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Anyone else suffering burn out? I am absolutely wore out, tired of the continuous hassles, customers that expect us to have it done done before they even know what they want. For the last 2 1/2 years we have worked 6 days a week, most every week, and have even worked a few 7 day weeks. My week's average at least 75 hours and I am getting too damn old for this, the last few weeks just dread getting up to go into work. Everyone expects immediate responses on everything. I get requests for quotes on new signs and structures at 4pm and they say they have to have it no later than 9am the next day. Customers expect same day service on service calls. It seems our society today thinks everything is like the internet, I can just push a button, and it magically appears. The ones that push the hardest to get it early and call you everyday until it is installed, suddenly can't answer the phone when it comes time to collect the balance on the invoice. Most customers are always trying to beat you up on price and there is always some asshole that doesn't have a clue what it cost him to operate, or uses absolute junk to build his signs is practically giving it away. Customers don't want to give you a budget, afraid you will consume it all. I get tired of the customer that wants 14 or 15 36" channel letters on a raceway, that after you give them a quote, says they only have $1500.00 budgeted for their sign. Why in the hell can't you tell me that up front, quit wasting my time quoting something you can't afford. I can get them a sign of some sort, but they are not going to get a lighted sign of any kind installed for $1500.00. Some days I just want to look the doors and say the hell with it. If I didn't have employees depending on me for a paycheck, I would have probably already done that. But I've got long term employees that are good, loyal employees and I would never do that to them.

Okay, rant's over, back to work I must go. If you have any solutions, please send them my way.

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This may not sound encouraging but I mean it to be - this is on you if you are in charge. Sounds like it is time to step back and work on your business instead of letting it grow out of control. Look at your processes and kill what is not working and try something new. Establish new process and standards and stick to them for at least 90 days and then reevaluate. Create a new business and marketing plan and go after markets you want with the clients you want and fire the rest. Create a new niche or develop a new product or style.

Been there. Sold my last sign shop ten years ago for the same reason and then later realized all the mistakes I had made. Keep fine tuning and run your business, dont let it run you into the ground.

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Thin out the deadbeats, cheap hunters (they will always be cheap and their referrals will expect cheap), favor seekers. You'd be surprised how much quality time is left for your good customers and personal life.

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It was presented to me this way: If you keep on doin' what you've been doin', you'll keep on gettin' what you been gettin'. I don't mean that in a smart-alec way, either.

Both posts above are pretty much on the mark. If you keep on torturing yourself for the sake of your employees, what's in the future for you?

I hope you get this noodled out. Good luck.

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I hear ya brother! Running a small shop is a bitch sometimes. I've gotten to the point I send the price mongers packin' and charge good money for the work I do. Found out a long time ago that the jobs you don't get because you are perceived as "too high" are the ones that would have been a pain in the ass, and would have caused you to miss a child's baseball game. Take time for family... there will always be other sign jobs, but you only get one life, so live it!!!!!

Edited by chubbygumby
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Brian Phillips | expresssignandneon@sbcglobal.net | P. 812-882-3278

Express Sign & Neon | 119 S. 15th Street - Vincennes - IN 47591

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  • !llumenati

I Love the sign business, I hate the customers

Everyday is a new adventure and a new goal. But its still better then working for some else

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Wish hiring another person would relieve this situation. But it's not that simple, really need another crew, that means another truck, inventory and tools. At my age I just don't want to go in debt. I'm debt free and have been for awhile, no desire to ever go into debt again. Also trying to find decent help is almost impossible. Part of the reason we are currently in this shape, was it took me almost 7 months to find my latest hire. Either they can't pass a drug screen, their driving record is so bad you can't insure them or they don't really want to work. Interviewed numerous people, couldn't believe how many told me they wouldn't work over 40 hours a week, 8 hours a day, no weekends and no nights. There are just some jobs that require after hours and weekend work, no way around that. Also, when you are 1 1/2 hours away from the shop and you like an hour being done, you can't quit and come back the next day, it just isn't feasible. I agree Chubby, the cheap customers are always almost impossible to please. I've tried to weed out most of those, but sometimes a few slip thru. We do a lot of work for the good nationals as well, I don't deal with the bad ones, weeded them out long ago. Some of the nationals we work for just don't want to take no for an answer when you tell them you can't take on more work. Can't really afford to lose them. We have a good reputation with the nationals, we do it the right way, get their documentation the way they want it and we meet their schedules. I think that is one of the reasons we keep getting more of their work. Kind of a catch 22. I'm not like some of my competitors, if I give a customer a date, I intend to meet that date. Some of my competitors will promise a job in two weeks, knowing they won't get to it for two months, just to get the job, I don't do that. On top of that my lead installer is concerned about us meeting our customers expectations as well. So we both wind up stressed. Everyone says it must be great to be so busy, and it is to an extent. But being overwhelmed is just as stressful as being short of work.

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The nationals will take no for an answer just be firm. They will not go away because you are doing good work and they can't afford to loose you.

Installation & Maintenance Services

Brian Phillips | expresssignandneon@sbcglobal.net | P. 812-882-3278

Express Sign & Neon | 119 S. 15th Street - Vincennes - IN 47591

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Eugene, some excellent insight from the other posters in this topic, so I'll just add my brief comments.

We have (or are) all been here. I'm in my last half of my life in this profession and a few things are really becoming clear. I think most of these apply to all of us:

1. there is no shortage of work in most areas right now. The main goal for everyone now is not getting work, but weeding out the bad work so you can spend your time on good clients.

2. A lot of work out there is just not worth doing by anyone. Either someone is not willing to pay for it, or they are asking for things that simply cannot be profitable or worth doing for anyone at any price. Learning to confidently say "no" is an ongoing skill set I think all of us work on our entire careers.

3. Take vacations - even if they are just occasional 3-day weekends. These really give (me at least) a chance to evaluate what the hell I'm doing and what the hell I want to do. It was during a 3 day beach outing with the fam' I realized I needed to dump a client that was zapping 70 percent of my energy and time and only contributing 20 percent to my income. It was a tough pill to swallow, and I had my doubts the following few months after dropping the axe. But ultimately it made room for new areas of work and great customers.

4. within your own company: reward the good folks, but don't be hesitant to oust someone who is dragging everyone else (including you) down. It's amazing how one person can poison the well. Anyone who's run a biz more than 10 years knows exactly what I am talking about.

I really cant' stress the importance of #1 enough. There are many jobs simply not worth taking. And people can be really pushy. My natural inkling is to help nearly anyone, and I constantly fight to stay in the drivers's seat. Deadlines are ever present in our line of work, and it's easy to fall into a vicious cycle of bouncing from emergency-to-emergency. This kind of environment destroys your own ability to remain sane and make your own operations efficient and work for your own needs.

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Eugene.. Without prying are you fairly profitable? Nothing leads to burnout like spinning the wheels and getting no where financially.

Whenever you get the feeling of burnout ask yourself is there some other job that would be better? All jobs have their pros and cons...but as the business owner you make your own destiny...no one who works for someone else has that freedom.

Weed out or delegate the portions of the job causing you grief. If your biggest headache is customers with unrealistic budgets why not hire a salaried salesperson /project manager. They could field those headaches... Which since it's their only job duty might be perfectly fine for them. And since they are salaried you're not just pawning junk customers not likely to make a sale...

Maybe a salary base for the pm/administrative duties and a commission for sales to create an incentive and get some hustle out of the person.

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Every statement you made is 100% correct. Now we just need to live by them.

This should be the 4 Commandments of the sign industry

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southernsigns, we have been profitable from day 1, with the exception of 2011, when we had a break even year.  I just had my first full weekend off since the first of last October, actually took four days.  Spent them with my son, brother and friends, attending a Nascar race weekend, consuming  a lot of adult beverages.  Feeling much better, didn't spend any time thinking about the business.  But this week will be a bitch, have to make up for the days I was off, plus all the new stuff that will be coming in.  I used to love to work and enjoyed lots of it.  Now not so much, pretty much dread seeing Monday come.  Think some of that comes with age, I'll be 59 soon, just can't go like I used to.  Also think you lose some of the motivation when you don't owe the bank every dime you can make.  I've been out of debt, both business & personally for several years, I'm in good financial shape, so I just don't feel the need to work as hard.

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Consider getting a business coach.  I was in your shoes ten years ago.  Work on the business, not in the business.

Most of us are not business experts.  A coach will show you the stuff you didn't know you didn't know.

Good luck!

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Eugene, I agree with most of the comments made , so I won't bore you with my burnout stories / business expertise. However, I did want to mention that I love Elizabethtown, KY! I spent many months going through Basic Training and then the Officer Basic and Advance Courses at Ft Knox - good times!! Vine Grove is cool too. Oh, and good luck on the burnout crap, LOL!

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at 59 do you have any sort of exit strategy?? you said you have a lead installer who worries about getting the jobs done. Thats a good thing. It shows he has an interest in the company. Does he have any brains to run a company? have you discussed a buy out plan with anyone? I dont know how many people you have working for you or the size of the actual business but at your age you might want to think about your exit. Since you have been working for 40 years and many of those at a successful business you own i would like to think you have some options( money) and can dial it back  a bit and hire someone to help with day to day.. There are certainly people out there you just have to pay for them. 

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