What's the big secret with the channel letter industry?

kcollinsdesign

New Member
It is but it's more of the norm rather than the exception here. I know people who rent out their license. You can make as much money doing that as you can actually doing work. It's a terrible system. If it was normal here, people like the OP could get a license and not have to worry about stuff like this in the first place.
If you are talking about Florida, I agree, it is not normal. I worked in Florida for a few years - it was not easy to get the required licenses (contrary to some opinions earlier in the thread, the electrical test was hard). But we worked along side "licensed" competitors who knew essentially nothing about wiring (voltage requirements, 2-phase vs. 3-phase vs 480, grounding etc). Scary! It seems they all were working under someone else's license, and getting away with it (good old boys network or something). I was using licensed electricians and paying prevailing wage and was still inspected on every job. My local friends put up signs for years and never saw an inspector once!
 

JBurton

Signtologist
I was using licensed electricians and paying prevailing wage and was still inspected on every job. My local friends put up signs for years and never saw an inspector once!
Ya gotta love it. We pull permits for everything in our hometown, primarily to avoid getting on somebody's sh*t list, because they really don't bother to see if something is permitted, rather they see what is permitted, go to that site, inspect, while ignoring the neighboring businesses non permitted sign. Recently they added stipulations that monuments need landscaping around them, while at the same time nearly eliminating what most consider directional or incidental signs. We used to put up 3 or 4 directional signs at a bank, now you can't even pull that many permits, and even if you could you would need to landscape around all of them. So now along with the proposal is a line "Landscaping required after sign install by city ordinance 69", we install the sign, the customer doesn't give a f*ck, the city calls us complaining that we didn't landscape around a sign, and we tell them "Ok, but how did the sign look?". Oh, and all of the responsibility and fines for not pulling a permit punish the customer, not the sign company.
 

Notarealsignguy

Very Big Member
Ya gotta love it. We pull permits for everything in our hometown, primarily to avoid getting on somebody's sh*t list, because they really don't bother to see if something is permitted, rather they see what is permitted, go to that site, inspect, while ignoring the neighboring businesses non permitted sign. Recently they added stipulations that monuments need landscaping around them, while at the same time nearly eliminating what most consider directional or incidental signs. We used to put up 3 or 4 directional signs at a bank, now you can't even pull that many permits, and even if you could you would need to landscape around all of them. So now along with the proposal is a line "Landscaping required after sign install by city ordinance 69", we install the sign, the customer doesn't give a f*ck, the city calls us complaining that we didn't landscape around a sign, and we tell them "Ok, but how did the sign look?". Oh, and all of the responsibility and fines for not pulling a permit punish the customer, not the sign company.
That is a big reason that even honest reputable contractors avoid permits whenever they can. The municipality's demands can turn the most basic project into a never ending money pit for the customer. The inspectors drive right by code violations all day long but when you try to be on the up and up by getting a permit, you get on their radar and they start picking at stuff that is totally unrelated.
 

netsol

New Member
It is illegal in Florida (and most everywhere) to "work under someone else's license." There is no gray area. If you are obtaining permits or performing work that requires a license, and the license holder is not on your payroll, you and the license holder are committing a crime. If something goes wrong, and you and the client cannot settle it out-of-pocket, the insurance company attorneys will have a field day with you, and the license holder will have their license revoked. There are far less risky ways to make money.

I suppose if you are just a yahoo with a pickup, worst thing that could happen is you go bankrupt and just keep going. But if you have any equity in your business, you will be putting it at risk.
kcollins
of course it is illegal, but have you ever known anyone who didn't do it?
 

Scotchbrite

No comment
Around here a lot of municipalities require UL or similar certification to manufacture electric signs. That is a pretty big expense to consider as well.

We used to build channel letters in-house but come about 2010 we couldn't win a bid on them. We finally figured out when a big local sign company went out of business their former sales people went into the sign broker business. They were getting signs made by wholesalers, marking them up 10%, and brokering an installer. We had to start using a wholesaler to compete while we waited for those sign brokers to move along to new ventures, which they did eventually.

Luckily we found a good wholesaler and we've had good experiences with them handling problems. We do installs ourselves so that helps. I would have a hard time selling channel letters if we had to find an installer in addition to using someone else to make them. I currently have 1 customer that is basically a broker, he has us get the signs built and installed for his customers. Personally I kind of like the arrangement because he gets to deal directly with the annoying customers. Never fails you tell them how long it will take to get the job done and they're still calling every week wanting to know when their sign will be installed. In the case of that customer I get to tell him how long it'll be and he gets to deal with the repeated calls.

We've lost a lot of jobs because we follow the rules and get permits for our signs. Some time later we'll see that non-conforming sign appear and we know it obviously wasn't permitted. Our local city has a system to report those, but every time we do they just close out the ticket and the sign remains in place. Following the rules can be a deal killer, but at least I feel good about the way we operate our business. One side benefit is the planners have told me they will recommend us to businesses given the opportunity, especially if they have already gotten in trouble for putting up a sign they shouldn't have.
 
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