Five years ago, Signs.com was launched: “It’s worked out really well so far.”

They have grown and flourished by emphasizing digital marketing and customer service.

If you’ve spent time within the startup world, you’ve seen a large amount of company names that seem conjured out of thin air — random spellings, z’s instead of s’s, alternate pronunciations, all sorts of tomfoolery. At first I assumed this was just because people are weird, but now I realize it’s because quality domain names are really hard to come by. You either have to spend a lot of money to buy something good —and startups have no money, making this route unfeasible—or create your own domain name, leading us to all sorts of insanely-labeled companies pretending like their name is a real thing.

Here’s the best-case startup scenario— someone with foresight bought a quality domain name years and years ago, then sat on it waiting for the opportunity to pounce. In that case, money spent is minimal *and *you have the benefit of proceeding with a name that nobody scoffs at.

Kirk Green is the CEO and co-founder of Ferrari Color, a 30-year-old print shop that does large format printing for a bunch of notable organizations like Lucky Jeans, Starbucks, and the San Francisco 49ers. 20 years ago, Green and his co-founders purchased the domain name Signs.com, a bit of foresight that became very relevant years later when they realized the value of spinning out a separate company under that name.

Their gameplan was simple: find someone to help create a business plan and run the day-to-day operations, preferably someone with a digital marketing background. This led them to current COO Nelson James, a digital marketer who also knows a thing or two about legit domain names as the co-founder of Seo.com. They agreed to an arrangement five years ago — James runs the company, the co-founders of Ferrari Color act as investors — leading to a series of phone calls between James and Green that would begin shaping the company.

“Those initial phone calls with Kirk and myself were about what the business model could be,” said James. “We talked about a lot of different scenarios, it was mostly around having this great asset — Signs.com — and what we could do with it.”

Having a quality domain name is only a portion of the battle. Once that’s secured, a quality business plan is also needed. Signs.com opened for business in Salt Lake City with a business plan that focuses on two specific areas: digital marketing and customer service.

“The sign industry was and is a little bit late to the game in terms of digital marketing and five years ago, we felt like we could capitalize on that — get into the internet space with signage and get people to purchase custom signs online,” said James. “We decided if we could figure out a way to ship nationally from one place and create a real online presence making it nice and easy to create a custom online sign, purchase, and check out, we could create real separation there. We weren’t the first to do that, of course, but there were few doing it well when we got into the game.”

Along with the emphasis on digital marketing, James set out to create a workplace culture that stressed customer experience. That was the mindset from day one and five years later, it has helped turn Signs.com into one of the top-notch customer service organizations in the industry — based upon 31,000+ ratings from actual customers, Signs.com has averaged 4.8/5 stars. Some would say this is good enough to win multiple national customer service awards and I would tend to agree.

“From the very beginning, and from my former life at Seo.com, I realized the way to grow a company is to take care of your people and your customers,” said James. “Our goal was to create an incredible customer experience with Signs.com. With that focus in mind, it’s really forged our success — everything we do is centered around providing a fantastic experience for the customer.”

Signs.com and its 26 employees will celebrate the five year anniversary of founding in April, a group of people that James credits with the success of being able to seamlessly implement their business strategy.

“Our success comes from the people we’ve hired, the right kind of people who were willing to do what it took to make customer service work,” said James. “They’re willing to learn and continue to educate themselves. We do a lot of training about customer service, we do a lot of research about other companies and their customer service, we’re learning from the best. We’re constantly reading books from places like Zappos and Nordstrom, some of the best customer service places out there, and trying to emulate the things we feel they do well.”

A large portion of good customer service is listening to what customers have to say — things they like, things they hate, things they think could be improved. Customer service not only allows you to build a solid foundation with the consumer base, it allows a business to use customer insights to improve the experience and product.

“I adhere to the principle of the Lean Startup by Eric Ries,” said James. “The principle is to get up and running as quickly as possible, not spending too much time trying to create the perfect product. The fact of the matter is, you don’t know what the perfect product is because you don’t have customers yet….you get customers and talk to them, see what else they need, what you could do better for them. We’ve changed directions quite a bit, if I look back at my original business plan, a lot is the same but a lot has changed because of what our customers want. And that’s different from what I envisioned they wanted.”

When you begin to understand the value of the two-pronged approach of Signs.com — digital marketing mixed with customer service — you can begin to understand how they have risen rapidly in the last five years, including being named to the Utah Top 25 Under 5 list two years in a row (Signs.com was ranked as the #6 rated company in 2016). The future is bright…

“It’s worked out really well so far,” said James.

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