Meet the Women in Print: Dawn Homa
Signarama Brighton Colorado's owner talks continuing education and the importance of a great team.
Signarama Brighton Colorado
Accomplishments: Expanded shop space three times in 12 years; is an active board member for the Colorado Sign Association; served as a board member for the National Association of Women in Construction; and has received multiple Signarama awards for marketing, sales, and customer service
She is always trying new things, like wall décor, using our flatbed for art displays, canvas prints, and wall murals. When she sees something on display, she always wants to ‘R&D’ it in-house to see how to make it work or make it better.
–Mallory Lynn, marketing graphic designer, Signarama Brighton Colorado
Your motto is “Learn something new every day.” Why is this philosophy so important to you and how has it changed your shop for the better?
Continual learning is important for everyone. We should never consider ourselves a “finished product.” Whether you have been in the sign industry for one month or 10 years, there’s always something new to discover. It could be new vinyl, machines, methods, or products.
The word “no” is not a word that is allowed in our company. My staff will tell new employees, “Never tell Dawn ‘no.’” There are always solutions to every situation or problem. You just have to think through it and come up with the worst case scenario, then think through all the possibilities to find success. Just because we haven’t done it, doesn’t mean we can’t do it.
We do a lot of “experiments” in the production area. We test and improve techniques, methods, and processes. One of my employees calls it “Tips, Tricks, and Techniques”: always trying to find better ways to do something and helping us add products and services that we can provide to our customers.
My team is always offered off-site and webinar training during and after work hours. ISA has great online training and we utilize it a lot. We’re a franchise and our corporate office has Wednesday Webinars. These webinars cover a lot of topics from sales techniques, customer service, utilizing the laser engraver, and graphic design. All employees are encouraged to attend.
A few years back, I went on vacation for a week and when I returned, the staff had converted our job flow process to a paperless system. I will say, that took me a while to get used to. I’m old school – I need to touch the paper. But with our point-of-sale system, it really worked out great. It saved us from having the wrong proof printed out, notes and comments are in real time, it reduced mistakes, jobs get produced faster, and it saved us a ton of money on paper. It really made me realize that given the freedom and authority, your team can come up with solutions and processes that you may never have thought of.
The best part of continual learning is when the employee comes back from a seminar. They are so excited to share with the team what they have learned. Then we look at what we can implement into our business process to further improve.
You mentioned you “can’t do it all yourself,” and that you’ve recently hired more and more millennials to help expand your business. Can you elaborate a bit on both those topics?
Where do I start with this question? I had been working 10-12 hour days and it was starting to take a toll on me. About six years ago, I hired an office manager/assistant. I was really nervous about letting go of some things such as collections, customers, day-to-day operational issues. Just not having my hand in everything was a bit uncomfortable.
I have to say it was the smartest thing I ever did. It freed me up to focus on the growth of my business, look at trends in the sign industry, and make good decisions on what equipment to add. It also let me spend more time with my sales reps and grow the business.
There are so many negative things said and portrayed about millennials. Maybe I’ve been lucky or maybe I just attract a certain type of person, but I couldn’t be successful without my team. Out of eight employees, six are millennials. What I’ve learned is you cannot put them in a box. Don’t limit their creativity and ability to take on more tasks and responsibility. You need to hire for energy, drive, and ambition. And this group of people has that… maybe not all of them. But all baby boomers aren’t the same. I think classifying people as one set of traits has really been a disservice to the millennials.
The woman who now handles all my marketing and social media started with me almost five years ago and I didn’t even have a defined position for her. She interviewed and I just loved her. She was so full of life and energy, and I knew I had to take her off the market. So I hired her and in her words, “she was a utility player.” She helped wherever we needed it for the first year. And she’s grown in so many ways.
Another example is a man who came in with construction experience through working with a scaffold company. At that time, we had just been awarded two large apartment complexes and he knew how to read blueprints! Sold! He has since evolved into project management and works with our general contractors. He also designs, does take offs from blue prints, and prepares the initial bids. He helps in production and installation as needed. Because he knows the projects, he makes sure the signs are fabricated in such a way to make them easy to install. Did I mention he is also our safety person and conducts our monthly safety meetings?
A young woman came in who was very high energy and was just excited to be interviewing with us. She was initially our customer service person who would help walk-in customers and answer the phone. It soon became clear that this was not working out well. She asked to go to the production area. At first, I wasn’t convinced this would work out. But she has proven me wrong and has taken over the production room and is our project coordinator. It’s worked out fabulously. Sometimes “repurposing” people is the best thing you can do for your business.
Both of my sales reps are millennials and they are such go-getters and not afraid to meet and talk with people. They have an “I can do this” attitude and are just so fun to be around.
One thing I have learned is that millennials value their vacations and time off. They are typically close to family and birthdays are a big deal. We give their birthday off as an additional day. We are flexible with time off and working from home, when needed. We are also very pet friendly and can have up to four dogs and a cat in our office on any given day.
As a company, we support community and nonprofits. I believe millennials have a strong sense of community. We have participated in the MuckFest MS for the last three years, Precision Pro Golf with Adoption Options, races/walks for various fundraisers, and Roaring 20s Night with our local Chamber.
This has helped to build a strong culture in Signarama. A few years ago, my team came up with our mission statement, which we feel is the heart of Signarama Brighton:
Supportive to Employees and Families
Authentic Community Involvement
Responsive to Clients' Needs