Charles Dugan

I focus on doing what is best for our customers. My theory is that if you take care of this, everything else will work out. Nearly every strategy I test is based on what I believe is the right thing to do for our clients.


Charles Dugan is the President and Owner of American Image Displays , designers and distributors of premier trade show equipment. The company’s offers a wide variety of exhibits and products including trade show backdrops , digital displays, trade show furniture , shipping cases, and pop up booths . He is also a contributor to  and a trade show marketing consultant.

Prior to running his own company, Charles served in the US Navy for 8 years as an electronic technician. When he returned from his service he decided to pursue a career in business. Charles went on to earn his MBA and has been involved in entrepreneurship ever since.

Where did the idea for American Image come from?

Rather than start the business from scratch, I acquired my company about 10 years ago. I attended a lot of trade shows in my previous job and was a customer of American Image Displays. I wanted to be on the other side of the fence. I enjoy helping people preparing for trade shows and understand how to market themselves.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I spend a significant amount of my day training our business development staff. Our sales staff need to be informed and up to date about the different products we offer from various manufacturers. If a customer asks a specific question, they need to know the exact answer. In order to make my days as productive as possible, I try to block myself from accessing social media and email during certain periods in order to focus and avoid distractions.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I focus on doing what is best for our customers. My theory is that if you take care of this, everything else will work out. Nearly every strategy I test is based on what I believe is the right thing to do for our clients.

What’s one trend that excites you?

I’m interested to see how virtual reality will impact trade shows. When you think of trade shows, you think of in person networking and marketing. Virtual reality is changing the marketing aspect. Companies will be able to provide product demos using headsets, without having to transport bulky products. I’m excited to see how VR technology involves and influenes trade shows.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I read a lot. Reading helps me improve my memory and analytics skills, allowing me to get more work done in less time.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would advise my younger self on the importance of hiring the right people. Your employees have a huge impact on not only the quality of work done, but also the culture of your company. The culture you build is absolutely critical. One negative person can bring down the morale and productivity of an entire team. It’s imperative to hire people that will support each other and work well together.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?

Business cards still matter. A lot of people think business cards are dead because of digital technology. However, exchaning contact information online or connecting on LinkedIn is still impersonal. Business cards leave a strong impression.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Read and write. No matter what industry you are involved in or job you do, these are two skills are important. I recommend other entrepreneurs read for pleasure. It’s enjoyable, expands your knowledge, and is good for business.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Growing our newsletter has been a key part of our company’s growth. We have thousands of subscribers who folllow our newsletter and company updates. We built our newsletter by blogging consistently and promoting our content on social media.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

We had an employee that complained constantly. It damaged our company culture and I failed to address the situation properly, which led to us losing key team members. I’m now doing a better job of hiring the right people that filt well with our team dynamic.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I would suggest a furniture rental business. More and more consumers, especially younger ones, prefer to rent rather than own possessions.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I bought myself a new pair of dress shoes. Having a professional appearance is especially important in my positions because I attend trade shows frequently.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

We outsource our SEO marketing with CanIRank’s full service team. CanIRank is a hybrid of an SEO software and digital marketing agency. Because I do not have to manage our online marketing initiatives, I can focus my efforts on the day to day operations of running the business.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I recommend reading Malcom Gladwell’s book, “Outliers “, to learn about why certain people are so successful. The book discusses the 10,000 Hour Rule, which holds that 10,000 hours of practice are needed to become a master at any task.

What is your favorite quote?

Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” -Albert Einstein


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