Guest Authored by Ken Burns, President, Axis Graphics Installations
In the graphic installation community, car, boat and motorcycle wraps have always been considered the “sexy” side of the industry. And who can deny it? But for me as a business owner, profits and shareholder distributions are two things that are very sexy to me.
Architectural films are what contribute the most in these areas for our company; we see them as our bread and butter for multiple reasons. First, there’s the volume: from huge mall barricades to giant ‘Coming Soon’ storefronts and entire office buildings getting distraction/privacy films on their interior office windows, the square footage in architectural films is absolutely massive.
Then there is the repeat business. Every store, in every mall, in every city changes its look either monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, or annually. This means that once you are awarded an account, it will likely become ongoing revenue. They may not always be the sexiest looking installations, but architectural films create very sexy results in the bank account.
So, how did Axis Graphics Installations get into this type of work? The business began life back in 2009 when I decided to start up a new company following the closure of Burton Imaging Group, where I had been a graphics installer. Previously I had been working in the corporate retail, food and beverage industries, but made the move into graphics after my good friend Mark Dockum, who was also working at Burton, piqued my interest with his enthusiasm for the trade.
When Burton Imaging closed in 2009, I decided that I wanted to put my business education to use. I approached Mark and Dustin Dunlap and asked them if they would be interested in starting our own graphic installation company. They agreed to give it a shot and Axis Graphic Installations was born.
Over these past 14 years, we have taken a select group of long-time friends that were looking for career changes themselves and trained them in our craft, with staff now working in states across the US. While we initially focused on installing, I recently decided to open up the business to production, which led to the launch of the new Capital INK shop.
Having only been on the installation side of the industry until just recently, we were always provided the materials that we installed by the printers who produced them. I wasn’t familiar with Drytac products until Drytac partnered with the PDAA on some training and certification events last year. I immediately loved the installation and removal qualities of the products.
I wondered why I hadn’t seen these products from our clients; I now believe it’s because print companies stick with what they know and what is readily available from their known distributors.
Now that we are starting to produce graphics, we are already testing all the Drytac products for their printability and so far, they are outstanding. Longer term, I foresee using these products in all retail and fleet/transit applications.
Getting it right
Working with a trusted materials partners like Drytac is extremely important for many reasons. First and foremost, you want to satisfy your customer and their own clients. As there are so many untrained installers out there, most clients have had a bad experience with an installer in the past. Because of these past experiences, it only takes one bad installation to completely lose a client’s trust and have them find another solution for future projects.
With retail projects, generally they are very time/date specific as they relate to new product releases, seasonal changeouts, or date-specific sales. So, unsatisfactory installation really compounds the client’s stress in these situations. And to top it all off, these installations are generally in highly visible, high traffic areas, so a poor installation is going to be seen by many people until a reprint can be produced and the bad installation corrected.
Next, installations should only be trusted to qualified and vetted installers. This is one of the many reasons I have served on the PDAA Committee for the past six years. It does not matter how amazing a design or print is if it is installed poorly or incorrectly. I recommend installers attend any of the manufacturer trainings and certifications for the products they will be installing.
I also recommend the PDAA Architectural training and certification, which incorporates a host of film types and manufacturers, and some unique testing stations that, in my opinion, make it the most diverse and well-rounded architectural program available.
Increasing your skills
The next event will be a Drytac-hosted PDAA Architectural Films Training & Certification. The event is scheduled for April 21-23 and we will host it at Capital INK Branding Solutions in Silver Spring, Maryland. This event will cover the various situations you will find in what I refer to as the ‘retail’ side of the installation world. Testing stations include a bank of windows with mullions where we test both dry and wet applications, round columns, walls with inside and outside corners, floors, textured surfaces, and lockers.
A new perk for these PDAA Architectural Certifications is an accompanied Axis Graphic Installation Accreditation. We are transitioning our installation company into a national project management company over the coming months, and we feel that this program is the only architectural platform that is rigorous enough that if an installer can achieve it, then that is an installer we can trust with our Axis name.
Every installer that receives the PDAA Architectural Certification is placed into our Axis network of installers. And the bids that we send out to the areas that have multiple certified installers will be rotated each project so that every “Axis Ally” has opportunities to bid.
Add in a growing partnership with Drytac and forming an even stronger alliance with the supplier, and there is plenty to get excited about for the future.