Phil Halling speaks with

1. How long have you been in our trade?

Phil Halling:
I started part-time as a schoolboy in 1972 signwriting and painting vehicles for a local sign company.

2. What made you want to get involved in sign making?

Phil Halling:
When I was about 11-12 I picked up a “woollies” brush, a tin of Humbrol and scrawled my name. I thought at the time, That looks good, it was easy and do people get paid for this?. The rest, as they say, is history.

3. If you were able to start over, is there anything you would do differently?

Phil Halling:
The one thing I would change is that I would charge more from the offset,
When I went self-employed in 1980 I was up against an old signwriter who had got the bulk of the work in my area. He had made most of his money in the 50’s so he was doing lorry cabs for a bottle of scotch or so and I like a fool tried to compete with him – the end result was it took me at least 8 years or so to get the local clientele paying proper prices for the work.

4. If you had a choice just now, what piece of equipment would you most like to own, & why?

Phil Halling:
I think with retrospect I would like to have at least two large format printers, The aggravation caused when your only machine breaks down cannot be put into words, especially when you are having to outsource printing at 5 or 6 times the price you can produce in house.

5. How do you feel your business has developed, since starting?

Phil Halling:
Since starting the business has taken quite a few diversifications, from traditional signwriting we went into vinyl about 1990 and that was good to start with until the equipment got too affordable and what I call “cheque book sign makers” appeared on the scene, anybody with a redundancy payout or insurance payout or whatever suddenly could set themselves up as sign makers. Unfortunately, they caused, in my area, stupid pricing as most were not dependant on the signs as the main income.
At this point, about 1997 we re-assessed the business and came to the conclusion that the major profit area was applying graphics, rather than production, so we got rid of all the equipment, 3 plotters, a colour camm, workshops, stock etc. and concentrated on freelance applications and technical advice to some of the new up and coming sign companies.
Early this year a production opportunity came along that was too good to miss so we re-invested in equipment, premises etc. and started to produce our own graphics/prints etc. whilst still maintaining our freelance application services. Over the years we have got onto the 3M applicators list, we are Avery Dennison approved applicators and VWS accredited.

6. Do you have a chosen speciality?

Phil Halling:
Our chosen speciality is vehicle wrapping, which we have been involved with since about 2000. We do anything from race cars to taxis, promotional buses to minis. We also do a lot of fleet work as well, on the applications side we do all the ford and Mercedes vehicles for the RAC and regularly do 6 or 7 vehicles for TNT per week.

7. Is there a goal you aspire to?

Phil Halling:
Our aim is to be as good as it can get so that customers automatically associate us with good work and don’t feel the need to shop too far afield.
My own personal aspiration is to semi-retire while I am still young enough to enjoy it – although I don’t ever envisage total retirement after all this business is a way of life.

8. Who is your favourite supplier & why? (Regardless of size)

Phil Halling:
Our favourite supplier is pyramid basically because we have such a good relationship with our rep, who literally will move heaven & earth to get us what we require when we require it.

9. What is your pet HATE about the sign business?

Phil Halling:
My pet hate is NO forward planning – everybody thinks because all you do is push a few buttons on a computer, they can order work at 4 pm to be on site with a 4 man fitting crew at 7.30 the next day anywhere in the UK.

10, Do you find the internet helps your business?

Phil Halling:
The internet certainly helps in the fact that files, designs, measurements etc. are thrown around the ether quickly, saving so much time and travelling, enabling us to work within the above confines (see pet hate)

11. Has registering at been of benefit to your business, & if so. Why?

Phil Halling:
Being with uksb has helped us gain both information, and I hope, friends amongst the industry and if and when we get a problem it’s the first place I’d turn to for possible answers, there are a lot of knowledgable signmakers out there.

12. What would be your advice to someone just starting out in the sign business?

Phil Halling:
My main advice to anybody starting out would be: Look, Listen & Learn, you are never too old to learn another trick or technique. Never be satisfied with your last piece of work – that leads to complacency, and never charge too little, you can always come down but it is impossible to start raising prices.

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