By the end of 2017 I had really begun to ramp up my use of social media. From a small business perspective, social media is an essential tool that you must learn to embrace and use on a frequent basis.
I started to produce a range of custom service reminder labels, warning stickers and other products for the heating, electrical and plumbing sector, and those guys love twitter. It's an awesome sector, they help each other out, share tips and advice as well as talk about jobs they've done, and they all seem to support each other well and champion each others work on social media.
I was able to get a few orders from some of the more local guys to my area, and in turn their pictures and comments on twitter about the work I've done for them lead to a raft of orders from further a field. In November last year I produced over 8,000 labels - all from a couple of friendly tweets. Spending hours on social media may seem like a waste of time to you. It may not pay off for a month or 6 months or 2 years - but it's essential.You need a social media prescience because that's often where your customers are.They are there when they're on a break at work or during the tv adverts or when they're bored, you can find and reach the customers you want easily and cheaply.
Towards the end of my last article I had talked about me having to find new premises. The landlord of my current unit wanted to re purpose the space, and although I had planned to be in a new, larger space in the next 12-18 months, this has forced my hand a little to make the move earlier than planned.
I’ve taken it as an opportunity to expand slightly and rather than having space within a building shared by other companies, I have chosen to find my own premises to operate from. Over the last couple of months I’ve discovered that finding commercial unit space is not easy. I thought it would be simple, there seemed to be plenty of units available but as soon as I started to search properly I discovered that premises of the size I wanted (around 1200-1500 sq ft), with permitted use for working on vehicles, with a large roller shutter door and where you could operate evenings and weekends were few and far between.
Finally, after a few viewings of what turned out to be very tired old units, I found a space that looked like it could be the one, only a matter of 3 miles or so from my current location.
It is in a small development of 4 similar buildings in an established industrial area with great access to major roads so it sounded just the job.
I booked for a viewing and it was as good as it looked in the pictures. Huge electric roller shutter door through which I could get anything unto the height of a truck, massive open space, white walls and grey floor, all clean and fresh looking with room to build whatever office space I needed. I was sold.
It is one big space, so needs some office space building out and a little bit of a general tidy round but nothing too major to do. I had hoped to find somewhere with suitable offices already in place but at least this way I get to design the layout and tailor it to my workflow and there is plenty of space to grow. So I told the agent there and then that I wanted it. As a bonus there was a really great network of CCTV cameras including ANPR on the site to match the newly installed main gates. When dealing with vans these days, security is paramount and for the overnight jobs, and this means my customers can have confidence that their vehicles will be safe with me.
As I write this, I’m really excited about attending an open day at Roland HQ on Tuesday 26 June 2018 where I will be sharing my experiences with people who have either just purchased, or are looking into investing in Roland products. My role is to be on hand to talk about my experience with my Roland machine and how I’ve used it to grow my business, as well as answering any questions about the day-to-day running of my business and the practical side of small business growth.
I am also planning to start offering printed apparel, and I’ve planned in some space at the new unit specifically for clothing production so it doesn’t get in the way of the print workflow.
On the subject of work, I have just completed a fleet installation for 7 VW Transporter vans. It’s a project that I was first introduced to back in February when the company was at the vehicle purchase stage. I created a set of artworks for the vehicles and priced them with full chapter 8 chevron installation to the rear too. Previously the customer had used two companies, one to produce and install the sign writing with a separate company arranging the chevron installation.
My plan was to do everything in one. I have sourced the chevron kits from a specialist manufacturer and liaised directly with the vehicle supplier so that I will be going to them and working on the vehicles around their PDI (Pre Delivery Inspection) schedule, which will mean the customer can collect their vehicles form the dealer ready to go, fully sign written and with zero downtime. It was a plan they loved and so I got the job.
I am also now an approved supplier for Jaguar Land Rover. The company recently invited me to visit its engine plant over in Wolverhampton and I was asked to quote for wrapping some items on the production line. It’s a fairly straight forward job and has taken a few months to get through their approval process and finally get the purchase order, but I’m really hoping that it will lead to other work around their premises. The experience of going into a company like JLR and seeing the operation and speaking with their purchase managers and quoting for work was really valuable for me. The job is booked for mid-June so I’ve set my self up for a busy month what with the building work at the new unit going on in the background.
The new print shop when it opens later this month will conclude my journey from turning my back bedroom hobby into a thriving print business.
If you are looking to start a sign, print, or vehicle wrapping business and are perhaps finding the prospect a little daunting and you would like some impartial advice - drop me a line and I will be only too glad to help.