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Kgirl Kgirl


Supp/Mfg./Whole/Assoc. I
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About SharonToji

  • Rank
    Drive By Register

Profile Information

  • Name
    Sharon Toji
  • Company
    ADA Sign Products and Access Communications
  • Job Title
    President, CFO
  • City & State
    Long Beach CA
  • Gender

Previous Fields

  • Company Type
    Wholesale Shop

Quick Company Info

  • Contact Number
    949 929-6512
  • Address
    2370 East Artesia Blvd, Long Beach CA 90805
  • Equipment
    Router, Engraver, Thermoforming Press, shop tools, digital printer, vinyl cutter

Recent Profile Visitors

209 profile views
  1. We have been shut down since March 20, but since we just got a PPP grant, we are officially working, mostly from home, to do what we can to pay bills, as well as more to employees. We are always slow starting in December, after the ADA work in schools and colleges is over for the year pretty much, and businesses are thinking about the tax bill due in April, and then we pick up in late April. But we had been doubly slow ever since rumors of a possible pandemic appeared in January. Frankly, I'm glad our governor in California had the sense to close down quickly. Although we have a high number of cases and deaths, that is mostly because we have such a huge population. Our percentages look much better. I don't actually think business is going to rebound quickly for us and for many other businesses. And for any business like ours that is not providing something absolutely essential, and many signs are not, or at least people don't think they are (until they get an ADA lawsuit!), it's going to take a lot of time and work to build back up again. We had never recovered fully from the recession! I think that first, businesses are not going to have money, so they will spend carefully and slowly on anything not absolutely essential. Second, I think people will be fearful of too much contact until the deaths come almost to a halt or until there is a widely available vaccine -- and of course without one, it could all come roaring back in the late fall and winter. If schools and colleges are going to be closed again, unless there is bond money to spend, they won't be doing capital improvements, including ADA signs. I now have (down from 21 before the recession) a tiny team of 3 full time employees and several part time, or "as needed" employees. I and a great guy who wanted his own company were just in the process of merging when this hit, and now that has been put on hold, since he can't get his SBA loan. He would have provided some much needed expertise and a lot of wonderful contacts in Northern Cal. My staff has a huge amount of hard to replace ADA sign knowledge, among the best in the whole country, frankly. I don't want to see that lost, but I'm just hoping and working to try to find ways to keep us going (after 66 years!) and able to pay them and our rent, utilities and vendors. Good luck to all of you out there, with pretty much the same problems and the same hopes and dreams for your companies! The ADA Sign Lady
  2. We paid the big bucks for quite a while to get leads from Read, and then we thought we could save money by joining Blue Book. Our Reed subscription cost so much that they gave us a free large format printer to print out blueprints. We still use it to this day. However, with Blue Book, you won't get any leads other than from companies that are also members of Blue Book. Yes, we did get a website and an ad, and paid for some high listing, but I just didn't find that it paid off, although some companies swear by it. What we did find, however, was that once we had been a member for a while, we started to get repeat invitations. As a matter of fact, a year after stopping our subscriptions, we get so many bid leads for sign jobs in California (our area -- and we get both north and south --) that we can't even keep up with them. Our fax machine just spits them out, several per day. I think that, if you can afford it, you should pick an area and subscribe to the best service for a year. Try to bid a lot of jobs from the leads that are listed, and make them responsible bids. You should be able to then forge connections, and that may do the trick. Another possible avenue is to join your local chapter of the American Subscontractors Association (www.ASAonline.com) if you have a local chapter. If it's anything like our chapter, you can go to monthly dinner meetings and different contractors come and introduce themselves and will talk with you. You can get all the tricks of how to contact the estimators and put in bids. We get constant requests from divisions of CW Driver, for instance, for private jobs when before, we only knew about their public works division. I recommend membership in ASA very highly. Our executive secretary is great, and they have been very helpful to us. We get, for instance, a book of all the new lien laws with exact wording for everything. It's a huge help. Sharon Toji H Toji and Company Long Beach, CA
  3. Someone wrote to me and said that projects that are mostly (not money wise, but quantity wise) architectural, specifically ADA and even just one electrical sign ought to be done by electrical company, with the ADA signs subbed out. The implication was that we should not bid on those jobs, but leave it to the electrical companies. 1. Often, the electrical sign is ADDED after the job is already started. This happens with the school jobs all the time. They get in the middle of the job, and decide they want a big digital message sign. We already have the contract. We have even had a school decide they wanted to illuminate metal letters AFTER they were installed on the wall! The contract called for non-illuminated letters. They refuse to divide the contract, but insist that we have to accept change order, whether we want to or not. Believe me, we have used every argument in the book, including that we don't have the proper license. Their answer -- we will sue you for breaking the contract if you refuse a construction directive and a change order. 2. If the sign is a digital board, it is shipped from elsewhere, in the case of LAUSD, from Florida. They insist that the electrical installer (the person who adds the "box" and then plugs it in), is our tiered sub. Again, not our choice, and we get stuck if something goes wrong. Last time, it cost us about $7000 that we did not get reimbursed for. We do not make money on these signs, and would prefer they be handled 100 percent by an electrical contractor, or even by two -- one to fabricate and one to install -- but not by us. 3. Although I realize that there is no immediate danger like fire if the ADA signs are installed incorrectly (or are not even technically correct when fabricated), if they are wrong, they can actually be dangerous for people with vision impairments. On top of that, the electrical companies do not have a clue when choosing where to purchase the signs. They subject the owners to possible expensive lawsuits, in addition to shorting the students, staff and parents with disabilities. The rules are very detailed and complex. If someone cares to learn them and take them seriously, great. I don't care what kind of sign shop they are. Or if they want to vend them out, then vend to a local company that will also install, and choose that company very carefully. But the only shops that should be fabricating or installing ADA signs should be people who care enough to understand the rules and follow them. Sharon Toji
  4. Let me pitch in again from the point of view of a company that is FORCED to provide an electrical sign against its will. The Los Angeles School District does this, for instance. The majority of the work (but not the money), is in ADA signs, our specialty. Although there is no special contractors license for that (other than the normal sign contractors license), it requires a huge amount of detailed knowledge, to lay out, make and install the signs. Electrical companies don't know these rules, but if they get the job, they vend out that part, and often just to a cheap wholesaler who doesn't really know the rules, either. The electric sign installers usually don't know the installation rules. So, the tendency is to give the job to a company like ours, and force us to purchase the electrical sign, and if its a digital message board, install it as well. We argue in vain. We are then the bank, spending up to $50,000 of a $75,000 contract purchasing the sign, about which we understand NOTHING! We also have hire crane operators to lift it in place, and an electrician to put in the electrical hookup. We usually barely break even. Then WE have to figure out how to train the school district how to operate the sign. They refuse to do it on line with the manufacturer. We must send someone in person. And then, if the sign malfunctions, we get the call. Often, the manufacturer argues with us that they don't think it's the sign, but the installation or operation. We lose again. We have to pay someone to come out. This happened to us with a sign for a park, and it was a nightmare that happened over several years, and cost a bundle. Our other problem is that I don't feel, when it's not a digital board but illuminated letters or post and panel, that we have the expertise ourselves to judge whether we are hiring a quality company to do the work. Just having a license does not always mean you are doing really good work, and we have been caught with shoddy electrical work that we then had to take responsibility for. Leave it to the experts!! In the meantime, we often go out to locations to do fix up work, or new buildings on sites where an electrical company "did" the ADA signs, and see nothing but legal errors and inferior manufacture, since they knew no better. That is why I think these contracts should be broken up, and electrical signs and large monument signs should go to a company that legally provides and specializes in them. If they want to divvy up the manufacturing and the licensed install, OK, but they should both be companies that are specialists in these sign. They have the type of financing available to carry them financially for a year. Let us have the contract for the ADA signs. We know what we are doing, do it well, and are happy to guarantee and support our work. And yes, I know there are big FastSigns that have developed over the years and know what they are doing, and are properly licensed to do it. However, back when things were just starting off with franchisees, they often were essentially bootlegging all kinds of installation they didn't understand, although sometimes they did get the specialty license, and in the meantime, Worker's Comp was giving them retail rates for their workers, while we paid much higher rates for the same work. Those workers would clerk in the front, and then go out the back door with a ladder in a pickup, and the rates would stay the same. Thanks for letting me sound off!
  5. Actually, although we have a couple of times subcontracted with an electrical company to provide one sign that was part of a much larger contract made up of the type of signs we do -- small architectural signs (wayfinding, braille, etc.) we would prefer not to do that. The really problem is that architects and owners write specs insisting that one sign company provide all the signs. They don't realize that they would actually save money by using different contractors for the different types of signs. Most electrical companies or companies that do large pylon type monuments don't want to bother with the tiny details we deal with for ADA signs. Consequently, they will take jobs and then just order all the ADA signs from someone -- often getting a poor product that is not even legally compliant. And then there is the opposite -- a non-electrical company like ours forced against our will to purchase and subcontract out the installation of an electrical sign. We really get upset at the requirement to provide large digital signs. We have been badly burned by these. But when we have to buy out a sign and installation, and have to be the banker and also take all the responsibility, we have to add on costs. Or, if the electrical company has to provide the ADA signs, they have to add on to the price. The customer actually loses, both in price and in quality. Now, we are running into bids where they are insisting that one company do all the division 10 specialties! In order words, you provide the toilet partitions, the whiteboards for classrooms, and the flagpoles! What is happening is that you have to sub out most of the contract, since you can't obviously do all that yourself. And again, both price and quality suffer. All this is because the contractors and architects don't want to deal with so many people, so they force subs to become "tiered" and fob off the responsibility on them. It's a bad move for everyone, I think. Sharon Toji
  6. I think I've seen one part of one episode of undercover boss, and yes, it's a kind of reality show that is touchy-feely and not too much about the actual business. It's no surprise to me that the CEO of FastSigns doesn't know anything about signs or the sign business! All these popele are there because of their bottom line mentality. They are there to get money for shareholders or big-time owners, plus the top executives. One of my annoyances is that FastSigns is treated like a retail store by some of the regulators. At least in the past, I know that their worker's comp was much less expensive than ours, even though they were actually going out and doing all kinds of installation. At the time, I don't think they had much of a clue as to what they were doing. I know they don't have a clue about "my" main topic, ADA signs. They just order stuff, for the most part, and have no idea of what the requirements are or what they mean. But they have the power of their huge advertising budget, all culled from the individual franchisees. I really don't understand why anyone who really wants to be in the sign business would choose to join something like FastSigns. However, I know there are some legitimate sign companies that are with FastSigns, and do have or acquire the expertise to actually be called "Sign Companies." Sharon Toji
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