Security Signs

Another Family Business Profile from FBE…

Security Signs

In 1997, Tom and Carol Keljo went shopping for a business to buy but they were by no means looking for a sign-making company. Tom’s prior experience was in high technology including a general manager position at a company that performed precision sheet metal fabrication. Carol had years of experience managing and marketing non-profits including one of her own brainchilds, the Homeownership Center, which serves first-time homebuyers.

The couple answered a “Business For Sale” ad that described the company as a metals fabrication business, but the seller, as it turned out, was not in that business at all. As heir to Security Signs, an 80-year-old Pacific Northwest company that produces custom electrical and architectural signage, he was most interested in finding quality people who would maintain the reputation and integrity of the company. When he met the Keljo’s he knew he had found the right buyers.

Security Signs:
Holding the Line on Quality

The sign business is a price-competitive field. Customers often overlook the potential product deterioration that can occur when quality is sacrificed for price. The challenge for a quality-driven company like Security Signs is helping customers learn how to compare apples with apples. Since they bought the company, the Keljo’s have held the line on quality and performance, and it has paid off. Sales have more than tripled since the purchase and much of the profit has been reinvested in state-of-the-art equipment, a fleet of trucks, and building modernization. In 2003, the company won the Family Business of the Year from the Austin Family Business Program at Oregon State University, and for two years running, Security Signs was recognized as one of America’s “Top 80” retail sign companies by Retail Construction Magazine.

Secret To Success:

A shared work ethic

Carol and Tom, along with son, Kevin, and daughter-in-law, Darci, have solid family and working relationships. Tom’s technology background and Carol’s marketing sense were strong enough to create the initial momentum for the business. When their son, Kevin, left his work in commercial construction to join the business, he helped his parents transition the company’s manual approach to scheduling and estimating to a more efficient manufacturing model. Darci’s contribution is in the area of managing safety and training and making sure the company meets code and passes inspections.

When you ask Carol why they are successful as a family and business, she is quick to say, “We all genuinely love what we do, and we all share a strong work ethic. And, we all get a lift when we drive around and see our work. We enjoy knowing we’ve been a part of helping customers build their brands.”

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