typical

independent sign shop owner would.

Now I'm not saying it's better or worse.

What I'm saying is that when you buy into
a franchise, it's because you want those

things, want those items that are going
to allow the owner to focus more on their

business, rather than on the things that
are Luke here is looking to grow with.

If I'm looking to grow, I just speak
to my franchise coach about what's

the next step to help me grow.

And they're gonna pave the way
and point that way for me and

all and other franchise owners.

So this, listen, I'm not turning this
into a buy a franchise episode here but.

At the end of the day, some of
the issues that you have as an

independent sign shop owner are
solved within the franchise model.

Bryant Gillespie: So it's
maybe what you guys can do.

Luc Michaud: Take somebody
clip that and trigger.

I'm gonna use the young kids clip that you
can take, that you should be taking that

to fast signs corporate, and see if you
guys can get a sponsor for the podcast.

Cause that was like, there go the best,
fast sign commercials I ever heard.

Michael Riley: I don't think they'll
pull that sponsorship so fast.

As soon as I open my mouths.

Bryant Gillespie: If Peter can
easily defend fast signs in the

face of sign money Mike's attack.

I mean, what better average easement is or

Michael Riley: Peter I
appreciate that response and

that's what I was looking for.

And I honestly, like I don't
have anything against fast signs.

I have something against my local fast
signs, which is why I referred them

all a race car as a whole, I don't
have anything against fast signs.

I'm just always curious what.

how the name and the marketing around
fast signs affects the perceiving.

Peter Kourounis: I
think it customer value.

I think it benefits.

I think it benefits the owner of
having such a simple branding.


I mean, that's a name that people can
report that, but it helps us, right.

If you're always, if it's
all about sales, right?

If it's about lead generating, then
having a simplistic name, which

customers can relate to is a very
important piece to the puzzle.

We should bring on some executives
on the fast science team

and see what they think next

Michael Riley: episode.

Oh, that'll be interesting.

Bryant Gillespie: All right.

I'm gonna reign you guys in,
bring this back on topic.

So we've established Luke.

It's all about systems.

You need to be quoting faster,
producing faster, all that.

And I, from chatting with you
both here today, and a couple

conversations we've had in the past,
you understand the need for this.

Hey, we've gotta systemize the business.


Why aren't you there now?

It doesn't seem like
this is a brand new thing

Luc Michaud: yeah.

No, I think I'm definitely like,
I've always been a systems guy and an

efficiency guy, like before I worked
at the sign shop, I was an operations

manager at the brick which is a large
furniture franchise chain up in Canada.


Peter Kourounis: you guys got a
lot of funny businesses in Canada.

Luc Michaud: Funny.

In what way?

Peter Kourounis: I've never
heard of a pulp business or

Luc Michaud: a pulp or a,
you don't know what pulp is?


Oh no.

Fran pulp is where paper comes from.

You need to get up on that, man.

When you wipe your ass later
today, you can think about

canned for in prince George.

Think about Luke

Peter Kourounis: can four and
then the brick sounds like some

really interesting branding going
on up there across the border.

So you know what the
tie-in is to the brick.

Bryant Gillespie: He still salty about

Luc Michaud: the F side.

So yeah.

Anyway, so the brick started in Edmonton
and the guy who owns the brick, his

son played on the Edmonton Oilers.

There's a weird tie in, but anyways
yeah, so anyways, I've had the

systems, knowledge and stuff.

I've seen it.

But I think probably, when said
this on the mastermind calls to the

groups, but, either way it's, I think
most of us that get into the signed

business are, maybe like you Mike,
you're a designer first and foremost.

Or, my business partner started
the company, our company.

He was working at a sign shop,
basically running the show as a

manager, his boss stopped paying him.

And he said, you know what?

I'm not getting paid anyways.

Why don't I just go start my own thing?


And others of us are people like you
say, or said earlier, you wanna make

cool shit because you can make cool shit.

And you're either a
craftsman or a trades person.

And I think we all, that's where for
most of us, I think it originates

is that's the goal is to make cool
shit and hopefully make some money.


But none of us or I should say
the majority of us don't really

understand the making money part.


We understand the making the cool shit
part, but making money part is something

you have to learn along the way.

And I think it's hard to do when
you're in the weeds, like it's busy

and you're focused on getting the
stuff done and taking care of the.

And when you're putting in, 12, 14,
16, 18 hour days, 5, 6, 7 days a week,

it's hard to find the time to do that.

Particularly, if you don't have the
knowledge set or the knowledge base,

like it's a really daunting task.

Like it's a lot of work and, I wish
we had done it when we were smaller

and the scope wasn't so huge now that
we are as big as we are the scope

of the project that we need to, the
structure that we need to put in place.

Like it's a lot.


And when you're just trying to take
care of your customers and get the

work done, it's hard to even research
what you're supposed to be doing on the

other side, which is the business side.


So I think most of us are
tradespeople and that's really.

a lot of shops probably find themself,

Stuck it stuck in the middle of it.

Bryant Gillespie: I agree with
what you said a hundred percent.


And we've Peter and Michael and
I have talked circles around

this thing for a long time.

And strangely enough, it does come
back to the, like the Fize thing

where like a lot of the franchisees
fast signs is targeting, people

who are leaving a career in middle
management or, people that, that come

from the business side of things.

and they're selling them.


Hey, this is a high margin industry and
Hey, you can run this small business.

It's all there for you.

Whereas like you said, a lot of
independent owners are , they either

worked at a sign shop previously
for some other owner that sucked

or didn't want to pay them enough.

And the rest of these guys know, like
the only growth, if you're the number

two or number three guy in a small
shine shop is starting your own outfit.

So you get really good at the technical
side of it producing the size,

designing stuff, putting it together.

But yeah, if you worked under a, an
owner who didn't have a good handle

on the business side, you probably
inherited some of those things as well.

Luc Michaud: Yeah.

Or you bought his company cuz he was
sick of it and burnt out , unloaded his

problems onto you without telling you, and
then you're just perpetuating the cycle.

How many shops change hands?

How shops that aren't making money
a lot, a lot there, there's a lot

of turnover in the industry, right?

There's always shops, opening
and closing and changing hands.

And I think a lot of that is just rooted
in the fact that people aren't making

money and they don't know what to fix
and they get burnt out because, as a

tradesperson, it's easy to focus on the
trade and that's not how you make money.

Michael Riley: What I'll argue
what you just said there, Luke,

I think being a trades person,
especially if you wanna go to the

next level and produce real signage,
I think you need to know the trade.

I think you need to be the
business owner as well.

And I think that's the hard part is.

Is wearing both of those hats, but I
genuinely don't think that you can go

to the next level if you're not in some
way, shape or form a trades person,

or at least put a trades person in an
upper management role that can steer

the direction of a sign company, because
you've gotta be a sign maker to be yeah.

In assignment.

Luc Michaud: I think what I meant more
so was that if the business piece is

Michael Riley: missing.

Luc Michaud: Sure.

Right, right.

You're ne you're never going to if you
don't either actively understand that

you need to become a businessman or if
you're not a businessman already, like if

you have no motivation to, to sort that
out, you're just never gonna get there.

And some guys just do it naturally.

They're just street smart.


And they're like, I don't give a fuck.

I'm not gonna do this sign if I'm
not gonna make stupid money on it.

So it's just me in my shop and I'm
gonna charge you $5,000 for this sign.

Cause that's what I want to charge you.

And if you don't want to
pay it, what do I care?


Some guys just get that.

But I think a lot of us
get stuck in the trap.

We have to be competitive
and we're new to the market.

So we gotta be cheaper than the other
guys so we can win some business.

And those are really like in
hindsight, we did that, right?

In hindsight, those are faulty models.

You can't make money that way.

And ultimately you either learn to make
those adjustments or you fail, right.

Or you just never make
money and you get burnt out.


Michael Riley: what you just
said there, I think is like

it hits the nail on the head.

Like the guys that know
this is what I want for it.

This is how long it's
gonna take it or leave it.

I don't care either way.

Those are the ones that go to them.

Every single owner of a large
successful high dollar sign company

that I know adopts that mentality.

They don't care what
anybody else is charging.

I don't care what the guy
down the street charges.

I don't care how long their lead time is.

This is my price.

This is my lead time.

This is how we.

If you don't like that, there's the door.

And that is ultimately, I
think what separates the good

sign company owners so bad.

Bryant Gillespie: It's hard to
coming from the small side of it.

It is really hard to break yourself
of that mentality of once you

get in that habit of Hey, we
gotta have this job or that job.

And it's really hard to
break yourself at that cycle.

Even if you're conscious of it
is still difficult sometimes.

Michael Riley: When I was at security
signs, I watched them an opportunity

to bid on a $2 million project, came
through the door, tons of signage

for a big outlet mall, huge, massive,
30 by 60 EMC along the highway, the

whole nine, it was a monster project.

It was, it's like the type of
project that makes or breaks a sign

company and they passed on the job.

and it blew my mind, like, why would
you pass on a, $2 million job, but

they knew that there's just they
couldn't get enough for that job.

I mean, they knew that to do that, right.

They needed to charge more, they
needed more time than what the

customer was willing to AOT.

And they just said, there's the door.

We don't want your money.

It blew my mind.

But there's, I mean, they
came out better for it.

And the signed company that got the job
ended up absolutely nearly going bankrupt

for it because they were so excited to get
the job and not have a walk out the door.

So I think just being able to recognize
your strength and weaknesses and know when

to walk away and know what you're worth
and what your, what your true value is and

what your actual value proposition your
customer is, I think is critical there

. I think Pete


Luc Michaud: asleep.

Bryant Gillespie: he's taking notes.


Luc Michaud: shit.

Oh, I saw some eyebrows.

Bryant Gillespie: My headset's dying.


I'm at 20% had some gal
in my ear, low battery.

Where we go from there, Peter?

Yes, sir.

You took 8 million notes.

What do you got?

Peter Kourounis: Let's start with
the, let's start with wrapping up

with Luke's last notes there that
most shops are not profitable now.

Not profitable is a common issue
for a lot of shops that are spending

a lot of time in their business
and not working on their business.

This is a very common problem
for sign shop owners that

are, maybe they are tradesmen.

Maybe they are business people.

That do not understand the trade.

It's a healthy mix of both
owners, both types of owners.

There's a gentleman, there's a
gentleman that owns a very large

shop here, right across the
bridge here in New Jersey for me.

And he has a very sizeable operation
and he talks to me all the time

about wanting to be more profitable.

But that requires him to lock the
door and focus in on how to do that.

What pivotal decision does your business
tell you that allows you to maximize

and make a more profitable decision or
more profitable business in the future?

Whereas there are other owners that
who, I bring, I'm not gonna mention

this person by name, but we just got
out of a consultation call and he's

wearing, he doesn't understand marketing.

He doesn't understand the website and
they get a bunch of orders, but they're

only doing $20,000 in sales a month.

And he wants to figure out how
to do more and needs somebody to

basically turn the key and make
it hap make it happen for him.

So there's various different
levels of what that looks like.

And usually a, an owner that in my
estimation, an owner that can step

away from his business and focus on
picking it apart, maximizing on its

on its abilities, putting people in
the right seats to gain that traction

are gonna be a profitable entity.

They're gonna be a profitable business.

They're going to be a scalable
business and they're going to be

a business where there's going
to be a decent exit strategy.

And I'd be interested to
ask Luke this question.

I'm gonna ask Luke this question
from the company that you acquired.


What was there, what am I gonna
ask this question the right way?

what type of company were
they, what were their issues?

What were their weaknesses that
you identified in that acquisition?

Bryant Gillespie: They

Luc Michaud: have even had
less systems than we did.

The entire staff was very much
leashed to one individual.

Peter Kourounis: Were they profitable?

Luc Michaud: No,

Peter Kourounis: were not profitable.

And from what you said earlier, they came
to you and said, would you like to buy us?

So they solicited you to, for their
exit strategy, like we're done.

It's not working out.

Save us.

That's basically what they said to you

Luc Michaud: essentially.

So there's more going on there.

Peter Kourounis: basically
the previous owner.

Luc Michaud: Who was basically running
the shop, but was I'm just trying to

figure out how to word this in such
a way that I don't mess up an NDA.

Peter Kourounis: Okay.


I don't wanna do that.

I don't wanna do that.

But what I'm getting at is this basically
there was a body that wanted out.

Luc Michaud: Right.


And so the mandate was if you want
out, then you need to find a buyer.

Peter Kourounis: Understood, understood.

And you can leave it at that.

I'm not trying to put you in any
contractual damage here, but what I'm

trying to get, the point that I'm trying
to make here is that you had in your

own experience, a sign shop, what you
identified as a big competitor for you.


Did not have a systematic approach
and also was not profitable

and also had no exit strategy.


Other than to poach you.

So there you have it.

That to me, that is the point I'm
trying to make is that if you want

to be a profitable entity, if you
want to be a profitable sign shop, if

you're out there and you're listening
and you're not profitable, it starts

with identifying that you need systems
in place that can keep you, that

can keep you out of your business.

If you're the Chuck in the truck,
if you are the gentleman, that's

making signs, installing signs,
okay, stop what you're doing.

You're doing it wrong.

You need to spend time being an owner.

Take it from me.

Scalability and growth didn't happen
until I was able to step away, make

pivotable, pivotal growth decisions
that will allow you to be an owner.

Not a graphic designer, a
project manager, a salesperson.

You are an owner.

Now you may have came into this
business as a tradesperson, but

the moment you incorporated your
business, you became a business owner.

That's my 2 cents.

Bryant Gillespie: I think that's well
said, man, you've gotta turn off the

tradesman side and go into business
owner mode to make any real progress.

Peter Kourounis: Yeah, man.

And listen I'm gonna, I'm gonna, I'm gonna
say one thing here that I think I, I don't

think I've ever said on another episode.

So I got into this business because my
father who owns a bagel store purchased

window graphics from a local vinyl
shop for one window, he spent $700.

My father approached me and said,
Pete, this is a profitable business

with explosive profit margins that
you could use your design skills in.

And that was the beginning to
why I got into this business.

And you can understand
that I relate to Luke.

I wa I came into it as a tradesman,
like I had to learn the business, but I

was a graphic designer, but the moment
I incorporated my business and put

my name on a certificate of business
authority, I became a business owner.

I became a shareholder of my corporation.

And now that is a, that became a living,
a breathing organism that has to be fed.

You have to treat it like a human.

You have to treat it with respect.

You have to pay attention
to what it's telling you.

Not it.


Making fancy signs are fun.

And it really is what makes this
business a great business to be in.

But at the end of the day, you
need customers to make fancy.

And customers are what pay the
bills and you have to grow that

living and breathing ation.

Luc Michaud: Yeah.

I'll just say it's we've already come
to that realization and I've like in

the last month or so I, I fully pulled
myself out of quoting, which is the big

like technician or tradesperson role.

I was still fulfilling in order
to start building all that stuff.

And I'm excited to see like what we can do
to make the shift and get the structure in

place and, just be working on the bigger,

Bryant Gillespie: oh no.

Michael Riley: Oh no.

Peter Kourounis: Didn't tell me that.

Didn't just tell me
that didn't just happen.

Bryant Gillespie: Luke down.

Luke is down

Peter Kourounis: He's gone

Let's try and get Luke back on the line.

Hey guy behind the glass.

Let's get Luke back on the phone here.

Michael Riley: If fast
signs fails, we know Luke.

If you're

Peter Kourounis: listening,
please dial 1 805 6 7 1 2 3 4.

Me here, you there.

Michael Riley: I get a future at radio.

He does.

Yeah, I think he missed his calling.

Oh, he

Peter Kourounis: is.

I'm just quo.

I'm quoting some old radio.

Hi, you've reached the schmooze.

Me here, you there.

welcome to w F a N
sports radio I'm taking.

Luc Michaud: All good.

Should be fine here.


Anyway, so I think what I was
gonna say is that we, I've known

all this information for 10 years.


But you're just caught in the weeds.

You really are.


And it's hard to pull yourself away when
you just feel like you're obligated to do.

To do the work in the moment.


So I have pulled myself away, completely
from the tradesperson role now.

I was doing a lot of quoting in kind
of the architectural way, finding new

builds type jobs is what I was doing.

And I stopped doing that a month ago.

And I'm excited that what I'm working on
now is the stuff that I've known that I'm

supposed to be working on for a decade.

So it's it's tough.

Everything's like I said to my
business partner, like the bad news is

everything's fucked up, but the good
news is that everything's fucked up

and we know how to pick a lot of it.

It's just a matter of fixing it.


And we can make a lot of that
Kaizen small incremental change.

And we'll see drastic
change in improvement.


So it's, I don't want to give the
impression we're like we're in trouble

as a company cuz it's not the case.

It's just, you guys all know what it
feels like to be in a shop where yeah.

You're just, there's more work
than you can keep up with.


And absolutely.

And so I'm excited to be actually
functioning in that business owner role,

even though it's just started and we
haven't seen the fruits of the efforts

quite yet, but to just be actually doing
that and doing that full time even,

cause I know a lot of time they recommend
oh, just put two hours a day aside.


But I'm like, we're at the point where
like I have to me and Travis, like we

have to get a lot of this stuff sorted
out and to be focusing on that a hundred

percent of the time like it's exciting.

Bryant Gillespie: Yeah.


We're definitely stoked for you and
you, Hey, that's part of the that's

really the biggest piece of it.

Making the decision and sitting down and
actually doing that for anybody that's

actually gonna listen to this one what was
the impetus or like, how did you do that?

I feel like a lot of people they
understand they need to work on

systems and it's Hey, if we just
do this, then we can get that done.

Luc Michaud: I think honestly, the
biggest piece, I think the biggest

piece that allowed me to step away
completely is to really, truly fully

understand that it doesn't need to be
me, have some humility and understand.

I think a lot of us are like, I know
this I can do it better than somebody

else that I hire, so I should do it.


But I think really.

That's not true.

It's a lie.

We tell ourselves to continue to stay in
our comfort zone and do what we know as

opposed to pushing ourselves and really
addressing the larger issues at hand.

So having a little bit of humility
and maybe just diving into fear

of the unknown, and just saying,
you know what, it doesn't need

to be me that builds this quote.

It doesn't need to be me
that does this layout.

I don't need to be the person that needs
to go into this room and Mount the sign

because the customer's waiting for it.


Other people can do those things and it
doesn't need to be you that's the biggest

that I think realization or tipping
point of a sign shop owner is that you,

your business is still your business.

If you are not the guy doing this stuff.


And your customers still.

I think, recognize that as well.

Peter Kourounis: Said, I think
that's huge, very well said.

I hope that some of our listeners
out there can understand the severity

and boldness of that statement that,
you're in the weeds, you're in the mud.

You can, you continue to forget
about building your business,

but you have to know that's the
end game you have to get there.


And, I appreciate that statement.

I appreciate the honesty, Luke.

That was a very, I resonate
with that statement.

So I hope that our listeners do as well.

Michael Riley: Yeah.

Bryant Gillespie: All right guys, Luke
been a pleasure having you on, man.

I think 2, 3, 4 months from now,
whenever you guys are further down

the line, maybe we have you back and
talk about what you've you figured

out over the last couple months.

Luc Michaud: Sounds good to me.

Thanks for having me

Michael Riley: guys.

Thanks, Larry.

This is cool.

Bryant Gillespie: It's been
great conversations guys.


All right guys.

So let's bring this one to a close let's.

Wrap it up, Peter.

rapid fire didn't we do that last time.

What's your one quick takeaway from today?

Rapid fire rapid.

not so rapid Mike.

What's what's your one
takeaway from today?

Michael Riley: My one takeaway from
today is you gotta abandon ship when you

want to be a business owner, or at least
abandon the the technician mentality.

When you want to take your business
to the next level, or maybe not fully

abandon it, but at least give it equal
space with the business ownership

mentality, and figure out how to let
your technical side compliment the

business owner's side and vice versa.

And if you don't have it any, to be
the business owner, find somebody who

can and pay them to do it for you.

Bryant Gillespie: That's a good point.

It doesn't have to be you
as Luke mention it doesn't

Michael Riley: have to be you.

Absolutely not.

It just has to be somebody.

Bryant Gillespie: I agree.

A hundred percent.

I think it, one of the biggest takeaways
for me today is basically getting

space for yourself from the business.

Not only just away from that technic
mission, that tradesman personality,

but also just a to get a good
visual of where you want to go.


Because especially in this time,
everybody's gone through COVID

it's hard to find good people.

You don't have to have a 20 million
shop or a 10 million shop or a

5 million shop to be successful.

It's more about finding
the ideal shop for you.

What works for you?

We've got a couple of the guys
in our mastermind group, which.

if you would like to join, please check
out our website, better sign,

You'll find it on the website there.

But we've got several guys in the
mastermind group that have just jettisoned

all their equipment, all their production
team and are now just doing outsourcing.

And it was a lifestyle decision.

So I think one of the most important
things you could do as a owner of a

sign shop is get some space from it.

Whether that's taking a vacation
that doesn't involve a trade show or

being tethered to wifi on the beach
somewhere, while you're answering

emails and give yourself that space
to figure out what you really want.

, Michael Riley: and don't lose sight
of what you really want either.

I mean, we all gotta into this because
we want something and it's usually

a better life than what we would
have by working for somebody else.

Don't lose sight of that goal.

I know a lot of people do.

I lost sight of that goal
myself, and it's hard to.

Hard to get back on track.

If you forget that, ultimately
you're doing this for you and

your family to, to, achieve a
better life than the alternative.

Don't forget that.

Rapid fire, take away Peter, go
systems, systems, and systems.

You need systems in order to
grow and scale your business.

If you don't know what systems are or
what systems you want to input into

your business, get in touch with us.

We'll take a quick look at what you can
do, and we'll tell you which systems

you need to implement into your company.

Bryant Gillespie: All right.

If you guys have questions for the crusty
sign guys on the show, you can email

us at, Hey, at better sign,
and we will address your questions

on the air, or if you'd like to be a
guest on the show, how do we do that?

If you would like to be a guest on the
show, make sure you shoot us an email.

We will contact you.

We'll talk to you.

We'll have you.

Pleasure guys

Michael Riley: all right,
guys, it's been real.

Bye guys.

See it.

Creators and Guests

Growing Pains // Luc Michaud of Signtek Industries
Broadcast by