Former Cessna engineer delves into signs business

It may not be as complicated as building aircraft, but former Cessna industrial engineer Mike Janzen says the sign business offers plenty of challenges.

"I love seeing the different projects we get to do," said Janzen, who along with his wife, Carolyn, took over Signs & Design on Jan. 3. "It's cool to see the end result."

The Janzens are learning on the go. They bought the business from Mark and Loretta Miller, who started it out of their garage in 1987 and expanded several times. Mark has stuck around for a few weeks to help with the transition.

Designer Manny Rico and printer-installer Scott Marker are remaining with the company.

Mike Janzen said tough times in the aircraft industry gave him the nudge he needed to go into business for himself, which he called a longtime goal.

"Cessna treated me well for 10 years," he said. "But uncertainty in the aircraft industry pushed me outside my comfort zone, made me take the leap of faith and do it."

The Janzens looked into buying a restaurant franchise, but didn't want the long hours that that business demands to rob them of time with their two young sons.

"Also, he was looking for something he was passionate about," Carolyn said of her husband.

Mike had worked with sign companies as a customer while employed by Cessna Aircraft Co.

The Janzens' company designs, produces and installs all kinds of signs and banners for commercial and residential customers, including yard signs for real estate developments and decals that turn vehicles into portable advertisements.

Carolyn, who works part time as a physical therapist for the Goddard schools, handles the bookkeeping, while Mike is devoting himself to running the business full time.

Janzen said his first priority was making sure existing customers were taken care of. They shouldn't notice much difference "other than a different guy answering the phone," he said.

While the focus has been on commercial customers, he anticipates going after more business from the general public as well.

Janzen said the sign business is competitive. As he led a tour of the facility, showing off its large digital and screen printers, laminator, drying racks and more, Janzen noted that Signs & Design boasts an indoor vehicle bay. Applying vehicle decals to a warm surface helps them last longer, he said.

But the real key to success, he said, is simply treating customers right.

"The biggest thing is customer service," he said. "We will take care of their needs and we will take care of them immediately."