Jason Ditkofsky is the President of Channel Letter USA and his newest acquisition, McNeill Signs. This has allowed him to become a full-service operation, providing custom design, signage manufacturing, permit acquisition, and complete installation. They can fabricate signage in-house with computer-aided design and state-of-the-art equipment, coupled with a reliable team of experienced and knowledgeable installation and service technicians who can handle simple and intricate designs.
As Jason’s local South Florida community was ordered into quarantine, he was inspired to help and committed to donate up to $100,000 worth of commercial storefront signage to those in the process of launching a new business or who need a refresh to their current one. He believes that small business is the backbone of our economy and hopes to support them in their time of need. Starting on Monday, July 27th, 2020, through Friday, August 28th, 2020, South Florida companies can apply by sending their 500-word essay to [email protected] to share their story on why they are the most deserving of the new free commercial signage.
Where did the idea for McNeill Signs come from?
It was luck! I am a firm believer that people who experience luck on a more frequent basis than others put themselves in the position to do so. I get all the business broker listings sent to me weekly by my Rockstar business broker, Erin Crawford, at Transworld. If a listing ever has anything to do with the sign business, I request the details and sometimes a meeting. 99% of the time, it does not lead anywhere, but this time when I saw the name McNeill Signs, my jaw dropped. They are so well respected in the community and industry. I met Jay McNeill, and we immediately clicked. Our companies were such a perfect fit for one another, and our visions of where we both wanted to be in the next few years were aligned. So, I guess you can say that I created my own luck.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I wake up at 5:30 AM, and either weight train or do a 4-mile run outside. It gives me time for my mind just to wander. Once I arrive at the office (typically somewhere between 7:30 – 8:00 AM), I stop by our manufacturing building to meet with our Foreman and our production manager to ensure that the fabrication, service, and install teams are firing on all cylinders. From there, I arrive at my office, which I share with my admin and sales team. Every day is different and can include working some exciting deals to less exciting administrative tasks that have to be reviewed. If I had it my way, I would be closing deals every day, but the reality is that being a business owner involves a lot of the behind the scenes unsexy jobs.
How do you bring ideas to life?
First and foremost, from an everyday business sense, I keep a running list of ideas so that I can keep track. From a sign perspective, I rely on my team to execute their roles. My sales team works collaboratively with our customers to develop a vision of how they want their brand represented while following the local zoning guidelines and building codes. Once the design is approved, we go into permitting, which can take anywhere to a couple of days to sometimes a couple of months. It really varies based on the municipality and scope of the project. Once we receive the city and county approvals, the projects goes into fabrication. I pride myself on my company’s fabrication capabilities and have spent a lot of money to ensure that I have the most technologically advanced equipment. I invite any of my current or would-be clients to tour my facility before making a purchase decision. Finally, we install the signs. We have an 85-foot Elliot Crane truck, so there is very little that we cannot reach.
What’s one trend that excites you?
It is really construction industry-specific, but the fact that many of the cities and counties are starting to move their permitting process to online platforms saves us countless hours per week. It was such a time suck, and this has made it more efficient.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I read a ton about many different subjects. I try to finish at least 15 books a year minimum. They tend to be business-related, but I will throw in some fiction once in a while to mix things up. I subscribe to Men’s Health, Forbes, and Entrepreneur Magazines. I get blogs sent to my inbox (Daily Brew and No Mercy / No Malice are two that I highly recommend).
What advice would you give your younger self?
Stop stressing and that you will eventually start to figure it out.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Tomatoes suck in sandwiches and either overpowers all the other flavors or just leaves the bread soggy.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Look for ways to become more efficient and grow. Everybody loves revenue, but you do not always have 100% control over that, but you always have control over costs. I am always looking for ways to grow. It can be through making a strategic hire, invest in a new piece of machinery, or even acquiring another company.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Being responsive. I always make sure that everybody gets a callback. It is incredible to me how often I win bids just because my competition does not even bother to respond to quote requests. There is no secret sauce. Everybody wants to be treated like they matter.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Taking things too personally. I have experienced so many crazy stories over the years, and for a long time, I took them to heart. If a client does not pay, if an employee steals, or some other unfortunate incident occurs, I have learned that it has nothing to do with Jason Ditkofsky as a person and would have happened under any other circumstance. Just do what you have to do in order to deal with the situation and move on without harping on it.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Transworld is going to kill me for saying this, but there are so many solid small businesses out there without succession plans, and a lot of Baby Boomers want to start retiring if they can. If the sign industry ever went away or if I ever received a godfather offer for McNeill and Channel Letter USA, I would be a business broker, no doubt.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I spend about $100 every month on my pool maintenance company. I love swimming with my two daughters on the weekend. I wouldn’t trade those moments for anything.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Shopvox, a sign industry-specific cloud system that allows us to do proofing, take payments, and keep track of production all in one place. It has been a lifesaver, and the truth is that I probably only use it to 50% of its actual capabilities.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Creative Arts Agency by James Andrew Miller. I have read every book that I know of that has anything to do with Michael Ovitz. He is undoubtedly a controversial figure, but he was able to accomplish so many different things in so many different areas of business. He was not only at one time the most powerful man in the entertainment industry, but he changed the way the deals were structured and reinvented the art of deal-making.
What is your favorite quote?
“I love you daddy” – Andi & Nikki Ditkofsky.
- I am a firm believer that people who experience luck on a more frequent basis than others put themselves in the position to do so
- If I had it my way, I would be closing deals every day, but the reality is that being a business owner involves a lot of the behind the scenes unsexy jobs.
- Stop stressing and that you will eventually start to figure it out.
- Look for ways to become more efficient and grow. Everybody loves revenue, but you do not always have 100% control over that, but you always have control over costs.
- Always be responsive. I always make sure that everybody gets a callback. It is incredible to me how often I win bids just because my competition does not even bother to respond to quote requests.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.