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The Importance of Proactive Project Management in the Sign Industry

Bill Reavey has over 17 years of project management experience in the sign industry. As a veteran who has worked at Alto Signs & The Icon Companies on different backgrounds of clients, he has built a solid reputation for having seen it all In our inaugural blog post, Bill reveals some tips of the trade—how he brings his wealth of experience to every project at Apex Sign Group in a system he calls Proactive Project Management.

Construction can never stop. Despite weather conditions, personnel issues, or communication problems, once we have a project we have to see it through. Throughout my career in the sign industry, I have been a part of great teams who really get it done—and I’ve seen a lot of teams struggle to maintain workflow and communication.

From the earliest stages of my project management career, I have worked directly with suppliers, installers, and clients through the day to day problems on site. Along the way, I learned significant lessons in providing superior customer service through project management.

Below I have identified five useful tips to Proactive Project Management that I learned the hard way:

 

  • Complex projects take time to develop, plan, and install.

 

Early in my career, I had the task of managing a major national rebrand for 450 stores. Every store required interior and exterior designs and remained open for the entirety of the project. I was able to complete the project successfully in about a year, but not without a few headaches along the way.  The major lesson here was that in complex projects, you must proactively communicate with installers and vendors to check in on project status while building buffers into your timelines to allow for inevitable unexpected delays. Since then, I’ve developed a system of consistent communication and feedback to ensure projects are always moving forward; I’ve also become more conservative with estimated completion dates.

 

  • Building trust with others helps foster lifelong business relationships.

 

I have had the good fortune of working with many wonderful people in several retail industries and I never take them for granted. These are the lifeblood of my network. Countless times, I have spoken to former clients or co-workers and we have provided each other advice, best practice, and referrals. My clients put a lot of trust in me as their project manager; I have to be their arms and legs, eyes and ears. While we worked together, they learned that I could be relied on to handle the project so they could focus on other things. Being the kind of person a client can trust not only improves business but can also pay dividends in the future.

 

  • Take time to understand and qualify your contractors to avoid potential miscommunications.

Construction sites are hectic and miscommunications occur often. It’s highly important that sign companies take the time to work with contractors and vendors who they trust and who understand their work processes. Installers and vendors like working with me because they know that I get the business and I treat them with respect. They know I won’t overload them and that I will communicate as well with them as I ask they do with me. Once you establish this kind of basic respect and understanding, there are far fewer delays and inefficiencies.

 

  • Superior technology is becoming a given. To differentiate, provide superior customer service.

 

Over the course of my career, the sign industry has gone through many phases, but there has been an overall standardization of the materials and technology used for projects. Given this leveling of the technological playing field, I have found that differentiating from competitors comes from superior customer service. Be transparent, reliable, and provide consistent updates to develop a worry-free relationship with your customers.

 

  • Keep detailed records of previous projects.

    The project manager must be the trusted professional in the client relationship, and trust is built on experience. I have made it a habit to take detailed notes on project details and to maintain an ongoing library of experiences. When I encounter a challenge, I refer back to previous projects.  Additionally, showing prospects how I overcame challenging past projects has had a major influence when building new relationships.


In the end, it all comes down to trust and experience. A storefront sign is how a neighborhood first learns what’s going in a construction site. It’s the very first impression. As the provider of this first impression, I consider myself a silent partner with the business and feel a real responsibility to making it the best possible.

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