The Uncommonwealth Podcast – Neil Griggs with FastSigns of Bowling Green

MVIMG_20200127_161242

Here is the transcript from our latest podcast with Neil Griggs.

Jason Heflin:

Hey everybody on today’s podcast, we’ve got Neil Griggs from FASTSIGNS. He is a franchise owner in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He’s done a lot of interesting things in the corporate world and as an entrepreneur, so we’re pretty excited about it.

 

Chad Webb:

Yeah, he talks a lot about his history, where he came from, his time in the Marines, and just some of the businesses that he thought about doing before jumping into FASTSIGNS, as well as some of the struggles he’s had. So it’s really interesting. Great, dude, happy to have him on. Here we go. Today, we have Neil Griggs with FASTSIGNS with us, Neil, you are the first person ever on our podcast.

 

Neil Griggs:

All right, what a treat.

 

Chad Webb:

Yes, it is a treat. We don’t currently have a name for it, we’re working on that as well. We’ll figure that out in the next few episodes. So, I think the main point of this podcast is just to learn a little bit about our guests, kind of your history, your background, what you’ve done, and just any advice you have through your experience.

 

Neil Griggs:

Well, cool. Well, I started my business as FASTSIGNS, we do signs, graphics, basically peripheral marketing stuff. So, anything tangible, print, fabrication, mostly business to business. This is my sixth year. So we, as a collective group here have kind of gone on this journey together in some capacity. You guys are a little bit ahead of me by what? A year, or so?

 

Chad Webb:

No, we’re at year six as well. We’re into our six year, seventh year probably coming up in August.

 

Neil Griggs:

Yeah. So, I think that’s interesting, you guys have grown a lot. We’ve grown pretty well. Went from zero dollars to about 500,000, 510,000 last year. So, took a pretty big swing up from 2018. So, it’s been going pretty good.

 

Chad Webb:

Yeah, that’s awesome.

 

Neil Griggs:

I think the thing that I am probably jealous of you guys is your partnership. You guys have a great synergy and I don’t have anybody that’s a sounding board. So, I think that’s super cool, if that’s one of the lessons I can just jump into right away, because I do the whole thing. But, otherwise it’s great.

 

Chad Webb:

Yeah. And you’ve done other things before FASTSIGNS as well, right?

 

Neil Griggs:

Yeah, yeah. So I was in Corporate America forever. I did electronic medical record data mining. So, I set up reporting services for big healthcare systems, and decided to go out of my own. My wife has started her practice and was pretty stable. And we knew we’re going to [inaudible 00:02:25] a long time. So, this was just kind of a shot in the dark and I knew if I got into it, and it didn’t work out that I could go back to that and still be able to survive.

 

Chad Webb:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

 

Jason Heflin:

You also are a marine?

 

Neil Griggs:

I was or I am, yeah. I guess once a Marine, always a Marine. But yeah, in the ’90s, I was at Camp Lejeune most of my tenure. Spent a little time in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, went to Parris Island for Boot Camp, but generally, didn’t see any action. I picked the perfect window between the Iraq wars to not get shot at.

 

Chad Webb:

Yeah, that’s great.

 

Neil Griggs:

That is great.

 

Jason Heflin:

And anything, any fun stories from that period that you think may have shaped who you are as a business person, or?

 

Neil Griggs:

Yeah, for sure, because I think that the military wires you to be completely driven and never fail at any cost. And so, was I built that way or wired that way? I mean, I was always a hard worker as a kid. And we came from a hardscrabble background. I mean, not bad circumstances, but certainly, my parents worked hard and were driven and so was I by default, I suppose, but it gave you a lot of focus, gave you a lot of understanding of teamwork, and working as a team, even with people who are different than you and that kind of stuff. So, 100% it was impactful. I mean, I reap rewards from that circumstance even today. So, yeah, I think so.

 

Jason Heflin:

Was there a point when you were doing that you felt like you… I mean, other than outside of basic training, that you felt like you were just done? It was just the hardest thing you’d ever done? Was there a period where you thought, “I don’t know if I can keep doing this?”

 


Oh, yeah. I mean, [the military] will push you to your breaking point, completely. And it’s by design, they break you all the way down, put you through a regiment that build you back up and do it all over again.


 

Neil Griggs:

Oh, yeah. I mean, it will push you to your breaking point, completely. And it’s by design, they break you all the way down, put you through a regiment that build you back up and do it all over again. And I was in artillery and so that’s a precursor to infantry to some degree. I mean, we [inaudible 00:04:18] them up before they go in. And so, it’s a genre that you’re deployed and you go out and camp for three or four weeks at a time without showering, and you fire guns, and some of that sounds glamorous and fun, but it’s not at all. It’s a very stressful, complicated thing.

 

Neil Griggs:

And you’re with people from all walks of life. And I think that teaches you a lot of lessons. I mean, I was with guys who are from New York, and very tough and from very meager means, up to people that were from rich families and just had to get out, we’re on the wrong path, or whatever the case may be. And then, there was a ton of people who loved it, always thought they were going to be in the Marine Corps, the military and so, I don’t know, it’s a crazy homogenous thing that occurs because of the process, and that’s really the critical part of it, is making everybody work as a team, regardless of background.

 

Jason Heflin:

And then, when you jump into owning your own business, when somebody doesn’t pay an invoice, it’s not so bad-

 

Neil Griggs:

Yeah, that’s right.

 

Jason Heflin:

You’ve been through worse.

 

Neil Griggs:

Yeah, you’re like, Hey, whatever. [crosstalk 00:05:13] I’m not getting shot at, so. Yeah, count your blessing.

 

Chad Webb:

When did you stop the Marines? When did you finish that?

 

Neil Griggs:

So I’ve signed up, I was 19. Actually, I went to University of Kentucky for a year, got really drunk and failed out and then, was working for my dad. It was fine, but it wasn’t going anywhere. And I was like, “This is ridiculous.” I’ve got to get my life together, figure out my path, and get out of Owensboro, Kentucky. And so, the recruiter called, he’s like, “Hey, have you ever thought about Marine Corps?” I’m like, “No, but I’m kind of bored. So, I guess we could look at that.”

 

Neil Griggs:

And then all of a sudden, I’m on a [inaudible 00:05:54], on a plane to South Carolina, and then you jump off, take this bus, and you’re… If you’ve seen the movies, the yellow footprints are real, a big giant behemoth of a man that looks like Zeus starts screaming in your face, and I’m 145 pounds sopping wet, long hair, I’m like this skater looking dude, and-

 

Jason Heflin:

By the way, for our guests who can’t see Neil right now, he looks exactly like that right now.

 

Neil Griggs:

Except not 145 pounds, plus 75 pounds.

 

Chad Webb:

After the Marines, did you bother, did you want to go back and finish school?

 

Neil Griggs:

I did. And that was really… And I didn’t… None of this. It sounds like I planned it, but I don’t think that I knew, it just sort of fell into place. I had gotten the college fund, so that was a big chunk… Not a big chunk of money, 30 grand, and went back immediately, after that to Louisville and finished my degree in computer information systems. So, I knew I wasn’t going to stay in for sure. But what I was going to do after that, I didn’t know. I just went to Louisville, got my degree moved to Nashville because some of my buddies were there, and we were just being guys. And then, met my wife, and the train leaves the station, you just kind of follow your path and do the right thing and hope it works out.

 

Chad Webb:

So did you end up in Bowling Green because of your wife?

 

Neil Griggs:

Kind of, she was at Vanderbilt. And then, she wanted to get a GI Fellowship, so we went up to Philadelphia to do her sub training or specialty training. And then, when we were looking to get out of Philly, or move away out of the program after that, then I started looking for her job, basically. She’s from Oklahoma, and I was pretty certain I didn’t want to go there. And so, that Graves Gilbert list, job thing was online and made some calls. They flew us in, she got a job there, and then the rest is history. I mean, Bowling Green is a great town. It’s an easy place to live and raise kids, been all over the world and certainly, wouldn’t want to have a family anywhere else.

 

Jason Heflin:

The first time I met you, a mutual friend of ours put us together. We didn’t know each other, and we went to lunch and talked about ice machines.

 

Neil Griggs:

Yeah, that’s right. So, after I moved here, I wanted to dabble in self employment or owning my own business. So, I bought these ice vending machines and put them out on Scottsville Road and gave that a shot. I don’t think that that’s a good petri dish test for the business process, but it helps you understand basic stuff like taxes and city licensing, and LLCs, and the fundamentals, I suppose. But certainly, when you go full bore into self employment, that’s a whole different animal.

 

Jason Heflin:

Right. But you felt like maybe that experience helped you maybe make some mistakes and have some successes and say, “Okay, I see what I did over there and now I’m going to retool it [crosstalk 00:08:40].”

 

Neil Griggs:

Oh, yeah. Because that didn’t work. I mean, it wasn’t a disaster, but I didn’t make any money off of it. And so, certainly, you learn a ton from it, but nothing can prepare you for going into business on your own, especially if you’re… I guess I was almost 40 years old when I jumped ship, so to speak, and went out on my own. And I think the biggest lesson that you learn is what your weaknesses are, because when you work in the corporate world… I had a CIS degree, I learned SQL and was doing all these programming things. And in a big company, they have a department for HR, and they have a tax and accounting, and they have this, that and the other. And so you don’t know how to do any of that crap. And then, you find out you don’t want to either if you’re bad at it.

 


In a big company, they have a department for HR, and they have a tax and accounting, and they have this, that and the other. And so you don’t know how to do any of that crap. And then, you find out you don’t want to either if you’re bad at it.


 

Jason Heflin:

Yeah, you have to do it all. And that is the… You mentioned the partnership thing, with Chad and I, I think that’s what has helped us move so quickly, is because he’s good at a different set of things than I am.

 

Neil Griggs:

Yeah. It’s very complimentary, right?

 

Jason Heflin:

Yeah. Yeah. And so, I don’t have to worry about the financial stuff. And he doesn’t have to worry about BSing with people.

 

Chad Webb:

That’s right.

 

Neil Griggs:

Is that true?

 

Chad Webb:

Yes. I don’t. Jason is wonderful. [crosstalk 00:09:50]. Yeah. I’m probably a little too honest with clients and customers and things like that, but I’m getting better at it.

 

Neil Griggs:

Do you think that it’s even [inaudible 00:10:00] and this is maybe not a perfect question. But do you have 50% of the load? Or does it matter? Do you do what he want to do?

 

Jason Heflin:

Yeah, great question, Chad, what do you think?

 

Chad Webb:

What do I think about that? I think we go through phases. I think there’s times when I’ve got a pretty heavy load, and I think there’s times when Jason has pretty heavy load. I do think neither one of us ask the other person to carry more of it. For instance, with this podcast thing, this is just something I wanted to do. I’ve been wanting to do it forever. So, I wanted to get the equipment, I wanted to try it. I wanted to understand how to take that forward and how that helps us market our business. And then, with Jason, with the Louisville office, he’s up there all the time.

 

Chad Webb:

And I mean, I would never ask him to be up there because that’s a strain on his family and things like that. But that’s his decision, that’s between him and his wife. I think if he’s happy with it, then I’m happy with it. And it’s going well. But very lucky in terms of our partnership, I think I’ve seen other partners and other… It doesn’t work for everyone, so.

 

Neil Griggs:

I think it has to be kind of selfless too, you can’t take inventory of what we just talked about, right? You can’t say, well, Jason did 10 and I did nine or vice versa, so you suck and I don’t. You can’t think of it that way.

 


I think there’s times when I (Chad) have got a pretty heavy load, and I think there’s times when Jason has pretty heavy load. I do think neither one of us asks the other person to carry more of it….We both care about it. And so, we’re not going to let it fall.


 

Jason Heflin:

We both care about it. And so, we’re not going to let it fall. If he were to be out of the office for two or three days, I’d just start doing his job, and he would start doing mine if it was the other way around, so-

 

Chad Webb:

Right.

 

Jason Heflin:

Yeah, we just pick it up. When one of us is sick or on vacation, the other one just handles it. And so yeah, I think you have to be passionate about it, though. And you have to want it because if you get into something like let’s say the ice vending business, and you get to a point you say, “You know what? I’m not really enjoying this.” Then you should just move on and go do something else.

 

Chad Webb:

And I think you have to look for natural fits. I mean, for instance with you and FASTSIGNS, or ice vending, or real estate, any of that stuff, you’ve also got to find people who are… You couldn’t just pick out a partner, I mean, because you got to found people who are passionate about, and that you’ve worked with him before and things like that. I think that’s where a lot of people make mistakes, they come together to start a business [crosstalk 00:12:03].

 

Jason Heflin:

Hey, you’re good at this, I’m good at this.

 

Chad Webb:

Right.

 

Neil Griggs:

Yeah. It has to be a good marriage.

 

Jason Heflin:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

 

Neil Griggs:

Yeah.

 

Chad Webb:

Yeah.

 

Neil Griggs:

Do you think that it’s grown because you have the backup plan of the other person and-

 

Chad Webb:

I don’t think I would be as successful without a partner, and Jason may, I’m just speaking for myself, I just-

 

Jason Heflin:

God, I’d be so successful right now. [crosstalk 00:12:23].

 


Chad: I don’t think I would be as successful without a partner.

Jason: God, I’d be so successful right now.


 

Chad Webb:

I’m definitely holding Jason back, yeah. But yeah, I just… Because I think we both value our time. I think we have a different set of priorities than most people. I don’t know when this turned into you interviewing us, by the way. But I think that-

 

Neil Griggs:

I’m good at that?

 

Chad Webb:

Yeah. Thanks, man. That’s what all these episodes are going to be. It’s just, haven’t we heard this episode 16 times?

 

Neil Griggs:

Hi, our guest today is going to sit here and listen to us talk.

 

Chad Webb:

But a question, at times. And I don’t know if you feel this way, I’ll turn it back to you. But I think there’s ideas especially when you’re younger. I’m about to turn 40, you guys are over 40, when you’re younger, you have these ideas like, can this be a $10 million business? Can it be a 20 million? Can it be $100 million business? What could it be? I mean, I think all of us have the chance to make businesses that size. But I also I’m convinced, I do not have the ability to put that kind of sacrifice in. And I just refuse to, especially with two kids and married and things like that, and just valuing my time.

 

Neil Griggs:

Yeah, you can get that back.

 

Chad Webb:

Right. Yeah, absolutely. So, I think Jason and I have similar priorities in terms of that. I think we both value our time. And I also think we both enjoy running a business-

 

Neil Griggs:

Right.

 

Chad Webb:

I think that’s interesting.

 

Neil Griggs:

Right.

 

Chad Webb:

Let’s see how big we can grow this. Let’s see how well we can take care of our people, and just have a good time, and enjoy the time that we’re here together.

 

Jason Heflin:

Yeah, to some extent, you kind of gamify it a little bit. I mean, it’s real life, but you have to say, “Okay, well, let’s set this goal and let’s go after it. And here are the 12 things we’re going to do to get there.” And then, when you don’t hit one, you say, “Okay, well, I need to replace it with something else.”

 

Neil Griggs:

Right.

 

Jason Heflin:

And he holds me accountable, and I hold him accountable. And yeah, so we’re in a peer group with other agencies of a similar size. And all of those agencies have a singular owner. And then we’re the only partnership in the group-

 

Neil Griggs:

Really?

 

Jason Heflin:

So, it’s an interesting conversation when we get together with that group, they’re spread around the country. And they envy us in some ways because they can’t leave.

 

Neil Griggs:

Right.

 

Jason Heflin:

They have to be there constantly. They have a right hand person, but it’s really just an employee who’s not going to be checking emails at two in the morning or whatever they need to do to… Or working on the weekends, or working on vacation. So, they envy us in that respect, but they also get to keep all the money at the end of the day. They get to pay themselves more not keep all the money, but they get to pay themselves more because there’s not a partner to split it with.

 

Neil Griggs:

Right.

 

Jason Heflin:

Then again, we’re also kind of on a trajectory to kind of, I believe, be ahead of them financially, because we’re able to play off each other. So, I think it’ll all work out in the end, but I do admire you for going after it alone and not having somebody to kind of… Because there are days when he’s down on something and I’m up, and I’m down on something and he’s up and he brings me back up, so you don’t have that. So, you just have to pick yourself up by the belt.

 

Neil Griggs:

Well, I think that’s what it is, is that… And this reference is my 20 sum year career in IT or corporate IT, is once I went into this business, I became acutely aware of my weaknesses, or my shortcomings as a business owner, as an operator. And I love it. I love entrepreneurship and I love coming up with weird (beep) to do, and I love being in business, failure doesn’t scare me. I mean, I’m cognizant of it, but I don’t freak out about it. None of the dynamics of the malleability of business bother me at all. But there’s a lot of hard things that I’m not good at, that I wish I had somebody to compliment me on that side of it, you know what I mean? Or at least be able to piggyback on to a sounding board or whatever. I think that if you can find a great partner, that’s a phenomenal thing.

 


Once I went into this business, I became acutely aware of my weaknesses, or my shortcomings as a business owner, as an operator. And I love it. I love entrepreneurship and I love coming up with weird (beep) to do, and I love being in business, failure doesn’t scare me.


 

Neil Griggs:

On the flip side to somebody’s point… I can’t remember who said it. I assume if you have a bad partner and you’re tied at the hip, and you’re 50/50 in an LLC, and you’re 50/50 in money, and you want to kill yourself, because you have to see that person every day, that’s quite a swing in a bad way. But I would trade the money for the stress. Because I stay pretty stressed out, versus keeping all the $20 that I made this week.

 

Jason Heflin:

So, you just mentioned that there are things you’re not good at, in those instances, how do you handle that? You hire somebody? Do you outsource it, whatever that may be, if that’s accounting, or?

 

Neil Griggs:

Yeah, that’s a great point. I think business is cool too, because it… I used this word again, but accentuates your good stuff too, what you’re good at. I found that I’m a pretty creative person and I can find ways to fabricate stuff, and I love dealing with people more so than I thought I would. And I love solving problems and helping people. I’m terrible at the accounting and financial side. If you asked me to explain my P&L, I have no idea. But to the point is, especially after you become jaded to some of those exercises, even though you hate them and you suck at them… I just did my taxes that were due on the 20th, today, my-

 

Jason Heflin:

Your co-sales.

 

Neil Griggs:

My co-sales. Yeah, it’s the ultimate mental block for me. I want to not do it at all. I hate it.

 

Jason Heflin:

That was a wake up call, I think for me, I don’t know about you, I think it was for you too, at a certain point when the accountant said, “Oh, yeah, you need to start paying your taxes quarterly, because they’re getting to be-”

 

Neil Griggs:

A lot.

 

Jason Heflin:

Yeah, we’re each writing four figure checks. And it’s like, “Oh, okay. Yeah, that’s a lot.” Yeah. Well, you’re going to have to do that four times a year. And then at the end of the year when we do it all, you may have to read it again.

 

Neil Griggs:

Right.

 

Jason Heflin:

[inaudible 00:17:48] great.

 

Neil Griggs:

Yeah. And that’s another part of it, too, which I’ve kind of gotten used to, but the up and down of business, mine fluctuates a lot, it’s generally seasonal. And it also is… At the whims of my clients and whatever too, there’s no, I don’t know, perpetuity in it at all, even after five or six years. I mean, we have a client base, it’s pretty solid and generally, they fill the gaps by themselves as they come through. But that’s a challenge. It’s hard to get used to that. That can really stress you out if you go from a, we had a great month in October and then November and December were total… It was pointless, almost. And that can be very, very hardcore.

 

Jason Heflin:

And that’s when your… If you’re married, your spouse really comes in to play as far as being on board and supporting and all that. Because they have to pick up slack in other areas when you’re out getting your head crushed by equipment.

 

Neil Griggs:

Yeah, exactly.

 

Jason Heflin:

That’s-

 

Neil Griggs:

An eye pops out. [crosstalk 00:18:47].

 

Jason Heflin:

I wanted to try to bring that up, so.

 


It’s hard to distill what you go through into a five minute conversation and help (your spouse/partner) to understand your vantage point. You can’t take that home, A, Because it’s not very healthy and B, I think it’s very difficult to articulate, it’s like, I cannot explain to you what I went through today.


 

Neil Griggs:

And, as business owners, especially if you don’t have a spouse, or wife, or whatever that is one, it’s hard to distill what you go through into a five minute conversation and help them to understand your vantage point. You can’t take that home, A, Because it’s not very healthy and B, I think it’s very difficult to articulate, it’s like, I cannot explain to you what I went through today.

 

Jason Heflin:

And that’s why I think it’s healthy that you and I go get beers every now and then, and it’s all, “Oh my gosh, this happened.” And then the other person says, “I know, it happened to me.” And so, you can bounce those things off of each other, and the other person may have an answer or may not, but at least they sympathize with you-

 

Neil Griggs:

Exactly.

 

Jason Heflin:

And you say, “This guy understands, at least-”

 

Neil Griggs:

Yeah, he gets it.

 

Jason Heflin:

“At least he gets what I’m going through.” Because other people in your life may not. Although they try to sympathize and they do their best, it’s like, “Yeah, I don’t really get that. Can you [inaudible 00:19:40]?”

 

Neil Griggs:

Yeah, that’s right. The spaghettis are ready.

 

Jason Heflin:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). They start to glaze over, you see-

 

Neil Griggs:

Look at their watch, when’s this guy going to shut up?

 

Jason Heflin:

Tell us the story about your injury if you don’t-

 

Neil Griggs:

Yeah, so we have a piece of equipments called a boom lift.

 

Chad Webb:

Both of them.

 

Neil Griggs:

Yeah, there’s two.

 

Jason Heflin:

[inaudible 00:20:00] dealer’s choice.

 

Neil Griggs:

The boom lift is terrible and crazy. So, we have a van that tosses, lifts to get up to high signs or signs that are overhead. And we were trying to connect it to the van. And it started to roll and because I’m so strong, I tried to stop it myself, where I took my hand off the emergency brake, and it pinned by my neck, the boom lift, which weighs three or 4000 pounds to the back of the van. You could see an indention where my body was, it squashed into the back door. And then-

 


It started to roll and because I’m so strong, I (Neil) tried to stop it myself, where I took my hand off the emergency brake, and it pinned by my neck, the boom lift, which weighs three or 4000 pounds to the back of the van. And so, yeah, I almost died.


 

Jason Heflin:

Wow, like a cartoon.

 

Neil Griggs:

Yeah, yeah, exactly. Like Wile E. Coyote when he gets blasted by… Who’s that? Road Runner?

 

Jason Heflin:

Yeah.

 

Neil Griggs:

Is it?

 

Chad Webb:

Yes, that’s correct. Road Runner.

 

Neil Griggs:

Thank you Chad.

 

Chad Webb:

No problem. I’ll jump in to being your cartoon-

 

Neil Griggs:

My validation of cartoon references-

 

Jason Heflin:

[inaudible 00:20:51].

 

Chad Webb:

That’s right.

 

Neil Griggs:

And so, yeah, I almost died. They had to get it off. And then when it rolled in, it busted the window on the other side of the van, they had to take me the hospital, and my neck swelled up twice the size, and that was terrible. It was very frightening. That’s probably the only time in my life that I actually thought I could die, I was going to expire.

 

Chad Webb:

Yeah, that is terrible. I mean, I have a similar story, last week when I was opening these headphones we’re wearing, I got a really big paper cut.

 

Neil Griggs:

Seriously?

 

Chad Webb:

It was very large.

 

Neil Griggs:

Gusher.

 

Chad Webb:

It wasn’t even bleeding, but-

 

Neil Griggs:

But it hurt.

 

Chad Webb:

[inaudible 00:21:25].

 

Jason Heflin:

He fell on the floor. He started wincing in pain, writhing.

 

Neil Griggs:

Writhing, that’s the word.

 

Jason Heflin:

Wincing and writhing.

 

Chad Webb:

I was like, “I think Neil and I now have something in common.”

 

Neil Griggs:

Yeah, I did a few chest compressions [inaudible 00:21:36].

 

Chad Webb:

Yes. I was like, “Just send me a taco Jason.”

 

Jason Heflin:

“Tell my wife I love her. Delete my internet history.”

 

Neil Griggs:

[inaudible 00:21:44] at that time.

 

Chad Webb:

Okay, sorry. [inaudible 00:21:50] So the other thing that I think is interesting is, when you initially were looking at getting into kind of owning a business, was FASTSIGNS the first thing you looked at, or were there multiple franchise ideas you looked at?

 

Neil Griggs:

I looked at a bunch, there was a couple of criteria that I was using in the consideration. One was the cost. I was trying to do anything under $250,000, I don’t know why, it was kind of an arbitrary number other than… I thought if it didn’t work out, I could probably still pay that back before I died and nobody would be burdened with a million dollars in like a McDonald’s, I don’t know, something expensive. I had looked for something that was more B2B, so business to business, because I knew I didn’t want to be in the restaurant business or anything that was fad-based, or kind of fly by night.

 

Jason Heflin:

Restaurants, breweries, things like that.

 

Neil Griggs:

Yeah, breweries, I have no interest in that whatsoever. That’s a real challenge.

 

Jason Heflin:

It’s fun, though.

 

Neil Griggs:

Is it?

 

Jason Heflin:

Yeah, it’s pretty fun, I think, the part I remember. That’s smart of you Neil, very smart.

 

Neil Griggs:

I don’t know, it’s worked out okay. They had a military benefit so, the franchise fee was half, which was a substantial, it was about 18 grand that I saved. And, it seemed like there was not very much attrition, people, I interviewed some of the other FASTSIGN’s owners and they seem to like it. Very few shut down over the course of… It’s been around for 30 years. So, those were all logical to me.

 

Jason Heflin:

How does FASTSIGNS fall in those… They always do those lists, Subway was the number one franchise down for a while [crosstalk 00:23:28].

 

Neil Griggs:

Well, they always find a way for it to be number one of something, right? So, it is in some capacity number one in our top five, I don’t know, better known businesses. I don’t know what it is, but if you looked on FASTSIGN franchise website, there’s a list about franchise 500, right? We’re number one, so-

 

Jason Heflin:

Right.

 

Neil Griggs:

I don’t know. But yeah, and it’s a good company for sure.

 

Jason Heflin:

It was the number one hosting company in Bowling Green-

 

Neil Griggs:

In Bowling Green, on the square-

 

Chad Webb:

Two years.

 

Neil Griggs:

Two years in a row-

 

Jason Heflin:

Two years in a row, right?

 

Neil Griggs:

Yeah, we’re winning.

 

Chad Webb:

Was there anything else specifically, that you were looking at, that you thought would be [inaudible 00:24:02] between FASTSIGNS and something else [crosstalk 00:24:05] just wondering if there’s a known franchise that you were also looking at. And you don’t have to say, if you don’t want [crosstalk 00:24:10].

 

Neil Griggs:

I would say, I just don’t remember-

 

Jason Heflin:

It’s like the girl he didn’t ask to prom, she’s out there[crosstalk 00:24:15] Yeah. CEO of McDonald’s.

 

Neil Griggs:

I think that-

 

Jason Heflin:

What the-

 

Neil Griggs:

Yeah, right.

 

Jason Heflin:

[inaudible 00:24:20] Where are you, Neil?

 

Neil Griggs:

Not really. I mean, I’m sure that I have a list somewhere but-

 

Chad Webb:

Sure.

 


It’s like anything, once you start the process, it takes on a life of its own, you go get a loan and you go through all that exercise, and you start to buy things and go to training and hire people.


 

Neil Griggs:

… it’s like anything, once you start the process, it takes on a life of its own, you go get a loan and you go through all that exercise, and you start to buy things and go to training and hire people. And then all of a sudden, it just is… I don’t even know how I got here, for real.

 

Chad Webb:

Right. And since you do have that experience with the franchise, if someone was looking at owning a franchise or opening a franchise of some sort, what advice would you give them? Is there anything that you would say, this is a mistake I made early on with… And I guess I’m saying not specifically, business but, from someone looking at a franchise.

 

Neil Griggs:

I mean, I like the franchise model, especially if you buy a strong brand. And I didn’t really know that going in, but in franchise in my industry, so signing graphics and that kind of stuff, it’s a very well respected renowned brand, that has a lot of cachet in that industry. And so, we get a lot of references and client interactivity from people up in Detroit because they come to do work at the Corvette plant, and they automatically have used FASTSIGNS all over the place. So, there’s some stuff that helps in that regard. The systems really are what they play into, so, they have a system that they provide that we use for all of our billing quotes, that kind of stuff. They provide our website stuff and some of our SEO management and that kind of thing. So, the marketing part at least on that slice of it, I don’t have to mess with it all, which is a huge relief.

 


I like the franchise model, especially if you buy a strong brand. … The systems really are what they play into, so, they have a system that they provide that we use for all of our billing quotes, that kind of stuff. They provide our website stuff and some of our SEO management and that kind of thing. So, the marketing part at least on that slice of it, I don’t have to mess with it all, which is a huge relief.


 

Neil Griggs:

Every franchise you have to pay royalties and an ad campaign or something of that effect, and that can range. In my case it’s 8%, some are more, some are less. I don’t have a lot of heartburn about that. I mean, some people say, “Well, that’s a lot of money, that’s almost 10% off the top.” I mean, I’d probably spend it on what I’d get anyway, so who cares? And then, I don’t do this as much anymore, but especially ramping up, there’s a lot of resources to make you successful. So, the other franchise or franchisees are pretty well regarded and can help you with questions you don’t know, there’s a lot of support. So, I don’t have any heartburn about that part.

 

Jason Heflin:

Yeah, we work with some franchises and it’s a mixed bag of how they do that, what they pull from the franchise owner, and then what they provide for that, from a marketing perspective anyway, so that’s interesting. Some say, “Well, they don’t do anything for me.” So, that’s why they’re talking to us.

 

Neil Griggs:

Right.

 

Jason Heflin:

And then others say, “Well, they do it, but they don’t do a good job.” And then, others say, “They do a really good job.” And in those cases, we say, “You should go with that then, because you’re going to have to pay for it either way.”

 

Neil Griggs:

Right.

 

Jason Heflin:

So that’s interesting. And they’re all so different.

 

Neil Griggs:

Yeah, every last one of them. And everybody’s experience is different too. And you could probably find plenty of people in the FASTSIGNS network that think it’s ridiculous or stupid. And, then there’s some that have the tattoo, tramp stamp of FASTSIGNS or whatever-

 

Jason Heflin:

Where’s your-

 

Neil Griggs:

[crosstalk 00:27:19] mark that.

 

Chad Webb:

In your experience as an entrepreneur, what would you say is one of your biggest failures, if you’re willing to share that, or one of the biggest… [inaudible 00:27:29] necessarily be a failure, but just a time where you struggled and overcame that?

 

Neil Griggs:

That’s a great question, that’s pretty deep. That’s-

 

Chad Webb:

Thanks, Neil.

 

Jason Heflin:

I’ve got this client [inaudible 00:27:40] always bringing me these-

 

Neil Griggs:

Yeah, all they want is-

 

Jason Heflin:

… $80 projects.

 

Neil Griggs:

Jason walks in the door and says you can keep your doors open, Neil [crosstalk 00:27:47].

 

Jason Heflin:

That’s right, one more day.

 

Chad Webb:

Yeah, I’d love to get some new business cards, Neil.

 

Jason Heflin:

Just three.

 

Neil Griggs:

Just three of them?

 

Jason Heflin:

Do you have a package of three?

 

Neil Griggs:

Yeah.

 

Jason Heflin:

Do I get a discount if I get five?

 

 


Chad: What is one of your biggest failures as a entreprenuer…?

Neil: I think that we could always do better on the client interactivity part, we don’t do a great job with communication… we probably lost clients because of that.


 

Neil Griggs:

I think that we could always do better on the client interactivity part, we don’t do a great job with communication and I think that’s critical to… Even when the news is bad, when you’re left to decide what the problem is on the other side of the table, that’s when people come up with their own conclusions and that’s usually not good. And I’m not good at that. And so, we probably lost clients because of that. And then another probably parallel to that, which this is probably another whole podcast, is the employee thing. Man, I’m not good at that at all. I’m really, really bad at it. I was used to the Corporate America types and there’s a kind of like the Marine Corps scenario we were talking about before, you get a whole subset of people, and I’m not used to managing that part of it, and I know that I could do a lot better with that.

 

Chad Webb:

On the communication side, I mean, I think that is something that we’ve learned as well. I think there’s times where… Sometimes, people worry about over communication but sometimes, I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

 

Neil Griggs:

No.

 

Jason Heflin:

To defend you a little bit on that because we feel the same thing, there is a barrier to entry with certain fields that have a technical aspect to them. You might have to explain why you can’t get a sign done because your CNC machine won’t cut this certain kind of angle. And they don’t know what a CNC machine is, and they don’t care, they’re just not getting their product.

 

Neil Griggs:

Right.

 


You’ve really got to be sort of a wizard at boiling down what you do in a really basic way that can speak to everybody.


 

Jason Heflin:

Same with us, we may have some technology that isn’t performing like the client had hoped. And we explain it, but it’s kind of over their head because they’re not trained in it.

 

Neil Griggs:

Right.

 

Jason Heflin:

The things they do are over my head. So, it’s one of those things where you’ve really got to be sort of a wizard at boiling down what you do in a really basic way that can speak to everybody. So, it’s tough.

 

Neil Griggs:

And setting the expectation, right? So, maybe the example there is, “Why can’t you build me a website by Thursday?” “Well, there’s a lot to it, and we have to gather all this information, we have to build it, launch it, and test it, and blah, blah, blah.” And this is same thing in signs or anything that anybody does really that’s a profession. Yet you don’t want to explain the underbelly of the process, because, why should they care about that? But you have to frame it up so that they’re going to be satisfied at the end, because they went through that exercise with you.

 

Jason Heflin:

And the hardest word for an entrepreneur to say is, no. Because you want that business, you want to help… The other person’s coming to you with an issue or a challenge, and the personality type that does this kind of thing says, “Well, I want to do that. I want to fix that thing for them. I want to help them.”

 


Because as you grow and prosper, there’s a niche, I think, that you kind of siphon yourself into, I hope. But initially, when you start the business, you’re like, “I’ll take whatever, I’ll do everything, mow your lawn, whatever.”


 

Neil Griggs:

To toot my own horn a little bit, I’ve gotten a lot better at that, I think. You never just outright say, no, but it’s probably the same thing for you all too, you learn what is going to make both of you successful, right? So, if I just wanted to register my domain name, you guys don’t want to do that or whatever, right? And I don’t really want to make up one poster or sticker or something. And so, at some point, you just sort of refer that away or say, “We’re probably not a good match for you, here’s so and so or whatever.” Because as you grow and prosper, there’s a niche, I think, that you kind of siphon yourself into, I hope. But initially, when you start the business, you’re like, “I’ll take whatever, I’ll do everything, mow your lawn, whatever.”

 

Chad Webb:

Especially with you, because you’ve got a large investment there with machines and with things like that. So you need to start getting the cash flow rolling.

 

Neil Griggs:

Yeah, absolutely.

 

Chad Webb:

I think with us early on as a service based business, that we have less and less hard costs, other than the rent we pay and stuff like that.

 

Neil Griggs:

Right.

 

Chad Webb:

It’s a little easier to say no to things.

 

Neil Griggs:

But have you found, as you’ve gotten down the road, that you’ve niched, a little bit… I know healthcare is probably not the right word. But are you guys better at some genres than others?

 

Chad Webb:

Yeah, I think so. I think we find successes in certain industries a little more than others. I think we’ve done a better job of niching our services like our little tagline social site search. I think that those are the three things that we do best, we do a good job of helping with some of the other things. But like you had said, I think that the margin is less on those things for us. And so, we might push some of that stuff off.

 

Neil Griggs:

Gotcha.

 

Chad Webb:

If someone came to us to record a podcast, I’d be like, “Well, you might want to wait until you see how we do on a few of these.”

 

Jason Heflin:

I think we’ve got a winning recipe here.

 

Chad Webb:

Yes.

 

Jason Heflin:

[inaudible 00:32:22] Neil Griggs one?

 

Neil Griggs:

[crosstalk 00:32:24] going to be a permanent.

 

Jason Heflin:

Nonsense.

 

Chad Webb:

So, another question I have here is, what would you consider… What I wrote down was, what’s your biggest success in life? But that might be a little too broad-

 

Jason Heflin:

Friendship with Jason.

 

Neil Griggs:

Yeah, I love that guy.

 

Chad Webb:

Wow. Where did these two guys come from? And how did they get mics?

 

Jason Heflin:

That is my Neil voice.

 

Chad Webb:

But I would say more-

 

Jason Heflin:

Friendship with Jason.

 

Chad Webb:

Okay, let’s mark that one.

 

Jason Heflin:

Can you ask the editors to make our voices deeper and give us all like James Earl Jone’s-

James Earl Jones:

We all connected in the great circle of life.

 

Jason Heflin:

Yeah, the voices.

 

Chad Webb:

Who you sounded like there was the, Silence of the Lamb. [crosstalk 00:33:12].

 

Neil Griggs:

… sound that like guy.

 

Jason Heflin:

That’s my voice for everything. Well, that’s a good question… Before you go into your question, and you knew I would derail this at some point, but if you could have anybody’s voice who would it be? And I think mine would be James Earl Jones. I threw that out, but-

 

Neil Griggs:

That’s pretty good.

 

Chad Webb:

Is it Samuel L. Jackson?

 

Jason Heflin:

Yeah, it’s good.

 

Chad Webb:

You just have got to get one, does he?

 

Jason Heflin:

Yeah.

 

Samuel L. Jackson:

Oh, I’m sorry, did I break your concentration.

 

Jason Heflin:

And you guys have a similar way of speaking too.

 

Neil Griggs:

Do we?

 

Jason Heflin:

Sometimes, yeah.

 

Chad Webb:

Sometimes-

 

Jason Heflin:

Certain words you use-

 

Chad Webb:

After you had a few drinks.

 

Neil Griggs:

Yeah, very Samuel L. Jackson after four beers.

 

Jason Heflin:

Why is Neil so so angry? Who’s-

 

Neil Griggs:

Angry? Just passionate?

 

Chad Webb:

Who’s the guy that played a little Ukulele back in the day with long stringy hair? Tiny Tim.

 

Tiny Team:

(singing).

 

Neil Griggs:

Oh, gosh.

 

Chad Webb:

[inaudible 00:33:58].

 

Neil Griggs:

[inaudible 00:33:59] in my head.

 

Jason Heflin:

Tiny Tim.

 

Neil Griggs:

I was deep in the catalog.

 

Chad Webb:

I just… What is it?

 

Jason Heflin:

If you would have said, “Guess what voice Chad would want if you could have any voice.” I would have gone through 10,000 voices before I got to [crosstalk 00:34:14]. Tiny Tim the guy with [crosstalk 00:34:17].

 

Neil Griggs:

My biggest success?

 

Chad Webb:

Yeah. [inaudible 00:34:22] have in life. But I mean, it maybe makes more sense for business. What do you think you’ve kind of won on up to this point, that you think is worth, I guess, sharing but also, just something that people could gain value from?

 


Chad: What is your biggest success in business?

Neil: I think that our client base is impressive. For Bowling Green anyway, we do really… I wouldn’t call it exclusive or contracts, but we have great relationships with big players in town like the Corvette Plant [and others]… And we do really large scale projects. I mean, we’ve done $47,000 projects, or whatever.


 

Neil Griggs:

That’s a good question too. I think that our client base is impressive. For Bowling Green anyway, we do really… I wouldn’t call it exclusive or contracts, but we have great relationships with big players in town like the Corvette Plant and [inaudible 00:34:55] and everything. So, I mean, cumulatively, that adds up to a pretty good body of work, I think. And I’m proud of that, because we’re not just… Some of the FASTSIGNS are just banner shops, and you walk by and x, y, z, walks in, they get a happy birthday banner for 60 bucks. And we do really large scale projects. I mean, we’ve done $47,000 projects, or whatever. Some people may not find that impressive, but I think it’s cool. We went from zero to that, and had some great success with companies that are international, and come back from war and the relationship and stuff. And so, I think that’s pretty cool.

 

Chad Webb:

Well, I’d say it’s the growth of your kind of like your customer database.

 

Neil Griggs:

Right.

 

Chad Webb:

You’ve grown that to something substantial with a good client base. Because I mean, it very well could be… Like you were saying, it could be where that kind of becomes kind of stagnant and doesn’t grow.

 

Neil Griggs:

Right.

 

Chad Webb:

So, if you’re keeping your eyes on that kind of as your KPI, the growth of your company, I mean, that’s interesting. And that’s Good.

 

Neil Griggs:

And I wanted that. I mean, I don’t know if it was by design, but I worked in monster projects for UPS, HCA and really big companies, billion dollar projects that I was a small part of, but I understand all of those project mechanisms. And back then, I thought it was kind of annoying, to be honest, and it was just overkill [inaudible 00:36:20]. But once you are able to speak some of that dialogue and go into those worlds, into the GM world, or whatever, HCA world, you can meld into those companies and then find solutions for them, right? Regardless of industry. And I’m sure it’s the same for you all, camping world maybe or something like that, the background that you all came from probably is a sense of part of being able to be successful in those environments as well.

 

Chad Webb:

Yeah. And I think it’s… Again, I don’t want this to be about us. But I think similar to you, I think when we have that experience and you have that experience with a large company, it feels easier to handle those projects, whereas, if someone was going to an agency or maybe someone whose ownership or leadership doesn’t have that type of experience, then I think those conversations can go a little different.

 

Neil Griggs:

Right.

 

Chad Webb:

Whereas, I feel completely confident based on the background I have and I’m sure you do as well to have those.

 

Jason Heflin:

And we’ve all been on that corporate side. We’ve all been on the side of managing the agencies, managing the vendors. And so, we’ve seen the things that didn’t work, and we’re able to correct those on our side. And I’ll give you a little compliment, don’t get used to it. But I think that you’re…

 

Neil Griggs:

Thanks Jason.

 

Jason Heflin:

I mean, the fact that you’ve made it for five or six years, I mean, you’ve kind of beat the odds, when it comes to starting a business. So, I mean, don’t discount that. Just the fact that you’ve made it this far, you’ve built it to where it is, and you’re making money. I mean, most people are back at their old job by now, so.

 

Neil Griggs:

Yeah. And you just keep going. You have that perseverance and you find that metal in you that just won’t stop-

 

Jason Heflin:

But I don’t think everybody has that.

 

Neil Griggs:

I agree.

 

Jason Heflin:

You do. But I mean-

 


I don’t know what I have. I know that it’s, a no quit attitude, for sure. You can’t quit.


 

Neil Griggs:

I don’t know what I have. I know that it’s, a no quit attitude, for sure. You can’t quit.

 

Jason Heflin:

It’s a blend of a little bit crazy too with me.

 

Neil Griggs:

You have to be-

 

Chad Webb:

Yeah, you just have got to kind of-

 

Neil Griggs:

100%, you have to be a total nut job. And now, and I too, and I don’t know if you’ll agree with this, but I’m completely unemployable. I could never go back to that world, there’s no way.

 

Jason Heflin:

I disagree. I think people would scoop someone like you up.

 

Neil Griggs:

Well, I’m not saying, I couldn’t get the job. I just I would not thrive in that environment-

 

Jason Heflin:

Oh, you wouldn’t have the attitude?

 

Neil Griggs:

No, no way, man.

 

Jason Heflin:

But wait, I’m not the boss.

 

Neil Griggs:

No. Yeah. And I don’t know that it’s… That’s true, too.

 

Chad Webb:

I think what you’re saying is… Because I agree as well, I don’t know that I could ever go back to working for a company. I absolutely, would, I’d do whatever it took to help the family but for better or worse, I’d probably be judgmental of my boss. I’d be like, “I wouldn’t do it like that. You’re doing it the wrong way.”

 

Neil Griggs:

Right.

 

Chad Webb:

Things like that. So, the final question I have on here is, kind of what is your ultimate goal with… Not necessarily FASTSIGNS, but where do you want to be on your entrepreneurial journey? I said 10 million, 20 million, 100 million, I don’t necessarily know that it means that it’s a number. But, at the end of the day, what does success look like for you when it’s all said and done, and families gathered around, lights are about to go off, what do you think is ultimate success?

 


I think that my ultimate goal just because I’m in the weeds with my business right now is to systematize it and find people that can run it without me. Is that realistic? I don’t know. I mean, I’m doing other things that hopefully, will cater to that. But I’m almost 46 years old. I can’t run like this.


 

Neil Griggs:

Well, I mean, I think that my ultimate goal just because I’m in the weeds with my business right now is to systematize it and find people that can run it without me. Is that realistic? I don’t know. I mean, I’m doing other things that hopefully, will cater to that. But I’m almost 46 years old. I can’t run like this. I know, it’s all old, old (beep) man.

 

Chad Webb:

Well, we got 42 minutes.

 

Neil Griggs:

My bad.

 

Chad Webb:

No.

 

Jason Heflin:

No, I’m with you. I mean, I’ve heard it said that the best day or the best decision you can ever make for your business is the day you hire your own boss.

 

Neil Griggs:

Right.

 

Jason Heflin:

Somebody that’s smarter than you, that can take it further than you could.

 

Neil Griggs:

Right.

 

Jason Heflin:

And letting go of your ego a little bit.

 


I have a 12 year old and an eight year old, and so, I want to spend time with them. I love them, I love being around them. I love being with my family, and I work a lot. And so, I’m trying to figure out a way to migrate away from all of that stuff, but you can’t. You have to be able to give that to somebody who gives it (beep) poop, whatever. And so, that’s ultimately, what I need to do.


 

Neil Griggs:

So, yeah. I have a 12 year old and an eight year old, and so, I want to spend time with them. I love them, I love being around them. I love being with my family, and I work a lot. And so, I’m trying to figure out a way to migrate away from all of that stuff, but you can’t. You have to be able to give that to somebody who gives it (beep) poop, whatever. And so, that’s ultimately, what I need to do. And I’m putting other things in place to do that. But I don’t think that there’s a secret sauce. Somebody told me the employee thing is 50% luck and I believe that. You can do all your due diligence… Not that it’s about employees all together, but some of it is just going through the motions of finding the right match and building the right team and building the business and process. So, you’re not the guy holding the whole thing up by the tail or whatever.

 

Chad Webb:

So, you’d say the ultimate goal is to get your business in a position where you’re still quote, unquote, running it, but you’re not doing the day to day.

 

Neil Griggs:

Yes, absolutely. I do not want to be in the weeds forever.

 

Jason Heflin:

It needs to have a life beyond you.

 

Neil Griggs:

Yeah. I mean, you’ve invested all this time and stuff and you want it to be able to do its own thing and live and breathe on its own to some degree, I think.

 

Jason Heflin:

When we first started this, we were kind of kicking around names, and we landed on CrowdSouth, and that’s extremely long, twisty, turny story, that as a branding company, we were like, “Yeah, whatever. It works.”

 

Neil Griggs:

Right.

 

Jason Heflin:

But we did say, well… I mean, there was a moment when we said, “Should we use our names? I mean, that’s…” And then, we were like, “No, I mean, we want this to be a thing without us, one day. It doesn’t need to be tied to us.” There are lots of businesses that are named after a person that’s been gone for 50 years, and people say, “Well, when am I going to get to meet Mr. Henry Ford?” And, “Oh, no.”

 

Neil Griggs:

Plus, you wouldn’t want to name it Webblin, or?

 

Chad Webb:

Webblin.

 

Jason Heflin:

Oh, you mean we were going to blend it?

 

Neil Griggs:

Yeah, yes. Yeah.

 

Chad Webb:

I like Webblin.

 

Jason Heflin:

Webblinn. Webblin Marketing.

 

Chad Webb:

Is that what we’re calling the podcast? Did you just [crosstalk 00:42:18] the podcast?

 

Neil Griggs:

Webblin. That’s right.

 

Chad Webb:

I like it. Well, I think that we’re just about at time. So, Neil, we appreciate you coming in and helping us with this. And we really do appreciate that you’re the first guest on-

 

Neil Griggs:

The inaugural-

 

Chad Webb:

Webblinn-

 

Neil Griggs:

The Webblin Podcast-

 

Chad Webb:

Podcast.

 

Jason Heflin:

Webblin.

 

Neil Griggs:

Thanks, dudes.

 

Jason Heflin:

It’s fun.

 

Chad Webb:

Appreciate.

 

Jason Heflin:

Cheers. Thanks [inaudible 00:42:39] Bye.

IMG_5607

By Chad Webb

Chad Webb (who is 40) is one of CrowdSouth’s Partners and brings years (not quite 40) of experience managing multi-million dollar website projects to your business. He loves hoodies, puffy vests, jeans and flip flops.

Like & Follow

Share This

About CrowdSouth

We are a team of web developers, project manager, creatives, search engine nerds, and social media buffs… but combined we have a breadth of talent that can get the job done, and done well.

More from CrowdSouth

Blog, Podcast

The Uncommonwealth of Kentucky, a CrowdSouth Podcast, with Tyler Brown of FHG Clothiers and Manbox.

Read More
Blog

Your demographic is more understanding than ever that you may not have a huge budget to create award-winning videos. Sharing your brand with current customers and new customers can be as easy as…

Read More
Blog

Say what!? Increase my budget right now, you say? Yes!That’s the trend among larger and more aggressive companies.

Read More