Sign & Digital Graphics

September '14

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8 • September 2014 • S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S Highways in the Sky B y R I C K W I L L I A M S In the Trenches Pop, realizing the guys were always a bit concerned about his age and health, reassured them enthusiasti- cally. "Oh no, I'm feeling perfectly fine. Never feel better than when I'm flying. It's just that anytime I'm pass- ing through Palestine, I always take the loop around town." "The loop around town?" This older fellow flew planes the same way he drove his pickup, but he wasn't nearly as limited as he perceived himself to be. After all, with his little homebuilt aircraft and that trusty Volkswagen engine, he was "faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive"… well maybe not quite, but he was "able to leap tall build- ings," entire cities, rivers, lakes and freeways, too. But, being a creature of habit and more than a little concerned about getting lost, he might as well have been down on the highway holding his place in traffic. Well, it's been several years since I've flown any- thing (and yes, I really miss it and mean to correct this situation someday soon), but I think I've run my sign business about the same way Pop flew his plane. Too much I'm a creature of habit, and not nearly as adventurous as I ought to be, perhaps a bit afraid of getting lost if I get off the path I know so well. We all know that most small businesses fail early on, and we are way past that mark, but I think many small businesses do a poor job of succeeding as well. We are slow to try new markets, new products, new staff, or anything really new and untested. And by being such creatures of habit we eliminate the chance of doing something really great. And time goes by so fast, that speaking for myself at least, I can see there's a real chance of reaching retirement and then looking back and saying, "Why did I navigate an unchallenging course so long, instead of trusting my skills and doing some real cross-coun- try flying of my own small business while I had the chance?" Nope, that's not for me. And perhaps not for you either. I have a plan, and I will try to keep you posted. But, this "Trenches" is really to challenge you and I both to get out there and do something great, while we have the chance. And for me, that includes flying some more before too long, and before the rest of the pilots around East Texas are calling me "Pop." Have a great month, Rick J ohn Hammonds was a retired Air Force pilot, and we became friends many years ago, back when I was young and good looking. After retirement, he ran a small aircraft repair business out of a hangar at his house, where he worked on single-engine airplanes, including my little Piper Vagabond. He also built a custom plane or two and had a number of friends who did the same. His friends loved to get together and fly in loose formation to some airshow or fly-in, and it was an e c l e c t i c g r o u p . T h e y always chose their lead man according to whose plane was the slowest, since putting him up front eliminated any chance of going off and leaving him. Often, the slowest plane was also owned by the oldest pilot, who they called "Pop." He flew a little homebuilt with a Volkswagen engine and had a top speed of about 70 mph. On one such flight, Pop led the formation of about six planes from their home base of Crockett, Texas, toward Waxahachie, and their route took them right over Palestine. But when they got to the south edge of town, suddenly Pop banked hard to the right, then very slowly corrected by veering to the left over sev- eral miles, then turned nearly 90 degrees right again, resuming their northwestern track to Waxahachie. In their mostly open-cockpit planes, radio communica- tion wasn't easy and little was usually said, even to question this erratic pilotage. Once they'd all landed safely and gathered round for a little post cross-country chatter, my friend, John, asked Pop if he had felt okay during the entire trip, and if he was aware of the strange maneuvering he had made in the area around Palestine. Rick Williams owns Rick's Sign Company, a commercial sign shop in Longview, Texas. He has been in the sign industry since 1973 and documenting the sign business since 1986. Contact him at RickSignCo@

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