In this SME Association of Australia Member Profile, we chat to Sydney's Justin Priestley about his sign manufacturer and signwriting business Just In Signs and how he is making the business a success.
WHO: Just In Signs (www.justinsigns.com.au)
BUSINESS OWNER: Justin Priestley (32 years old, pictured right)
WHAT: Sign manufacturerWHERE: Minto, south-west Sydney, NSW
OPERATING SINCE: 2004
SMEAA: How has your business evolved since its inception?
Justin Priestley: I started out in my parents’ garage when I was still living there, producing digital prints and vinyl cut lettering for shopfronts and vehicles. We are now in a 420m2 factory in Minto with a range of machinery that allows us to produce some complex signage in-house, making us a near full-service sign shop.
SMEAA: What motivated you to start your own business?
JP: I wasn’t happy with my employment at the time. I put an offer in to buy the business, which was rejected, so I started up and sold my product back to my then employer.
SMEAA: How many staff do you currently employ?
JP: We have a total of three full-time employees and a network of contractors around the country.
SMEAA: Who are your clients and where are they mostly based?
JP: The majority of our clients are in Sydney. We do have repeat clients in other states that we work closely with throughout the year.
SMEAA: What can you tell us about some of the bigger successes your business has enjoyed?
JP: A standout for me was when we invested in a CNC router right before the GFC. We had committed to it in 2009 and took delivery in 2010. I was pulling my hair out running the machine because we had customers lined up for it and a few of those closed up, so it was a very stressful time. We got through it and now it is the main focus of our business in terms of producing signage. I look back and think, ‘Wow, we got through that!’.
SMEAA: Are you targeting new clients or more so focusing on getting more business out of your existing customer base?
JP: We focus on our existing client base. I have always considered this to be more important than new clients and have been very selective of the clients I choose.
SMEAA: What business challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?
JP: As with most businesses, cashflow is always a challenge, especially at the beginning of the year. It’s been the biggest challenge over the years. In 2010 we lost a large amount of money due to closures and bankruptcies, and we are still in recovery mode. There comes a point where you have to draw the line and say, ‘Okay, we lost this amount, we need to make this much extra over three years to recoup that loss, how are we going to do that?”. If I didn’t look at it this way, it would have eaten me up.
SMEAA: Many businesses are doing it tough at the moment; how’s the outlook for your business?
JP: We have always had a growth of 20 per cent year on year since 2008, so I am very optimistic because we have clients in a few very tight markets. 2010 being an exception to this growth, we have done prettygood over the last few years.
SMEAA: Do you have a business motto or any business advice you’d like to pass on to fellow SME owners?
JP: As a business owner, regardless of the size of the business, education is key. So never stop learning – read forums, ask questions of key clients and suppliers. They are an untapped resource of information that may be applicable to your plans now, and into the future.
SMEAA: When did you join the SME Association of Australia and why did you decide to join?
JP: I wanted to be part of the SME Association of Australia so I can keep up to date with what is happening in the business community. If you own a business, you need to take it seriously.
SMEAA: Have you gone to any of the SMEAA events? If so, how were they?
JP: I only joined in late 2011 during our peak, so I haven’t had the chance to attend any events yet.
SMEAA: Will you be renewing your membership to the SMEAA?
SMEAA: Would you encourage other SME owners to become a member of the SME Association of Australia?
JP: Yes. Other business owners should join the SME Association of Australia – there is a wealth of knowledge that members are willing to share, and it’s the opportunity to meet some new business owners.
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