At Toledo Sign, ‘family’ business extends to employeesWritten by Michael Driehorst | | firstname.lastname@example.org
While the process and technology of making signs has changed during the 94-year history of Toledo Sign Company, the reason for its longevity and success has not.
“Our core strength is our employees. The majority have been with us for a very long time,” said Brian Heil, vice president and co-owner of Toledo Sign. “Employees feel as if we’re one big family.”
Toledo Sign President and co-owner Brad Heil said the experience of Toledo Sign employees “creates a culture of quality, of knowledge, hard work and dedication, which leads to word-of-mouth referrals. That’s how we get almost all of our business.”
Toledo Sign was established in 1914. Around the late 1940s and early 1950s, Orvid Heil, grandfather of the current owners, bought Toledo Sign Co. after running his own sign company for a brief period. A veteran of the sign business since a teenager, Brad said his grandfather kept the Toledo Sign name because of the recognition factor.
In the early 1970s, Orvid passed the business onto one of his sons, Brian, who guided Toledo Sign until he passed the reigns to his two sons, Brian and Brad, in January 2007.
With 24 employees, Toledo Sign offers the full range of sign service, from design, manufacturing, digital printing and vacuum forming to installation and maintenance. It’s occupied its current location at 2021 Adams St., Toledo, since February 1998. About 95 percent of the company’s business is from within a 60-mile radius.
While you may not know it, you likely see much of Toledo Sign’s work every day. It includes signs for the area’s Fifth Third Bank branches, Marco’s Pizza, Toledo Jeep, The Toledo Hospital, St. Anne’s, St. Luke’s and St. Vincent’s hospitals, as well as Flower and Bay Park hospitals, and UT.
“One of our strengths is that, as we’ve grown significantly over the last two years, we’re not dependant on any one aspect of our customer base,” Brad said.
One of Toledo Sign’s most visible signs is the electronic Taylor Kia sign along Interstate 475.
The Taylor Kia electronic message center, built and installed in 2006, is the first, large-scale, full-color, high-definition sign of its kind in the area, according to Brad.
“The industry trend is definitely going in that area because you can adapt your message for a specific audience at a specific time,” Brad said.
Another milestone in the company’s history was in the early 1990s.
“We went from paint brushes to create signs to computers,” Brad said. “It was a natural progression for the sign industry, and we adapted very early.”
Brad and Brian spent a lot of their childhood growing up at the Toledo Sign facilities, playing while young or even working as they grew older. Their sister, Kelly, while spending some of her time growing up in the family business, is not active in the company.
While neither brother planned to enter their father’s business, both found their way into it either during or shortly after college. While Brad said he was naturally curious about striking out on his own, after graduation from UT, his dad encouraged him to join the company until he found a job offer he wanted. After working in every company department, from fabrication to sales, Brad said he enjoyed the sales and other office positions and remained.
Brian started his career at Toledo Sign while attending UT, when a neon tube bending opportunity opened because of the planned retirement of a longtime employee. After detailed training and learning from the employee before he retired, Brian worked five years as a neon tube bender before heading up the company’s Neon Signs business when it opened in 1991 on the Anthony Wayne Trail.
As Brad and Brian have assumed leadership positions within Toledo Sign, they have found their different personalities complement each other.
“We respect each others’ opinions, decisions and backgrounds. We know the other’s decision is in the best interest of Toledo Sign,” Brad said.