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Last Update: Thursday July 29, 2021

Key Idea: Make The Old New

FastSign founder Gary Salomon said that temporary sign business is a niche that big companies weren't interested in so he jumped in with a technology solution.

Key Question:


Try applying technology to an old-fashioned business.  This worked for Gary.

Gary said the sign industry will do 5.5 billion in sales annually. The temporary sign business is a niche that big companies weren't interested in. The old fashioned, hand-done methods were too expensive for people who just want to stick a sign in their yard announcing, "The Last Garage Sale."

Q: What was new when Gary launched FastSigns?

A: The application of technology to create small sign orders. Gary noticed that franchises like Sir Speedy were enjoying strong sales and profits so he took their idea and applied it to sign making. Gary started on the path of what is now called digital workflow when he bought the technique he uses today to make signs.

Q: What does this really mean and can any business do this?

A: Digital workflow means all information is inside a computer in some format somewhere. And, all of the computers talk to each other in some way. There is no paper needed to take an order, make and ship the order or collect for the order. Any business can do this but each of us has to weigh the cost/benefit and we have to understand where our customers are in their efforts to go digital. Many small businesses are not digital because their customers aren't yet and the wise position is to be only slightly ahead of customers. As we send this episode to television this week, we can report that most customers work online with FASTSIGNS. FASTSIGNS has nearly eliminated paper by providing what they call, "proof by email." Before this step was put into email, customers would either come in person to proof a sign or they would receive a fax from FASTSIGNS.

Q: How did Gary know he would be able to cash in on his investment?

A: He didn't so he tested the idea in one location first. Like we all must do, he took a calculated risk. He decided if his one location generated $15,000 per month in sales within the first year, he would go forward with the idea. Gary's commitment to digital workflow is key to the success of each store and gives him an enormous advantage over tiny shops. Computering is cheaper than ever but it can still be costly. By providing the turn-key technology to franchisees, they have less to worry about and more time to make sales.

Think about it

What action can you take to anticipate the marketplace? Describe how you found your newest product/service. How are you going to find your next product/service? What would it take for you to go digital? Who in your organization would be the best person to be in charge of the effort? How will you discover how digital your customers are or want to be?

Clip from: FastSigns: A study of Franchisor & Franchisee

Carrollton, Texas: This business began on the back of a paper napkin around a discussion over breakfast. That was 1985 .  Gary Salomon saw how a computer could make high-quality signs in hours instead of days. He jumped at the opportunity to build a business offering this service internationally. Today his company, FastSigns, is America’s leading sign company with over 500 locations worldwide.

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Gary Salomon, Founder, CEO

2550 Midway Road
Carrollton, TX 75006

Visit our web site:

Office: 9724470777

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1985

Make The Old New

HATTIE: Hi. I'm Hattie Bryant and this is Small Business School. If you want to understand how business works from the inside out, stay with us for the next 30 minutes.

Need a sign and need it fast? Here's a business owner who spotted a trend, and jumped on it. And this is a company that's helping others to open their own business.

In 1985, Gary Salomon, founder of FASTSIGNS, saw something similar to what you're seeing now: a computerized system for producing high-quality signs in hours instead of days.

GARY SALOMON (FASTSIGNS): There's probably about $5 1/2 billion worth of revenue on an annual basis in the sign industry--at least that's what the trade associations tell us. The niche that we go after are the more temporary signs, and--you know, everything from banners to vehicle graphics.

(Voiceover) We do a lot of the stuff that the big sign companies would consider, many years ago, a bother.

Unidentified Man #1: OK. Much easier to work in small pieces like that.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) After the sign is designed on the computer, a high-speed plotter cuts the graphic from adhesive-backed vinyl. The excess vinyl is removed, leaving behind a message, which is then transferred to a sign surface.

Unidentified Man #2: We take this lift tape, and we tape everything together, and this is how we ensure that we get a nice, straight tape line. OK, then once we pull it off, all the letters are nice and straight, and they're flat. None of them moved anywhere, and that's why we use the tape, to keep them all straight. And that's it.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Anything from acrylic to aluminum to window to vehicles, all in a matter of minutes.

GARY: Not only did we create a niche that really wasn't being serviced properly, but no one cared about it, either.

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