Sign & Digital Graphics

October '14

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8 • October 2014 • S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S e Optimist B y R I C K W I L L I A M S In the Trenches uh… I mean he shoved my arm back toward my shoul- der and caught my right thumb between his helmet and mine, which felt like he hit it with a sledge ham- mer. I landed with my back on the ground seeing stars somewhere about where the play had started. If I was going to play against this guy, I didn't need brute strength—I needed a plan. But our first string guys had figured that out about two quarters back, and the favorable score on the scoreboard showed they had determined the right strategy without me, which didn't include running over ol' number 56. If you are really a bit of a runt on a 9th-grade football team, being an optimist can get you in a lot of trouble. Being an optimist can sometimes get you in trouble in business, too, and I regularly overestimate my ability to complete a job in a certain number of hours, and then work the free overtime to make up for my unrealistic appraisal of myself or my team. Being an optimist makes me think I can keep up with 50 jobs and 50 deadlines, mostly in my head without having a meticulously organized way of mak- ing these things happen so nothing falls through the cracks. And being an optimist fools me into thinking that just working that much harder can compensate for not having the right business strategy to take my sign company to the next level. But, it is fall again. And this season more than any other makes me want to do better, makes me inclined to pick myself up, dust myself off and try to play the game again with a better game plan and some experi- ence to go with it. I am not tired, and I'm still in the game, just as you are. Coach Clay had another phrase I will never forget, "Boys, excuses are a dime a dozen… results are six points apiece." We really needed to hear that… and I still do. So, what's the game I'm trying to win at this stage in life? To spend the next few years ahead of retire- ment getting this danged sign shop to run… when I'm not here! Your goal may be the same, or something bigger, but in either case it will take a strategy to get there, not a stiff arm. I hope you have one, I'm working on mine, and I hope you have a profitable fall season and beyond, playing this commercial sign business game. It's a chal- lenge, it's a pain, but it's still fun. And for me, though it's got to be the fourth quarter, it's not over yet. W ell, by time you will be reading this, the tem- perature will be cooler, the leaves will be falling, and football season will be in full swing. I don't have the time to get very involved in game watching any more, but I think American football is a great game, it is our game, and I am glad it was the one that evolved here in the good old U.S.A. Oh, that's not because I was a great athlete and former football star, but because I learned so much just playing the game in school and being tutored in the lessons in life by the coaches we had. I think I learned more about life than I did about football, and I needed those lessons. If I got hurt at home, my mother would feel sorry for me, and bandage me. Whereas my coach would look at the scrape, cut or bruise, and encourage me with words like, "Son, I've had worse than that on my eyeball, get your butt out there and hit somebody!" Coach Clay, who was our Vince Lombardi in the 9th grade, would prepare us saying something like, "Football isn't a contact sport. Dancing is a contact sport. Football is a collision sport!" And he tried to make us tough enough to take whatever the other team was dishing out. And, though I didn't get to play much, when I did I believed I was a lot tougher and stronger than I really was, which showed the way I played the tail end of a game one late fall night. I've told this story before, but coming into the game as a backup quarterback after the first string had already won the night, still gave me the opportunity to show my stuff. So, I called a quarterback draw to show everyone I could run against this team. I dropped back, faked a handoff, and then judged the best hole to run to was on the right side of the line, darted for the hole only to see their frustrated first string linebacker pre- pared to meet me. But, I was tough as nails and thrust my right hand forward to stiff arm this character. When he uncoiled on me, I shoved his helmet… 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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