On the shopVOX blog, we devote a lot of time to documenting what the shopVOX print shop software is and how it can help your business. We also like to advise small sign businesses on optimizing their operations and growing their customer bases.
Lately, however, we’ve been spotlighting a few real businesses that we’ve spoken to about how shopVOX has aided them in their endeavors.
In this case, we’re showcasing Art Sign Works, a Murrieta, California-based sign shop that specializes in wooden, HDU, and metal signs and plaques. We’ll go over what kinds of projects the business works on, how it got started, and how its employees use shopVOX in their daily work activities.
What Does Art Sign Works Do?
Art Sign Works designs and fabricates its own products and ships them all over the United States. In fact, despite its California headquarters, much of the shop’s products ship to the eastern part of the country.
The shop makes fully custom wood, HDU, and metal-coated signs and plaques, and produces all custom engraving and sandblasting in-house.They ship their products to residential, commercial, military, government, and retail customers. Art Sign Works employs three full-time designers but must contract out its 3-D sign work since those projects are highly time-consuming.
About 50% of the shop’s revenues come from the wholesale market. Customers work with those retail stores to choose a design for their sign, and then the retailer sends the order to Art Sign Works for production.
The industries from which the company receives the most retail business include the U.S. government, state governments, the U.S. military, and U.S. courts. Next come restaurants and wineries, followed by individuals who need custom signs for home addresses or property notices. One of the ongoing challenges for Art Sign Works is being able to market its products and capabilities to all these markets at the same time.
How Art Sign Works Started
Art Sign Works president and CEO Paul Williamson worked as an aerospace engineer for Lockheed Martin and retired from there after 32 years. He then worked for Science Applications International Corporation for about eight years before finally following through on his long-time desire to start his own company.
Paul Williamson said that if he was going to run a custom sign business, he did not want to pump out widgets or be a consultant to anyone. Instead, he simply wanted to build beautiful products for people. At this point, he estimates that Art Sign Works has created and distributed about 100,000 unique signs and plaques across the United States since 2005.
The Art Sign Works Team
Art Sign Works currently employs 19 people. There are three full-time designers and three customer service representatives; the rest are shop workers. Williamson notes that although there is some turnover in the shop, most of the company’s senior members have been there for between 6 to 12 years.
With the personnel to support it, Art Sign Works makes about 7,000 signs and plaques a year, a far cry from when the business was essentially a garage start-up.
When asked about growth plans, Williamson stated that Art Sign Works has been growing about 30% a year but in 2020 grew only 10% due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. The company struggled in April of 2020, when their normal sales were cut in half. Following that brief period, however, the business recovered fairly quickly, returning to normal sales by July.
Although Williamson does not have a direct hand in each project the team is working on, he says the company is always busy and is currently working on about 200 orders.
Out of those 200 open orders, about 140 are in the shop, and the other 60 are being reviewed by customers or in some other stage of production.
Williamson said that Art Sign Works makes many plaques for the military (for which the business is licensed to produce plaques), the U.S. federal government and several of its embassies, and more than 100 federal courts.
Art Sign Works has produced three plaques for the White House, four for Air Force One, and several for the U.S. Supreme Court.
How Art Sign Works Uses shopVOX
By early 2021, Art Sign Works had been using shopVOX for about two years in its daily operations.
Williamson describes shopVOX as “everything” for his business. He says his company uses it end to end. From the first time someone makes an inquiry, that prospective customer is placed in the software’s sales leads section. As the business communicates with the customer, the lead becomes a sales order and finally an invoice when it comes time to pay.
Art Sign Works continues to use shopVOX even after the sale, since the software lets them monitor where a sign is among the company’s various shops at any given time and track when it will be finished.
Williamson stated that shopVOX essentially has three elements that stand out to him as crucial to his business.
First, the software’s ability to track proofs and sales orders cuts down on confusion, since customers sometimes have lengthy back-and-forths with the company on proof revisions. shopVOX allows Art Sign Works to stay up to date on a customer’s most recent requests or final approval before beginning production.
Second, shopVOX lets Art Sign Works track production. This is important because major problems arise when and if an actual build is different in any way than what was in the approved proof. shopVOX helps the company to keep all this information organized in custom workflows.
Last, shopVOX helps Art Sign Works to develop and maintain its pricing models. The business’s customer service representatives use the software’s drop-down boxes to add customizations to a product and help turn out between 15 and 20 quotes a day to prospective customers.
Williamson described his sign shop as “chaos” before shopVOX came in. Signs were misplaced, there was no accurate pricing model, and operations were overall less efficient. Once Art Sign Works started using shopVOX, the company was able to triple in size because of how things were now organized.
Williamson claimed he chose shopVOX from among its competitors because the platform was the most flexible for his business. In fact, he loves shopVOX so much that he recommends the product to other sign shops, believing it could help them to grow, as well.
In his free time, Williamson has enjoyed hiking, sailing, and traveling all over the world with his wife.