Moral Dilemma


New Member
Maybe all of the pros can give me an idea how they started out...

I've been in signs for awhile now, since I got out of the military. I've learned many aspects of the trade. I started out working in NYC, times square and all of that fun stuff (billboards, major installations, electrical, etc.). I came back home to IL and began working for a smaller company that handled vinyl and the like, along with electrical service. Plus, I was able to learn some of the business aspects (estimating, scheduling, design). Now, I am about to begin a new opportunity with a much larger company that recruited me to do more electrical (it's primarily an electrical shop). I am really excited about the opportunity... but one or two issues...

1) I've been debating going out on my own, is it ethical to operate a side business? If not, how do you survive when you first go out on your own?

2) I have an electrical background with the military, but I am afraid of directly competing with my new employer. I know vinyl, arch. lettering, you name it... what is a good place to start (from home)?

Thanks for any help you may offer. Also, for future reference... if you ever have any questions on how one of your employees might react to something... I am more than willing to give my opinion.

Thanks Again

paul luszcz

New Member
There's an old rule that says if you have to ask if somethings wrong, it is.

Why do you think it might be okay to compete with your employer?


New Member
First of all, thanks for your service in the military. :thumb:

Thinking of the "ethics" of doing any job "on the side" while doing it for your day job is a proper moral attitude. Because, there are those who you will work for that would take GREAT offense at you doing the trade on the side. In fact, I've seen guys get sued and lose in court over this issue.

On the other hand, I've had bosses who actually encouraged me to do signs at home. There are varied reasons for it. One, I'm sure, was the guy only did big money signs and could care less if I did a couple windows or truck doors now and then for some extra cash. (maybe it was because he figured he didn't have to provide "the best" insurance coverage that way :tongue: ) The other guy said he didn't care as long as I told him who it was. This way, it wasn't in direct conflict with one of his long time clients.

I think the gist of what I'm saying is to just be honest. After 35 years in this business, and 10 before that mowing lawns, choppin' weeds, and delivering soda pop ....up front behavior is the best policy in life no matter what the issue may be. :wink:



New Member
I do side work...........

which I informed my employer of when I got hired.
He's happy that I can make money.
What someone should feel guilty about is if he/she took business
from their employer for less money (i.e....hey man...gimmee a call later
when I get out of work and I'll do it cheaper.)
When it boils down to it...what you do on your own time is your business...
just be up front with your employer before they find out about it...because they


Active Member
If you're straight-up with them, some employers will also take a great interest in your side work, especially if they see you grow and excell. I had an employer that I was straight-up with and he actually offered the use of the shop occasionally. We both learned from each other. He even turned good jobs over my way to do on the side. This is rare, I know, however you just never know. It fostered a very nice mutual respect and admiration that lasts today.


New Member
Situation yesterday was....

I needed to tape some stuff last minute and I was closer to my day job than my house. I called my boss and asked if I could come back in to tape some stuff with my own supplies. He didn't care. I ran out of tape towards the end of the job.
I ran upstairs to his office and plopped $10 on his desk and told him that
I needed a little bit of tape. He laughed.
Great situation here at my day job.


New Member
thanks for the straight advice... I have an entrepreneurial spirit and really enjoy the sign business... just wanted some help

I am still awhile off from going out on my own, but I want to properly plan ahead, so that when the time comes, I'll be ready. I'll wait until then, and approach him about it.

I noticed there are a lot of vinyl guys here... but vinyl is not my strong suit. To follow up... did anybody have any success starting from home in any other sides of the biz (service, electrical, arch lettering)? I'll sub-out much of the manufacturing at first.

I'm just worried that I'll have to work PT nights at McD's until I get it off the floor and running... lol

Thanks again for the straight answers... I guess I needed to hear it


Premium Subscriber
Also, another thank you for your service. :unclesam:

We’ve had people doing signs on the side most of the time. In fact, I’ve encouraged people top do just that. It puts extra money in their pockets. We even offer to give them the materials for pennies on the dollar. They can even buy their stuff on our accounts. However, I won’t tolerate their conducting a ‘Business’ on the side. That’s in total conflict of normal business habits.

There’s one major reason. I know with human nature, one day… one of those signs I might’ve been bidding on and then it would become a conflict of interest and a fight will result, name calling and so on. So to beat the fights or firing and quitting, we don’t permit a business [in the sign trade] while working in our shop. You can have a shoe store or sell Avon for all I care, but not a sign shop.

Quick one…. Your line of work too….

I had a sub contractor putting some signs up for me from time to time. After some time, I noticed every customer that he did for me never called back for signs at any later date. You know, trucks to be lettered other electric signs or channels, etc. Anyway, this sub would tell me how he was with this one company for 22 years and finally was fired, for what he called… ungrounded accusations. Well, I started to feel odd and called one or two of these customers back and found out that this guy was giving his other business card to them and told them to contact him for any further needs. I let this go on a few more times and finally face to face asked this sub, why he was giving out this other business card that I didn’t know about and telling MY customers that they should contact him instead. As he started fast talking his way out…. I had one of the customers come out from another room in our shop…. I never heard fast talking turn into such fast stammering in all my life.

Be honest with your new employer and see where the chips fall. Although it might not goes as you plan it, you’ll still be doing the right thing and will be able to sleep at night. Just your asking, means you want to do the right thing.

Good Luck……….


New Member
Go Army!

Running a side business should in no way conflict with your employer. Other than that you can work something out. Just keeping priorities straight is an issue.

Doing unrelated work (i.e. mechanical, ebay whatever) becomes an issue when your priorities get switched. But you can make it work if you have the drive.

You can always go Reserve for the extra cash too.



Active Member
I started my Biz at home, on the back porch, the kitchen table, the car-port and even the bath-tub, snapping out anything that made $$$, would expand experience, improve skills, build good biz relationships and get me good exposure.The rest is your commitment to your goals.


New Member
Thanks for serving. Wife and I have one Marine, one Army.

Here's my take on this: If you work for a man, for God's sake work for him! Don't compete with him. Any job you take on is a potential job for the shop.

Finally, I DO allow my number one guy to have at some of the stuff I'm not interested in. It's usually not worth my time, or it's a friend of his, or something like that. But the big thing is, I know about it. This has worked well for nine years.

I started out at home. Wife worked at a drug store. Much of my house had sign stuff in it. Pretty darn humbling when I look back on it and compare with today. Thought taking in $200 bucks a week was pretty good then. (early 70's)

Good luck to you.