Sign & Digital Graphics

September '19

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8 • September 2019 • S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S First Commandment 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 B Y R I C K W I L L I A M S In the Trenches A couple of times over the 30-plus years of writing these columns I have documented what, in my world, are the Ten Commandments of the Sign Shop. And though I have written about them only twice, I am reminded of them a lot more frequently than that by what goes on here at the shop. One of them simply says, "If you don't know where some- thing goes, don't dare put it 'up.' Place it on my desk, in my chair, or out in the middle of the floor where I'm bound to see it." I still think that's good advice, because if someone puts something "up," whatever it is, but has no idea where it belongs, even they will forget where "up" is and the dad- blamed thing won't be found until the next time we move the shop. Another one, and I believe it was Commandment No.7, says: "Thou shalt not covet your employer's tools, his petty cash, or anything that belongs to thy employer." Sounds a lot like one of the real Ten Commandments, and it is certainly important. Fortunately, I can count on one hand the times I realized one of my people intentionally broke that rule. Now, "unintentionally," well that's another story. Of course the ones most often guilty of bending or breaking this com- mandment are my own two sons, who work just across the highway at our other shop, and know full well that Dad has a lot of useful and handy tools and his are a lot easier to find sometimes than theirs. The second commandment of my list is, "If you have a problem on sign No. 2, don't tell me about it on sign No. 9." But the number could be 19, or 119 if you're screen printing. I need to know about the problem at sign No. 2 so I can fix whatever it is before sign No. 3 and save the waste and cost of all those unnecessary mistakes. Recently, a young part-time employee was assigned to punch holes in a slew of angle iron sign frame members on our old Edwards Iron Worker. But, because the stripper fin- gers that allow the punch to be pulled out of whatever was just "punched" were slightly out of line, each piece was being bent a little as the punch was pulled free. Every single one. Never a word was said, and these bent pieces were stacked neatly for me, the fabricator, to use in welding together a couple dozen small frames. Of course, I could not go forward with my welding and instead had to take much more time straightening each piece than my helper took doing the work he had done. In other words, I paid him his wage to make the shop go backward and making my work take longer. Now you would think that anyone with common sense would see that a repetitive error like that really is a problem. And even if they don't know how to correct it, they would at least simply stop. But don't count on it. After instances like that, it may be tempting to become overly skeptical and decide "you just can't fix stupid." But, teaching an immature worker to be more diligent, and watch his own mistakes isn't impossible, especially if they know keeping their job depends on it. But I have found one trait an employer will likely never fix, can't create rules for, and may never improve on. Though I don't hold to that "you can't fix stupid" mindset, if someone said, no matter how hard you try, "you can't fix lazy," I'd probably agree. And the reason is that an employer will never get a chance to change them when the timing is right, because that timing was somewhere between kindergarten and the fourth grade. Very much after that, work ethic, personal productivity, and internal motivation are pretty much fixed. And it's true when they say, "a body in motion tends to stay in motion, and a body at rest is likely to stay at rest." The people that work for me, are naturally bored when they aren't in motion, and not happy at all if they're not getting things done. Their boss is the same way. You can bet that all of this hard work is a good thing, espe- cially for me. That's because if I didn't work so hard and so consistently, mentally and physically, I'd probably weigh 300 lbs. That's because I've always believed in and try to practice daily Sign Shop Commandment No. 1: "A Sign maker never works on an empty stomach." Have a great month.

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