Real Estate & Retail

PROFILE: LB&A Sign Management: Signs matter Artist helps firms promote their brands

August 13, 2007

LB&A Sign Management Signs matter

Artist helps firms promote their brands

It takes more than a power drill to put up a company's sign these days.

In most cities and towns, there are ordinances and zoning regulations to comply with and permits to get before a sign is tacked on the side of a building. Business owners also want their signs to capture the firm's essence-and look good, too.

That's where Lisa Bohn comes in.

Bohn, 40, parlayed 15 years' expertise in commercial art into a niche business that designs signs, arranges to get the necessary permits and gets them installed for corporations.

"She can do a turnkey operation for us," said Chris Query, facilities and maintenance manager for Brightpoint Inc.'s five North American buildings. "If we need to have work done in other cities, she has the contacts and vendors to work with."

Bohn, a 1989 Ball State University graduate with a degree in commercial art, worked in that profession for several advertising agencies in Indianapolis, Atlanta and an outdoor sign company in Wisconsin. Facing a do-not-compete clause from a previous job, she opened LB&A in her hometown.

"I always had owning my own business on my mind, and I had some understanding that I wanted to come back to what I loved," said Bohn, who grew up in Indianapolis and went to North Central High School. "I'm a very visual person, and I felt like that was a value I had that I could share with other people."

She said she's on a campaign to show that valuable Hoosiers do return to their home state, reducing the brain drain everyone talks about. "This is a great place to have a business," Bohn said.

Bohn started LB&A Sign Management with personal savings and has grappled with the challenges of controlling growth and staying on task. She's earned the Women's Business Enterprise certification, and like many other small-business owners, thought she could do everything herself when she started.

And like others, she says the smartest thing she did was hire a company to do bookkeeping and work with other financial matters. That frees her up to develop her business and tend to customer relations.

"Accounting was not an area I enjoyed," she said.

Bohn works with corporations such as Brightpoint, Steak n Shake, Meridian Real Estate, Splash Universe Water Park Resorts and others to develop and install signs inside and out-from gas prices to restrooms to corporate logos. Bohn does this while complying with size requirements, setback regulations, light restrictions and other considerations from municipalities, developers and neighborhoods.

"It is a challenge working with city ordinances and sign regulations, and they have to be followed on every level because they limit what you are allowed to do," she said. "And you have to be creative with the design while working within those regulations so that for the client, it's a seamless experience."

When she started, she had no clients lined up because of the non-compete agreement. Bohn has used word of mouth and referrals to grow her business. "There's so much business out there, so I felt comfortable as a new business with a lot to offer," she said.

"Lisa has been able to come up with creative ideas for our themed parks, including wild images," said Mark Moore, vice president of the Valparaisobased Splash Universe, which has indoor resort water parks in Shipshewana and Dundee, Mich. "She creates something that stands out. She provides great client services. We get unique signs, and she was the easiest one to work with when it comes to getting code permits and the whole process, including getting signs installed."

Bohn thinks the customer satisfaction is a direct result of doing what you love. And, that's what she'd tell anyone thinking about starting his or her own business.

"Follow your passion and take care of your clients," she said. "The passion gives you the enthusiasm, drive and desire, and the clients give you work and the opportunity to grow your business."
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