Building Impressions: Employing Independent Manufacturers’ Representatives

Bringing in a reliable partner to get the best results

“On a project like this, if you don’t have a professional like Yorston, you’ll spend way too much of your time and energy researching something that they already have within their line of resources.”    

That testimonial comes from the vice president of business development, Patrick Dooley, of North Shore Neon. The project he is referring to is a huge marquee display sign for New York Marriott in Times Square. The company he referenced is Yorston Associates-an independent manufacturers’ rep agency that focuses on the sign and graphics industry.          

Dooley’s statement shows the value that he and his organization experienced with enlisting the independent rep firm to help bring solutions to a large and complex branding project. And they are not the only brand providers that have come to recognize how beneficial it can be to have a partner like Yorston in their corner.

When it comes to building impressions, you’ve got to be able to develop and provide a visual that portrays the brand powerfully but is also produced with the right components that keep it looking good and functioning well for the duration it is meant to last. The more complicated or sophisticated the job, the more difficult it is to know what and how to use the best components for the job. That’s where the rep comes in with their lines of products, materials, and services.

The rep’s job is to listen and understand the goals of a project and then recommend or provide the right solutions with the backing and support of the lines they represent. You gain their expertise as well as the knowledge of the manufacturer.

If the idea of working with a rep is new to you, consider gaining a little insight into the rep world by visiting the Manufacturers’ Agents National Association (MANA) online at www.manaonline.org. There you’ll learn more and begin to become more comfortable with the concept.

MANA is a not-for-profit trade association located in Morton Grove, Illinois, for independent reps. Charles Cohon is the organization’s CEO and president. He was a guest presenter at the 2015 ISA Sign Expo where he shared his expertise on why and how reps and manufactures can and should work together successfully in the sign industry. Yorston Associates is one of the rep agencies that he points to as an example of how sign companies, manufacturers and reps can work together successfully. Yorston and Associates has been in business for more than 30 years. The company serves and consults the sign industry. At the helm is the owner and founder, Bill Yorston, with his son Adam, who is also now working his way into company leadership as well as establishing himself as the go-to guy for industry and project solutions that range from logistics to specific components like extrusions, flex face, lighting and more.

In fact, when it comes to Adam, in the short handful of years he’s been with Yorston he’s already been able to be a part of several award winning teams, sit on the board of directors for NSSA, be featured in Agency Magazine, participate as a LEAD on a Sa1esWise Teleforum, achieve his CPMR (certified professional manufacturers representative) designation, and be recognized as a NSSA Elite 2015 and ISA Elite 2016. 

I asked Bill and Adam to share some of their background and how they help sign companies build impressions.

Q – How does outsourcing to an independent consulting agency like you benefit a sign provider?

A – We spend all of our time in the sign industry. We don’t make things; we don’t stock things. We simply market, sell and provide solutions. We have deep knowledge and strong relationships with our distributor partners and our sign company customers that we work with.

We have developed a synergistic line of product offerings from a variety of quality manufacturers, and we have the ability to align these manufactures as well as their top tier brands. This, in the end, and most importantly, allows us to successfully partner with the sign company and contribute the right solutions to their branding projects.

Q – How did Yorston and Associates begin?

A – It started with Bill. He first studied architecture but when fresh out college ended up working with an aluminum sheet supplier. While calling on several industries for this employer he discovered the importance of corporate identity, particularly with the use of color applied to materials, like their sheets of aluminum.

From there, Bill began developing relationships with distributors and sign companies to bridge the gap between the need for components that met the corporate identity criteria and those fulfilling the branding applications. His entrepreneurial spirit and curious mind then went to work exploring and learning about other products outside of aluminum sheets that would also fit with signage.

Eventually Bill took the leap of faith to start his own independent rep business, Yorston and Associates, in 1985. Today, we’ve worked in all fifty states, in Canada and the Caribbean. We are now made up of a team consisting of both outside and inside sales people and staff dedicated to specification. Our firm’s focus is on commercial and architectural signage as well as lighting solutions.

Q – Adam, how did you get into the business with your father?

A – At an early age my father taught me some key principles; never stop learning, never burn a bridge, never stop reading, always be professional. Most importantly he taught me that no matter what happens, true success is never a given. It is earned every step of the way. I never forgot any of this advice and it has served me well as I first worked with real estate and natural gas leasing. But deep down I always wanted to work for my dad.

Seeing how my father applied his own advice has also provided me the model to follow. Learning at an early age what my father actually did with his business has helped me understand and appreciate what he does. I wanted to do the same thing. I eventually joined my dad and his team in 2012.

Q – What does Yorston provide to sign companies?

A – With signage people often think only about the finished sign. We think aluminum, lighting, adhesive, paint, extrusion, and type of face material (flexible or rigid). In other words, we break a project down into its components and put together the right mix to of ingredients to achieve the best outcome.

As a manufactures rep for the sign industry, we work to perfect the mix of items to offer sign companies and their projects. These items should be synergistically connected to maximize success. The closer we get to this mix, the more valuable we are with our sign customers, designers, distributors and our manufacturers current or prospective. The end user wins as well.

Q – What else do you do to help the sign industry?

A – We attend regional trade shows, conduct trainings and provide updates to regional distribution, we perform “Lunch and Learns” at large fabrication facilities, we help to increase brand awareness, gather market intelligence, provide manufacturers the leverage it takes to reduce barriers of entry to market, we sell by working with distribution, we sit on several trade association boards and we provide marketing support for those we represent. We will even travel with distributors and sales people.

We do all this as “partners in profit” -meaning that ultimately our success is measured by the success of our manufacturers and those we serve by helping with brand solutions. We help build those impressions you talk about.

Q – Can you name some branding projects where you helped build impressions?

A – We assisted Triangle Signs with a sign they provided for Rhode Island Row that included a Vantage LED display. Another project was a roof-top display system that we helped develop for Selby Signs that involved panels using a narrow LED sign Sign Comp bleed body extrusion snap frame system.

For the Cooper Hospital in Camden, New Jersey, we partnered with NW Sign Industries based out of Moorestown, New Jersey, to help them create the 25-foot-tall flex kerf cut channel letters that are displayed on all four sides of the building.

On top of the highest building in downtown Hartford, Connecticut, there’s a large iconic elk that we were able to assist by working closely with the sign’s designers at Lauretano Sign.

Another cool project where are our services provided the right solutions was for a sign at Lehigh Valley Hospital by Reed Sign where we actually spent two days with the production staff to help teach them how to tension the kerf cut sign.

With Santander, we helped them with a Wells Fargo Bank sign where we worked closely in the early stages with the lead sign manufacturers: Philadelphia Sign, Image One, and American SignCrafters.

The Kansas City Event Center ceiling incorporates both SignComp extrusion and RGB LEDs. We assisted Cutler Sign in both the lighting and the extrusion.

These are just a few of the many that we’ve been able to partner and help with building their impressions. 

Franko S

Scott Franko

Scott Franko is a solutions provider for business, brand and image through his firm, Franko Design Concepts and Consulting. He formerly owned and operated a multi-division sign, graphics and custom fabrication business. You can locate and contact him online at www.FrankoDesign.com. 

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