Firehouse Blog

Author Archive: Terry Corman

The Value of Retail Signage

terryblogAt Firehouse we spend most of our time and energy integrating software and hardware to increase productivity for our printing, fulfillment and packaging services. In all of our activity, on two continents, we seldom think about the value of what we do. Here, then, is a short course on the impact of signage at retail.

There is a science to retail shopping patterns and results. The financial stakes are enormous, and the science of shopping is unbelievably sophisticated. Study after study shows that signage is highly effective at creating purchases in the retail store, and that shoppers like and remember signage as part of the experience.

ValueOfRetailSignageIn the constant presence of online access, it’s important for retailers to remember that stores, brick and mortar stores, still account for 95% of all retail sales. Whether for decoration, information or directional, retail signage is a vital component in guiding that purchase decision.

Cutting through all the science and jargon of “retail merchandising,” consumers are grouped into four basic categories:

1. Those who will make specific, planned purchases
2. Those who will make generally planned purchases
3. Those who will make unplanned purchases
4. Those who will make brand substitution purchases

Since records started being kept in 1965, research shows shoppers are doing less specific planning and are more flexible in purchase decisions. A P.O.P.A.I. study on shopper engagement revealed up to 76% of all retail purchases fall into the last three categories. The vast majority of the purchase decisions are made at the point of the product or the graphic display. Shoppers often make purchase decisions only after seeing the actual product in the store. In-store graphics play a crucial role in educating and directing shoppers. Not only that, but brand substitution is largely triggered by the impact of in-store graphics. More than 1 in 6 purchases are made when a brand display is present in the store. And 60% of those displays are now in secondary locations off the main aisle. Cross-promoting (an antacid display in the salsa aisle) continues to increase sales.

Despite the recent advances in technology, this study reveals compelling data that suggests investing in the in-store environment will continue to have a positive impact on retail sales.


Terry Corman
Firehouse CEO

A Lesson for Managers

terryblogI have joined, in order to manage, many different types of organizations over the years.

They range from businesses and volunteer groups to not-for-profits and a school board. I even ran a very large church for a few months. Upon joining each organization I found they frequently had problems that had existed for long periods before my tenure.

The organizational problems I am referring to are often widely understood by the employees, managers, and/or volunteers, but have never been dealt with. The problems are a source of embarrassment and diminish the morale of the participants, but linger on for month after month – and sometimes for years.

– An employee who needs corrective action (or dismissal) is ignored.

– A repair to the building or equipment, or a remedial action to fix a safety issue, is left unresolved.
(Broken window = broken business!)

– A bad relationship between coworkers is not resolved.

– A poor policy that hurts morale is never challenged or changed.

ALessonForManagersThese difficulties can be found in many organizations. And the manager in charge never takes action to the detriment of the entire enterprise.

Well, I have a thought for all you managers who ignore long-standing problems, “You are what you tolerate.” That’s right, if you are a manager and you ignore a problem, you own the problem, YOU ARE THE PROBLEM!

If there is continual gossip and backstabbing in your business, “YOU are a backstabbing gossip.”

Very simply, a manager is charged with facing problems and dealing effectively with them. If you are a manager, and have unresolved problems and conflicts, it’s time to act. A manager’s inaction speaks as loudly as action. Not dealing with issues sends the message that you don’t consider them to be issues. Then what do you get? More issues. A good manager communicates the parameters of what IS and IS NOT acceptable behavior for employees, work environment, equipment maintenance, etc.

You are what you tolerate!


Terry Corman
Firehouse CEO

Five Steps for a Better Corporate Culture

terryblogThe most successful businesses have the most engaged employees, but creating an atmosphere where employees are completely involved is no easy task.

Here is what employees want. First they want job security. Oh, they understand the reality of the marketplace, but if they know that the management decision making process is not arbitrary, that goes a long way to mitigating that concern of job security.

After job security, employees want a stake in the outcome of the business. For the most part, they can’t verbalize that because they don’t know how businesses work and make money. But given the information and a plan, they really want a stake in the outcome.

So, the short version is employees want thoughtful management decision making, job security and a part of the success of the business. Having all this creates a terrific culture in a business, and studies show it dramatically increases sales and, more importantly, profits.

The hard part is how to create a great culture in a business. It is not easy, and I can attest to seven years of practice at it.

Here is the short course on culture building.

FiveStepsForABetterCorporateCulture1. Every week we have an all-company meeting, with a written agenda, that is recorded on video and posted to a private Firehouse blog for out-of-town employees and second shift people. At the “huddle up” I explain the company finances, sales successes, equipment purchases, business successes and setbacks. Week after week all the employees of Firehouse hear the unvarnished truth about the business and its income statement and balance sheet. If you work at Firehouse, you know what is going on and you know it’s the truth. We also try to recognize special and general company achievements.

TeamEffort2. Everyone is taught the mantra that our success is a “team effort” and to “run to problems”, not away from them.

3. We have video screens in the plant that display daily, up-to-date sales, bonus information and other business metrics.

4. We have a bonus plan that pays over 20% of the after-tax profits to employees.

5. We do not allow negative people to work at Firehouse.

The result is a highly informed staff who know why we are doing what we are doing and how we make money. And they know how much of the bonus pool they stand to get paid.

It’s hard to do. It’s a never-ending job. We get it wrong sometimes.

None of us would have it any other way.


Terry Corman
Firehouse CEO