What is your full name, title, and business name?
Jim Wasserstrom, President/CEO, Advance Sign Group
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How did the idea for your business come about?
I actually bought the business in 2001 after admiring the products and capabilities they provided locally and regionally. My background was in manufacturing and support services. So I was truly matched for being in the sign industry.

What was the turning point for your business? Was there a moment you knew you had something special?
Having previous knowledge of selling to National Chain Account clients, we focused on providing our customer service skills to these type of clients, especially in the retail segment. Once we sold our first National account many others followed and in 2012 we decided to completely focus on National accounts.

What does it mean to you to be an entrepreneur and business owner?
While my upbringing in the business world was within a family owned environment, my passion was to be a leader / visionary and set out my goals in providing jobs for others that I created so that they could excel. My entrepreneur spirit was set to the high water mark so that others could achieve their personal best! I believe all entrepreneurs have this drive in them and that they want to see their fellow citizen succeed.

What does the city of Columbus mean to your business?
CMH is a special city due to it’s location. Not only can you reach most of the population in the country in one day, Columbus’s attitude as an “invention city”, promoting a higher education, and the warmth of our communities, creates a staying power for many to settle in Columbus!

What’s the number one piece of advice you’d give to anyone wanting to start a business?
If you don’t take risks with passion then you might not achieve your goals. Move out from your comfort zone and experience change by embracing new ideas, experimenting, and learning.

What do you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before starting your business?
I believe failures make an entrepreneur a better entrepreneur. So, I don’t believe that if I knew more before  took my entrepreneurial journey, that this knowledge learned would had given me better results.

CEO, Jim Wasserstrom in ASG’s Columbus sheet metal department where they occupy a 5 acre manufacturing plant. 

What’s the most challenging part of your business (i.e, what keeps you up at night)?
Moving into the next Gen keeps me up. Today I now need to think, act, and execute as a mentor and visionary and not being in the daily weeds.

Every business owner has a flaw. What’s yours?
I believe I need to listen better & more often.

What was you biggest mistake and what did it cost you?
In my early days I decided to keep a business unit open longer than I should have. This cost me not only a lot of money but a waste of my time unwinding it vs. building/focusing on my other profitable businesses.

What tool has helped you the most for your business (invoicing, accounting, shipping, plugin for website, etc.)?
The Entrepreneur Organization Network! I’ve been a member of the Entrepreneur Organization, Columbus chapter since 2002 and this organization has help me tremendously. Today we are also members of the Conway Family Business Center/CEO Peer group which has been a great help with my family business.

When did you know it was time to expand your business, make your first hire, etc.?
One of the major turning point in our business was in 2008 when our son Andy wanted to come into the business. This meant that we need to expand by leaps and bounds for all of us to enjoy life and reap the benefits. So we made the switch to become a National Signage Company.

What is something that you did that was a game changer for your business?
We invested in both the state of the art machinery and the best people in our community. We have the best associates in the sign industry with the highest level of training. If you don’t have the right people you don’t have a great company.

What was an idea that you spent a lot of time on or thought would make a big difference in your business that didn’t pan out?
When digital signage was just starting to hit our industry, I decided to create a content management business to help clients manage their special products on these screens. This didn’t pan out as the digital manufacturers gave away these services with their machine.

What is something that your business spends a lot of money on that’s worth it?
ASG is proactively investing in it’s People, Process, and Systems. We have reinvested the majority of our profits in these three categories.

What is something you’re working on now that you’re very excited about?
ASG has invested in attending many different type of trade shows this year and we are very actively cultivating our investment.

What form of marketing is the most valuable for you?
We use all the common social media vehicles. LinkedIn, Facebook, Google, Instagram, Twitter, and our website. Utilizing SEO has given us visibility to our National client base. But our company’s best marketer is Andy, V.P. of Sales & Marketing and his relationship building within our industry. This is where the rubber hits the road!

Who is your best Columbus resource (accountant, lawyer, marketer, etc.)? Please provide name and business name so we can give them credit!
ASG is proud to use professional resources in Columbus. Dave Tumen with Porter Wright, Dave Cain and Tracy Kaufman with REA & Associates and Huntington Insurance with Steve Weiler & Company.

What’s your most productive time of the day to work?
When I work out in the morning, it is my best thinking about the business. The least productive time is late afternoon around 3 pm.

How many cups of coffee do you drink everyday and what are your usual coffee drinking times?
I drink from 2-3 cups of coffee per day and always before noon.

If you had one hour of free time what would you do (get more specific than “hang out with family”)?
Swimming….I feel very free to think when I swim and it’s great exercise for me.

Who do you vent to when you have a business problem?
My COO is not only a executive in our company but also a long time friend. He’s always able to understand how to communicate with me.

Where do you see your business in the next 10 years?
We believe we will achieve our strategic plan as one of the top private National Sign Companies in the industry. our top line and bottom line goals are realistic and we are on track today. Since Andy has joined our company we have tripled our size by the end of 2017 and we are on track to keep this growth pattern going.

What other entrepreneur do you look up to most?
There have been many entrepreneurs and business leaders that I look up to but the one thing that I segregate from a true entrepreneur are those that had been given their businesses versus starting from scratch. That why the EO network has given me so much access to true entrepreneurs.

If you had to tell a visitor one thing to do/see/eat in Columbus, what would it be?
Experience an OSU Football Game and tailgate!