Epson’s S60600 a “Well Thought-Out Machine” for New FASTSIGNS Shop

When Liz Allen’s entrepreneurial spirit kicked in, and she decided to open up a FASTSIGNS franchise in Oviedo, Fla., she had a number of items on her to-do list, but perhaps few as important as purchasing a wide-format printer for the shop. When attending the ISA Sign Expo in Orlando earlier this year, she jumped on a discount offered in a show special, and purchased an Epson SureColor S60600 64-inch solvent printer from LexJet.

The Epson SureColor S60600 at FASTSIGNS Store 2106 in Oviedo, Fla.
The Epson SureColor S60600 at FASTSIGNS Store 2106 in Oviedo, Fla.

“FASTSIGNS did recommend the Epson,” Allen says. “We chose it because of its speed. It was three times faster than the other printer we looked at.”

Allen opened her new FASTSIGNS store in July, and because she’s new to wide-format printing, she hired Mike Howell, a seasoned sign shop printer, to manage production of banners, floor graphics, magnets and more of the shop’s offerings.

“I’ve been in the sign business for 30 years,” Howell says. “I saw the Epson printer when I was at FASTSIGNS corporate office, so I was able to get my hands on the printer. It’s very quick — a lot faster than a lot of the other machines I’ve used.”

Behind the Scenes with the Undercover Boss, FASTSIGNS’ CEO Catherine Monson

CBS reality show Undercover Boss covers Fastsigns
FASTSIGNS CEO Catherine Monson as "Louise Steely," and Gary, a Culver City FASTSIGNS employee, apply graphics during the filming of Undercover Boss, which aired on CBS last Friday. Photo courtesy Studio Lambert.

Reality is not always as it seems, especially reality television. Just ask FASTSIGNS CEO Catherine Monson, who was recently immersed in the unreal world of reality television. Monson and several FASTSIGNS locations were featured on Undercover Boss, which aired this past Friday, May 4, on CBS.

When hours of raw footage are condensed into about 45 minutes of air time, distortion is inevitable. Surprisingly, however, this particular episode of Undercover Boss was relatively accurate, according to Monson.

“I was disappointed by some of the things they left out, and I felt they overemphasized the emotional aspects, but that’s what makes for compelling television,” says Monson. “When they first approached us about being involved with the show, we weighed the pros and cons and how it could possibly affect the brand. We decided the pros outweighed the cons, and that was certainly the case.”

In case you didn’t catch the show Friday night, Monson disguised herself and went to work in the trenches at four FASTSIGNS locations: St. Louis, Austin, Culver City (Calif.), and Phoenix. Each contact at the location was told that they were filming a reality show called Second Chances, and Monson’s “character” was the subject, so it was kind of a show within a show.

During the episode we learned about the struggles and triumphs of not only Monson, but the people at the four locations at which she worked. Monson says the four locations were chosen after the production company scouted and scoured the FASTSIGNS franchise network for the most interesting stories.

I won’t spoil those stories for you here, in case you didn’t catch it when it aired, since you can see the full episode at The show will no longer be available at the CBS website after May 21.

“It is unnerving to have two HD cameras on you ten hours a day. Yes, I was nervous, and people got to see that I can’t make a sign, and I made a bit of a fool of myself at times, but that’s okay, because I think it’s not only a great thing for our company, but also the industry as a whole. Not a lot of people know that a sign shop can do vehicle graphics and all kinds of different signs, all the way up to big outdoor installations,” says Monson. “When we were first allowed to let our franchises know about it, they were very excited. We advertise on FOX, CNN and MSNBC, but we can’t afford advertising time on CBS in prime time on Friday night, so the extra exposure was great for everyone. Our franchise partners did an amazing job putting up all kinds of graphics to promote the show. And because it’s such a unique show, some of our franchisees got a lot of coverage from local media. There were 125 viewing parties around the country where they invited customers to watch the show and do some of the things I did on the show, like weeding vinyl.”

Beyond the personal stories at the locations she visited undercover, Monson was able to identify three areas of improvement for FASTSIGNS corporate: E-mail marketing, training and eCommerce. Monson took the suggestions to heart and FASTSIGNS corporate has begun to implement them.

“We’ve made some good progress. Not only do we have an on-your-behalf email marketing program, we have a do-it-yourself marketing where the individual franchise can completely customize the template,” says Monson. “I really learned that we need to ensure that all of our information about marketing initiatives, programs and training reaches everyone at each franchise. Also, we are almost finished with our training curriculum on big outdoor installations, and we have eight locations using our eCommerce website, and plan to start rolling that out to more locations in the weeks ahead.”

FASTSIGNS CEO Goes Undercover Friday Night on CBS

Undercover Boss on CBS
FASTSIGNS CEO Catherine Monson weeding vinyl at a FASTSIGNS franchise shop during the filming of Undercover Boss, which airs Friday at 8 p.m. ET.

FASTSIGNS and its CEO, Catherine Monson, will be featured on the CBS reality television show, Undercover Boss, this Friday at 8 p.m. ET.

In case you’re not familiar with the concept of the show, a company’s owner/CEO is disguised and goes to work as a regular employee. Their experience is captured, edited and condensed to one hour of dramatic and comedic highlights.

According to FASTSIGNS, when Monson became CEO of the 25-year-old company in 2009, one of the biggest issues the company was facing was a lack of communication between the corporate office and its franchise partners, as well as sales declines coinciding with the recession.

Monson embarked on a tour around the country to visit franchise partners and put a plan in place to turn the company around, including creating a sales incentive program. She initiated monthly conference calls with the franchise system to provide updates and answer questions and concerns.

To further develop and motivate the corporate staff, she began holding monthly company meetings to share financial updates and other company news, and to publicly praise team members on their projects and efforts.   

Reality show Undercover Boss on CBS
FASTSIGNS CEO Catherine Monson before being disguised for the CBS reality show Undercover Boss.

Through her Undercover Boss experience, FASTSIGNS says, Monson gained valuable insight into key areas of the business that she will continue to fine-tune and improve in the coming months.

“This was an eye opening experience that not only impacted my professional life, but my personal life as well,” said Monson. “I have realized that I need to take more time for myself and get back to the things that I really love in order to become a better leader and CEO.”

Check back here at the LexJet Blog for a follow-up post with more inside information about how reality television really works based on Monson’s experience on Undercover Boss. Here’s a preview of Friday’s show…

High Five: Profiting from Large-Format Printing

UPS Store owner Don DeSmet says that large-format printing gives his store access to additional markets and a larger potential customer base.

“Large-format printing is not a supplement to our business; it’s a necessity,” says Kyle Yeager, owner of two UPS Stores in the Atlanta area. “It’s a major part of our product line, and a piece of our business that we use to define and separate ourselves from most of our competition.”

Yeager’s UPS Store has something in common with photo studios and other types of franchise businesses, namely a built-in market ready and willing to buy large-format prints. Yeager’s stores have been printing banners, canvas wraps for photo enlargements and other display graphics on their 44”-wide Canon printers for almost four years.

“Banners are easiest for the consumers to understand and see the true value in, because banners are a focused product for anyone from small businesses to even residential clients,” says Yeager. “We print a lot of graduation banners during the high-school graduation season, and throughout the year we print banners for businesses and organizations that are having a grand opening, a product special or a special event… The possibilities are endless.”

Yeager has set aside a space along the wall for samples and signage product suggestions that works as a silent salesman to spark ideas with customers who walk in the store. Plus, Yeager’s outside sales reps are actively selling both stores’ large-format output.

“LexJet has been a tremendous help recommending materials for specific jobs. If I tell them the type of job I’m working on, they’ll tell me the best media to use, whether it needs to be indoor or outdoor, if it’s a high-impact poster or a volume job, or whatever the case may be,” says Yeager.

Big Photos

Allen and Autumn Thomsen, owners of Thomsen Photography in Eagleville, Mo., have had a similar experience. They added a 44”-wide Canon printer this past summer and found that the large-format printer not only added profit but also cut down on outsourcing costs.