Kingston, New York
Posted on Wednesday, June 26th, 2019
Ozzie Beichert got into the sign business in 1972. His sons, Paul and Joe, grew up around the business but each went to college to pursue different interests. Paul got a graphic arts degree from Syracuse University, and Joe got a business degree from George Washington. In 2000, with college out of the way, they approached their dad with the idea of working with him and growing the business.
Today, Ozzie is retired and Paul and Joe are plenty busy with Timely Signs. They’ve gradually grown the business from the five-person shop that it was back then to a staff of 19 today. Annual sales are almost five times what they were back then. SignCraft spoke with Joe to learn more about their business and their strategy for growth:
Paul and Joe Beichert
15,000 sq. ft.
Paul, 46 and Joe, 42
Two Roland XR-640 printers
Multi-Cam 3500 Series CNC Router
Seal Base 64 Laminator
Roland Camm1 Pro 64” plotter
Epilog M2 Laser
Vision 1620 Rotary Engraver
Matthews Paint System
On Facebook as Timely Signs
For years our father had focused on signs for small businesses. He had larger clients as well, but it was part of the mix. When we got involved, we created a strategic plan to guide the growth of the business. We worked with the consultant who we still use today—he’s become a family friend. It let us chart our course.
One thing about family businesses is that it’s often hard to get everyone on the same page. Everyone has their own ideas and opinions. The consultant was able to help us decide where we wanted to go.
Three target markets
As part of that plan, we chose three growing markets that we knew we could serve better and at the same time grow the business: healthcare, finance/banking and education. Our father already had good clients in each of these areas, but we wanted to greatly expand the work we did for these key markets.
By focusing more of our efforts there, we have been able to do that. We developed our expertise at creating sign packages and wayfinding signage. We work regularly with eight or nine hospitals, 12 local banks and several nearby colleges and universities.
We still do plenty of signs for small businesses, corrugated plastic signs, storefront signs, election signs and that sort of thing. We didn’t want to lose contact with that segment of our market, but those three markets have provided much of our growth. We’re very involved with the community, and we were committed to not outgrowing the market that helped create our business in the first place. So small businesses are still a big part of our work.
Technology has changed the business so much in the past 20 years, and it’s also enabled us to expand our territory. We serve all of Westchester County and all the way up to Glens Falls. We go over to Connecticut and the Pennsylvania border as well. We also do some interior work in Manhattan.
Staff is critical
Our biggest challenge has been developing our staff. Many of the people that we’ve hired have come from outside the sign industry, which is a little unusual for a sign business. That’s been possible because we have fairly specialized departments: design, sales/ administration, fabrication, production and service/installation. Each of the people inside those departments is focused on their area.
So our graphic designers don’t make signs; they create the designs and set up presentations for our salespeople. Our fabricators are routing, bending, welding and painting. Our production people are cutting and applying vinyl.
We utilize some wild materials and some very interesting technology. We work with many vendors, too. So when a project warrants it we can get a group of us together and talk about it. Each of us may come up with a different idea of a solution. That’s so much more effective.
Developing sign salespeople
I think the hardest person to hire in the sign company is a salesperson. There’s no training available to become a sign service salesperson. You have to have extensive knowledge and experience in the field. In the case of Paul and I, we came up in the shop and understood production techniques. Our other salespeople have had production experience in the sign industry.
You have to find someone who can represent your company and has a thorough understanding of sign production. In this business, everything is custom—nothing is off-the-shelf. You have to work to find the right people for every aspect of the sign business like ours. We have found them. Our group is probably the best we’ve ever had right now. Most of them have been with us for 5 to 7 years and some as long as 15.
This may sound crazy, but one of the things that sets us apart from our competition is that we show up. Very often we hear that a client had called several sign shops, but no one else had returned their call or came out to see their project. Now more than ever, it’s important that you respond quickly to the customer. People have needs, and they want those needs satisfied. Our goal is to respond in 24 hours and no later than 72 hours. We get them the information they need and want.
We also handle the permitting, which can be a challenge in some towns. We know the restrictions and we try to make it is easy as possible for the customer.
We’re still growing now. We recently brought in another salesperson who is coming along. As he gets more proficient, we know we will need another graphic designer and a production person. I don’t know if we would want to grow much larger than 24 or 25 employees, though. This seems to be a good size for us. We love doing unique and specialized work, and we love the creative process. Paul and I are very much hands-on— we meet with our customers, work with the designers and we go out on key installations. It makes it all fun.
Our father never really expected that we would want to be involved in the business. We didn’t actually approach him with the idea until we were both out of school. Now Paul and I both have young children, and we wonder if any of them will want to be involved in the business. Who knows?