More Than Fast, More Than Signs
FASTSIGNS of Saratoga Springs NY builds brands
A lot of companies can make signs. And while FASTSIGNS of Saratoga Springs NY (FASTSIGNS) produces its fair share of signs—thousands each year—it’s not just your average sign company.
The way Franchise Owner Rick Bult sees it, FASTSIGNS is more than fast and more than signs.
“We think we have many strengths that give us a competitive advantage over other sign shops. This is why we promote ourselves as a visual communications company; we help clients achieve the end goal of being visually relevant, engaging and captivating,” Rick says. “When working with us, it’s more than buying a sign, it’s building a brand with an identity.”
FASTSIGNS is equipped to handle most companies’ business visibility needs—from signs and graphics to digital signs, décor graphics and everything in between. Primarily, the company works with general contractors and others in the construction industry to design, fabricate, permit, install and ship signs and visual graphics for all types of buildings.
These can include site signs, wayfinding signs, digital signs, safety signs, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) signs, interior décor signs, monument signs, building signs and more. Sign materials vary by location and may be acrylic, aluminum, banner, corrugated plastic, fabric, PVC, magnetic, vinyl and wood.
Partnering with Clients
“We work in a fast-paced environment, where every request that comes in could—and usually is—completely different from the last. In many cases, clients don’t know what type of sign they need or want, they only know they need a sign.
“At that point, we jump in to guide them through the process. Our approach is to offer many solutions to their project—not just a single solution,” Rick says. “By offering them options, we can learn more about the project and start to partner with our clients instead of just providing a product.”
As an adviser, FASTSIGNS strives to be much more than an order taker.
“We examine the environment in which the sign will be located and determine the best match of products,” Rick explains. “Our visual consultants monitor and verify project quality throughout the design and production process.”
The word “fast” can be an important part of a customer’s needs. Rick explains that many contractors reach out to them a day or two before their Certificate of Occupancy inspections because they’re missing some signs needed for the inspection.
“That’s what we’re also good at,” he says. “For example, we have the equipment in-house to allow us to produce a dozen Braille signs in just a few hours—when needed.”
Rick bought his FASTSIGNS franchise in 2014 and began his operation with just three employees. Today, he has seven employees and plans to employ 10 people by the end of this year. The additional employees will work in outside sales.
His franchise is one of more than 700 FASTSIGNS business centers located throughout 10 countries. The franchise network adds around 35-50 business centers per year.
Network Extends Capabilities
“This gives us partners in every major city in the country, which allows us to install signage all over North America, not just here in Saratoga Springs, New York,” he explains. “Our center here in upstate New York focuses heavily on fabrication and installation. Many centers would prefer to outsource that. But we work very hard at building a great sign and like to see the project through from start to finish.”
The FASTSIGNS network has allowed Rick and his team to tackle jobs outside of the 30-mile radius of Saratoga in cities like Seattle, Chicago and Dallas.
“These types of projects could be for the rollout of a nationwide rebranding or a multistore operation that is expanding across the Northeast or across North America. Whether it’s a general contractor or a business owner, we are ready to work with everyone looking for a partner in helping their brand tell their story,” he says.
Rick says the franchisor has provided great support and resources to help him succeed.
“They also leverage our vendors so that we can buy products using the strength of an $800 million buying group. That’s something a traditional sign shop wouldn’t have the ability to do.
“As we’ve moved more into the general construction space, we’ve tailored our equipment and services to work with the most common needs of general contractors,” he adds. “We’ve become experts in the ADA-compliance regulations and signage required for new construction, as well as renovation projects.”
In addition to general contractors, FASTSIGNS’ client base also includes hospitals, universities and developers.
Capitalizing on PPE Needs
In 2020, FASTSIGNS surpassed $1 million in sales, Rick says, primarily because of its ability to react quickly and efficiently to demands put on businesses to reopen with the appropriate personal protective equipment in place.
“Whether it was customized floor decals for 6-foot distancing or acrylic safety barriers, we offered customized solutions for all of these needs. And, we did it in days not weeks,” Rick adds. “That’s something you could not get from an online superstore.”
Rick is pleased to share the story of FASTSIGNS’ work with a general contractor for the opening of a new restaurant for Maggie McFly’s, a bar and eatery chain located in the Northeast. FASTSIGNS had never worked for the restaurant chain or contractor before.
“We were only being considered because the shopping mall where the restaurant was going in said about us, ‘They do nice work.’ That’s usually not enough to earn you a $75,000 sign package, which included everything from interior artwork to exterior channel letter signage.
“But what really helped us get the job was that another sign company in town told the contractor that he was crazy for letting us bid this job…that we couldn’t deliver on a project like that. Well, not only did we deliver, but we received the Wide-Format and Signage Project of the Year Award by WhatTheyThink magazine for the work,” Rick says.
Throughout the year, FASTSIGNS supports many golf events as well as local soccer, lacrosse and youth football programs by offering deep discounts or free services on banners for advertising. Recently, the company also became a corporate sponsor for an organization called Saratoga Shredders.
“This wonderful group is mentoring young girls of all ages by teaching them how to mountain bike. The dirt and mud is no longer just for the boys,” he says. “The all-female coaching staff meets with the girls to teach bike skills as well as life skills.”
Signs Touch Lives in Positive Ways
Rick says in 2020 he and his team learned just how important a sign can be and how it can really make a difference in people’s lives.
“As the pandemic forced businesses to close and eventually schools to go remote, we offered lawn signs to the graduating class of 2020. These were not large orders, typically only $25 to $35. When a grandmother stopped in to get her granddaughter’s lawn sign, knowing she wouldn’t see her walk across the stage at graduation, we felt the time spent was worthwhile regardless of the income.
“But when this grandmother burst into tears seeing her granddaughter’s senior picture on that lawn sign, we realized how lucky we are to be able to bring a moment of joy into someone’s life—when they needed it most. Not all signs can do that, but it’s what we strive for every time we create something special.”