UKSB Speaks with: John Childs of Corby Graphics Ltd
1. How long have you been in our trade?
Since July 1988
2. What made you want to get involved in sign making?
I was looking for a change of career but signs was not something I had considered until it was suggested by a friend who was having difficulty in finding someone to do his vans. I did a bit of research and it and it seemed to offer what I was looking for so, after testing the waters, I dove in. Although my reason no longer applies, and in similar circumstances I probably wouldn’t consider sign making today, I have never regretted the decision I made at that time.
3. If you were able to start over, is there anything you would do differently?
Not really, although I wouldn’t want that to sound all smug and to suggest that I have never made a mistake. It’s just that what I have suits me. I realised years ago that I am a small businessman at heart and that I didn’t want to be the biggest sign company in the world. At the moment there are six of us working here and I think that that is about right, although I sometimes have a hankering for the days when it was just myself and a girl and life seemed a bit more care-free.
4. If you had a choice just now, what piece of equipment would you most like to own, & why?
I think that the time for us to get a vinyl printer is fast approaching. Previously we have bought in all our print requirements but it has reached the point where increasing demand from our existing client base will justify the expense.
5. How do you feel your business has developed, since starting?
I don’t know that my business has really developed as we are still doing the same type of work for the same type of client that we have always done. Sure, we are in bigger premises and have more people and better facilities but all that has happened is that we have grown slowly and steadily.
6. Do you have a chosen speciality?
Van fleets are our thing. We know them, have geared ourselves up for them and consequently can do the work quickly and efficiently and thereby give a good service at reasonable prices whilst still retaining a reasonable profit margin for ourselves. A bonus is that they have built in repeat business in that even our smallest client will change vehicles every now and again and be back for more.
7. Is there a goal you aspire to?
I have never been a goal oriented person, I just treat each day as it comes and do the best I can with what’s in front of me at that time. I suppose that this is a “look after the pennies” mentality, but a lack of ambition has not been entirely bad as it has allowed me to build up a good base of satisfied clients who will hopefully keep coming back as long as they are happy with the service we give them.
I am probably a bit older than the average so if I have a goal at all it is probably to be able to retire comfortably at a time of my choosing. That’s not to say that I want to, or ever will, but it will be nice to have the choice.
8. Who is your favourite supplier & why? (Regardless of size)
That must be Cox Plastics Northampton branch as we seem to use them for the majority of our purchases. They have a good product in Avery vinyl, keep good stocks, have very helpful staff and give an impeccable delivery service on their own transport.
9. What is your pet HATE about the sign business?
I don’t have a specific hate really and my only complaints are more of a general nature and common to most small businesses. Things like government busybodies poking their noses in, ridiculous levels of red tape etc etc. My main gripe is customers leaving things until the last minute and then expecting instant results, but that again is probably common to many industries.
10. Do you find the internet helps your business?
The internet is a great help, especially with regard to research, obtaining logo files and buying fonts, but it does have a downside. Email especially is a valuable tool but can lead clients expecting instant attention, sometimes unreasonably so, if they are not handled carefully.
11. Has registering at uksignboards.com been of benefit to your business, and if so. Why?
Very much so. The range of experience and knowledge of the members, which they are prepared to share, means that even an old hand like myself can learn much. This is true in our own field, but is especially valuable when we are asked to do something in which we have no experience.
12. What would be your advice to someone just starting out in the sign business?
Apart from joining uksignboards you mean?
Make sure that you give good service. More than anything else this will ensure that any new client you manage to acquire will become a repeat customer. They will only look for another supplier next time if you give them a reason to do so. Although this is a long term thing, and can sometimes be difficult, it will go a long way to ensuring the long term viability of your business.