A Practical Guide to a Moving Experience
The decision to move a company should be straightforward. You’re tight on room and have no space for growth; the facilities are dilapidated, etc. And yet it’s so easy to go into a denial mode – “Yes, we can still make this work.”
Unfortunately, at some point, reality sets in, and you realize you must move. Once that day hits (even if it’s taken a year or a decade to get there), there‘s no going back. You must move forward. At this point, it’s as if you’ve stepped off the cliff, but you must spring into action and consider all options.
Established in 1925 by A.M. Fulton, Security Signs was located at 436 S.E. 12th Ave. in Portland, OR, for 60 years. The founder’s son, Robert, sold it to us in 1997. Due to significant growth, we moved into our 33,000-sq.-ft., state-of-the-art facility at 2424 S.E. Holgate Blvd., also in Portland, in October 2005. The moving process taught us how to plan the new facility’s layout and survive a move successfully.
The first logical decision is to focus on what to do with your existing facility. In our case, our lease was up in roughly a year from our stepping-off-the-cliff point. Also, we declined an offer to purchase our existing building.
Once you’ve addressed this issue, you can focus on the next question: Is it best to build (you’ll need land), buy an existing building or lease?
Our good friend and sage, Ron Jacobs, of Berry Neon Sign Systems, advised us against building, based on his experience. He thought leasing or buying an existing facility gave us more control over expenses and cost overruns.
While we were busy contemplating these three scenarios, we formulated a wish list to help us determine the appropriate choice. We listed “must haves” and “would be nice to haves.” We also considered the geography, such as access to freeways and major roads, traffic congestion, and our employees’ home locations. We pinpointed a map to help us eliminate certain areas that didn’t fit our criteria.
Ideally, you would relocate where you could retain all your employees – at least those you want to keep. In our case, we considered both Washington and Oregon because we were near their borders, and the tax structures are very different.
Size was a major consideration. After having been cramped in 10,000 sq. ft., we knew we wanted at least 25,000. Plus, we needed a yard and large truck lot. We had an option on an existing facility, when a customer approached us to be tenants in a building he had just purchased. We thought we wanted to own, not lease, a building, but this facility seemed perfect for us and in a great part of town. Finally, he made us an offer we couldn’t resist.
Because the site is a leased facility, the taxes are included in the lease. The lease payment was the same as for our previous, 10,000-sq.-ft. facility. We just renegotiated a new, five-year lease for a nominal difference.
Obtaining 33,000 sq. ft. allowed us to keep our trucks on site and park two crane and two bucket trucks in the shop. We have more space in our “bone yard” for our other five trucks. Previously, we leased space offsite for our trucks. We also expanded our vinyl department; we built a room to accommodate a digital printer and expanded other departments.
Before and during lease negotiations, my son Kevin worked on the budget to ensure financial feasibility. You don’t want any surprises, even though they’ll pop up. Although the budget figures will be staggering, remember, this is a long-term purchase. Keep reminding yourself about the major boosts in productivity, efficiency and safety instead of obsessing about a major cash outlay. Keep yourself moving forward.
Because our facility met nearly all our requirements, we negotiated some tenant improvements. The landlord built a wall in the shop, at his cost, to separate our space from his. He added some fencing, and we borrowed the money for the rest. (Of course, Tom, my husband, and I don’t ever plan to retire! You’ll be amazed at what a new, shiny paint booth costs.)
Kevin budgeted for just about everything, but such “incidentals” as furniture, decorations, cleaning, etc., blew the budget. Our cleaning bill doubled, and utilities bills significantly increased. Factor in the cost of your staff’s labor hours during the move, which we overlooked, but absorbed, in monthly expenses. Also, consider the costs of printing and rebranding everything, including a great new sign, etc.
Now with costs lined out, you are good to go – I mean, literally, go!
What’s the plan?
Kevin started with a programming plan that included everything he wanted to accomplish, even the shop flow. He measured equipment, gates, work areas, parking areas, desks and such during the early planning stages.
Laying out the floor plan for the shop, offices, storage yard and parking are critical before you proceed too far. Our old shop had an overhead crane system that the new shop doesn’t have, so that required some adjustments. At first, we just used carts for transporting signs, but now we’ve built two gantry cranes, which work out great.
Our major adjustment after the move was to create a flow, which begins with vinyl, proceeds to assembly, then ends in our staging area next to where we park the crane trucks at night.
Since the move, we’ve added two Arete channel-letter machines, a Turbobend machine and a digital printer. We built the paint booth in the new shop prior to the move. We chose a central area to allow proper ventilation.
The room we built to accommodate the digital printer is akin to a “clean room.” We also built another room, which we can darken, for vinyl layouts. There, lightboxes hang on the wall, so we can check out digital prints and vinyl samples as they would appear at night.
The router area is off by itself, not in the main traffic areas, as it was previously.
Before you move, visualize how the new facility should work, compared to your old facility’s shortcomings. Keep in mind some things might not work as well. Plans take compromising and improvising. But, overall, this is the opportunity to “get it right.” A move involves a lot of thought, conceptualization and a son who knows this stuff. Again, flexibility is important. And start clearing out anything that shouldn’t be moved.
Let’s get moving
Because of Kevin’s skilled, project-management background, he outlined a plan of action of the “who, where, what, when, and how” of the move. Created on Excel spreadsheets, his timeline and staged-move action plan helped keep things organized.
It sounds so very simple now, as I write this, but I really can’t overemphasize the need for a good plan, or chaos will ensue. The moving process will, nevertheless, seem like chaos even if it’s organized chaos.
We were in our busiest month ever during the month (October) of the move. The moving date hinged on procuring permits and the paint booth being constructed according to schedule. Then there was the painting, carpeting, cleaning, lighting revamping, telephone upgrades, computer wiring (go for the max here), etc.
The timeline of the actual move is important, just as is scheduling your production, because customers don’t care if you’re moving – they just want the signs that were promised.
The field staff moved first, with the trucks and service items, while the paint booth was being erected. We had leased a separate facility for them and our trucks for a year. Kevin was onsite to oversee improve-ments (such as new carpet in the offices), and he worked with the IT department and subcontractors (painters, electricians, etc.). The move was planned by July 2005, and the major part occurred over the last weekend in October.
At this point, it’s fair to say no detail is too small, and you need to ask for help. We delegated duties to cover all the details. Our employees looked forward to being under one roof in a spacious facility. The field staff and trucks had been in leased space roughly a mile from the main, 10,000-sq-ft. facility, which was very inefficient.
We combined self-packing and the services of a rigging company, a moving company and an employee-volunteer moving work day (complete with pizza). Our employees did a fabulous job of moving anything that wasn’t bolted down. (I think they moved some bolted-down stuff, too.)
The move lasted roughly a week.
The neon department was the last to move due to some configuration issues and workflow. Our previous neon department had been on the second floor. In the new place, on the first floor, we allowed for the gases to be plumbed in, but we’re in an open space that’s accessible to the assembly area and the channel-letter department. Also, no stairs are involved. The new location has a ramp that makes it easy to ship and receive materials.
A move is so mentally and physically taxing, it’s hard to remember you’re still in the sign business, not the moving business. This is the critical part – keeping everything running smoothly while you complete this move. To Kevin’s credit, we didn’t miss one deadline, and jobs fell into place effortlessly (ahem!!).
The day we unlocked the door in our new facility was truly emotional. A sign of relief you say? No, not yet! As the saying goes, “It ain’t over till it’s over;” the letdown doesn’t happen overnight. It happens gradually and lasts quite a long time – perhaps a couple of months.
How can you prepare for it, let alone explain it? The emotional and physical letdown will make you wonder how you got through it. It’s a time to take care of yourself and recuperate.
We weren’t prepared for the stress everyone – especially Kevin – went through. If you’ve ever moved your home, quadruple the effort for moving your company. Plan for a vacation as soon as you can, but not until the next step is done.
Whoop it up!
You’ll settle in much more quickly if you plan to show off your new digs soon. You can fine-tune the décor and spit shine everything. Everyone will want to see your new place, and showing it off provides a great sense of accomplishment.
Just two weeks after moving, we held a family day and barbeque for our employees. Within four months, we held an open house for customers, vendors and the business community. This last step makes all the above worthwhile.
You’ll receive much publicity by announcing your move, so don’t skimp on getting the word out with mailings, press releases and events. (You will have competitors trembling in their boots over your move and growth!)
Now, it’s easy to look back and reflect on five years ago; while we struggled with the “to move or not to move” syndrome, we realize we made the right decision. Luck was very much on our side in finding a facility (or having a facility find us) that was just right. Our productivity has soared; we can inventory materials; safety is enhanced, and we have room to grow.
Fortunately, our workload has grown during the last six months, so that helps make the move worthwhile financially.
So, in the end, the road you’re going down may not be the road on which you end up. Keeping an open mind to all possibilities will help ensure the best outcome. So, if you make a move, make sure it’s in the right direction so you don’t have to go through the whole #@%^ process again in five years. Go for it!
For more information, a copy of the budget or a copy of the programming plan, contact Kevin at email@example.com. Get moving!
Carol Keljo is owner/president of Security Signs (Portland, OR). This article expands the original article she wrote that appeared in the April 2007 issue of the World Sign Associates’ WSA Today.