Trade Designer Suppliers

Ramblings – Episode 4

15th December 2016

Ramblings – Episode 4

Business consolidation and the pitfalls and rewards of multi-site jobs

As a small sign business, it’s very easy to get over excited about the opportunity of quoting for multi-site contracts.

Don’t be afraid of them, but do consider that if you do anything wrong on any site it’s very expensive to put it right. I remember winning the contract for a multi-site large bed company some 25 years ago, I was totally excited about doing nine sign refurbs on sites across the midlands and six new sites. At that point our customer wanted us to do the internal signs, window graphics and external illumined sign around all sides of the building. I thought I did my job correctly, good site survey taking time to check and double check, discussing the options with the client, doing visuals and agreeing the artwork and quote. We arranged a 5-day on-site fitting plan and organised staged payments, 30% with order 30% on arriving on site and 40% 7 days after completion.

My quote took into consideration material, labour in the workshop, travelling expenses, accommodation, on-site labour and on-site hire equipment. I checked and double checked, what could go wrong?

STAFF. The people I was employing at the time did not want to travel or work away…


I was thinking that hard about getting the first site that I assumed that everybody would be as happy as I was. How wrong I was. After discussing the situation with several employees, I could only manage to encourage 3 of the 5 I needed on-site to do the job within the given time. I now had to consider getting two sub-contractors to work with us on-site and at that time this was not easy. I really wanted to use somebody who I knew or could be recommended. Eventually, I found two great guys who did a fantastic job BUT were twice as expensive as the original labour I quoted for my own employees, which took a good part of the projected profit out of the job.

On the day we were due to travel to site one of my employees who said they would come to site decided not come. Instead, we set off with two sub-contract fitters, myself and one member of my staff, two teams.

When we arrived on site we got started straight away. I gathered the workforce together and walked around the site explaining what we would be doing; I allocated jobs to the sub-contractors and went off to start work with my employee. However, I soon found myself running around pleasing the client and discussing the job which meant the guy I was supposed to be working with could not do a lot.

To cut a long story short we ended up working 15 hour days, although we did manage to get the job done within the 5 days. Due to the increased hours, the labour bill rocketed and I had agreed to pay a bonus to everyone on site if we got the job done on time.

When I sat down back at the office and worked out all the costs including all the extra expenses which could not have been foreseen, we just made a small profit. If I had stayed local and turned over the same amount, we would have been very happy with the bottom line.

Large jobs are great if quoted correctly and yes there will be times when you get it wrong but do this in the early days of your business and it can end you up in serious trouble…take care.