Steindler Signs and it’s owner and namesake Tom Steindler, have seen a lot of changes in the business over the past 10 years. Starting out as he did - working out of his own house, and then moving into a facility in downtown Wanatah, to their current location on Route 30 and loaded with equipment and a team of dedicated staff - Steindler Signs has grown into a formidable company.
“We’re very family-oriented and fun. I think that’s the biggest thing that draws people in; we have great staff. We laugh a lot,” said Jessica Parks, who is a self-confessed ‘woman of many hats’ at Steindler. Parks performs administrative, accounting and human resources related duties for the small family business. She joked that she often plays the "bad cop" to Steindler’s "good cop," balancing out the day to day operations of the company.
“Our projects have grown over the years,” Parks related about the growth the company has seen over the past decade, 7 years of which she has been with the company.
According to Parks much of this growth wouldn’t be possible without the great designers and staff the company employs. “Our designers are the best around, they are the most creative people I’ve ever met,” she explained.
Having creative designers is certainly important with a mantra like “Turning your ideas into reality” that adorns the bucket trucks out front and is the first thing on sees upon approaching the company’s front desk.
“There are a lot of sign companies in our area so we’re constantly challenging ourselves and competing with those people, it could be a fly-by-night guy working out of his basement or a guy working out of a rental truck. We can’t always be the cheapest or the fastest, but we’re creative, we’re talented and we’re good and I stand behind that and I take a lot of pride in that,” said Tom Steindler of his employees and experience in the business.
Tom himself is also a ‘man of many hats.’ Aside from running the company, he also deals with signage design, sales, permitting, fabrication, painting, installation and maintenance, and when he’s not in his office at Steindler he is a full-time firefighter for the City of Valparaiso.
“Every third day I am not here. I could work anywhere from 72-108 hours a week,” said Steindler of his busy schedule. Asked what he likes to do when he does get a moment of free time from building signs and fighting fires, Steindler likes to catch a Cubs game or just relax.
Still, for Tom, the work has paid off.
"It’s had it’s ups and down, its been pleasant its been a challenge, fun and axciting along the way. It’s been a dream fulfillment, really,” he explained.
It’s been a long road for Steindler in the sign business to get to where he is today, and a lot of work. He started out in the business working for his father, but decided it was time to go out on his own and start his own business, something Steindler says was surprisingly easy to get off the ground with the many contacts in the community he had made over the years. That doesn’t mean that the day to day of running the business that would follow would be easy though.
“You know what they say, when you get over the 5-year hump it’s easy going but it’s really not,” Steindler related. “The technology is always changing, but it doesn’t get cheaper. But, you know, one thing we have going for us, there is no other sign company in a 25 or maybe 50 mile radius that have the amount of equipment we have,” Steindler said of their wide variety of machinery from digital printers, accu-bend machines, routers and more. Steindler was passionate about the fact that they manufacture everything in-house themselves.
When it comes to making products for their customers, Steindler finds it important to make sure his services are available to everyone in the area, whether it’s a quarter million-dollar LED sign in Chicago or a banner a local organization wants made up closer to home.
The business has influenced other areas of Steindler’s life as well. Since moving on to run his own business, his relationship with his father has become much closer.
“When we first moved into the new facility he would stop by once or twice a week. Even though he’s my competitor now, it’s probably made us stronger, and I cherish that more than anything. Having a relationship with my father again, rather than being an employee/son,” Steindler said.
Looking back on ten years in a dynamic and competitive business has given Steindler a great sense of pride in the company and his employees, “Its been fun kind of showing off to my family ‘look what we’ve done, look at the people we have on staff.”
The caliber of staff they keep hasn’t gone unnoticed by Steindler’s father either, “he’s always complementing, not the sign company, but the people who work here. ‘You better take care of Jessica, you don’t want to lose her, she is wonderful, you have a great design staff.’ He constantly reminds me of what I have here. When he brings me to the side and talks to me about the employees the way he does, coming from someone who can be very stern, very strict, walking into his company one minute late he considers you tardy and you go home for the day. Coming from a guy like that, to complement the people who work for me, that means a lot to me, more than words can actually say.”
Reflecting back on ten years in the sign business, Steindler drove home his pride in wh
at the business has done and how its employees have helped it to maintain and grow over the years. “I think the biggest thing for me is being proud of driving by here on my off days and going, I own that place. And the people that work for me are great people and I don’t get to see them every day due to being a firefighter, but I trust that they are looking after my investment with full heart. Some employees come and go, they always will, but I really have some dedicated employees who put their heart and soul into it as if it were their own, without that I probably wouldn’t be here today. I can’t thank them enough and I never do.”
For more information on Steindler Signs, click here.