Sign & Digital Graphics

August '16

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8 • August 2016 • S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S So Long, Beer Half B Y R I C K W I L L I A M S In the Trenches Let's see, if I had stayed in college and really applied myself, I might have been a doctor and made some serious money. Then again… most of the doc- tors I know don't seem too happy with the state of the medical profession these days, and some don't seem to live all that long. Hmmm, perhaps I could have gotten a degree in business or accounting, and earned my CPA. But if I really think that through, I don't think that would have worked too well because that much number crunching and paper pushing would have done me in by now. If I can't manage the papers on my desk, maybe a desk job isn't for me? (If you could see my desk, you'd know that's a rhetorical question.) Perhaps I could have been an investment banker. Those guys make real money, and that's got to be some easy work. Of course I've never seemed to have any knack for investing, and generally have no record of picking winning stocks or any think like that. After all, I owned Apple stock when it was $15 a share… and sold it. So, if the truth were known, I guess the last thing I need to do is manage anyone else's money, because I don't know where in the world a lot of mine went. No wonder my high school counselor couldn't help me find out what I should do with my life. I'm just a natural born sign maker. So, I suppose a man with two bucket lifts shouldn't waste his time worrying over the low hanging fruit that's no longer there. There is always plenty of sign work to do, of one kind or another, and it looks like that's why I'm here. So why fight it or spend time looking back? I guess I'll just keep on being the first one to arrive at the sign shop each day, and the last one to leave. The place has my name on it, and still provides plenty of opportunity, even if some years the work isn't as easy or profitable as I'd prefer it to be. Perhaps I should be counting my blessings. After all, I could have just lost everything in the oil business, like some very good customers of mine. I just hope they don't decide to start over… in the commercial sign business, as a lot of that's already taken around here. I hope your sign business is doing well and stay- ing busy. If it's still paying the bills, as mine is, we might as well be happy. For once, what we do every day may just be better than drilling for oil, even way down here in Texas. I f you've been reading these Trenches articles for very long, you already know our little sign shop is located "behind the Pine Curtain," in the deep East Texas town of Longview. I started our sign business back in 1974, after spending two years working part- time doing sign work while attending a local junior college. Then not knowing what I should study for the next two years, I just kept doing what was paying my bills already. At first I was running a one-man "hand painting" sign shop, but my sign business evolved quite a bit over the years. Not surprisingly, given our location in one of America's oldest oil fields, the shop's annual sales became a 50/50 mix of commercial sign work and oilfield signs and decals. The fact that our oil field clients came to account for about half of our ongoing business was completely intentional and perfectly okay by me, since the com- mercial sign business was typically one of this sign, and two of that one, and the oil field orders were more likely to be one of this sign and 200 of that one. Even a college dropout could appreciate that. So, the business "better half" I've enjoyed has always been my relationship with oil field producers and service companies that have been so good to us over the years. Some of these clients are as large as BP America, or Chesapeake Energy, and others as small as a local father/son operation slowly building an empire. I appreciate them all, because they order sign work that I can train my employees to do. And much of the work is consistent, or even profitably repetitive… instead of the ever re-invented wheel of custom sign work. Well, this year, with oil prices staying low, the oil- field and everything connected to it is suffering, and sign orders from that sector are anemic to say the least. It has taken a while, but the mistakes of my youth may finally catch up with me, and after paying for two and a half college educations, I may soon regret having given up on mine. 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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