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Last Update: Thursday July 29, 2021

Key Idea: Stop Doing and Start Leading

Founder Gary Salomon found a great technology which makes it easy to produce professional signs quickly and much cheaper than the old methods.  By teaching thousands of others how to sell and create the signs he has grown into a large business.

Key Question:


Hire great people then left them do their jobs.

When we interviewed Dr. Keith Grint, we kept thinking about Gary Salomon because Gary is the type of leader Dr. Grint believes can be the most successful at running a modern organization. Dr. Grint has published seven books and over 40 articles on topics ranging from business process, reengineering to appraisal schemes, organizational theory and sociology of work. He is the Director of Research at the Saïd Business School, Templeton College, Oxford, England. Dr. Grint helped us understand how to identify a leader and he talked with us about power, charisma, communication and motivation.

Gary admitted it was a struggle for him to stop doing and start leading. He realized that he could not keep everything in his head as his company grew and that he had to depend upon others to not only do the work but to make decisions. Dr. Grint would call Gary a process leader because Gary wants everyone to participate in the decision-making and most of all he wants every working to improve the processes.

How does a small business foster an environment where everyone speaks up and everyone is heard?

A: As always, actions speak louder than words. As important as it is to engage in dialogue with your employees as part of your interaction with them, it is just as important to have a formal process for soliciting their input. Remember the “suggestion box” that was so common years ago? The concept of the suggestion box coupled with the exchange form of communication is a powerful combination. There are a number of ways to engage in this dialogue, brainstorming sessions certainly are an effective means. Collaboration is popular now that the Internet allows people to engage from multiple locations. Whatever the process, the important thing is that you have a way to engage every employee in the task of improving the systems.

Think about it

What formal opportunity do you provide for your employees to offer ideas, constructive dissent and challenges to the way you are doing business? What part of your operation needs better processes?

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

Stop Doing and Start Leading

HATTIE: (Voiceover) The FASTSIGNS leadership meets every Monday morning.

GARY: Steve.

STEVE: Just a couple issues. This week we're working with Alternative Living. It's a company that's been turned in by Chris Rose. They have 400 locations that they're doing a name change with. They want them done rapidly.

HATTIE: Who has an idea, or a theory about why this particular group of people sitting around this table gets--why do you get things done, why does this group work well?

Unidentified Man #5: This team works well as a group because, like I said, a number of people have had their own businesses here, and we enjoy also working in the--getting entrepreneurs started in their own business.

Unidentified Man #6: It's probably the fairest organization I've ever worked for.

HATTIE: What do you mean by fair?

Man #6: Gary, Don, everybody sitting at this table really takes the time to listen to all sides of every story to make a decision.

Unidentified Woman #2: I guess I'm here because--right now I'm here because Gary cares about everyone who works here, as well as cares about the franchisees.

GARY: You have to work through people a lot more than when you're running a smaller operation. The typcial store in our system has anywhere from four to eight people. The larger stores maybe have ten or twelve. You can keep your hands on all that is going on, to a certain extent, in an environment like that. When you have a staff of 75-80 you've got to work through people and you've got to make the shift from being an entrepreneur to being more of an organized business.That's a threshold that I had a great deal of difficulty coming through many years ago.

HATTIE: How did you get through it?

GARY: I finally decided to stop meddling with what they were doing. In the beginning I had to keep everything in my head and after awhile it became evident that while that fed my ego it didn't allow the people that I had hired, put in place and paid a decent wage to be able to be fulfilled by what they were doing. Because you put people in place you have to let them do their job properly.

The more people we attracted over time the more I was looking for the areas that I was not really the best at. I'm great at ideas, I'm great at marketing, I'm great at sales. But when it comes to the day in and day out activities of management, that's not my bailiwick.

GARY: I try to keep things as simple as possible. Basically, I try to have people get the feedback they need in order to be as productive as possible and I try to reward accordingly. I think the bottom line is I don't have much of an ego. I'm not really interested in as much being right as I am interested in having the best result or the best solution, and if it's not my idea, I really don't care. I'd rather it just be, you know, the best idea.

When you have that attitude, people aren't afraid of giving you an opinion, because they know they're not going to be shot down. And as a matter of fact, you know, while I sometimes have some excellent ideas, I'm sometimes showed the door, in a manner of speaking, as to how unreasonable that idea might be. But what it does is, is it fosters the ongoing embracing of ideas coming from other people, because they know that it's going to be considered, and that we mean it.

So, you know, does that necessarily mean that you always get the right solution to a problem? No. But at least people aren't afraid of offering it. And I think that, you know, compensation is a part of keeping good, quality folks, but it's not really the top item. It's creating an environment where people feel like they can make a difference, and that they're being listened to.

I think one of the most rewarding things in the world, if you're running a business, is to know that you underpromised and overdelivered beyond their wildest expectations. And that's pretty much the postulate by which we run the FASTSIGNS franchise system. We want to surprise people. We want to make sure that they understand that we could have done this, but we did that. And that franchise agreements, or any agreement, whether it's by written agreement or by handshake, are the basis by which you move forward, but what you do above and beyond that is really how you build the relationship.

HATTIE: Is that transcendent to anything, any business, and that is promise this and give this?

GARY: I think it's in any relationship, whether it's business where money changes hands, or whether it's personal. I mean, if you exceed the expectations of the individual that has some expectation, you're usually going to create a pretty darn good relationship, and I think that with--in franchising, that's always the case.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Gary's smilling because he's helping so many make their dreams come true.

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