We had the good fortune of connecting with Alan Cook and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Alan, what is the most important factor behind your success / the success of your brand?
I think this has worked because it’s a small boutique type shop. When you order something or have an idea, you will most likely talk to me, not a sales person that looks on a chart that tells them the price of a certain item. We don’t really have “certain” items because 90% of what we do is custom work. As far as success of the brand goes I don’t know. There’s never been advertising, just word of mouth. I’m not sure if you could even consider Signworks of Dallas “branded.” Although I have some clients in the advertising world that have offered to help develop what we do into more of a brand but I’ve yet to take up on their offers.
Please tell us more about your business. How did you get to where you are today business-wise. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
In a nutshell starting a creative business from scratch is not the easiest route. It is constant work. It is not easy. The lessons I’ve learned are countless. In particular, not letting someone speak on your behalf as many large jobs have a chain of command. If I’m hired out by another company to do work for their client or sometimes there’s 3-4 companies between me and the client, I make sure I have certain specifications in writing. If an architecture firm designs a new office building or a complete remodel of an existing one, and hires a contractor to build it, then there is probably a design firm to create interior decor such as signage or murals for the actual client such as branded type decor. So I need to make sure I’m in direct contact with the contractor to make sure the specifications are what is needed to produce the design firm’s vision. This sounds easy enough but as I mentioned, sometimes there is a chain of command and certain companies are strict on that. So I have to find a way to make sure everyone is on the same page at the beginning because even small things like the type of wall paint can be a huge factor that could compromise the design firm’s vision. Because the architect and contractor have no idea what is going up after their work is complete so I’ve learned to make sure that they do. We are the final part of a job like that so if there are any problems that arise from a mistake that happened during the buildout, we might have to take responsibility for it because that is the only thing that the client can see even though it was a mistake that happened perhaps months in advance by someone else. This is part of business but a part that I’m trying to change. I do not subscribe to ancient business models that are outdated or tolerate clients that willingly do not work with you on making sure the job will be successful. There’s that phrase “Never make the same mistake twice.” What crock. I’ve made this mistake twice now and will hopefully never again. With all that said if we do make a mistake we own up to it and fix it immediately. We are human and we make mistakes all the time and the best thing you can do to minimize the inevitable is to not rush your work and stay focused. We are a small shop and quality over quantity is how we operate. Experimentation and room to break the rules is also something we take pride in. It keeps you thinking forward.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Well, since we are in the midst of Covid 19 I would highly recommend my living room because it’s dope. Pre or post cover it would depend on the person and their interest. If they were a music person we’d hit up a show at Double Wide or 3 Links. Maybe a cool house show would be in the works. There’s great art galleries and museums. Finding a great spot at White Rock lake to relax is always fun. I’d probably take them to Cane Rosso for some great pizza or Easy Slider for some sweet burgers. The Lakewood Landing is always a great spot to just hang and see friendly faces from the neighborhood.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
First of all, Kim Finch for letting me use Double Wide as a printing playground. I scanned, printed and applied Clay Stinnett’s artwork all throughout the bar’s patio along with graphics in various places such as the doors, the windows, and illuminated acrylic pieces for the coolers. All the work I did at Doublewide is still up today and I continue to work with Kim on other endeavors. These initial jobs helped build my confidence and I couldn’t possibly thank her enough. Lindsey Henrie from Tractorbeam (a Dallas based creative agency) had given me some small jobs here and there but one day I received a phone call from her regarding a very in depth job that would be my biggest to date. I feel this opportunity helped prove to myself that I was capable of creating work that was unique, one of a kind and was very large scale in every way. I knew then that I had a knack for what I was doing and she helped me realize that potential. There are many others but more importantly it has been the community of artists and crafts people that I have met and worked with that mean quite a lot to me. I still meet people all the time that I collaborate with that I would have never meet under different circumstances. Any single person that takes a risk and goes out on their own to do what they love is a mentor to me.