Large, Regional General Contractor Looks to Bring Consistency & Efficiency to Their Signage


Signs & Graphics Customer Experience

With any large, growing company, regardless of industry, sometimes growth and scale eventually invites a need for process improvement. In the case of one reputable, regional general construction company, the opportunity being addressed was bringing cohesiveness and efficiency to their signage process, which had multiple facets as the company grew over several decades.

Since the early 1990’s, Choate Construction has grown to be one of the largest general contractors in the Southeastern U.S., working on commercial construction projects and focusing on a variety of market sectors. Today, with 6 offices across multiple states and all of its offices generating signage for everything from jobsite signage to safety and directional signage, as most growing companies do, they uncovered opportunities to be more efficient and get the brand under control.

As Choate Marketing Director Emily Bridges explains, by 2016, “Choate was growing out of this more siloed office-by-office autonomy. While we try to empower and ensure our offices can operate effectively in their respective market, the autonomy was beginning to impact our branding cohesiveness and consistency. We wanted to reunite on the marketing front: from a cohesiveness standpoint, consistency standpoint, pricing standpoint, and just overall efficiency. She went on, “(At the time) We had 5 offices and every project team was responsible for their own signage, so you had the wheel being reworked many, many times over.”

The challenge was also very apparent to other core team members as well, as Catherine Yaw, Manager of Graphic Design was a key cog and another catalyst for change. As Yaw reflected, “There was a seemingly never-ending barrage of signage requests from all of our offices. Every sign was essentially custom, which meant spending hours burning and churning with designs, coordinating between companies, and with overall project management to ensure the signs made it to their final destination.”

With a disparity in the look and feel of their signage, as well as the sheer manhours spent on the signage process, it became apparent what they were solving for.

Prior to 2017, there was quite a large handful of signage vendors working with Choate, as each office location had their preferred vendor. Duncan-Parnell, a signage and graphics provider with a similar footprint as Choate, had been providing signage for their Charlotte and Charleston locations. However, Emily and Choate had something much more unified in mind in terms of signage types, company colors, and logos, to bridge their offices as their company grew. As Bridges added,

“We really wanted to find a partner who could help service all of our offices, while also work with this vision we had of being able to build an online store, one that we can control so we can choose what goes on there and pertains to us and our brand. That is how we came to work with Duncan-Parnell and more cohesively across all of our offices for the purpose of signage.”

After collecting all of the many different signage elements Choate produced across its offices, considering all pricing, size combinations, and looking at three signage providers, Choate Construction chose Duncan-Parnell as its new vendor of record.

According to Bridges, it came down to 3 main factors in terms of choosing the signage partner that was right for Choate Construction:

  1. Cost – They had to show the local offices that while they would no longer be working with their local vendors, the cost would not be higher. Duncan-Parnell was able to get competitive on price.
  2. The online portal - The Choate team envisioned and helped structure a way that Duncan-Parnell could automatically receive orders from our online store and process them quickly and efficiently.
  3. Turnaround time – The third factor was working with Yaw on having the art ready to go, including reducing turnaround time and negotiated shipping time. That touch base step is key today, and now much more efficient.

Upon rolling out the new process with the now, company-wide vendor, according to Bridges, things went pretty smoothly. “We had very few instances where anything went wrong; it really worked well and pretty much right off the bat. That is a testament to the planning and working through what the process would look like between us and Duncan-Parnell early before we told our teams ready, set, go.“

From Yaw’s perspective, it was also a positive change.

“When we made the switch, Duncan-Parnell’s production team took on all of our issues head-first. We hit the material and color issues, pricing, and production speeds. They kept at it until we all were satisfied.”

Since 2016 when the new, more unified process and vendor were established, Choate has grown their portfolio from just shy of 50 signage elements to in 2020, 150 signage elements. There have been new, more progressive signage asks, such as LED crane signage, as well as unexpected, quick-turn needs, such as COVID-19 signage for all of their jobsites during the pandemic in 2020.

Mrs. Bridges focused on consistency and responsiveness as keys to the Choate and Duncan-Parnell partnership. “We know that when we reach out we’re going to get a timely response and we can trust (Duncan-Parnell) with the job. There has also been a level of consistency in the product and a willingness to be a real partner. Just a willingness to do whatever it takes and whatever is possible to feasibly get it done by the time we need it done.”

Like their commercial construction projects, Choate Construction takes their brand and the productivity of the team seriously. They know that while they’ll continue to grow and see new signage, they also value a strong partnership.

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