Zip Signs

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Total Turnkey Signage Programs

  • Founded 1989 in Oakville, Ontario as a research consortium
  • World’s largest provider of software solutions for design, feasibility and costing of sheet metal components
  • Global reach: products and technical support in more than 35 countries
  • Active in the local charitable community through corporate sponsorships and fundraising.

Keeping your promises and prioritizing your business is vital for success in business

Ask any expert about entrepreneurship and you are certain to receive detailed explanations, strategies and philosophies.

Yet according to Fred Bennink, President & CEO of Zip Signs in Burlington, “Business is not rocket science; it’s about having your priorities straight as to who you serve, and always keeping your promises.”

That’s why Bennink, since he purchased Zip Signs in 1983, always adheres to his guiding principal: prioritizing customers, vendors, employees and shareholders…always in that order.

Operating out of a 34,000 square foot modern facility, Zip Signs, founded in 1971, has grown, under Bennink’s direction, from a local sign fabricator into an integrated full-service company providing total turnkey signage programs for commercial, industrial and retail clients.

Close to 80 percent of the state-of-the-art facility is used for production. Zip Signs has ninety employees, split almost equally between production and administration/sales/installation.

Since Bennink purchased Zip Signs, the company has been profitable every single year.

Building relationships

Currently, approximately 90 percent of Zip Signs’ sales are to Canadian customers, with 10 percent outside of Canada.

Much of its client base — for which Zip Signs provides single location and multi-location national programs — is repeat business, with a high proportion of other sales attributable to referrals from existing clients.

“The Canadian business environment is all about relationships,” says Bennink. In Canada, for example, as opposed to the United States, for there is quite a small pool of ‘national’ customers.

“Companies that work on retaining existing relationships, that add more value to those relationships, will thrive,” says Bennink.

This insistence on building, enhancing and optimizing relationships extends to Zip Signs’suppliers and subcontractors as well, with whom the company has forged many long lasting connections.

Expanding global sales

Over the past several years, Zip Signs has started a global sales initiative.

Much of this international opportunity is attributable to longtime clients who themselves are expanding their global presence and rely on Zip Signs for its total project management services.

Other opportunities for international sales are through companies located in multiple countries looking to single source their sign programs.

As an example, several of Zip Signs’ financial institution clients are expanding their operations in major global financial centres such as Rome, Sydney, Shanghai, New York and Los Angeles.

“We are expanding our existing relationship with a number of clients, providing products and services to them as they move more into the global sphere,” says Bennink.

The signs are produced in the Burlington facility. Whereas Zip Signs installs its signs in Ontario (from the headquarters in Burlington) and in Alberta, from its satellite office in Calgary, internationally the signs are installed by independent contractors who form part of Zip Signs’ extensive Canadian network and global independent installers.

Lessons learned

As to lessons learned through the years that Bennink can share with fellow entrepreneurs, he says that “one of the most essential, and necessary, skills for success in business is being able to anticipate what’s going to happen — whether this involves clients, vendors, employees, equipment, technology, or the economy.”

In the case of Zip Signs, says Bennink, “that’s my job, the buck stops with me.”

Following up on this sixth sense, is vital, says Bennink. “To succeed, you need to make the necessary adjustments as your business evolves. No business stands still, you can’t build a business by being reactive,” he adds.

Empowering employees

After 28 years at the helm of Zip Signs, these days Bennink, 51, does not have defined day-today responsibilities. Yet it’s clear that he knows what’s going on in every aspect of his company. “It’s integral to empower employees,” he says, noting that the company profit-sharing plan incorporates every employee. “I have been extremely blessed with wonderfully committed and loyal employees,” he says.

Attaining balance in life is important to Bennink. As such, he spends time with his wonderful family, sits on the Board of Directors of his church and the board of other charitable organizations, plays golf, goes to his cottage and spends time at his home in Florida. His commitment to the community and to charitable giving remains strong; Zip Signs’ charitable giving exceeds $500,000 yearly.

Deliver what you promise

Being successful in business doesn’t involve a magic formula. Zip Signs has grown, says Bennink, by delivering superior project management and products.

“For customers, the bottom line, quite rightly, is this: ‘I want my sign, I want it on time, built the way you said it would be built, at the agreed upon cost, and installed on time,’” says Bennink.

He continues: “It’s all about making promises ….to your customers, vendors and employees… and then keeping those promises.”