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low moral in our industry (especially tech's in the field)?


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I've really been getting an earful lately from electric sign techs. I don't ever remember seeing this much job dissatisfaction. Most tell me it is the out-of-state maintenance companies (sign repair brokers, etc.) that are ruining it for them. They are being asked to rediculously document every last detail of the repair, give an all-inclusive estimate before they've started the job. And the service company's know very little about electric signs to begin with. I met a tech today who showed me some of the communication he banter's back and forth with a service company. It was a joke - almost too embarrassing to repeat. A month to approve a repair to replace a missing channel letter face. Fix it fast, NTE 125, take 5 pictures of of it before and after. Argue profusely that this can't be done in a single trip. (Then take forever to pay I'm sure)

I'm hearing a lot too from techs working for service companies that they are being treated like a router machine. Work 14 hours one day, then stay home another day because there is no work. Then go home early one day so you don't exceed 40 hours.

Is this a local thing or are you guys seeing this in your 'hoods too? Starting to see some good folks want to get out of the industry and that's scary, because I sure don't any good ones stepping up to replace them.

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I think there is a low moral not only to this industry but our country right now. Most full-time jobs are broken up into part-time, and workers are having to pay for the part-time benefits rather than full-time. Business's are having a hard time maintaining to pay for benefits since Obama Care. In fact most service call / techs are being outsourced to India.

Our industry has no leadership, no real leadership to make it stronger or support the American worker or manufacturer. Their focus is more "internationalism", walk into any show and America is scooted to the side with no incentive offered. Our leadership is a business model more than giving shits about what is really needed.

Sign brokers/part-time/out-sourcement/unlicensed service providers are all tied in to the same problem. The result is, the consumer suffers

You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life. - Winston Churchill

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Started in the 80's when we started breaking up companies to sell off the pieces. The business world realized they would make more money if those pesky employees weren't in the way of profits. Here we are as a result of that greed. Everyone wants to be rich sitting at a keyboard. What? Can't fix the sign from your keyboard?

John is definitely talking about the corporate world because mom and pop shops don't put up with that crap. I used to have to explain why we didn't keep spare neon letters on the truck. What do you mean 2 trips. Describe it in a 5 page letter with 32 snapshots and maps showing your position in relation to the sign, that a keyboard employee can review to see if you get the job. Keep in mind your knowledge in troubleshooting the situation efficiently must be the low bidder.

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You (we) get what you tolerate. Having said that, yes, there are too many non-sign professionals in the mix with "total" facility brokers and higher level management being forced to document and justify more and more. There is also a request / requirement now to document more because the technology allows us to - so that means we MUST have it. I agree there is too much emphasis on the ACTIVITIES vs the RESULTS. Unfortunately, its not going away.

Moral problem? Look at the top - as goes the leader, so does the organization. Try a Tech appreciation day! And then reinforce appreciation and challenge them. I also agree its more widespread than just our industry, we are in stagnation right now and its a grind for most. Plus this economy is being propped up on toothpicks and the indecisive-ness is taking its toll.

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LOL, As I was writing this I was also on a conference call with our service Team and just overheard one of our customers now has an app for onsite clock-ins / outs and if you don't use their app your rating score goes down. Focus is on activates vs results.

So what can you? Comply. Its an opportunity, those that don't will lose out. So we had all the Techs download the app, and off we go to better ratings. :)

Smile, your in the sign business!

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Bottom line, as long as everything you are doing in the field is professional/quality and to code, then anything the customer asks of you is your responsibility to provide.

Its also your responsibility to make sure you are being paid properly for your time. If you're losing money following their procedures - IVR check in/out systems, multiple sign offs, quote forms etc;.....then you are simply not charging enough.

True there are lots of companies who want work for next to nothing, but they don't last.....pass on the work and focus on better paying customers.

As long as everyone is working and making money, should be no morale issues....it all comes down to mutual respect between employees and employers.

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We're busier then we can handle. Sadly we've been telling people, no. My techs, seem to be happy. But they're mature adults. Who get paid very well for what they do.

Everyone gets O/T. And everyone gets at least 1, 3 day weekend a month. (Except me)

I have no problem doing all the paperwork required by our customers. My techs fill it out at the job sites, on the customers dime. Before we get a sign off, or clock in/out of an IVR system.

If they require a ton of individual pics to be uploaded. Or have a huge list for a technical survey. I cover that in my price to them.

That being said. One of my favorite national customers was bought out/sold about 2 years ago. Haven't done much for them since the big change. They sent me a survey request today. To go 50 miles, survey a full building, pole sign for reface, lamp count, and check circuits. Then add a ton of office time. They wanted to pay $150.00.... Sent them my price back. No reply...

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We're busier then we can handle. Sadly we've been telling people, no. My techs, seem to be happy. But they're mature adults. Who get paid very well for what they do.

Everyone gets O/T. And everyone gets at least 1, 3 day weekend a month. (Except me)

I have no problem doing all the paperwork required by our customers. My techs fill it out at the job sites, on the customers dime. Before we get a sign off, or clock in/out of an IVR system.

If they require a ton of individual pics to be uploaded. Or have a huge list for a technical survey. I cover that in my price to them.

That being said. One of my favorite national customers was bought out/sold about 2 years ago. Haven't done much for them since the big change. They sent me a survey request today. To go 50 miles, survey a full building, pole sign for reface, lamp count, and check circuits. Then add a ton of office time. They wanted to pay $150.00.... Sent them my price back. No reply...

We are also busier - to the point of looking for more employees. Our guys are very well paid also and moral here is generally good. But I totally understand about the requirements from the national sign companies - my techs absolutely HATE those call in/call out requirements. The nationals do that so we can't charge them time to travel to the sites. And those low "NTE"s just kill me. They always say to call from the jobsite if the NTE needs to be adjusted. We don't have our techs EVER quote prices for the customer, the techs can call the office with what they need and we call the customer - and most of the time can't get an ok to do the work, so they have to pay another trip fee. Just ridiculous to spend time sitting at a jobsite waiting for an ok when we have so much work to do.

I actually prefer photos of the sign working - a manager's signature doesn't mean much because most of the time the managers don't even know the sign is out. Since we all have smart phones now I just signed us up for DropBox and we can easily download the photos now. But it is pricey. Then again, what in this business isn't?

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We're busier then we can handle. Sadly we've been telling people, no. My techs, seem to be happy. But they're mature adults. Who get paid very well for what they do.

Everyone gets O/T. And everyone gets at least 1, 3 day weekend a month. (Except me)

I have no problem doing all the paperwork required by our customers. My techs fill it out at the job sites, on the customers dime. Before we get a sign off, or clock in/out of an IVR system.

If they require a ton of individual pics to be uploaded. Or have a huge list for a technical survey. I cover that in my price to them.

That being said. One of my favorite national customers was bought out/sold about 2 years ago. Haven't done much for them since the big change. They sent me a survey request today. To go 50 miles, survey a full building, pole sign for reface, lamp count, and check circuits. Then add a ton of office time. They wanted to pay $150.00.... Sent them my price back. No reply...

We are also busier - to the point of looking for more employees. Our guys are very well paid also and moral here is generally good. But I totally understand about the requirements from the national sign companies - my techs absolutely HATE those call in/call out requirements. The nationals do that so we can't charge them time to travel to the sites. And those low "NTE"s just kill me. They always say to call from the jobsite if the NTE needs to be adjusted. We don't have our techs EVER quote prices for the customer, the techs can call the office with what they need and we call the customer - and most of the time can't get an ok to do the work, so they have to pay another trip fee. Just ridiculous to spend time sitting at a jobsite waiting for an ok when we have so much work to do.

I actually prefer photos of the sign working - a manager's signature doesn't mean much because most of the time the managers don't even know the sign is out. Since we all have smart phones now I just signed us up for DropBox and we can easily download the photos now. But it is pricey. Then again, what in this business isn't?

You don't charge for travel time? I do. I have to pay the employees drive time, fuel, insurance... You know the deal. I'm not eating that time.

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We do charge for travel time, but they try hard to eliminate it.

One of the most frustrating aspects of our job is our state Labor & Industries. We have to have so many licenses just to walk out the door it's silly. and in Washington state, we can work on parking lot lights and replace like-for-like parts, but we can't replace the entire fixture with - say - an LED fixture. And the rules get interpreted by each inspector (especially the newbies) differently. That's a real buzz kill.

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We do charge for travel time, but they try hard to eliminate it.

One of the most frustrating aspects of our job is our state Labor & Industries. We have to have so many licenses just to walk out the door it's silly. and in Washington state, we can work on parking lot lights and replace like-for-like parts, but we can't replace the entire fixture with - say - an LED fixture. And the rules get interpreted by each inspector (especially the newbies) differently. That's a real buzz kill.

Nancy, the people you sub for who probably aren't even in the same state you are in. Do they have the legal right to execute contracts with consumers in your state?

You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life. - Winston Churchill

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We do charge for travel time, but they try hard to eliminate it.

One of the most frustrating aspects of our job is our state Labor & Industries. We have to have so many licenses just to walk out the door it's silly. and in Washington state, we can work on parking lot lights and replace like-for-like parts, but we can't replace the entire fixture with - say - an LED fixture. And the rules get interpreted by each inspector (especially the newbies) differently. That's a real buzz kill.

Nancy, the people you sub for who probably aren't even in the same state you are in. Do they have the legal right to execute contracts with consumers in your state?

I've seen this discussed in the forum before, especially in regards to California. I believe you posted something quite awhile back about it being technically illegal for a company to perform work in California (subcontract or otherwise) without the state license.

My question is....even if this is true. What would the enforcement body be to police this?

If a national sign company ships a product in, a local installer with a proper license pulls the permits, installs, and performs a final inspection on the signage...passes with flying colors.....then what would be the trigger to even investigate this issue?

Are you aware of any instances when this policy was enforced?.....just curious because before this forum I never heard this issue brought up.

It's interested since the industry seems to be gravitating to the big national manufacturers and the small local installation/service companies.

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This all ties into my initial post which has been ignored for the most part.

We have no leadership. So, everyone is wondering why their doing some outrageous surveying and procedures for the national service companies it's in part because they are not from our industry. Their brokers from the janitorial or landscaping background trying to break into our industry and their using the sign companies as their own personal line of credit with nothing to offer. This line of credit is also illegal in most states, the way it's been used.

Our leadership who whether it's ISA or CSA here in California, one of the same as far as I'm concerned....."do nothing", their the do nothings. They pair up for "report the bandito" program and nothing more. In fact they do the polar opposite of what this industry needs. Their for deregulating licensed contractors opening the door for just anyone to execute contracts for any trade. The grocery clerk can execute a contract, collect a deposit (other peoples money), sub out, sub out and hire a licensed contractor to install the sign and wait until they are paid, if they get paid to pay everyone else off. Most of the times these brokers charge so cheap, their having to use deposit money from a job they just received to pay for a job they should that's 5th down the line, and to pay their subs.

The Wisconsin reversal was the latest victory for the sign associations. They tried it in Texas, but don't mess with Texas.....fail. It's these Sticky vinyl sign company franchise's that are pushing because they feel they should just be a sign company one day and have the ability to get into electric signs and have pole signs put up. Then the subs get the inexperienced project planner who was laying vinyl down the day before and wonder why there's disorganization in the project they're having to install.

Sign Associations see more money in satisfying the sticky shops because there's more of them aroudn to be members rather than doing what's right for the electric sign industry. The only time they give two shits for anything to do with the electric sign industry is when a EMC board regulation in a city is in jeopardy. It's profitable to bastardize this trade and attempt to commoditize it rather than keep it a true trade, turn and burn.

The state contractors boards need help, our sign associations know there's a problem with subs vs nationals but the membership money is based on employee money and choose to ignore it. In fact, friendships and relationships are so old they choose to ignore it, but they do hand out awards to these delinquent individuals for associations/industry job well done...even though people in the audience have been tracking this person down because their overdue 6 months to a year.

The bottom line is in most western states, it's illegal for anyone to contract out for which they have no license and it's because of the tier system of accountability when it comes to failure and to protect all parties involved, Consumer, General, Sub, and Supplier.....yes even a supplier is protected and the fastest remedy is a bond if needed to claim to pay for loss. This won't happen in any other state that has no laws.

it's not perfect, but it works. I'm not for heavy regulation but moderate.

The reason why it's hard to ever hear about it other than here is because well, we serve the industry much better in some areas that they choose not o because it get in the way of their business model.

But how great would it be to wake up one day and have an association actually serve the industry and not lick their finger or worry about the membership money or who they might offend for educating or making aware. I'm not holding my breath. To make this industry more aware or the state even it might take a death, or two. But the state can't do anything unless their aware, but who wants to do that?

Going back to part of your question if I'm aware, no. Because it's not what I do, I don't do much for acting as a sub. When an issue does arise I doubt anyone from the party speaks of it because not only would the party posing as a contractor be in violation, but so would the sub who knows their accepting and subbing for an unlicensed company/entity. By law, if the consumer finds out the contractor is NO contractor, the consumer is NOT obligated to pay, even if the job is up and done and the poser is putting their hand out waiting for funds, this very instance can screw the sub, and supplier.

What a world we would be in if our leadership actually worked with the state, created programs which they seem to like, make awareness and education and help eliminate all those that profit when they shouldn't be. Nothing against profit, but let's have a level playing field.

You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life. - Winston Churchill

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I hear and respect what you're saying.

I think it would be a moot issue if the installation companies stood together and passed on the low ball jobs out there. There is only so much markup these "outsourcers" can factor into the job and still pull a profit. Part of that profit is coming from low balling the installers, or cutting corners on the manufacturing (NY Paul's post comes to mind.....the "quality" LED sign he had to remove)...

Installers walking away from the low ball work we'll keep these guys out of the market to begin with.

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No doubt passing up on them would eliminate a lot, but we would also have less pollution watering down the industry enabling low-ballers if our leadership also assisted. They then would actually be earning their membership money and helping the industry we're all in

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You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life. - Winston Churchill

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Are you aware of any instances when this policy was enforced?.....just curious because before this forum I never heard this issue brought up.

It's interested since the industry seems to be gravitating to the big national manufacturers and the small local installation/service companies.

It's not really enforced here in Texas at all. Even though it is written in law that you can not sell, or offer to sell electrical services of any kind without a licensed presence in the state and a Texas master electrician on the payroll.

For better or worse, I think electric signs - especially the service end - are getting Uber-ized and it is going to become much more of a gig-economy for this trade, with fewer people actually having their own clients.

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Isn't that the truth.

There was a guy/vendor that came on here a couple of years ago with an app. Most didn't take to it as it seemed be more of a crowd funding type deal where you spend your time and energy and maybe you'll get awarded and the consumer gets the lowest bidder without even having to spend any time or effort.

Maybe it's going that way regardless.

You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life. - Winston Churchill

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There is an electric sign co/service outfit here in my city who confided in me this week they no longer had any of their own customers. 100 percent of their biz is through an out of state broker.

The really crappy thing about that sort of relationship is that you no longer set the terms for your own business. Someone you have never met may (and probably will) one day tell you things have changed:

-You'll now get paid at 180 days

-You are limited to $30 for any travel

-All overages are your problem

-hold on funds if there is a callback

Could go on of course...

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Eric, we didn't use our sign associations - it seemed like we were just sending money out for nothing. Then we found out some interesting programs. Our local county was changing the sign code and we had lots of input. Long involved process, but ISA had all the info in the right order and actually sent out James Carpentier to go thru the ordinances and attend meetings. That was a huge benefit! And our local sign association (NorthWest Sign Council) is trying to get cities on board with an engineering program - they have engineering specs for signs, so if the city/county will accept it, we can use it at $70 versus $200-$300 for a "wet stamp" engineer report. NWSC also sends us weekly safety meeting sheets and keeps us informed of any city/county code changes. There are more programs in place, we just never made the effort to contact anyone about them.

I've looked in the RCW/WAC codes for Washington state and still can't determine if it's legal for out of state contractors to hire us to work. But we do it for nationals that we like - the ones who pay on time, send us QUALITY product and have all the testing lab labels. We won't install crap. We always prefer installing signs we make in our shop. We had a great year last year and this year looks to be even better.

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They do have some interesting useful purposes no doubt, local codes, studies and some other groupon type stuff.

But for a leadership role and for one who calls themselves as that they need to lead.

They have National Sign Company/Distributor special show/meet once a year, this is the prime time for this discussion but they choose not too. They did come on here one time and explain/cite some ridiculous law about why they can't, the law they sited did not apply it was just an excuse. I also heard that you cannot join ISA now if you're a small fry, you must join your local. But if your a dist/National Sign Co you can or must directly. Strange...

They've also fallen short in other areas and helped degrade this industry when it comes to light sources and in trying to regulate Neon out of existence. It's finger licking leadership, not real leading to take on the hard issues. Hopefully one will pick up where they fall short, stay tune for that.

You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life. - Winston Churchill

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