Signs Plus, Inc. of Bellingham knows what it takes to produce a high quality, highly innovative sign that tells the story of a business. As you drive down the streets of our community and see local business signs, you may only think of them as indicators of what business happens to be in that location. But each sign tells the customer so much more than that. It tells you a little about the personality of the business as well as the people behind it.
When I ask the Signs Plus team what makes a sign so important, I am amazed at the response I receive. “Signs are lasting tributes,” says Sydney Sutterfield, daughter of one of the owners and a Project Manager for Signs Plus. “They are the face of your business. Your customers see your sign before they taste your food or buy your product.”
Kim Jeppson, the General Manager and CFO who also happens to be the sister of one of the owners, adds, “Signs can have historical significance as well.”
The Herald Sign, which was renovated in 2016 by Signs Plus, is a great example of that historical significance. “I’ve enjoyed being a part of restoring historical signs in our own community,” says Sutterfield.
What makes Signs Plus such a unique and successful business? It is definitely the team behind the sign. “It is a huge family taking care of each other,” describes Sutterfield of the environment at Signs Plus. “Everyone has a common goal. Everyone contributes to the process.”
Walking in the front door of Signs Plus on Marine Drive, I get a quick view into one of the work rooms before I am greeted by Sutterfield and Project Manager Kelly Pfannenstiel. This is the place where all customers begin and their first opportunity to experience that personal touch that makes Signs Plus such a special and unique business.
Pfannenstiel, Sutterfield and Jeppson proudly describe “The Signs Sickness,” noticing signs everywhere you go and taking note of the good ones, the bad ones and the ones created by Signs Plus. Jeppson tells the story of her brother, co-owner of Signs Plus who is now retired, who created a visual blog of the signs he saw along a trip down Route 66. He repeated this same visual documentation as he traveled via motorcycle through South America. “It gets engrained in you,” she says.
The “Signs Sickness” is evidence of the team’s attention to detail and pride in their work. The signs they produce are the result of a very collaborative and open workplace environment. As I continue my time with this great group of people, I am inspired by their commitment to their work, their fellow employees and their customers.
“It’s really the relationships that we have with each other and with our customers that makes this business unique,” says Sutterfield.
Pfannenstiel, who is also Jeppson’s daughter, originally started in accounting part-time. “Full time just kind of happened,” she describes. “I noticed I started staying longer and longer. Now I’m one of the project managers. It’s been very exciting learning new skills.”
She goes on to say that the work environment is one of her favorite parts of working at Signs Plus. Even working with her mom is an added benefit she says with a laugh as she describes the importance of family. “We’re close here,” she says. “We’re all friends and working with family really does help.”
Jeppson came into the business to set up accounting systems at the request of her brother. Twelve years later she is still there. “I love this crew,” she says. “I like walking back and seeing the signs being built, the lighting being tested and the true size and scale of each sign. We’re very proud of our company. We really do produce a quality product, making it the best product for our customers. Nobody here wants to just put in the hours. They want to do their job well.”
Like the other two, Sutterfield began part time, ultimately moving into a full-time position at the family business. As a competitive gymnast who ultimately coached through college, Sutterfield was looking for a change upon graduation. “This was the right fit for me,” she says with a smile. “I love the team aspect we have here.
“We’re not cookie-cutter,” says Sutterfield. “We are distinctly unique and one of a kind.”
For each, life outside of Signs Plus mirrors life within. They describe the importance of family and friends, and their close connections to the community. “We’re all about family,” says Jeppson.