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Exclusive Coverage: Life Beyond Signmaking: Egan Sign Switches Gears

2016 marks a new path for the venerable Pennsylvania sign company.

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2016 marks a completely new path for venerable Pennsylvania sign company Egan Sign. A new location, a new president and, in fact, an entirely new business model.

“It’s completely gotten out of manufacturing and installation, so really right now the company is a project management-oriented company with tremendous sign expertise,” says John Dever, who assumed his role as company president on the first workday of the year.

January was also the month the company relocated to its new 6,000-plus-square-foot location in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, just outside Reading. It’s roughly six times the size of the company’s former home.

Egan Sign’s roots run deep in the Keystone State. Bob Egan founded it more than a quarter century ago, and before that Bob’s father, Arthur, owned a millworking business that also made wooden quarter-board signs replicating the signs found on old whaling ships. Visual messaging runs through the veins of the company.

“Up until about six or seven years ago, the company was a regional sign manufacturer and installer,” Dever says. “And about six, seven years ago they started to look at their business model in a different way. They went through a strategic planning process and really made the decision-and a really good decision, with Bob Egan’s vision-that because there were so many consolidations taking place at customer-facing corporations-anything from banks to hardware stores or whatever … there were a lot of mergers and acquisitions going on, and Bob and the company really made the decision that rather than be a regional sign manufacturer and installer, they felt that their real opportunities lie in their knowledge of the sign business.

“And when I say that, I’m talking about everything that goes from graphics to permitting to sign manufacture to installation, all the way on through. The expertise that the company had developed in those areas really could help a lot of the-I call them construction and facilities managers in those corporations-because typically they don’t have that expertise.”

The company worked to develop strategic partnerships with other companies that would take over manufacturing and installing the signs. Egan Sign’s focus is now sign project management, and the shift means casting a nationwide net, rather than just a regional one.

“Bob and his team at the time invested a lot in software and they developed a proprietary software program that is called Sign Manager-again, it’s proprietary-that enables the company and the project managers and project coordinators be able to manage multiple projects in multiple geographic locations in such a way that the quality of a job done, the speed that the job is done, and quite frankly the affordability of the services, was something that was really needed and desired by the market,” Dever says.

“We have several customers who, even in this brief amount of time that I’ve been here with Egan Sign, that I’ve spoken with directly that will just absolutely tell you what a relief it is to deal with a company like Egan Sign-that takes what is typically looked at as a real headache off their shoulders,” he continues. “And not only takes their headache away but really performs their business in a manner that is on time, on budget and to their expectations.

“A lot of times we just ‘wow’ them, and that’s because we know the sign business and we know what’s involved in it. And we can handle multiple projects on any given corporate sign rebranding or expansion in a manner they could not do it.”

Dever’s previous position was 16 years as president and chief operating officer for Bills Khakis, an upscale men’s fashion brand in Reading. His job before that was also in the area, serving as a partner in a management consulting company, which is where he first got to know Egan.

Egan actually lives in Massachusetts, and given the restructuring of the business model he stepped aside as president and brought Dever in to run day-to-day operations. Egan remains the company’s CEO and chairman of its board.

Egan Sign employs about 14 people today, Dever says, and that’s likely to go up as the company generates more business from nationwide chains.

“I think it’s reasonable to expect that we could double our employment within the next three years, based on our growth plans,” Dever says.

Right now the company is focused on developing relationships and making sure its customers and potential customers see the value in the services it provides.

Despite all the repositioning, one thing that hasn’t changed since Egan was president, Dever says, is the company’s very strong team-oriented culture that the founder had instilled.

“Being able to maintain the culture that really is the essence of the company, as you grow, is both an art and a science, but it is something that if you have a foundation similar to what you have at Egan Sign, it’s a wonderful thing to grow from,” Dever says. 

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Tony Kindelspire

Tony Kindelspire is digital content editor of Sign & Digital Graphics & WRAPS magazines.

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