It’s one thing to design a sign for a customer. It’s quite another to initiate site surveys, obtain permits and see a project through from design and manufacture to installation and ongoing maintenance, as well as ensure consistent branding of signs at multiple locations.
In this niche is where Bob Egan, founder of Egan Sign, a national sign-management company headquartered in Wyomissing, saw opportunity to add value to the industry.
Egan grew up in the sign-making business, learning how to hand-carve wooden quarter-board signs at his father’s custom millwork shop in Nantucket, Mass.
In the early 1800s, quarter boards with the name of the ship were used on port and starboard sides – the front “quarter” to signify a ship was legitimate, not pirate. People would salvage these wooden signs off ships and put them on their houses, naming their homes something serendipitous.
The father held onto these sign patterns and passed them on to his son, who evolved his own business into a commercial sign enterprise.
Along the way, Bob Egan recognized that for many owners of sign companies, sign making was a craft with great attention and time spent on the details of the business.
Yet a customer could get the same sign from another company, which often had a negative impact on the attitude of sign-business owners. Egan resolved not to go the same route, but to find a way to use existing technology to improve productivity.
“The big kahuna for us,” Egan said, “was to develop a database or software program that would allow us to complete projects very quickly.”
Fifteen years ago, Egan Sign launched SignManager, a proprietary software program that would allow the company to perform thousands of jobs per year. Each job has a unique input number that includes everything about the job, such as permits, design details and target dates for completion – all of which comes up when someone from the project management team pulls up the record.
The software contains all customer data, a paperless operation that enables even more efficiency.
“Our sales-per-employee in our industry is higher because we’ve employed technology to increase the velocity of what we do and compress the time frame,” Egan said.
Egan’s business model has gained even more traction in the last four to five years, as the trend in mergers and acquisitions fuels the need for more signs, new signs, branding and rebranding.
“Signage is a small piece of it,” Egan said, “but it’s still a piece of it.”
He noted a rebranding project this year for True Blue, a temporary employment agency, involving more than 600 new locations.
With such high-volume business and company growth, Egan Sign has remote employees in Fayetteville, S.C., and Los Angeles.
The company’s growth strategy helped lead to the hiring of John Dever, former president and chief operating officer of Reading-based Bills Khakis, as president of Egan Sign. Egan is CEO and chairman.
With Dever at the helm, Bills Khakis took a similar growth trajectory from small, local business to national company. Egan sought that kind of leadership for the rapid expansion and employee growth at Egan Sign.
Dever, attracted to the integrity of the firm and its culture, saw a good match.
“As we take on new business, we’ll need to ramp up our staffing across the country as well as internationally,” he said.
Egan Sign continues to partner with domestic customers who have international locations.
“While the SignManager software enables us to manage thousands of projects simultaneously, the people managing that is our project management team,” Dever said. “People are our engine.”
Mike Riggins of Riggins Associates, a Florida-based signs, awnings and graphics company, said Egan Sign knows the business, including its behind-the-scene quirks.
“They demand quality service from their vendors, they deserve it, and they reward us with prompt payment terms,” Riggins said. “They do exactly what they say they’re going to do, a near rarity in the sign industry.”
Other Egan Sign clients include MedExpress, a growing, national urgent-care center, and Vision Source, a network of private optometrists throughout the United States and Canada.
“It’s very gratifying to see our people perform at such a high level that the customers really value what we do for them,” Egan said.