How This Father & Son Built A $2.6M Custom Sign Company

Lerno Esmaeilian
Founder, Sign Spot
$220K
revenue/mo
2
Founders
14
Employees
Sign Spot
from
started May 2016
$220,000
revenue/mo
2
Founders
14
Employees
1
followers
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How This Father & Son Built A $2.6M Custom Sign Company

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

My name is Lerno Esmaeilian, I am the CEO of Sign Spot, a full-service custom sign business based in Los Angeles, California. Sign Spot was started by my father and me in 2016. My father has over three decades of experience building signs. His career began in 1986 with a focus on building three-dimensional marketing materials. In 2016, we decided to officially start Sign Spot, and in 2020 I took over all operations. I’ve always been inspired by my father; his ambition, skill, and tenacity are unmatched. With Sign Spot, I am driven to continue my father’s legacy and ensure that our business is built to withstand the test of time.

Sign Spot creates custom interior and exterior architectural signage, servicing businesses across multiple industries in the United States. Every sign we build is entirely custom and fabricated to align with our client’s exact specifications and brand guidelines.

Today, we earn 220K in revenue per month and are projected to grow 25% in 2022 alone. Our recent success is rooted in our continuous investment in innovative machinery and infrastructure, which has significantly streamlined our processes and turnaround time.

By leveraging technology, we have been able to achieve a steady runway of growth and we don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. To say that I am incredibly proud of the work we have done is an understatement. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Sign Spot and all our clients.

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What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

Growing up, I didn’t always know that I would follow in my father’s footsteps. But after working in different industries and contemplating starting my own business, I was able to see the opportunity I had in creating Sign Spot, a family business. It was a seamless transition starting the company, as I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart with an edge for business development and relationship building.

In 2020, when I assumed the role of CEO, I recognized the immediate need to modernize the business. While the signage industry is already well-established, there was and continues to be a huge opportunity to revolutionize and scale. I am incredibly passionate about achieving this for Sign Spot. I come from a family of creatives and our ability to amplify our customers' visions through our work is what drives me to work hard every single day and continue our incredible momentum and growth.

Becoming CEO was a unique opportunity for me. Not only was I taking over an established business, but it was a family business, my family's business! The meaning and purpose I get from working every day with my father enable and empower me to make decisions that improve efficiency and increase profitability. I did not reinvent the wheel, but I innovated it. In my time as CEO, I have automated solutions for in-house production, which has resulted in more efficient and lean manufacturing. I’ve implemented systems for every aspect of the company from operations to administration, which has allowed the company to successfully expand.

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Take us through the process of taking over operations for Sign Spot.

When I took over all operations at Sign Spot, my priority was optimizing and scaling the business. We create exceptional products and so I needed to work on the operational side of the business. This included establishing systems and processes that allow us to do what we do best – design, create, and deliver our signs. It was and still is important to me that we simplify and modernize our operations so that we can continue our national expansion.

Lean manufacturing is my end goal. All our signs are custom-built for the client at the time of order; each sign is manufactured individually. We transitioned from manual product development and introduced innovative equipment to automate this process. Previously, product development took a full day. Today, it takes us 15 minutes. This not only saves us hours but sometimes days of work. It has allowed us to work smarter and faster so we can bring greater value to our customers.

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Being passionate about the business you are running is non-negotiable. Work consumes so much of our time so it’s important that you find something you love and then become an expert at it.

Describe the process of relaunching the business.

Building signage is not an easy process and requires extensive knowledge and experience. Having my dad’s industry expertise was a huge asset to successfully launching Sign Spot. We’ve had some of our customers for nearly decades, which is a testament to our product and team. Every day we continue to onboard larger customers – Sheraton Hotels being the latest example.

However, our online presence needed some work. Our initial website was dated and did not effectively showcase our brand or reputable portfolio of clients. We decided to bring all our marketing in-house so that we could maintain creative control and ensure our online presence aligned with our evolution and growth. It’s also important to note that Sign Spot was completely bootstrapped and financed through savings. To date, we have never received any external funding and always reinvest our profits back into the business.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned since starting the company is how difficult manufacturing in this industry can be. There are so many moving parts that are often out of our control and tricky to manage. Given that all our projects are custom, creating smart systems and leveraging technology to track these moving parts has been vital. Over time, I have been able to define each step of the business process, which has been crucial to overall optimization and communication with customers.

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Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Modernizing our website to showcase our projects has been pivotal to our growth. New customers are now able to see our portfolio of work, which features some of the most revered brands on a national scale. We have also made considerable investments in Google SEO and PPC to help attract new customers, maintain an active online presence, and ensure customers can find us. Improving our product turnaround time has also played a key role in increasing customer satisfaction.

The signage industry does not organically encourage customer retention; a project is complete after the sign has been built. However, we have been able to retain our customers through maintenance programs and staying connected through frequent follow-ups. Customer satisfaction is critical for our business, and we believe it’s what keeps customers coming back when they are in the market for something new. Most of our business has been through word of mouth and so we place a large emphasis on best-in-class customer service, along with high-quality products.

Having our products in prominent locations has also been a value-add to our business. For example, Ray Ban on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Cookies on Melrose, and Sheraton Hotel in Universal Studios. These projects allow our work to stand out, which has given us credibility and garnered substantial attention from customers.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Sign Spot is thriving! We are profitable and investing in more automated machinery and software. I’m proud to say that since becoming CEO, we’ve grown tremendously. Our operations are running smoother than ever before and they’re all in-house with automated machinery.

For us, the future is about simplifying our processes and expanding our online presence. Over the long term, we aim to cut down on material waste, increase our profit margin, and continue our expansion on a national level. Although we meticulously source our materials to keep costs low, inflation and the current state of the global supply chain have been a challenge. Right now, we remain extra vigilant when it comes to placing orders for materials in advance to ensure we can meet the demand.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Creating a strong online presence was a challenge, as was creating an in-house creative team. Both were big learning curves, but I am so happy we followed through on each of them. It has given us our power back in many ways. It gives us full control of our online presence and the ability to dictate what it’s going to look like.

Over the years, I have become more strategic in the way I process, analyze, and think. This has helped me make effective and forward-thinking decisions that have bettered our brand and business.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We use the Salesforce Customer Relationship Management tool, which has been instrumental for us. I would say it is my favorite tool that we use. It houses everything we need to run our business, all in one platform. Staying organized is critical for our success.

The second is Monday for project management. It has been a great tool that brings the whole team together in one digital workspace. It allows us to easily track and monitor project progress.

And finally, for Cloud storage, we use BOX. This was a recent switch for us and it’s working well. Today, our team can easily access all the documents they need at any time, all in one place.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

An incredibly influential book for me has been Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller. I actively implemented and utilized the skills Donald Miller teaches throughout the book. The biggest one is how to build a brand and give it a voice.

I love podcasts and listen to a variety of them, spanning topics from business to wellness. For me, it’s whatever that’s going to get me in a positive and productive mindset.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Running a business is a huge commitment. It requires you to be hands-on, agile, and creative, all the time! Being passionate about the business you are running is non-negotiable. Work consumes so much of our time so it’s important that you find something you love and then become an expert at it. I consider myself lucky to be doing what I love because I’m all in, all the time.

Manufacturing is not an industry for the faint of heart and has a high barrier to entry. Having a solid understanding of all the nuances, moving parts and processes is integral for long-term success. Every industry has its own unique set of challenges so it’s important to have a solid foundation of understanding before you enter.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We’re always looking to hire motivated and talented people to expand our team. We have various positions available, full-time, and part-time, in many of our departments including operations, sales, production, and off-site. You can view and apply to any of our open positions on our website.

Where can we go to learn more?

The best place to find us is here, on our website!

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Lerno Esmaeilian, Founder of Sign Spot
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story
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