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Get ready to hear an inspiring story of perseverance and innovation on the latest episode of our Acadiana podcast! We’re thrilled to share with you the tale of Drew Cornell and his business, Lafayette Signs.
Imagine losing your top 5 clients all at once – what would you do? Drew faced this very challenge in 2015, and he didn’t let it defeat him. In fact, he used it as an opportunity to pivot and transform his business. Lafayette Signs doesn’t just print signs – they go above and beyond by providing personalized consultations and visiting your space to ensure the perfect fit for your brand and marketing goals.
Drew’s attention to detail is remarkable – he’s implemented a robust quality control program to ensure that each customer receives a flawless product. But what happens if a mistake does slip through the cracks? Drew is ready for that too, with a plan in place to handle any issues that may arise.
When it comes to marketing, Drew has some surprising insights – he swears by LinkedIn as a top platform, and he’s even found success with physical promo items and real mailings! But what truly sets Drew apart is his dedication to leadership development. He’s invested in the Kaiser method and regularly trains his team on software implementation and other efficiency tactics.
Don’t miss this episode to hear Drew’s inspiring story and learn about the innovative ways he’s transformed Lafayette Signs. It’s a story that’s sure to inspire and motivate you!
Podcast: tim ferris, joe rogan, sales books on audible
Sponsor: Scoliosis Center of Louisiana and Chiropractic. call for a consultation
Show notes and the transcript can be found at https://adoctorsperspective.net/a02
Welcome back to a Doctor’s Perspective podcast, the Acadian local edition. Today on the show we’ve got Drew Carnell. He is the owner of Lafayette Signs that’s been in business longer than I’ve been alive, and , he took it over in 2012. But please welcome to the show.
Thank you. Thanks for inviting.
Well, look, we do things here. We’re going to jump right in. Lafayette signs we, we can all assume we know what we’re doing, but tell us what is it that you typically offer, and then what was your big why to take over this place in 2012.
Well, the, the big why was I was teaching graphic design over at s lcc and I had three kids and I needed a little bit more food.
So I was like, you know what, let me let me try this saddle. So I, and actually I had previous experience in Houston with embroidery shops and stuff, and I ran those before. So it’s not that I was, you know, going out on my own not knowing anything. I just hadn’t wor actually worked in this field.
So I had background in the graphic side of it and the production side of it, just not production of sciences. So that’s why but you know what we do offer over here after the. Oil market crashed in 15. Yeah, we really had to diversify what we actually did. Cause initially we were pretty much my top five clientele all went bankrupt.
And I was like, oh, that’s, that’s, that’s not good. Oh. But, you know, we fought through it and we diversified what we offered to not only, you know, service the oil industry, but. Throughout the times we’ve started working on more interior signs, kind of like it’s almost interior design where I’ll go out to a client’s office space and look at it and, and try to give them basically a feel for not only their clients, but their employees.
So what are they trying to get out of their employees? What do they want their clients to feel when they sit down and wait in their waiting room? Things like, and I’ve been doing it over 10 years. So, so basically off of what they think, I kind of give them the, my best advice. And it, it’s a, it’s a fun thing.
I, I, I truly enjoy it.
So what are we talking about? Are we talking fancy wallpaper with your information all over it? Are we talking the the acrylic signs when you walk in that are back lit or it’s a com outdoor channel lights, everything.
Yeah, it all depends. What are they trying to, to get out of, out of the workspace or mm-hmm.
the weight room, you know. Let’s say like a, as a doctor, you know, when, when your clients are coming in, if, if it’s a dentist’s office and every nervous, you know, because they don’t like the dentist, so we wanna try to relax ’em. It could be wall graphics, you know, basically stating your name, your company so that they feel comfortable that you’re an established business.
And it, it kind of goes throughout what they’re actually trying to do. And then I tailor it toward the environment that they have. If the space is. If it’s large and you know, even to like the actual height of the sign itself are, are your clients sitting down all the time in that spot? Do we put the sign lower?
Are they standing up in that area? Do we keep it higher?
So does this be anything from a sign to like posters and
Right, right. You got wall graph. Okay. Have posters that get re replaced every three months. I’ll tell you you’re doing promotionals. You know, we’ll set those up for you as. That’s wild, Kendall,
you don’t think about, well, at least I don’t really normally think about that stuff.
But you would when you’re, when you are designing a space and you’re designing a certain atmosphere, all that stuff matters. Cause if you have a small room but you wanted a gigantic sign, you’re like, that’s really gonna look bad. Well, and sometimes you need someone like yourself
to tell us. Yeah.
And it’s intimidating, you know? So if, if you’re in like a six by four space and the logo. Five and a half feet wide. You’re like, , it’s taken over the whole room. You, you want We do implants, . Exactly. Open your mouth now, so That’s
right. Oh, you need some sedation. Okay. That was that poster over there. And a foam board, because the foam board’s not gonna get replaced and it’s gonna stay up there longer and look better.
Right, right. Oh man. No Walmart frames for this one. . So competition. Fierce. You got online, you got these huge corporations that will try to lower you at as much as possible, . So how do you compete against these people?
Well, I mean, our primary advantage being a small company is, is we can actually tailor our product to them.
you go to Alar. If you go to Vistaprint, you’re gonna get whatever you do, you upload it, you send it, and it’s done. But that was the wrong size. . Yeah. Yeah. It happened to my, like, she had some magnetics for their vehicle and she got ’em and they’re like, you know, postcards, you know . So we’ll catch those little things that you just don’t think of before production starts, and we’ll inform them, Hey, guess what?
If you’re gonna put this on a Jeep, you know it’s gonna look like a postcard. So maybe you want to go with an 18 by 12, or basically just a better comradery with each clientele and, and we can actually service them better. Because we’re so small, you know that’s what we do for that one, for the online stuff.
We also do have online e-commerce. We’re rolling out a few new products each month and we don’t have the complete custom customization yet, but it’s mainly because I would say 80% of the people just need a little bit more advice about their product. So we just do a simple file upload and a text box that says, Hey, tell me what you want, and then I can.
You know, and sometimes that’s what you, what you need. You just need that personal touch to say, Hey, this is what I’m thinking I made. I mean, even a business card or something simple like that, you’re like, Hey, is the font too small? Especially if you’re like trying to do it yourself, you know? But you may be not doing that many small business, like you said, a big oil company.
I mean, they could have project after project where you’re just like, like you said, like this was my top Yeah. Clients. And all of a sudden they’re like, uhoh Now, like you said, I’m forced to, or I’m gonna go under,
yeah. I’m gonna, you know, anything else and I’m gonna, you know, I guess yeah, that’s, that’s what we did.
We just, we found different avenues different things that we can provide. And and even though the one, like even some of ’em that went bankrupt we, we still worked with them when they were, they were in chapter 11, you know, we would help them. Because in the long run, if, if they did survive, you know, they would always use us.
That was absolutely my thought.
So what are we doing here? We’re trying to build and maintain relationships with our customers. We’re trying to get repeat business, we gotta get customers to start with, right? What are we doing? How’s this marketing working for you?
We got a couple different avenues.
So first thing you’re gonna go with, and you know, I’ve tried almost everything. So what you wanna do though is you basically wanna scale it out. You wanna, what I found, let’s say for my particular business Facebook doesn’t get a pretty good return. LinkedIn does Google Pay per click is pretty good, but Instagram doesn’t.
So I’m gonna put my money where I’m getting the most returns.
Instagram use? I’m not Instagram. You said a LinkedIn? Yeah.
Wow. Well, you know, so you, you can find places. . If somebody needs a sign for example, let’s say on Facebook, Facebook, you’re gonna hang out and you wanna see what your friends did last week or you know, what, what they’re cooking for dinner.
You’re not necessarily thinking, man, I need that, that PPE sign, or, or I need a banner. You know?
So that point you’re hoping that the group that they’re in recommends you when somebody asks that question of all the dentists
in one place? Right. Right. But you know, I think we got about 70% people. come from PPCs on the paper, click through Google searching that, and also organic searching and optimization.
So yeah, we’re working on our, our organic search results as well. But we have, we’re pretty good there. If you wanna scale up, they have, let’s say, increase your business outside of just the marketing aspect of it. Take your preexisting clientele, pick, let’s say your top 200 and, and send them a letter.
A handwritten letter says, Hey man, what’s going? Really appreciate it. Give them something that, that, that they didn’t know you could create. So we got a laser, then we’ll cut out , you know, little Louisiana, a wood stain it. Yeah. Little key chain piece. Hey, have a good time. But by the way, we do provide this for others as when one of our products if you didn’t know it, and you know that there’s, there’s lots of little ways to remind the people that you currently have what else you can do for them.
I love the idea of sending like a key chain because A, I didn’t even know you did that. You just mentioned it. And then yeah, when you do have it, you’re like, oh, I’m always personally, that’s a chiropractor and I do like scoliosis and, and different things like that. I’m like, man, what can I get somebody that they would actually care?
Because that’s what I’m always like if I’m gonna spend my money on like a promotional item. Yeah. I want it to be something that they could. you are like, and it’s hard and it’s hard to find, like, you know, we don’t have good stuff as chiropractors. We don’t have a toothbrush. That just makes sense.
How many, how many koozies do you have?
And of those, and go, oh wow, my back hurts. You know? Yeah.
I got the LSU alumni and one that my cousin made that says Dr. Justin on it, you know, . Yeah. That’s cool if I even use Acui. I’m like, yeah, which one do I want? The one that says doctor on It or the lsu. I mean, there’s not many options. The rest of ’em, I’m just like, here, you guys have those.
There’s some wedding number
two. You know, not many people are looking at that phone number to call, you know? Mm-hmm. . Well, they’re fine. I mean, cups are sweet, but Yeah, exactly. Yeah. You know, you I guess, yeah. Yeah.
That makes sense. All right. We know we got ’em. Bad
clients. Oh, what’s one thing about, you know, for marketing, for, for clientele is you need to contact this company called Lafayette Signs.
So they do signs, they do decals, , you know, Decals. You say ? Yeah, we do dec time, laser cut acrylic you know, anyway, but I would say that for one rule, for marketing .
Yeah, absolutely. Wait, it’s so funny. Like how do you market your marketing company? Oh, here we go, right? But we have bad clients, or you make a mistake and one way or the other, it’s gotta be resolved.
Correct. How do you handle
this? So our biggest thing right now, Is, you know, where’s my sign or where’s my product? It’s, we got fall gaps. So when we’re making signs, we have our proofing system. That’s one of the fall gaps. And then the other one is is our, our material, our material requisitions and so forth.
So a lot of times with email communications, it’ll go into the, to the, the junk mail. . So, you know, we, we’ll send out all the stuff, but they won’t, it’ll, it won’t come to them where they won’t realize it’s come to them. Oh, we forget to contact them. Like, hey now we have some stuff set up now that after 48 hours is, and we, we can monitor what, what’s been open and what hasn’t.
But after 48 hours we get an email that says, Hey, make sure that they’ve actually looked at the artwork approval. But that’s, that’s the biggest problem is the fall gap between that and then the material requisition with. with the slowdown a couple of years ago with all the, yeah, our, our substrates and stuff.
We have trouble getting them in, in as they used to be. But, but we, what I’ve done from there is I’ve branched out to different vendors, so I’m not dedicated to, I had two that were okay, and then my favorite, suddenly it’s like their warehouse disappeared and they don’t have any materials anymore.
So I found, sorry. Right. It’s unfortunate they’re good people, but at the same time, on Tuesday, I need my product so that I can finish the, the, the pro the job by Thursday.
So, yeah. Do you mind if I ask what are you using like active campaign or HubSpot or something like that for all this follow up on the
No. I have a program called Shop Box, which is a, it’s a, a basically like, Print manufacturing system. Of course it is. Yeah. It’s .
Everybody has their niche brand that they could, that they use, of course.
Right, right. And look, I went for about three years looking for, you know Salesforce, HubSpot, and I do have HubSpot as well.
But that’s just kind of for me to keep, keep the people that I’m talking to in, in, you know, in front of me. . But yeah, shop Box is a, is a good software. It’s just, it’s real robust and we’re still developing, and I’ve had it for about three years. It, we can set up as how many hours does it take to, to make the design?
How much, how many hours does it take to cut the design? To apply the design so we can really get to the nitty gritty for, for all of our budgeting needs. Because
you’re, to me, a company that really has to stay in your email box.
Right. Well, more and more top of mind. Yeah. Yeah. And, and yeah, the, the hardest part nowadays is is staying on top of, of the things, the two big fall gaps.
And, you know, consistently throughout time I’ve tried to address it in different ways. So Right. Eventually we’re gonna go paperless. But for the next six months it’s all paper. I mean, so redundant in paperwork that you got like 50 signatures per piece. But the, the reason for it is that once everyone understands how the paperwork works, when we go paperless, they all understand the workflow processes and we’ve got a, a workflow spreadsheets that show exactly point a, point B, point C.
It also helps remove any, any emotional. Issues that go along when you know, Hey, my, my, you know, it’s my job to do this or whatnot. Well, it’s actually, it’s our job because we as a team can, can work together and it’s on that step. And then I noticed you’re busy, so I’m gonna help you by doing it, you know?
And, and if, if we look at it that way, it’s it just, it helps out. We, we’ve had a little skirmishes here and there. that if you just fill away all the layers, the reality is we’re both, everyone’s trying to get the same thing done is give the client the best product possible. We just have different viewpoints and, and, you know, If you just go back to the workflow and you realize, well, this is a quality control check.
There is an issue with the quality or the, you know, the problem that misspelling or whatever. So we just recreate the sign, you know? Yeah. The physical, it’s not your fault they
misspelled it unless you literally did it wrong, but you take proof like, oh no, that was us. That was not bad. Hey, we gotta redo this sign.
It’s gonna cost us a lot.
That’s the best thing about emails too, is we have documentation of date and time when you physically said, I approve this, and if she or he spelled it wrong and approved it, you know, now if we catch it, we’ll contact them. But at the same time, for the most part, we usually just have to run with what they want.
Cuz it’s not, it’s not for us to decide unless they have a design fee.
Well, especially if they have some weird way to spell something or they’re trying to be cute and clever. You’re like, You approved it. Correct. You wanted to spell it or do it like this, like that’s on you like we did. We did our part correctly.
Now, if it’s not centered, we’ll fix it. correct. That’s our part.
We have it. And we have it though. And we can say that you on this date and this time actually opened it and selected the approved button. And so it, but our biggest thing is to make sure that, you know, our bases are covered. As well as obviously help the client, but, but we also can’t get ourselves caught with our, you know just running.
has that issue once. Oh yeah. Everybody gets burned once or twice and then you’re like, oh, okay. My mentor said to do this. Yeah.
Why? Why do they want me to sign that? Yeah. Okay. I got you.
So we’re gonna switch gears. This is one of my favorite questions. You’re a business owner. I’m pretty sure you could work 80, 90, a hundred hours a week if you chose to, but you probably have a family.
So how do we get to do both?
Well let’s see. I mean, basically, you know, I’ve got, you know, I’ve got three boys and so. What I do is I work well, I get ’em to school, and then I work all day and then I get ’em home and then feed ’em, enjoy a little time with ’em. And then when they go to bed, I work again till between 12 and 2:00 AM and then I get up at six and do it again.
And that sounds about right. Yeah. You know, I mean you know, but you have a crew, right? I’m a crew of two. You have like, you have people. Oh,
okay. It’s a crew of two. Okay. So you’re literally the one still. Yeah, well, making the
too twins that are in high school and I got a nine year old that’s in fourth grade.
Okay. But you’re doing the work like,
well, so current currently. Well, you know, at. At my sign shop, at Lafayette Signs, we’re also redesigning the structure of how we do things with the Toyota Management Way system and the the Kaiser method. So that’s gonna be like a one year process. And so each week, every Monday, we sit down and we go over, these are the new processes and the policies and procedures and the workflows that we’re gonna install.
And then we run with them for two weeks and we sit down and discuss and find out. Oh, this worked, this didn’t work. You know? And so that’s gonna be about a year project on top of also still making signs and and raising children and yada, yada, yada. So, so, a lot of time sounds like you’re building a turnkey business here.
Well, I’m trying, I’m trying to make it as simple as possible. Yeah, and the hardest part is what’s in my head is, is in my head, it’s not on paper. So, you know, I’ve got great support at my office with Suzanne and Sean and Avi and Rexton, you know as the heart. The best thing about it is, is if we were all on the same page, we all understand where we’re coming from.
So Monday mornings we sit down, we got a big tv, we do PowerPoint presentations. And we’d basically sit down and say, okay, this is what was cool. This is what wasn’t cool, what worked, what didn’t work? And then, you know, like, Hey, how, what, what’s gonna be a better process? So we can complain about how many times we put our signature on the paper.
But the, but the fact is, is that in the future we’re gonna go paperless. And I just need y’all to notice this is what that computer program is doing is it’s basically, it’s, it’s a. pre-production, production and post-production software that allows you to, to step by step by step. So any client and any person in my office can sit there and pick up the phone and be like, oh, your, your sign is in this step of the process or your banner.
Yeah. But yeah, so that’s what I’m doing at night is trying to spit up stuff in my head, . And unfortunately
somebody, you have to do it. It’s, it’s leadership, it’s training, it’s moving on to the next century and the next technology and unfortunately, , somebody has to do it. And some usually it is gonna be the boss and the ceo.
And that’s why we do have what we’re doing because Oh yeah, if you were just here for a paycheck, it’d be really hard to spend that kind of hours. But when it’s your own, my goodness, it makes a big difference.
Yeah. Well, and, and you know, I want everyone else here to realize that, you know, as if they work with me and, and follow what I’m, what my dream is, is we, we’ll all, we’ll all.
You know, that’s, that’s the main goal, you know, I don’t Yeah. Expect anybody to follow me and be like, oh, whatever. Thanks, dude. . Yeah, exactly. Hey, McDonald’s is paying about $10 an hour, so have a good time. You know, I mean, the reality is I’m gonna bring everybody up with me as we, as we grow as well, because I couldn’t do it without them.
Absolutely. Last question for you. Any podcasts or books or anything like that, that you’d
like. consume? Yeah. I do a lot. Tim Ferris, I’ve done a lot of him. Joe Rogan, just cuz he’s like three times a week and it’s, it’s nice and easy to listen to. Off the top of my head, I can’t remember, but a, a lot, a lot of sales books audiobook from Audible and then yep.
because mainly, you know, if you look at how sales are done from 20 years ago to today, it’s vastly different. The aggressive approach, or for me in my, I’m not an aggressive seller I’ll actually undersell because I don’t think the client will need it. And, and they get mad at me sometimes. I’m like, well look, well, I spend 5,000 for 500.
You can get the same results. Which that’s the
kind of guy I like to deal
business with. . Well, the, you know, it, the reality it. Because we have a lot of hurricanes and we did some work for a company that one, a part of their sign fell down and I was like, well, 30 feet in the air. So, you know, if we just screwed back up, no one’s gonna notice that that top right corner has a little dent in it.
You know, I mean, you know, when you do a redesign with a new logo, sure. Then let’s put up some big money. But the fact is, is that I, I don’t want them to. And this was during Covid, so they weren’t closed for half a year. I was like, man, I don’t, I don’t want you guys. And they ended up, they actually left Lafayette the past two months, so Oh, man.
Complete outta the area. Yeah. Know. Well, they, yeah, they, they the, the building is now for lease. Okay. It happens. Yeah, it does.
You did what you could and you helped them while you could, and not everybody says is gonna make it unfortunately,
Well, drew, this has been great. I felt like I’ve learned not only about Lafayette signs, but you as a person, and I know I like to support people who are trying to support themselves and support their staff and everybody else. And like you said When you’re growing, everybody’s growing. And just to see a, a business transform from the way it was to the way it’s going and trying to make everything more streamlined, I think that’s important.
It’s not an easy thing to do, but usually it rewards the business in the long run to be more profitable and to stick around in another 40 years.
Yeah, for sure. How can people greet you? You can reach us at 3 3 7 2 3 2 1 4 9 6 or lafayette signs.com. Or email@example.com. I think that’s all they got, right?
Thank you so much here, bud. Thank you. Thank you so much.
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