One remarkable day in 1966, Poul and Solveig Mathiesen founded PM signs. They were both immigrants from Denmark and were experienced electricians.
It may surprise you to know that PM Signs did not begin as a sign company. Instead, it was a company dedicated to electrical work. They specialized in fixing electrical problems in signs, and were employed exclusively by petroleum clients. One fortuitous day, these clients asked them if they could also build the electrical signs they worked on, and PM Signs was born.
For their first few years, their main projects were converting all of the Texaco gas stations into ESSO. This includes gas stations like Husky, Mohawk, Shell, and PetroCan. During this initial phase of expansion, it wasn’t always easy to acquire new clients. The company relied on newspaper ads, and primarily word of mouth; referrals from existing clients were often the best way to spread the word about their company and expand the business.
For the first 40 or so years, their signs consisted of mainly fluorescent and old halogen lit signage. They worked on canopy, pylon, and building signage. It wasn’t until 2007/2008 that LED lights began to make an appearance, and they eventually became the predominant method for lighting up their creative pieces. Before computer technology reached the point it’s at today, PM signs relied on a lot of hard work by employees, as they had to hand draw the stencils, hand paint the signs, and hand cut the vinyl. They had to work with actual blueprints instead of digital plans, and they used a heat transfer machine to add graphics.
When taking a look at the company as it is today, it seems entirely insufficient to say it has come a long way. From newspaper ads and word of mouth, PM signs now has Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn accounts. They have also updated their website three times to expand their content and improve the user experience. From one or two sign types that started the company off on the right foot, there are now over 50 sign types that are each unique and applicable in different environments. From marketing to petroleum and oil/gas companies, PM Signs now sells to a staggering twenty different sectors of business. The end users include sophisticated sectors like property developers, marketing companies, national brand names, and logo and brand developers, and extends into general contractors, landscapers, and mom and pop shops. No matter how large or small the business, the reach of PM Signs cannot be ignored.
Their clientele, marketing, and production abilities are not the only changes that the company has seen. The company structure has also experienced a remarkable amount of growth. From a single location, there are now four. They are selling across the country, and are even installing other people’s products coming from the United States and Canada’s eastern provinces. PM Signs has grown to 100 employees, and they are proud to offer a massive fleet to their clients. Around Alberta and Saskatchewan, Pm Signs is included in every project discussion by invitation, an incredible honor and true representation of their success. Today, they are even able to offer the public a chance to visit their facilities to see their sign being built, and have a look at examples of the material they use to create their masterpieces.
Of course, growing a company to such an extent is not an easy task, and it took a lot of dedication and hard work from the founders to reach the success they have experienced. Even in the darkest days, they had things to look forward to each day at work. Their favorite aspect of the business, for them, is seeing the bright illuminated signage on a building right after installation. With a wide selection of colors, font styles, and materials, each sign is unique in its creation and can spark joy in the people who designed and crafted it.
The customers are another dominant aspect of the business that made the struggles worth it. The diversity of clients, projects, and day to day tasks was always a favorite component of Poul and Solveig’s work. No two clients are ever the same. Some will reach out to the company with a concrete vision in mind, and others rely on their expertise to invent their vision and help the client decide on an appropriate budget. Since every day working to build this company looked different, there was always excitement and a level of unwaning interest to keep the founders dedicated to the company and feeling positive.
In a company this size, there is always going to be discussion about future expansion, whether that be growing the team, offering new products, or continuing to develop their market and location selection. The founders are certainly interested in growing their team, as they have an invested interest in building their sales team. This would allow the company to focus on more areas of signage needs, including interior signage, wayfinding, braille, traffic signs, and even wide format printing.
Expanding their representation is different markets is also of high importance to the two founders. Their predominant interests lie in expanding out towards Canada’s western provinces, beginning with a location in British Columbia. There is also the thought of expanding east to gain a foothold in the Ontario market. There is a lot of untapped potential in other regions of Canada, and PM Signs could easily dominate there as well.
In the 40+ years this company has been operating, they have made friendships with clients, cemented their expertise, and produced countless numbers of high quality, reliable signage across the country. Through every hardship and every accomplishment, the founders have continued to believe in themselves, their work, and their customers. The company you see today is a product of their hard work and commitment to bettering what they can offer to the people that matter, the clients. They hope the company can continue to do so for the next 40+ years, too.