Link To Guest Website:

Title: “Architectural Signage and Landscape Features”
Guest: Anthony Clayton of Bluebird Graphic Solutions
Interviewer: Jonathan Freedman – MAGE LLC

Click here to read the transcript

Jonathan (1s):
Welcome back to Radio Entrepreneurs and I’m Jonathan Freedman. We have a wonderful guest up next. We have Anthony Clayton who is CEO of Bluebird Graphic Solutions. Welcome Anthony. Welcome pleasure having you pleasure to have you on Radio Entrepreneurs. So tell us a little bit about your company, what it is that you do.

Anthony (18s):
So we’re Bluebird Graphic Solutions and we are custom fabricators of architectural specialties. And as well as signage, we really enjoy doing custom fabrication and things that sort of define a name. We also do some landscape architectural pieces. Wow.

Jonathan (43s):
So really it really diverse in terms of the types of projects that you work on.

Anthony (47s):
Yeah, it’s mostly, it’s really about custom building and craft is really where we center

Jonathan (53s):
In terms of various mediums that you work with. It sounds like that’s probably somewhat creative too.

Anthony (59s):
It is. So we work with wood metal, plastic glass. We really are proud of our fabrication approaches as well as a welding skills. And we have spray finishing right in our shop as well.

Jonathan (1m 14s):
Wonderful. So tell our listeners, how did you get into this business? How did you, how did you start? Cause it sounds as though it’s a very, somewhat unique, it’s not the type of thing that you see every day that people are involved with custom fabrication of signage and landscape design and all those pieces. It looks like you’ve got some wonderful pieces in the background behind you.

Anthony (1m 34s):
So that’s my home, but I don’t think anyone gets into this business on purpose. I think that’s the funny, the funny piece of it, our industry tends to be a sort of graphically creative people, visually creatives, but signage. Isn’t really something that people realize exists as a thing that people make, even though the world is full of science. So

Jonathan (1m 60s):
Sort of take it for granted. And then, you know, when you stop to thinking about it, wow. Somebody actually had to conceive of this and build it.

Anthony (2m 6s):
Yeah. Yeah. So, so we really do so the way I got into this as I was actually maintaining computer systems that were for a sign cutting or vinyl cutting, and, and I realized, you know, sort of the possibility of, of actually making signs and worked my way up from the bottom to the top, as it were working, my whole career has been in Boston, but I’ve worked on projects from Disney world too, and universal studios and other sort of big stadiums and things like that.

Anthony (2m 47s):
So that’s sort of how I cut my teeth.

Jonathan (2m 51s):
How does the process typically work? Somebody come to you with a concept and a design, or did somebody come to you and say, we need to have visibility for our business. I want to landscape project, but I don’t know what I want. How often are you guys called upon to be the conceptual creative? I’m sure there’s a piece of it, no matter what the project, but how, or how often did clients come to you with, you know, fully baked ideas and say, just execute. How, how does that happen?

Anthony (3m 16s):
They’re usually half-baked. So we work with designers and architects, primarily general contractors and their clients. So we’re working with sort of top tier design professionals and construction professionals, but we receive an idea that is a, that is almost always never been built before. Exactly. So we don’t do the initial concept development, but we do do the sort of second level design, which is the design that takes something from paper space to a 3d.

Jonathan (3m 53s):
I was going to say, you probably do the practical application of it, data going from the conceptual. Yeah. This is what we’d like to now, how do we do it? Right. You guys sort of get charged with the, how do you execute? Right.

Anthony (4m 4s):
Our work has to stand up to the wind and the elements and, and be able to be transported and assembled and all that.

Jonathan (4m 12s):
So tell us a little bit about that. Cause scale, what, what’s the largest sort of piece that you’ve ever worked on and, and, and how long does something like that take?

Anthony (4m 22s):
Yeah, so we worked on a sculpture that is in front of a 8 88 Boylston street for Boston properties. And that was about three tons of stainless steel and steel had some granted at the base and was very involved piece and kind of think when we started that, something like that, we’ll take a sort of a year of, of seeing and quoting and getting involved. And then our timing has to be very precise in terms of the finishing of the landscape. So, you know, we can’t be into early when it’s dirt and we can’t begin too late after the pavers are closing up the ground.

Anthony (5m 2s):
So when we work on projects like that, they tend to be a very long lead times. Actually most of our work is a year or more.

Jonathan (5m 11s):
And tell us a little bit about your team, because I would imagine it’s, it’s a challenge to have a, a very functionally diverse CRA team given that you work in so many different mediums. You find people that are woodworkers and then people who are working with stone and people working with metal, all different skills. Correct.

Anthony (5m 29s):
I just got a completely true. One of the things we look for in our employees is curiosity. Will you find that? Yeah, you have to be interested in all manner of things, you know, from chemistry to physics, because the challenge of trying to build something right, the first time is enormous. You know, the second time is easy. Anybody can do that. So, so, but our team is very much a collaborative team, very often with backgrounds either as, as artists or sculpture backgrounds or industrial design backgrounds.

Jonathan (6m 15s):
Wow. So, so pretty varied mix of people as well. And H how, how has that been as an entrepreneur sort of attracting and developing that team around you and, you know, you’ve been at it for a long time. I would imagine that it, you know, it’s, it’s always changing it continually changing in terms of the demand, based on the projects that you’re working on. And because they are such large scale projects, you must often have to find people to execute a project. How does that go for you?

Anthony (6m 46s):
I finally gotten to the point where we have a stable team, a stable, competent team, you know, that’s mature and experienced. And I’d say that was one of the hardest parts of starting the business was building that team. We went through in the beginning, we hired whoever would show up because we didn’t want

Jonathan (7m 6s):
And hope they came back the next day.

Anthony (7m 11s):
I mean, there’s some crazy stuff that went on or crazy people that we hired. But, you know, as we were working to build credibility as a company, as a creative company, you know, demonstrate that we can be reliable and trustworthy. And as we went and we built that, that record, if you will, it became much easier to bring people in who, who former competitors, or to bring people in who saw what we were doing and, and could believe in what we’re doing. And so that’s gotten a lot easier.

Jonathan (7m 46s):
You’re working on a very large public project now, I don’t know if you can disclose it, but

Anthony (7m 53s):
We’re working on the MBTA Greenline extension through Somerville and certain projects really define you. And this is one a, there’s so much paperwork and administrative stuff that goes outside of the, you know, it’s not a question of, can we build it? It’s can we, can we keep going on the paperwork and keep up? And, but that’s, you know, sort of next level for a development of the company is how well we can manage, you know, administratively heavy projects and it’s going quite well. And we should be finishing that around the end of the year.

Jonathan (8m 33s):
Give us a sense. I know it talked about signage and I can imagine some of the stuff, you know, along the extension for what, what types of physical builds are you talking about? What, what are the end products, if you will?

Anthony (8m 45s):
So for the MBTA specifically, yeah, for the NBTI, if you go to a typical station, there’ll be signs bringing you in from the outside, you know, off the streets. So we call them lollipops, but large freestanding signs of the T’s logo on them all the way to the platform signage with, with area maps and, you know, sort of directional information. And one of the more fun aspects of the project is that each of the stations has worked with an artist to sort of convey the, sort of the spirit of the neighborhood.

Anthony (9m 27s):
Yeah. So that’s fun. So we’ve been working with those artists as well to properly sort of translate their art.

Jonathan (9m 38s):
Oh, interesting. So you’re not actually displaying their art you’re you’re actually taking their works and creating them out the signage.

Anthony (9m 45s):
Yeah. Well, yeah, there it’s part of the whole platform package, but it’s been some really innovative staff and we’ve had the chance to meet local artists and we’ve always enjoyed supporting artists as well.

Jonathan (11m 16s):
So how many projects will your company be working on at any given time? It sounds like there, some of them can be very large scale, which would seem to preclude you from working on other ones. I’m always fascinated. I was thinking the other day I was watching one of these car shows, you know, where they mechanics type thing. I’m not gonna mention what it was, but, you know, they’ve got this bill that they’ve got to get done in six days. And another car rolls in, that’s gotta be done in six days, and there’s only three guys to go around. So you must face that all the time where you’ve got these massive scale year long projects and, you know, four other ones come in the door that needs to be done in the next 30 days. Okay.

Anthony (11m 51s):
Yeah. I love your questions. It’s so funny. I watch those shows too, and I enjoy it immensely because yeah. There were a lot of parallels to what they’re doing to what we’re doing any given time. We have about 80 jobs going at a time. Wow. Yeah, yeah. But you know, all different phases and we have projects that we’ll be going into 20, 23, but yes, it can be very challenging, managing priorities and understanding what’s hot. What’s not projects will go into a sort of dormancy and then you’d have to sort of catch them at the right time to make sure that we finish on time. And, and that’s, that’s a big challenge with the, with the business.

Jonathan (12m 32s):
I, I hope you don’t mind me asking how many folks do you have on the actual production floor and that’s, you know, taking out designers and people that, that are sort of creative, the creative people, but how many people are actually working in, in production on a daily basis,

Anthony (12m 45s):
15 people split.

Jonathan (12m 47s):
Okay. So it’s a nice size group and keeps, keeps you busy. I’m sure know a lot of things coming and coming at you all day long, I would imagine.

Anthony (12m 58s):
But, you know, it’s really fun watching the work, move through the space and seeing the progress on a daily basis. And, and, you know, we’re, we’re in a place where I can trust the people it’s, it’s especially fun because I’m not getting as entrenched in the sort of day to day decisions on how things should be made.

Jonathan (13m 18s):
Good stuff. Anthony Clayton, CEO of Bluebird graphic solutions. If people want to reach out to you and learn more about your business, talk to you about a, something that they’ve conceived and want to get off the ground, we didn’t really talk about individuals, but it sounds like you sometimes do. Is it only commercial landscape or where you do commission pieces for individuals as well?

Anthony (13m 38s):
We’ve done. We’re doing a little bit of that as well, but, but yeah, you can check us out on www dot Bluebird, G You can email and yeah, we primarily are working with larger companies, but we’re happy to give advice or really contribute in any way that we can. We’re trying to support the community and, and really be a resource for people’s homes.

Jonathan (14m 11s):
Great stuff. So developers, architects, building owners, anybody who wants to do something unique in front of their building and stand out, you’re the guy to come to him. Yes. Wonderful. Anthony Clayton, CEO of blueprint, graphic solutions. It’s been a pleasure having you on radio entrepreneurs.

Anthony (14m 26s):
Well, it’s been nice being apart. Thank

Jonathan (14m 27s):
You. And we’ll be right back with another story on radio entrepreneurs.

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