Tim Eippert Featured

8:00pm EDT August 28, 2006
 Tim Eippert is impatient. He wants to grow MC Sign Co., and he wants to do it fast. Eippert, president of MC Sign, thought he could grow the company faster than the five years everyone told him it would take. He was wrong. But he’s also been right. When an executive wouldn’t meet with him to consider his project bid, Eippert drove to Columbus and camped out in the lobby of the executive’s office, hoping he would meet up with him. He did — and he got the bid. These ups and downs, rights and wrongs, have molded him into the leader he is today, allowing the company, which makes and installs retail signs, to continue growing; its 92 employees exceeded $20 million in revenue last year. Smart Business spoke with Eippert about how he manages and grows MC Sign.

Focus on your people.
Everybody asked me, ‘How did you make this happen?’ but the answer is, I didn’t. It’s the people and the employees around me that made it happen. To not focus on them and not grow them is just bad.

Stay connected.
(We) make sure that all of us stay in touch with our people. It makes them understand that it’s important, what they’re doing. Every day they walk through the door, it’s important — not only to themselves but to the collective good. We all need to have the same goal, same drive and same focus on the business.

Have a strategy.
Focus on where the business is going and how you’re going to get there so you can build a strategy around it.

We do a lot of planning in our business. We don’t just hope that the business grows. We focus every day on trying to make the right decisions and trying to grow the business.

We’ve got close to 100 people, and everybody’s depending on us to do it the right way. Get everybody involved and help, so we’re all on the same page when we come into work every day.

Maintain focus.
Stay focused on your core business. The tendency to want to grow fast is to get out and dilute yourself across too many businesses or too many products. That can work if you have the process behind you or the organization to support it, or they’re just slam dunks and they’re going to work.

For us, it’s staying focused on what we’re good at. Continue to evaluate the products and services we offer to customers. Evaluate and get customer feedback. We have to make sure that we’re valuable to the customer, and there’s value in what we bring.

We watch and track our annual operating plan monthly and review it quarterly. At the end of the year, that’s what helps build the following year’s operating plan. We always have growth built into that plan, and it’s not always top-line revenue growth.

In my past, it always was. I always wanted to grow sales.

You can’t get bigger — you have to get better. You get better by making sure the top line grows and the bottom-line profit grows. We’re continually focused on both.

Have strong values.
It’s a combination of good character and being an overall good, ethical, honest person. It’s a challenge in today’s business society because you see a lot of businesses doing a lot of things that they shouldn’t be doing, and they’re being successful financially.

You can never let yourself compromise your values. ... Everybody knows when they’re being unethical, and when they’re being dishonest to a customer or themselves. That’s a gut-check time.

You have to sit back and make sure what you’re doing is right. Provide good honest services at a fair price.

One of my biggest customers told me when I first started, ‘Tim, I don’t care if you get rich, but don’t get rich on one job. I don’t care if you make a profit on me over our long term, but don’t make a profit on one job.’

That’s a philosophy we stick to. Everybody who buys a service from us expects us to make a profit, and we expect (that) from the people we buy from, too. Just make sure it’s a fair profit, and stay true to the service you provide.

Keep people who can get it done.
Everybody knew I wanted to grow fast. I have some very long-tenured people, and I’ve got people who couldn’t keep up.

As the business grows, you have to be realistic and understand that you outgrow people and their talents and their ability to keep up. It’s not all about the people that are part of the business at any one point in time. It’s also about making sure that the people that are there are contributing to the business.

That’s a constant challenge of evaluation and open communication. Are we right for the people, and are the people right for the business?

Find people to balance your weaknesses.
I’m not a patient person. I want everything to happen faster than it happens. I need to make sure I don’t make bad decisions because I’m being impatient.

That’s surrounding myself with people more patient and smarter than I am. I have good people around me who help me slow down and take a step back and say, ‘OK, is that the right decision?’ Oftentimes, it might be the right decision, but it gives us time to pause and make sure.

Spread your vision.
Find great people and smart people, and get them passionate about the growth of your business and surround yourself with them. I’m a good sales guy — I could really share the vision of where I wanted the company to go, and it’s far exceeded what I thought it would do. I see how much further it can go — making sure everyone has that vision and same passion you have to grow the business.

Help them understand you’re all doing it as a collective group, not as one individual. I may be president of the company, but as we grow, my role diminishes because there’s so many other people involved that are making impactful decisions.

You have to trust and know that the people that are making those decisions are sharing the passion about the business to the new people coming in to the business.

HOW TO REACH: MC Sign Co., www.mcsign.com