This month's guest blogger is Andrew Kohlmann, owner of Signs Now. I'll let Andrew take it from here!
|Andrew and his family|
I am a "transplant" from Flint, Michigan. I moved up with my mother at the end of my 5th grade school year. Upon arriving, I quickly came to appreciate what Traverse City had to offer and especially loved the outdoor activities and closeness to nature. During junior high and high school I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in something related to fine arts or graphic design. A family member recommended that I look into the sign business as they thought it would be a good fit to my creative side. In 1996, while attending high school I started my career with Signs Now. As it turned out, it was a great fit -- I truly enjoyed seeing my creativity as a graphic artist come to fruition as signs that I designed were being installed all over our community.
Fast-forward seventeen years: Still with the same company but now with a new title -- owner. Four and a half years ago, my wife and I purchased the business and have never looked back. My role with the company has, of course, changed and I wear many "hats" but I enjoy this business without end. We're proud to say that we've grown the business in a down economy, been named as a Top 10 Traverse City area Small Businesses by the Chamber of Commerce in 2011 and 2012 and have enjoyed many other milestones such as the birth of our daughters Annabelle and Alissa.
I share my history with you as a testament to two fairly straight-forward but sometimes overlooked concepts: "going the extra mile" and building relationships.
Earlier this year, I came across an article online that was inspired by the teachings of Napoleon Hill -- "Habits of Going the Extra Mile". It gave many examples of how important this practice is to the success and growth of individuals. While the concept seems very basic and simple, I think it's the small things as demonstrated in the article that can make the biggest difference in a person, a business, a city and more. While reading the piece, I found many parallels to times in my life in which I went the extra mile and how, later, the impact became more apparent that my success was due to these efforts. I've found the article's examples to be so impactful that it's become a standard part of our hiring process -- It's a required read for potential job candidates prior to starting the interview process.
Building relationships for me has been the more challenging of the two. Being a "typical" right-brainer, early in my career, I found it very challenging to muster up the courage to get involved in the community and to go to events and network. However, knowing that it was a “must” to build a successful business and to help build our community, I forced myself to “come out of my shell”.
I think that Traverse City has become such a vibrant and dynamic city largely due to these two aforementioned concepts. We are part of a city that's built on relationships and we welcome all of those who want to contribute to make it a better place for all. We have amazing organizations such as the Young Professionals, TC Chamber, the Rotary and many more that help us to build relationships and encourages “keeping it local”.
I also think that we're a community of people, businesses and organizations that “go the extra mile” – which has helped our area remain relatively isolated from the effects of the recession. We're lucky to have such an amazing mix of strengths, positive community members, a beautiful natural resources and a growing number of Young Professionals relocating to Traverse City that all help to make our community “the place to be”.