Setting Your Business Up for Success with Frederick Oss

Growing Your Sign Shop In A Post-Pandemic World

With the uncertainty of today’s economic climate, sign professionals are figuring out how to operate their businesses successfully. There may be hesitancy with investments, and with shortages in labor, it is more challenging than ever to increase profit in a rapidly changing marketplace. We sat down with Gemini CEO Frederick Oss to discuss profitability and the importance of people, service, and time. Learn his insights into what you can do to strengthen your business.


Q: How do you define a successful business?

Oss: I partially think it changes over time as a company grows. In the beginning, it is about survival. Simply keeping the lights on, and it is very individualistic. As a company grows, it becomes an integral part of your team member's lives and your customers' business. It is, you know, fulfilling that niche of being able to take care of all those aspects of it.

I do think it is living by your values. For me, a successful business is truly living and following through what you say you are here to do and supporting others around you with it.

Q: What key factors should sign companies look at when trying to improve the health of their business?

Oss: At the end of the day, I think it does come down to concentrating on what you are good at without losing sight of profitability. You can measure a whole bunch of other things, and while they may help run a business, they at times, can give you some false positives. You can have the best intentions with a company mission, but if you do not maintain profitability, it will not matter.

Focusing on core services often produces good results. Companies trying to do too much or expanding into areas that consume time and attention can be very costly. I have seen this cause problems, where companies quickly grow with non-profitable items. It is a bit of a trap. Operating a business this way means that you are working harder, not smarter. Sign professionals need to make sure they are valuing their own time enough. Failing to adequately determine the true costs of operating a business will lead people to take on jobs that make no money but consume their time, focus, and effort.

Q: What metrics do you recommend evaluating a business?

Oss: There are so many ways to scorecard a business. I would not stress by that. I would choose the three or four most important metrics you want to accomplish and what makes you successful and track them. Do not get carried away. I have seen some large companies with reams of data and statistics run with some simple metrics that have served them well over the years. I subscribe to the KISS method. Keep It Simple, Stupid. Gemini just went through a process where we simplified our reporting to better address the real opportunities we have in our business.

Q: How would you describe the role of customer retention and satisfaction?

Oss:  Everyone knows that this is huge. The ability to retain customers is critical to the health of your business. It costs too much money to go out and find new customers all the time. The statistics are out there that show how much more it costs to go out and get a new customer as compared to servicing an existing one.

However, two aspects of customer retention are often missed. First, retaining employees and keeping them satisfied. Sign shop owners need good people to service their customers. Maintaining quality and service levels while trying to grow is not an easy task. Trying to do it while having turnover in a shop is almost impossible.

The second thing that gets overlooked is making sure you partner with the right customer for your business. The customers who understand who you are, what you do well at, and respect your business are some of the best customers. Be aware of other customers that can cause friction and do not pay for value. If you can measure what these customers can take away from your business, you could discover it may be costly. Always listen to your customers, but few may take it too far.


Q: When short-term opportunities arise, how do you navigate nimbleness and adaptability while looking at long-term business goals?

Oss: We keep long-term focus items on the radar all the time. There are many different methods for doing this. Traction: Get A Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman lays out very simple methods for ensuring businesses do not lose track of important things while dealing with day-to-day operations. I think having a group of outside advisors can be a valuable tool. The most important thing to remember is that you need to be able to step out of the daily work, so you can work on the business instead of always working in the business.

Q: How do you manage risk when trying to increase profitability?

Oss: Part of mitigating risk when growing a business is getting more people involved in the discussion and looking at your business. I think making sure that you have people directly working in the business that can problem solve is critical.

For sure, listen to your customers, they can provide insights. If you have other leadership in the company—listen to what they have to say. But most importantly, having a board-level group or outside business advisor who is not tied up in the business on a day-to-day basis can help provide the right questions. They make sure you are headed in a good, overall direction and that you are seeing things as they are.

Often, businesses are their own worst enemy when it comes to blind spots and risk avoidance. You can be so sure something is a great idea that you forget to ask yourself some basic questions that others can see clearly. More than one viewpoint is critical. It also means you must have an environment where people feel like they can speak up and challenge an idea you may have.

Q: If a sign professional asked you what they can do to set themselves up for success and increase their profitability, what advice would you give them?


  • Take care of your people because they are going to be the ones that keep your business functioning and operating.
  • Always ask yourself if you are spending enough time working on your business instead of just working in the business. Are you just working hard, or are you also working smart?
  • Do what you can to know your actual costs—including your own time—as these are the things which will eat up all your profits at the end of the month.
  • Diversify. Anytime that you have all your business in one place or you are relying on one person in your shop, those can always be issues. Always keep that one eye open for what may be around the corner.
  • Keep debt as low as possible because that is going to hurt your business as we head into higher interest-rate environments.
  • Choose reliable partners that can help you grow your business. We do this at Gemini. Many times, it is less expensive to outsource elements of your business that allow you to focus on what you are good at. Especially with it difficult to find good people. It is a quick way to grow without adding a lot of cost or risk.

Sign professionals can do more with less by working with Gemini. For 60 years, we have worked with sign professionals by leveraging our resources to meet your customers’ needs. From letters, logos, plaques, and plates, some projects need an expert touch. Discover how we can help you with your business.

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