Sign & Digital Graphics

April '20

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6 • A P R I L 2 0 2 0 • S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S Show Time Rick Williams owns Rick's Sign Company, a com- mercial sign shop in Longview, Texas. He has been in the sign industry since 1973 and documenting the sign business since 1986. Contact him at Rick L eonard, a church friend of mine, related that on a recent trip to Chicago for some type of trade show or conference, there was a break in their schedule that allowed them to go out and see the Windy City for a while. Instead of taking a cab, he opened an app on his smart phone and requested an Uber to come and pick up his party and himself. To Leonard's surprise, in a few minutes he received a text that a ride was in his vicinity, and that he would shortly be picked up by "Jesus." With a smile he remarked, "I always knew Jesus would come for me one day, but never thought it would be in Chicago, and he'd be driving an Uber!" Well, there are a lot of unplanned experiences in store for those of us who travel to trade shows and other events in the major cities of this great land, and that certainly has been the case with me. And here it is trade show season again. Usually I will make a couple of the NBM Shows, and maybe a heavy-duty industrial show as well, and none of this is a waste of time. There are always new products to see and new technologies to learn about, and staying stuck in a rut back at home base too long will not serve our businesses very well. A bit over a year ago, my two sons and I traveled together to Atlanta to attend a major industrial equipment show, mostly to confirm a decision to buy a certain type of CNC laser. Previously we had bought a sign shop laser, which we spied at one of the NBM Shows, and it has worked out well. But this metal cutting laser, which costs more than my house, was a working toy on a whole new level. But before getting down to business we had to get there, and the three of us drove to DFW Airport where we waited to board a plane for Atlanta. But the wait wasn't good for one of us. Funny how different even close family members can be, as one of us, my oldest son Sloan, dearly hates flying commercially, and the other two of us are pilots. That day it took a lot of coaching, and three heavily spiked iced teas to get him on the plane, and maybe another sip or two to keep him seated. And this is a guy who normally doesn't even drink. The flight was uneventful, of course, but by the time we got our luggage and made it to the hotel and settled in, it was getting past our suppertime and we were hungry. At that point, son Slade Googled nearby steak houses, and then ordered an Uber to take us to one. Before long we were ordering steaks and sides, and sipping our fill of unspiked iced tea. Our waiter was near my age, and dressed for the part, but as I looked around the place, I noticed the only other waiter was a young man no older than 30… dressed in a T-shirt and short shorts. And almost no one seemed to have brought their wives or girlfriends to dine out that night. The food and service were good, and I'm not complaining at all, but upon leaving I did notice the signs outside were all done in rainbow colors. Funny, I hadn't noticed that before. But then we sign guys are very good at making signs but not much good at paying them any attention. Our decision to buy that major piece of equipment was con- firmed at the trade show in Atlanta, and I found something else that seemed like we really ought to have, but did not buy it right then. However, a few months later at another show closer to home in Houston, where we had brought our entire crew along, I paid a deposit on a 6' x 6' welding table that cost almost $13,000. I think my sons and maybe a couple of the other guys thought the old guy had been doing some drinking himself to pay that much for a worktable, but none had the nerve to say so. But, this highly machined welding table—full of precision drilled holes on a graph paper layout, which I bought with a large set of multi-functional fixtures and jigs—my guys now say has paid for itself twice over in less than a year because the setup time on fabrication jobs is a fraction of what it used to be and mistakes are minimized as well. Yeah, well, that's just what I thought. So, being a regular trade show attendee has helped us advance our businesses, and though the numbers this year may be reduced a bit due to fears of the coronavirus, the flu and whatever else is out there, I think over time things will return to normal. And if one has the nerve to travel, and to mix with crowds, it's plenty likely that the bottom line assessment for making that next leap in any small business is what has always been said, "There's no business like show business." It's certainly been good to us. In the Trenches B Y R I C K W I L L I A M S

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