Surviving the Next Shopacolypse

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How did your shop survive COVID? If you're like a lot of shop owners, the answer might be "just barely". But would your business survive yet another disaster after staring down COVID? Join us to hear about Mike Davis and Scott Dean's inspiring business survival story.

Bryant Gillespie: Hi guys.

Welcome to the next edition of
the better sign shop podcast.

I've got my friend and colleague Peter
Caris, the sign shop Yoda with me.


Peter Kourounis: Pete.

What's up, everybody.

What's going on, Brian.

How you doing man

Bryant Gillespie: and missing today
is Mike the sign burrito, Riley?

Yeah, having technical difficulties,

Peter Kourounis: apparently Mike lives in
like the Bermuda triangle, nothing works.

There's no wifi.

There's no apps.

There's no microphone.

There's no cameras.

It's just not there.

Bryant Gillespie: All right.

what's the update with you, Pete.

How's how are things?

My man.

Peter Kourounis: very
busy on a lot of fronts.

we just completed a couple of projects
on the consulting side, working on

some really great new projects with
some new clients on programming, some

products in their shop box accounts.

My sign shop is busy,
pumping out estimates.

I actually got in the bucket
truck last week, which was nice.

I haven't done that in a little bit.

did you put up search?


Listen, my installation days.

behind me.

I'm not a, well, I shouldn't
say they're behind me.

I am not the skilled installer by any
chance, but definitely training somebody

on like safety procedures on, on the
bucket, how to stay safe, how to use it,

how to operate it efficiently, obviously,
with the prices of gas these days, I

don't like wasting that kind of money.

So, just training them on best
practices on how to use the.

Got I met a couple of new people this
week met a couple of new vendors.

I'm really excited about implementing
in my team, in my system.

And, they'll be coming out
here, hopefully next week.

I think they're gonna come out here
and meet my team and supply us with

a whole butt load of samples and
really cool new things that, we can.

Get introduced to in our market.

I'm really excited about, are you going

Bryant Gillespie: tease
everybody about it?

Peter Kourounis: I'll let you know
after I'll let you know, after I, I

validate it, I'm I got I'm hopeful.

I'm hopeful.

but we'll see.

We'll see, I've seen really
cool promises before.

Bryant Gillespie: haven't we all

Peter Kourounis: what's going on in your

Bryant Gillespie: world.

our middle daughter started pre.

This week, so,

Peter Kourounis: oh yeah.

That's right.

Like school started like for almost
everybody these past weeks, right?

Bryant Gillespie: Yeah.


So, I was really concerned.

I thought, okay, I'm gonna get
a call from the, uh, Principal

like, Hey, you gotta come get her.

she's either a screaming and
crying uncontrollably or it B is

being very mean and has knocked
somebody out or something like that.

But she loves it, man.

So I'm super proud of her.

We shoved her out of the
van on Tuesday morning.

Her first day, she kind
of was nervous about it.

You could tell that look in her face.

She was like, ah, I don't know.

I wanna, can you guys walk me in?

We're like, Nope.

That's not how this works.

You get out that nice lady
over there will walk you in.

Peter Kourounis: so
this was her first day.

This was her first day.

You're doing yeah.

Her first day.


And you've gone through this.

How many other times.

just once before, I've
never gone through this.

And I think about it.

My, I probably won't be going through it
for a couple years, but I think about it

every day, how I'm going to react when
that happens, whether that school bus

comes or whether I have to drop it off
at school and I'm gonna deal with like

the terror of crying I might be crying.

I'm probably going to cry.

I think it'll be like the hardest day.

I need to take off of like
work for a week because.

Bryant Gillespie: Yeah, it is
definitely a mental health a day.


The first time around, I was definitely,
there were tears in my, I don't know

if I would call it like bawling and
squalling or anything like that,

but definitely shed a couple tears.

But, you, this time around, I
still felt all those emotions,

but, know, my wife is a little
more emotional than I am at times.

So, she definitely balled her eyes out.


It's yeah, it's definitely a tough
day, but a proud moment as well.

the other stuff kind of pales in
comparison to that, but yeah, we've

been working on the platform a bit.

We've made some progress there, so
excited to, hopefully throw some news

out there about the signed pricing
course and the rest of it soon.

Peter Kourounis: You're like a, you're
like a brainiac when it comes to this

sort of thing, you keep updating us with
like screenshots of what it looks like.

And I gotta tell you, you have come
up with some really great ideas and

things that I couldn't even think of.

And just stemming from a couple
of conversations that you and

I've had over the past few weeks.

Like you, what you've done with that
platform is just it's greatness.

It's greatness.

This industry is going to need it.

I I'm not, I'm dancing
around calling you a guru.

Yeah, well, listen, if you guys
don't know what we're talking

about right now, that's okay.

You'll find out soon enough, what
this soon enough, what this platform

that we're talking about is all about.

We're gonna be, we're gonna put the, the
finishing touches on it here and up in the

upcoming days where I should say Bryant's
gonna put the finishing touches on it,

cuz I have not the slightest idea how he
does what he does, but it looks great.

It functions fantastic.

And there will be a lot of really
compelling resources that we have talked

about here on, on some of these podcasts
and some of our mastermind calls and

these resources are just gonna be readily
available for you to use because, and like

I said, I may have said this on another
call, nobody is doing what we're doing.

Nobody is even coming close to doing what
we are going to do for sign, shop owners.

It is.

Something I am up my man.

Bryant Gillespie: That's really
excited about to live up to

Peter Kourounis: Well, I think I
think you got some of the best minds

in the business, in this mastermind.

Lot of great people have gotten some
good feedback and Hey, if you want to

make a suggestion, I saw a suggestion
here, in one of the comments, but if

you wanna make a suggestion, you can do.

Just get us up, hit us up on the Facebook
chat, tell us what you'd like to see,

and we'll throw it into the pipeline.

Maybe we'll get it edited.

Bryant Gillespie: So I guess
we should probably actually

get into the topic today.

So, what do we got today?

We've got a couple of guests actually
joining us from Hilltop signs and

graphics, Mike Davis and Scott Dean.

They're gonna be on in just a little bit.

we're gonna have those guys on for
a conversation about their shop.


Peter Kourounis: got a really great story.

They got a really great story.

Ah, yeah.


Bryant Gillespie: I like the story, man.

And I look forward to
chatting with those guys.

so the topic.

we've talked about this on one
of our other mastermind calls

recently is the looming recession
or the inflation monster.

I think the code name we
gave this one was surviving.

The next shop apocalypse.

is COVID classified as a recession.

Peter Kourounis: well, I don't know.

Most people do.

they use the term very loosely.

I mean, it, I call it the shut down, what
that means, shut down what that means to

somebody it's different for everybody,
but I know certain shops stayed open.

Certain shops never closed.

So for some shops, it was
just a matter of like mine.

Just a matter of.

Figuring out a way to
not be stubborn and pivot

Bryant Gillespie: yeah.

I'm gonna read some headlines off to
you because I was researching this one.

These are like some of
the top stories right now.

Worse is yet to come economist.

Steven Roach says us needs a
miracle to avoid the recession.

Steve hanky says we're going to
have a Whopper of a recession.

I don't know like why that was in quotes.

Peter Kourounis: we're gonna
have lots of burger king,

Bryant Gillespie: 72% of economists say
we're gonna have a recession in 2023.

. So you read some of these headlines, it's
all doom and gloom, whether that is fact

or not, or whether it comes to fruition.

I, we obviously can't give
that prediction, but I think

Peter Kourounis: when
you're re oh, go ahead.

When you're research, when you're
researching those topics, Do you

see anything that's positive?

Do you see anything that says there's
not gonna be a recession in 2023?

Stop listening to the ho focus,
stop listening to the BS.

Is there any of that?

let's see.

Bryant Gillespie: well here's
one Nobel prize winning economist

says he doesn't see anything that
resembles a recession in the us.


Yeah, there is no consensus on this, but,
you talk to a lot of people, everybody

is obviously concerned about inflation,
which is at 8.5% here in the us.

yeah, for the average guy that
gets a 3% raise every year.

That's obviously not even keeping.

Pace with that.

So materials are going up, prices
for everything are going up.

It's my kids drink like
six gallons of milk a week.

so milk is like outrageous right now.

I feel like a 85 year old man,
Hey, back in the day, like

Peter Kourounis: the milk man
used to come to the door and it

used to be a dollar 15, a bottle.

Now it's tow dollars and 15 cents a
bottle gave that's highway robber.

Bryant Gillespie: That's
exactly what I feel like.

But yeah, obviously this is, I just
come up a lot in our mastermind group.

It's come up with, some of the other
posts I've seen on the sign shop groups.

Are we entering a recession?

Are we already in a recession?

What do we do about the crazy inflation?

if we do NRA recession, how
can we protect our shop?

So that's the topic today.


Peter Kourounis: Let me ask you.


Oh no.

I got a bold opening statement.

Oh, okay.


I'll around this entire theory.

Bryant Gillespie: are we in a
recession now or is one coming soon?

Peter Kourounis: Yeah.

listen, I think that I'm not an economist.

I have money in the market money in real.

and doesn't matter what
channel you turn on.

You're going to get different information.

Are we heading into a recession?

there are a lot of differences
between today's economic climate and.

Well, our last three recessions, in
our last economic climate, it's, there

are a lot of differences in technology.

There are things that we can
do today that we were not doing

in 2007, 2008, late into 2009.

the ability of being able to
work remotely was a hard, was

not even a thought that long ago.

So do I think that certain markets are
gonna get affected by what's going on

or have been affected by what's going
on certain in industries being affected?

I think the short answer is yes.

And, but I'm not going
to put the hammer down.

yes, we're going into a recession.

or you, yeah.

Shut your shops down.

No, that's not where I'm going.

I think the, that I want you to
understand is that no matter what,

it's called a crisis or inflation,
we're going into inflation.

What the hell does that even mean?

You, the president of the country
just got on the Twitter, like a

week ago and said, I'm eliminating.

School debt or whatever.

It was $10,000 worth of student loan debt.

I was like, hell yeah, go team.

I didn't care.

Who's in office, but I was like,
that's if that's something that affects

the climate again, I, the economy,
I don't know what the long term

ramifications, I'm a sign shop owner, man.

I don't care what goes on in those
rooms with all those politicians

and people that make this official.

all I not wanna know is what does my daily
routine look like when this does happen.

And for a lot of us that have that
technician mindset, or even a manager's

mindset or an owner's mindset, that is a
very different for everyone involved, does

your, do your employees need to have a
conver, do you need to have a conversation

with your employees ex expecting
them to be flexible with time off?

To work around some of these hard
costs that you're gonna be expecting.

Are the owners going to have to look at
manufacturing things themselves rather

than outsourcing giving way more margin?

Because wholesale rates have increased.

There is a lot to unpack
about how this can affect.

Sign shop owner again, specific to
this channel, this station here,

we're talking about sign, shop
owners, print, shop owners, alike.

We want you to have a better sign shop.

That is the name of the show.

We want you to have a better sign shop.

So in other words, how does that happen?

What does that look like?

and honestly that's where
the question starts.

That's where this whole thing
starts is if somebody gets on

the TV today and declares, the
United States is in a recess.

I don't know who that would be,
but if somebody of high stature

gets on whatever news channel
you watch and says, guess what?

Everybody we're in a recession, be
prepared to shut down your businesses.

How are you going to pivot?

And that's gonna be the topic of today.

I hope we're gonna hear how this existing
sign shop owner and his, and his partners

here were able to pivot during the last
crisis, which was COVID when everybody

else shut down, what did they do?

I'm really eager to hear their story,
again, and kind of introduce what

they did to you guys out there.

Bryant Gillespie: Yeah.

Well said, man, you weren't
lying about the great intro.

I like it.

if we harken back to the great
shutdown of COVID, what were some of

the things that you guys experienced?

were some of the changes that you
guys had to make in your shop?


Peter Kourounis: Well, I did
have to lay some people off.

That is, that was, that was a.

A detriment to what had happened.

certain employees did not come back.

They wanted to stay home.

They wanted unemployment, you can't,
you're not gonna be able to solve

everybody's problems, but some people
just would've rather stayed home.

So I lost some employees.

I kept the key ones, which
was a vital piece for me.

I never had to dip into.

any type of reserve account, because we
were able to keep things going, but just

under a different type of strategy, we
were no longer doing business science.

And I say that with, I never thought
I'd honestly ever say that a sign shop

where I never did signs for businesses.

It was nonstop in droves lawn
signs and birthday signs.

Graduation signs and high school
signs because you couldn't attend a

high school or college graduation.

So parents were thinking of ways
to celebrate the occasion, the

monumental occasion of graduating.

So there was a lot of that.

And I just happened, I don't know
if it's lightning in a bottle.

I don't know if it was, I don't know
if it was just luck, but whatever

it was, I happened to be in a very.

Heavily saturated market,
where there's tons of schools.

There's tons of kids.

There's tons of people living
in several towns in five mile,

within a five mile diameter.

I'm go.

I have, I.

Millions of people that
live in these towns.

So I was very fortunate,
especially when you could see

oh, that kid just got assigned.

Now this neighbor got one.

And then that neighbor got one.

And how it's steamrolled for showed.

Yeah, they kind of, after that

Bryant Gillespie: social proof.


Peter Kourounis: And we put up one,
I've never did anything like this,

where I was taking orders through
Facebook and through Instagram, I

had never, that's not my strategy.

That's not our shop's target market,
but this is what we were living off of.

I had some of the best sales months
doing this, and I'm not afraid to admit.

I'm not afraid to admit it, 70, $80,000
a month in corrugated plastic signs.

I mean, I mean, we were stockpiling H
stakes and order every, it seemed every

hour we were calling suppliers from, and
this is, this was again being resourceful.

you have to, you, you're a local guy.

You can't just rely on
the local guy anymore.

I was ordering things
from Canada, Colorado.

I live in New York.

. Ah, if yeah, send me that sheet
of core plus for $24 a sheet.

I don't care.

Get it over here because I'm making,
I gotta, because well, not because

I cared about profits at that point.

I, I mean, we were making profits.

I mean, come on.

It's ink final and corrugated plastic.

We were killing it, but.

I didn't care.

I gotta keep the, I gotta keep the
doors open, making a sale running.


Making a sale was more important than
price costing materials like, oh yeah.

H stakes are now $6 a stake
because we're low on supply.

Well, I was like, keep it coming.

Here's my credit card.

You wanna live off of
your, you want my money?

Here's my money.

And I mean, okay, that's a pivot point
now, do we don't do that anymore?

I think that wave is over, or has
been over for quite some time, but you

know, you ask B a specific question.

This is what our shop turned into.

We morphed, I love that word.

We morphed into.

A shop that was literally
pumping out fast signs.

Like every 15 minutes, there was
a sign coming out the printer,

and that's not how it is.


That's not how it was.

That's not how it is.

That's not how it was.

It's not, it's just this time period
where, how, I don't remember how

long it was, but, we were doing
everything we could to keep the

lights on and all my key employees,
my project managers, my installers.

I sales people guess what they all did.

They learned how to use a quo cutter.

they learned how to become
efficient in pumping.

They became delivery men.

They became, and that was actually
like a bonding experience.

Like we were in the trenches,
the owners were involved.

I was involved, I had
nothing else going on.

Everything was shut down.

So why not?

I was like, yeah, sure.

I'll come.

I'll spend some, I'll spend
the day with you guys.

I used a coral cutter and I'm,
I don't have one of those Corex

machines I used to, and not anymore.

I would've made my life E easier.

Colex machines rather.


Excuse me.


but yeah, listen, I mean, we morphed
into a shop where we built a better

and stronger team coming out of COVID.

I think we are now.

we think about it a lot.

Hey, remember, oh my God, that was crazy.

when we did 22 boards in 15
minutes, like that was insane.

That was insane.

that time period, and, the, we call
it the box method and what we used

to do to pump these things out.

We had delivery zones and we were running
cars with little birthday signs on it.

And, I mean, we don't do that now, but
what we turned ourselves into to survive.

is what you have to do going into, you
have to actually, well, I'm not saying you

have to, it's more of a philosophy if this
does happen again, if COVID 22 comes out.


And if this happens again, hist,
history has to teach you something.

So what are you going to do?

And I hope that is going to pivot.

Not necessarily shut down.

And, I know I would pivot again and we

Bryant Gillespie: would.

lesson, number one, you gotta
be flexible in a recession or

crisis or crazy environment.

Well said, man, that's I didn't know the
extent of the banners and, corrugated

signs that you guys were doing, but that's
yeah, I think a lot of people would get

hung up on, Hey, that's not what we do.

and certainly as you mentioned, that's not
what you did, but what you had to do and.

You got through it came
out the other side better.

So, yeah.

All right.

for sure.


Should we bring on our
guests, Mike and Scott?

Peter Kourounis: Let's do it.

Bring 'em in.

All right.

Bryant Gillespie: All right guys.

So we are joined by our guests,
Mike Davis and Scott Dean of Hilltop

signs and graphics out of Maryland.


Mike Davis: What part of Maryland?

Southern Maryland.

It's uh, Southern Maryland,
Hollywood, Maryland.

So we're about 45 minutes
to an hour south of DC.

So we're right.

That sweet spot right around.


Peter Kourounis: Do you get a lot of,
do you get a lot of customers in that

triangle there that like, that Washington,
Virginia, Maryland market, you get a

lot of, we do go into different states.

Mike Davis: Yep.

We do.

We do.

We actually, we service a pretty
wide section of the coast.

well of the Northeast, I should say
pretty much the whole Mid-Atlantic region.

We will travel to as long as,
customer's budgets allow for it.

and the guys wanna travel.


What's that like

Peter Kourounis: working with
like different states and counties

sign codes, like that's a lot
to manage just in one state.

You guys get you can get a customer from
DC and it be like a half an hour from you.

What's that?

Mike Davis: I'll let Scott?

reign in on.

Well, on that one, he handles a
lot more of the, permit stuff and.

He'll explain that part of

Scott Dean: it.

it, serendipity, I guess we, we
literally just got out of a meeting

with me and Mike and our two permit,
people that do permits, like all the

time and the amount of permits we do
and the amount of time it takes for

them to do it is just ridiculous.

And you, some of the stuff that
they have to do is not even.

fact, I don't even understand it.

You don't, it's the bureaucracy and
the, it, it just a simple story.

We have a big Aldi we're doing a sign
for, and we've filed all the permits

and we went on a site visit yesterday
and it wasn't the correct address.

So we have to start from scratch
and it's been a two month process.

Oh man.

Pushing paperwork.

And then we fi this, isn't the
address that's on your plans.

And they're like, yeah,
this is our address.

And we're like, well,
that's not what we filed.

So that.

And the bigger counties in Northern
Virginia, DC, not so much the

local smaller counties in Maryland.

tho those are just a
bureaucracy personified.

It's ridiculous.

Peter Kourounis: I imagine that's,
I imagine whether you guys do that

yourself or whether you outsource
that, that's gotta be a challenging

piece just from an SOP perspective.

Like what information you have
to gather and things like that.

So I imagine that's what I thought
of when you guys said Maryland

and like you're in that DC area.

I'm like, my God, they got, they could
probably do Crazy amount of paperwork

that might make my life like explode, like
stressful, like stress to the MTH degree,

just in that one factor right there.


Bryant Gillespie: I can't
imagine fighting the DC

Scott Dean: traffic I there.

Well, well, I tell you
to be, and it's not.

And to try to explain that to a customer,
is it's hard to get through that.


Our permit fee is what our permit fee
and they're like, that seems ridiculous.

And then it, then we
always offer the option.

You can file it yourself.

and we said this in a meeting
today, every single one of them

always come back saying no way.

You guys got it.

but you talked, you talk to one permit
expedite or one permit technician.

Their answer is different
than this permit.



it's, there's no standard format
for any county or within the county.

It's usually a one off.

It's always different.

Always different.

It's nuts.

Peter Kourounis: Yep.

Always different.

So that's what makes it so stressful
is because it's always different.


Go ahead, Brett.

Bryant Gillespie: So, so let's
back up for just a minute and, kind

of get an overview of your shop.

it can, one of you guys kind of
tell the listeners out there, what

is Hilltop signs and graphics, kind
of, what segments do you guys serve?

What type of products do you.

Peter Kourounis: I'll

Scott Dean: let Mike do that.


Mike Davis: sure.

I can cover that.

so we are Hilltop signs and graphics.

we are what we would consider, I
guess, a full service sign and graphics

company, meaning we do pretty much every
segment that the industry has to offer.

We offer everything from little yard
signs and banners to, fabricated

pylons, channel letters, vehicle wraps,
vehicle lettering, striping, popup

displays, pretty much you name it.

If it is in the sign and or
graphics realm, we touch it.

That includes service work.

one thing that makes us a little bit
unique in our region, not necessarily

unique to the industry, but unique
to our region is that we handle.

The entire things start
to finish in house.

So we design, we fabricate or farm out
the fabrication to our wholesalers,

and then we install it, give you
a warranty on the installation.

And we service it after the fact.

So we have a ton of competitors
in our region, just like

I'm sure most other shops.

But not everybody does all of it.

They might do the fabrication
and the installation, but they're

like, eh, we don't really have,
graphic designers on staff.

We can't do your branding for you.

We can't handle those pieces and parts,
get something designed and then bring me a

drawing and we'll build something for you.

Well, that was one thing that when I
bought the company from my parents,

that I said, you know what, we're gonna
do the whole thing start to finish.

And that's really kind of set us apart.

In our region.

Peter Kourounis: Yeah.

How was that buying the
business from your parents?

Was that a smooth transaction?

Was that a lot of no, we
don't wanna sell it to you.

We wanna sell it to somebody else.

What was the fricking

Mike Davis: frack like there?

So I had already been running and trying.

Trying to take over the company
essentially for about two years.

And, this was 2009, 2010.

So it was when the economy was
kind of in the tank and we were

struggling to stay afloat, struggling
to get paid, had all these issues.

And I had already been working
for two years to kind of turn

things around and keep us rolling.

We were finally.

Coming out of it,
reputation was coming back.

Vendors were getting paid,
cash flow was starting to roll.

And, my mom was here
with me every single day.

working, it was her company and she
came in one day and she said, I'm done.

She said, either you buy
it or somebody else will.

And she walked out the back
door, got in her car and she left

Scott Dean: for the day . She had,

Mike Davis: I love that she had enough.

Peter Kourounis: She
had, she just had enough.


The stress got to her Mike.

Well, tell me, what was
the shop like back then?

what was it like to be in that shop?

What were you guys doing back then

Mike Davis: in terms of.

So it was a very different
company back then.

So we were not Hilltop signs and graphics.

At that time, we were
Hilltop graphics and gifts.

So we were a, we were a graphics
and gift company and, we did, we

still did our, our vehicle graphics.

We still did wraps.

lettering striping, we
still do ch class signage.

We still did pylon panels
and that type of thing.

but we also offered dye sub based gifts.

So t-shirts mouse pads, coffee
mugs, Christmas ornaments,

all kinds of different stuff.

and when I bought the company, I
literally had already spent two

years shifting us into new stuff.

Fabricated signage, L
E D retrofits, stuff.

We didn't, it was pretty
much two employees.

It was me and my mom.

So I had to do things that I could
handle with pretty much myself

and a couple buddies in evenings
and weekends in terms of installs.

So the scale of things was still
relatively small back then, but

I started the shift of us going
in that commercial direction.

very nice.

when I purchased the company, changed the.

Hilltop signs and graphics, which is what
we are now and all of those gift items

that I mentioned earlier, pretty much
overnight, they were no longer offered.

you gotta sell

Bryant Gillespie: a lot of coffee
mugs to make a million dollars.

Mike Davis: And I know that the ad
specialty market in our industry, I

know that there are a lot of shops that.

D sub gifts and, small items and,
small orders and stuff like that.

But the thing that I found when I started
looking is I was like, man, I could

do one tenant panel in a pylon and say
it's a $450 order at 35 to 40% margin.

Plus I charge for.

and Let's say the profit on that
piece is, I don't know, 150 bucks,

200 bucks, something like that.

Or I could do one coffee mug who I charge
$15 retail for, and I think I'm making

about three bucks and it probably takes
about the same amount of time to make that

tenant panel as it did that coffee mug.

And so.

Once I did the math on that, it was
like the dollars and cents was obvious.

It was like the gift items,
just ain't where it's at, unless

somebody's ordering 300 of 'em.

And even then when I started looking
at the bigger stuff, like doing

channel letters and some of the other
larger fabricated pieces that we do

now, man, I could make, three, four
grand on a piece that I never touch

or make 300 bucks on a set of mugs
that I have to spend three days doing.

And it's it just, it was, it was very
obvious what direction we were gonna

hit the writing was on the wall.

Yeah, absolutely.

Peter Kourounis: Absolutely.

So, so Mike, I got a real for me.

This is the million dollar
question that I have for you.

just listening to your story so far,
we've in this show and prior episodes,

and even in our mastermind group,
we talk a lot about the mindset of

an owner and where they come from.

There's a lot of talk and a
lot of discussion between a

lot of us get in this business.

we did.

We want, we were sticking, working
for the men and we just thought

we could do it better ourselves.

So you came into this as an, as a
technician, as an operations manager with

your mom and a former company of, Hilltop.

graphics and gifts.


And then what's it been like for
you and I don't, I'm not talking

about from a, what you can do with
your hands perspective, but like

now you're a business owner, right?

and if you didn't do a single
installation or a single retrofit,

what's it been like for you?

To learn how to run your
books or running a business or

marketing budgets and planning.

What's that been like from a
technician mindset to a shift

where now you are an entrepreneur.

Now you are a business.

What's that been like for you?

Mike Davis: It's been a long road.

it's been, it's been a very long
road, a lot of making mistakes, a

lot of spending, way too many hours
trying to avoid being the entrepreneur

and stay in that technician role.

And, it's really been the last,
I'd say two to three years where.

I don't really go on trucks very much.

I don't really spend too
much time in the field.

I do invest.

I even invest a lot of my time in
mastermind groups that I'm a member of,

in, personal development stuff that I
know will help my ability to lead and

my ability to, make the company better.

but when I first came on board,
I know and, and bought the.

one of the first things I took
a business class that was for

entrepreneurs that was, run by our
local small business development,

branch of our local government.

And they offered it for free.

It was a grant based thing.

And I said, heck, why not?

I'll take it.

And one of the biggest things that they.

Preached in this course, and this
was, I don't know, a year or two

after I had taken over things
was, figure out what you're good

at and hire for what you're not.

And so one of the first things that I
did when I bought the company is that

I knew that keep keeping the books
straight was not a strength of mine.

And it just was not.

And I knew that it wasn't a strength of
my parents, and I knew that it plagued.

In the past.

So that was one of the first things I
did was I said, I need an accountant

and I need a bookkeeper and it's gonna
cost me money right off the jump.

But if I do that correctly, I
won't have to ever worry about it.

And so that was one of
the first things I did.

As well as like it's a smart booth.



Bryant Gillespie: I mean, we preach
that a hundred times to everybody.

Heres yeah.

stop trying to do the finances yourself,
hire somebody that deals in numbers

all day and get them to straighten you.

Peter Kourounis: Absolutely.

And you know, something it's not,
it's a very common, it's very com.

It's very common to see that
first person is the bookkeeper.

Cause when people think of business,
they think of numbers, they think

of profit and law statements.

Oh my God, these financial statements,
who's gonna manage all that.

So it's very common to see what
you've did being like one of the

first things you've done, it.

was one of the first things I've done.

I could do this, get outta here.

I could do this.


And I could do this, a little bit
cheaper than keeping you around

that, that there's a lot of us.

There's a lot of us that listen to
this podcast that have that same

mindset that you have there, Mike, and
that's one of the cool things about

this business is that you can get
in from many different entry points.

you happen to be a family man,
a family owned business, right.

And you had that door for you.

Not a lot of us have that.

So if you were an employee that
you were a graphic designer and I

could do this better than anybody.

I could do this.

I'm gonna start my own.

Place, and then they have to learn how
to become a business owner and they, and

like you said, they do fail more often.

So thank you so much for
sharing your story there.

I'd like to kind of Bring in Scott here.

Scott, why don't you like
introduce yourself and how you got

involved in here in, in Hilltop

Scott Dean: So, like we had talked
about, I went to college, I had an

economics degree and I graduated.

I went to work for the go.

As a business financial manager
worked for the government for about

14 years and got really tired of it.

And one day saw an ad for sign
shop and didn't know a thing

about signs or installing signs.

So I went to work for blanket as
an installer and that's, that was

seven, seven, almost eight years ago.

So we've grown together from a three
person shop to a 14, 15 person shop.

my struggle with Mike is to keep him off
the floor, keep him out of the books.

and that's why, when he was telling that
story, I was like, that's absolutely.

wait a

Peter Kourounis: second.

Hold on.

hold on a second here, Scott.

Hold on.

I got two questions for
you before you go on.

the first is you said that you
were in finance for the government

business, financial manager.


Business financial manager.

are you doing the books
for the business now?

Are you that bookkeeper
that he was talking about?


Scott Dean: way, no way.

Peter Kourounis: Nope.


So you don't touch the books?


Scott Dean: don't, well, I, the only way
I touched the books is said, Mike, we

need some profit and loss statements.

Can we get those?

can we start being so we can make
decisions based on numbers and not just

what we feel during the morning, you know?

Peter Kourounis: So your background,
your background has a lot of really.

Components when it works with the
government, but you had no sign, shop,

installation experience at all, huh?

Scott Dean: None at all.

Peter Kourounis: So what's that?

What was that like when you met
Mike and Mike, I guess this is

a question for Mike, like Mike
specifically, what made you hire Scott?

go ahead.

Tell him the story, Mike

Mike Davis: So we,

Peter Kourounis: why would you
hire somebody with no experience

that came from a finance
background to install your signs?

Mike Davis: Oh, we hire
people with no experience.

all the.

all the time, because in, in our
region, we really don't have a ton

of applicants that are like, oh yeah,
I used to work for so and so signs.

there is not that pool of applicants.

So especially back then, when I hired
Scott, what I was looking for was

somebody who was physically able,
somebody who had a good can-do attitude.

And I was honest, I was like, Some
days really suck in this industry.

Like we work in the elements.

Like we work at Heights.

Like we work in the mud, we work
in the snow, we work in the rain.

It's hot, it's cold.

Like sometimes stuff doesn't go together.

Like it's supposed to
sometimes stuff breaks.

Like it's, that's just how it is.

The most important thing is that.

we keep a positive attitude and
I will say Scott and I have been

on some really rough job sites.

And there has only been a handful
that have completely kicked our butts.

And we're just like, Look, I really
hate this job as much as you do, but

we can't go home until it's done.

So we either just freaking get it together
and get it done or else, but, when I

hired Scott, he had a good attitude.

He was willing to come on
and dig in, do the job.

And within the first week, I
mean, there was nothing that I

proposed to have him go to do that.

He wasn't like.


I've never done that before,
but I'll figure it out.

And that attitude is way more
valuable than somebody coming on

board and saying, yeah, I've been
hanging signs for three years.

Yeah, I would.

I would rather 10 more.

SCOs honestly, I would rather 10 more.

SCOs that?

Come on with no sign experience.

Don't even know what a channel
letter or a push through letter is.

That's completely.

because I can teach you that stuff.

What I can't teach you is a positive
mental attitude and the grit and

the willingness to get through a
hard job and to problem solve those

things are very tough to find I can

Scott Dean: teach rest.

And what made me stay
was, I'm not gonna lie.

I was making great money with
the government, but what made me

stay was that's the macro level.


Humongous dollars.

And then to come to a small business
and see how a young man, took

a chance and bought a business.

And I said, I gotta, I would love to help
this guy grow this business, and he's

always given me the opportunity to put
my 2 cents in and kind of steer him where

my experience, because there's 20, 22
year difference between Mike and my age.

So I have a lot of lifelong experience.

But he has a lot of the
small business experience.

And I think those two meshed well
together and he, I enjoyed it.

I liked being outside.

I like to challenge.

I know how to use YouTube.

I can figure out how to hang
channel letters and wire signs.

And it was good.

Sign business is one, its
best days is really fun and

a lot of cool things happen.

Bryant Gillespie: on its worst days.

That's why we, it is hot
and sweaty, hot and nasty.



I think one of the things that
you said, Mike is like the

positive attitude is huge.

we talk a lot in some of our, in
our mastermind group and our little

Facebook community that we've got
set up about how hard it is to hire.

And lots of people want to
hire somebody with experience.

Depending on your market, like
you're just not gonna find it.

So a hundred percent agree
with what you said there.

And that's a really important part.

Something I wanna drive home
for all the listeners out there.

So let's, kinda steer this back towards
the pending shop apocalypse or recession

Peter and I were talking about the.

The great shutdown during COVID.

we were struggling to come up with what
word we were gonna use for it, whether it

was a recession or a shutdown or whatever.

You guys have a very unique
story there during the recession.

Why don't you guys, share
that with the listeners?

Mike Davis: Right.

So I'll start and then
I'll let Scott kinda.

Kind of come in as well.

we all, I guess it was probably
late February, early March, 2020, we

started hearing whispers about stuff.

I can remember, we were on a job
right down the street and it was a

day or two be before lockdown and we
were working on a wallpaper mural.

It was fighting us hard.

We're all in a really
tight confined space.

lots of hands, everybody
in really close proximity.

and then I feel like it was that evening.

All these reports came out, started
talking about lockdown within 48

hours, all this kind of stuff.

And we're like, well, dang, we were
all in each other's face today, man.

Well, hopefully nobody's sick cuz
we all got it if that's the case.

and then I think it was probably
like I said, about 48 hours

later that, Quarantine came down.

Everybody said it was gonna be two
weeks, all this, that, and the other.

And I'm not gonna lie.

I went into full on panic mode.

I mean, I can remember, Scott and
I had a conversation about him.

We were like, we just gotta wait.

We just gotta wait and see what happens.

we try to keep pushing on
as best we possibly can.

And we're like, let's just see
what the next couple days brings.

And I can remember going.

And making dinner for my
family and literally inside,

I was freaking the F out.

I went for a walk.

I called my parents and I'm just like,
and it was, it was pouring down rain.

And I walked for probably two miles.

I talked to them on the phone and
I'm just like, I literally don't

know what the heck I'm gonna do.

I think it was that day as well.

we had a big contract.

We had just been awarded, it was like a
hundred and hundred 20, $130,000 museum.

Biggest one we've ever done.

it was gonna be the biggest
contract we had ever done.

And it was like the perfect job.

For a sign and graphics company.

Like it was, it had
creative elements in it.

We were gonna be able to
fabricate some cool stuff.

there were digital signage
elements, wallpaper, murals pretty

much gets those juices flowing.

everything we offer.

We were gonna be able
to use on this project.

And we were gonna have a little bit of
creative control and engineering control

for some of these exhibits as well.

So we were super jazzed up about it.

Well, that had just gotten canceled that
afternoon and they had no idea when.

It was gonna come back if
it was gonna come back.

So I was freaking out, I got
off that call with my parents.

I went back home.

Didn't sleep much, got
to the shop the next day.

And I pretty much leveled with Scott.

I was like, dude, I am freaking out.

I don't even know what to do.

A lot of my employees were like,
I got elderly parents, I got

this, my wife's pregnant, yada.

And I had employees literally
say, I'm gonna stay.

So I had, and then we had a
couple other clients that canceled

work that next day as well.

It was within a couple days we had almost
like 200 grand worth of work canceled,

and employees dropping like flies.

So I went to Scott,
freaking the F out and,

Peter Kourounis: and still
your installer at this

Mike Davis: time.

No, no, no, no, no, no, no.

He is essentially.

my ops manager, which is
the role he is still in.


So he was running the show at that point.

but I went to him and I was
like, dude, I'm freaking out.

I don't even know what the heck
we should do with the amount

of work that just got canceled.

And the fact that we got no employees
and Scott, you can come in and tell them

exactly what you told me and what we did.


Scott Dean: I told Mike and I didn't
had no, no experience running anything.

Even figuring out how we were gonna keep
everybody employed the most part, keep

Mike employed because it's his business.

So we sat here in my office
and we have whiteboards.

We whiteboard everything.

We literally went to the whiteboard
and I said, this is all we can do.

We can do seven day chunks and figure
out how we're gonna survive for seven.

We wrote seven, seven days and
we wrote, we need to do this.

Payroll is coming here.

We need at least this much
amount of money in the bank.

We have these jobs we
can do from the shop.

We have these employees that
did, we did 7 14, 21, 30, 45 60.

and we just kept on doing that
every week to pass by we'd survive.

Another week, it, we have a
saying in the shop we're here now.

So it doesn't do us any good to freak out.

We might as well figure it out.

and me and Mike, and it's a running
joke between us, but we've always

said, we're gonna run this shop until
it implodes or we just blow up and be

super successful or it's in the ground,
but we're going down with the ship

and so basically, that was our mantra.

It doesn't matter if we're going to
shut down, we're gonna shut down, but

we might as well go down swinging.

And we might as well try to keep everybody
who wants to stay employed, employed.

and then things started to
break our way for a few months.

the governor of Maryland said, Hey,
sign shops are essential employees.

We got letters.

We could still do jobs.

We had a core group of people that
said I wanna work and make money.


we went to our employees and
said, whoever wants to stay home.

You voluntarily, we're gonna lay you off
and you can go do what you need to do

until you feel safe and you can come back.


And through that, it just, we just kept
chunking along week after week after

week until we had another catastrophe
and Mike can pick it up there.

So we thought we were surviving and then

Mike Davis: well, and I will touch on too.


We were very fortunate.

And I think everybody was kind of
fortunate that, and it's not often

that I applaud government programs,
but I will say the paycheck protection

program saved our, but I mean, we.

Applied for that.

And that literally bought us.

It added a couple weeks
to that crisis plan.

It bought us a couple weeks of being able
to move things around and keep people on

payroll and not have to lay them off and
keep 'em working and be able to reach

out to other customers and market it a
little bit different and learn about you.

About PPE, learn about sneeze guards and
learn about, all these other alternative

things that we could do, all these
other decals and signs and mobile order

pickup stuff, and just all these other
things that helped to pay the bills.

And we shit, we, we
pivoted really fast and.

, but I will say that paycheck
protection program bought us time.

It bought us a couple weeks to adjust.

And as soon as we figured out, Hey,
we can make sneeze guards, Hey, we can

make, caution decals and mobile order
pickup signs and all these other things.

And we reached out to all of our customers
and offered all these different things

and all these different products to them.

And we even.

Like we offered quicker turnaround times.

We said, look, we understand you guys need
this stuff quick, fast, and in a hurry.

So if you place an order, we guarantee
you will have it in 24 hours.

And so with all that stuff put together,
it helped to dig us out a little bit.

and what Scott was touching on.

We started humming along pretty good.

we had a couple big contracts.

we had a couple, of our customers
that were also pivoting at

the exact same point we were.

So they were doing a lot of mobile
order structures and it wasn't sign

related stuff necessarily, but they
were architectural structures that we.

Picking transporting and installing
all up and down the east coast.

So we had to travel to get paid,
but we survived, throughout that

stuff, starting to pick up and
up, starting to get a groove.

we had a fire and that, I literally
woke up and it was almost the end

of may, I guess it was May 20th,
May 22nd, somewhere in there.

and I woke up, it was probably two
30 in the morning to Scott beating

the crap outta my front door.

cause like any other person, two
30 in the morning, I am passed out.

Phone is on silent.

I am zonked out and he's beating
the crap outta my front door.

I look out the front door, unlock
my gun, safe, literally pulling

out a gun cuz somebody's beating
the crap outta my front door.

And finally realized that Tim, I
opened the door and he's dude, I've

been trying to call you for half an.

The shop caught on fire.

Oh my gosh.

So and so.

Bryant Gillespie: Things
are humming along.

You guys are getting some breathing room.

You got that margin.

Like the PPP helped you.


Stay afloat.

And then you're just like
two 30 in the morning.

You got Scott's face staring at you.

There's been a fire.



Mike Davis: my gosh.

So I run and get dressed, hop in
the truck and just haul as fast as

I can to the shop, which is about,
20 minutes away from my house.


I get there.

And by the time I got there,
fire department was gone.

Everything was out.

But, and I'm very thankful that
the fire actually, in terms of fire

damage from flame was not that bad.

they, the fire department came in,
they sliced open one of my bay doors

that they didn't have to, they,
they caused a little bit of damage.

They probably didn't need
to, but they got everything.

everything was all good there, but, know,
when I initially got there, everything was

black, everything was soy in my, one bay.

I walked to the bay next door, cuz
we have adjoining spaces, and looked

like everything was covered and
just kind of a light layer of soot.

And I'm like, okay, everything's
kind of dirty, but we should

be able to clean this up.


Like I immediately went
into let's clean this mess.

. Yeah, that's when, that's when, other
people started showing up cuz this was

still very early in, in the end morning.

So by the time the sun started
coming up, other people started

showing up like the fire marshal.

Like insurance adjusters, like
mold remediation and cleanup guys.

Other people started showing up
cuz they heard about what happened.

like hounds.


And man, you would, it was ridiculous.

It would like, like moths to a flame.

They all came out of the woodwork.


it was explained to me, cuz we had
already been there a couple hours and

we had already started to clean stuff up
cuz I was like, we got work to do, man.

Like we're in the middle of a pandemic.

Like I got orders, we got stuff to do.

Like I can't be, we gotta roll.

I sent some of my people who came into
out to get pump sprayers so we could

clean stuff and we started rocking.

Well then it was quickly
explained to me that.

Yeah, no.

Sot is extremely, extremely caustic and
corrosive to everything that it touches.

So that means all of my tools,
my printer, my cutter, my CNC,

anything that was in that space.

And the air touched was
immediately starting to rust.

And it's pretty humid down
here, Southern Maryland.

we're surrounded on water by
water on pretty much all sides.

So it's always humid here.

Well, I picked up a saws all blade.

It was probably nine or
10 o'clock in the morning.

I picked up a saws all blade that
it was brand new outta the package.

We used it to cut one piece
of lumber the day before.

Cause I was moving stuff.

and it already had a thick enough
coat of rust on it that I could run

my hand across it and it was green.

Bryant Gillespie: Oh my gosh.

Mike Davis: And I was like, and one of
the remediation guys came up to me and

he was explaining all these things to me.

And he's that's just
the tip of the iceberg.

He said, imagine that in every
single piece of equipment you own

and every single tool that's in this
shop and all of your paper products,

everything he's everything you have
in this shop has been affected by.

so, oh

Bryant Gillespie: man.

So every, like it there's
nothing that you could salvage.

Mike Davis: So luckily we were
able to salvage some stuff.

we had a electronics cleaning
company that came in and were able

to clean a lot of our electronics.

They actually used, CO2 that were,
was hooked up to special guns and they

actually blast the, Off of all the
sensitive electronics, it's a really

wild process to watch, but they were
able to clean a lot of our tools and our

electronics and stuff, but there was an
overwhelming amount of stuff that had to

just literally be thrown in the dumpster.

oh man.

So we, we had to relocate for about three
months, and there is nothing available.

Absolutely nothing to
rent, nothing to go into.

we actually lucked out right
down the street from our shop.

We found a warehouse that, another
company was occupying and it

was just extra storage space.

Well, they were able to clean some stuff
out and make a temporary home for us.

very appreciative of those guys.

we would've been way
worse off if they hadn't.

To rent to us like that.

one downfall to that space, our industry,
you have to have an internet connection.


email artwork.


Files, customer supplied stuff.


We had no internet for three minutes.

Scott Dean: my gosh.

Bryant Gillespie: So you guys are
running like off of, phone 3g,

Scott Dean: hot off our

Mike Davis: phone.

Oh my gosh.

It was anytime we needed to download
big files or stuff, we were running.

Up the street, back to the shop
where my internet was still running.

So we were running back to the
shop that was being rebuilt because

everything had to be emptied out, put
in storage or cleaned or thrown away

while they rebuilt the whole shop.

And, so we would run back, download
files and then run back to our temporary

offices to actually work on everything.

So it, so

Bryant Gillespie: how did, how
did you guys survive this man?

Scott Dean: it, it was the same.

We had just had lessons learned from
the COVID literally sat on another

whiteboard, say here's the first things we
gotta do in seven days, we need a space.

We need to make sure, insurance, we need
all these meetings we had to, instead

of having the carpet bagger and the VUL.

What do we really need to do?

what is, and we could write a book on
what you need to do with your sign shop,

to prevent from going through what we
had to do is, proper inventory and you

should, yeah, we should you need to take
pictures of everything in your shop,

down to dry erase markers and have it.

This is my inventory, cuz we were
guessing at stuff we were guessing

at what our inventory was, how.

how many envelopes or how many that's,
how, what detail they wanted, Oh my gosh.

And all that and make sure your books
are straight because your insurance

is counting on your prior year and to
give you money for when you were down.


and what they didn't, what you don't
know is you're probably better off

staying down than trying to stay in.

for the short term?

Mike Davis: Absolutely.


And as, as contrary to being
an entrepreneur, as that is

because for me, it was like,
no, we need to be back up now.

Like any downtime.

Is unacceptable.

And what I learned is no we're
gonna be down for a while.

And what, like Scott said, what we really
learned was we probably should have

just taken a step back and said, okay,
we're gonna need to be down completely

hard down 30 days a week, two weeks, 30
days, whatever that, that number would've

been and just committed to that instead.

Like I tried to get us back up
and running as fast as possible.

I expedited getting new computers
and this and putting this together

and just dumped all this time and
energy into trying to get us back.

And I was like, I was fairly
confident I could get us back to 75%

capacity in terms of our operations.

And I was lucky if I got
us back to maybe 20 to 25%.


Lucky on our best day.

Ah, geez.


Scott Dean: and just to tie.

And the reason being is that most
people who have the insurance, that

you're required, there's a clause in
there that will pay your employees

for the time that they are down.

So when it came, when it came to
us to make the final adjustment,

it was, it would've been smarter
to let those guys take the break.

let us get back to operating to
where we can operate at 65 to 70%.


And just be bleeding money,
which you never got back from the

insurance company, because you
were technically operating, you

Mike Davis: were operating so operating

Bryant Gillespie: Yeah.

See, I never would've
thought of that either.

but that's a good lesson.

Definitely a good lesson.

Peter Kourounis: So just a couple
of closing thoughts here, guys.

Mm-hmm for listeners out there.

I'll ask this to both
of you, Mike, you first.

what what advice would you give sign
shop owners, new, old, what have you

with various different backgrounds?

What would you do to advise them
on how they can prepare for another

type of crisis going in the future?

or that may happen in the future?

Mike Davis: I would say, the
one thing that we have done

that I'm really proud of is.

we haven't pigeonholed ourself
into one specific market into

one specific type of customer.

Like it's not, it's not a secret that most
of us work with national sign companies.

Most of us Subin installs and producing
graphics and signs and that type of thing.

I know some shop owners that rely on the
nationals for a ton of their business.

And if the nationals were to dry
up tomorrow, they would be in big.

And, we are right next to,
pot river enabled air base.

And I have some other local companies
who they rely on that base for a

significant source of their income.

And I made it my goal when I
bought the company that I wasn't

gonna be one of those guys that
relied on one source of income.

So I guess my biggest thing that I would
say is that establish multiple markets.

That you serve, don't
just serve the nationals.

Don't just serve your
local construction guys.

don't just be, the go-to guy who
does the vehicle wraps for all the

plumbing contractors in, your region.

Don't just pigeonhole yourself to one
market diversify to multiple markets

because when something slows down,
something else will pick up when

one type of customer stops buying.

there's an economic downturn.

There will be another type of customer.

If you were already serving
them, that things are picking

up for them for whatever reason.


And if you're already having those
contacts, you can easily pivot.

You can easily make those adjustment
adjustments with minimal effort.

Peter Kourounis: Great advice.

What about you, Scott?

I loved

Scott Dean: it, I guess from my operations
point of view, is I, my advice would.

two things know your books and
know your production and know your

sales and what you have been doing
prior to the signed apocalypse or

what, whatever issue you're having.

But you also probably should
be looking out into the future.

And I tell Mike all the time I'm.

When we were talking about inflation,
I'm like, I don't know if that's really

gonna affect us because our pricing has
steadily increased, but we haven't got

much pushback, but I think six, eight
months from now, we'll probably be seeing

less orders because people will be holding
tighter to their money and all that.

So my piece of advice is
always look forward, but also

know where you came from.

I know that's kind of cliche, but
I think it's important to know what

your sales are, what your payroll.

So when those things happen, those dollar
figures that you need to make that day

or that week, or that month to meet your
payroll, cuz when it comes down to it, our

main goal is to keep Mike paid and all his
employees paid because that's what we do.

That's why kind of we're in
business is to make money.

So that would be my piece of advice.

Bryant Gillespie: I love the
framework that you guys had.

That was like one of the big takeaways
for me of Hey, when times are tough.

Like I've got a whiteboard,
I'm looking seven days ahead.

just get me through these seven days
and chances are, if I can make it

through those seven days, the next
seven days we'll make it through.

it just keeps snowballing on that.

So what does, what do
you guys look like now?

what's the future for you guys?

Mike Davis: So we have.

We have moved into doing a lot
more larger scale projects.

And I think that's where we've
made pretty significant investment.

we actually hired a commercial
project manager and we had her on

the books for probably 14 months.

before we had a single project.

I mean, we just floated it on overhead.

so we have made significant investments
in the commercial sector to go.

That segment to not have to rely
on the national companies to not

have to rely on, just the local
defense stuff that is right.

Our backyard.

but we are partnering with.

national contracting companies,
local GCs that are building municipal

facilities, fire departments, hospitals,
dental offices, doing these build outs.

and we're even doing a, a regional
distribution facility for a

large grocery chain right now.

And, That is kind of where we are pushing,
more of those types of longstanding

relationships with these larger companies
that, we provide enough value to them

because we're experts in our field.

They don't know why they need
an ADA sign at a stairwell.

They don't understand, all these
specific installation guidelines

and why we need to have permits
on a state highway for a stop.

they don't understand all of these things.

And that's where we bring our level
of expertise and, we don't expect them

to give us all the answers and we.

And we have kind of really started
to carve out a niche and build these

relationships with these companies where
they don't even try to interpret or make

sense of these drawings or these plans
or these things that, that they've given.

They send it straight to us and they're
like, Hey, we got this job coming up.

It's this big project can,
y'all just make sense of it.

Tell us exactly what we need
to do and give us a bit, and

Bryant Gillespie: that's perfect.

That's the spot you wanna be in?

Do you wanna

Mike Davis: be the.

Well, and we have it.

we literally, and Scott
talked about whiteboarding.

We sat at a whiteboard probably almost
four years ago, and we figured out

who our ideal customer wanted to be.

We wrote it out right down to the
smallest detail who we wanted our ideal

customer to be and what we wanted them
to look like, what we also mapped out

what we wanted to be as a company.

And one of the things we wrote down
four years ago is that we wanted

to be the authority in our region.

For these guys to reach out, to help them
and slowly but surely working on where

we wanted to be every single day over
the last four years, we now are in that

position where these larger companies are
calling us and being like, please help

us because we don't know what this means.

We don't know what this is.

and we,

Scott Dean: we talked about that.

We have a group chat, but we just built a
sign for a animal shelter for our county.

And they literally, they came to
us and said, we wanna sign kind of

like the sign you did over here.

Well, it turned out into where our
graphic artists trademarked their

logo, cuz they didn't have one
and there was no questions asked.

They wanted to sign.

They knew we could produce it and we did
it and they were, it, everybody was happy.

they didn't have to do anything.

Didn't have to worry about anything.

And that's what Mike said.

So we want the architects, the
GCs, the municipalities to come to.

or at least say you should go to Hilltop
and figure out what it is you want

and what it is really at early stage
in the process at an early an early

stage, early stage in the process.

That's great.

Bryant Gillespie: Yeah,
guys, super incredible story.

I would've either pulled all my hair
out and it's kind of long at this point,

or I just would've gave up at that
point after going through everything

that you guys have been through.

I appreciate you guys
joining us on the podcast.

Peter, any closing thoughts
or questions before?

Wrap this one up.


Peter Kourounis: this was one
of my favorite interviews, guys.

Thank you so much for
sharing your stories.

Appreciate it.

I love that you both came into this
business from very different perspectives,

from one background to just venturing
into the business, through your family.

It's a great story.

I was telling Bryant
before we got on here.

I think that this is gonna be one of
our better interviews and it sure was.

So thank you so much for being here
and sharing that with you guys.

I look forward to hearing about
your success and having you guys.

Another time talking us about what you
guys are doing, going into the new year.

So yeah.

Thank you so much.

Bryant Gillespie: if they're
interested in learning more about

Hilltop, where can they find you guys

Mike Davis: online?

so Hilltop signs, is.

Our website.

we're also on all of our
social media channels.

So Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter,
LinkedIn, All those really good avenues

to get ahold of us, or, if anybody
has any comments, questions, concerns,

we do have a general email inbox,
which is sales, Hilltop signs,


Bryant Gillespie: And we'll
make sure add those links to the

show notes for this one, guys.

A pleasure.

I appreciate it.

All right.

Thank you.

Mike Davis: Okay.

Appreciate you having us.

Thanks guys.

Creators and Guests

Mike Davis
Mike Davis
Owner at Hilltop Signs & Graphics
Scott Dean
Scott Dean
Operations Manager at Hilltop Signs & Graphics
Surviving the Next Shopacolypse
Broadcast by