THE BALANCING ACT: Derek Herndon, Owner of Arcadia Signarama



Fine Art by Michelle Micalizzi
(All Rights Reserved)

My muse this week is Derek Herndon. Derek owns Arcadia Signarama.


Derek is another one of the Fearless 13 warriors who started their business in 2007. The irony is that although he knew that it was time to leave his company and make a change he could not have planned for the recession, which actually ended up being a big piece of his successes story. You can read more about that in the five take always outlined later in this blog!

Naj Kayyem introduced me to Derek about a year ago. He’s a great man and it’s very exciting to see his business growing. Derek is another EO Accelerator along with three other of the Fearless 13 this year; Naj, Danielle Feroleto and James Nickles.   I am impressed with all of them because they are so open to feedback and as a result are growing like wild fire.

The three biggest things that impress me the most about Derek are:

  1. His sustainable yet brave approach to growth.
  2. His work ethic and good nature.
  3. How he leads both his business, his family and his marriage with his faith.

In a Nutshell….

Derek takes his responsibility as an employer, a father, a husband, and a community member very seriously. He is very aware that he and the success of Signarama are responsible for ten souls; his wife, his four sons, their five employees, and they are in return responsible for their families. On a very deep level, Derek understands that each sign he creates for a new business owner is directly related to revenue generation. As a family business man himself he understands that those dollars are not just numbers on a balance sheet, they are food on the table for the families he serves. I have designed and hung a few signs for my businesses and it is a big investment early in the venture setup. It is something that you have to do and when done right, it really can do great things for your business. A poorly designed or unreadable sign is a bad thing!


Derek took a few minutes out to answer the five Art of Fearlessly Doing Business Questions.


1,) Restructuring is GOOD

Derek had been with the same company in corporate America for eighteen years. Additionally, he started with the company when he was nineteen and by age thirty-seven, he was a valued employee with the paycheck and benefits to prove it. Regardless of this success, Derek clearly realized that he knew that it was time to move on. He and his wife were praying for guidance when he got the news that he was being laid off by his company. The management did not want to lose him – but to Derek this was, shall we say, his sign (pun intended) that even though he was not sure what was next, he was ready for the next chapter.

2.) Ignorance is Bliss

Derek admits that he could not comprehend what would happen to him and his family when he became a small business owner. He humbly admits that he is glad he did not know what was about to happen to him because if he knew the 24/7 work week and the stress that comes with being a business owner, he may not have made the decision that lead him to the business that he absolutely adores. He also did not know how bad the economy was going to get and how that would affect his business. Nor did he know that commercial properties would reach a 50% occupancy rate at the time when his business relied on new businesses opening up!

3.) Nothing is Unfortunate

Who welcomes a lay off? Who could have predicted how bad the economy would get? Derek was given two years severance and it was a really, really good thing because he did not earn a salary for two years. By the way, that makes him a genuine entrepreneur. He literally worked for free for two whole years getting his business off the ground in one of the worst economic environments ever for a small business owner. Really, think about that. He could have chickened out and gone to work for someone else and just hung on to that cash. Instead, what he did was work harder. He and his wife just doubled up on their prayers and had faith that God would work it all out for them and their four boys. It is a special experience to now chuckle with Derek as he tells me how he admires his business sign handiwork as he drives around town, compared to when he used to be made fun of for admiring the signs that he designed! Now his children get to brag about their handiwork too!

4.) Fear is Self-Imposed

Derek has a couple favorite, very wise sentiments that he often reflect on, “Fear is not fact. It is just a feeling.” and “Fear is learned. It is self-imposed.” He knows from experience that he can tell himself something that is not true. In an email conversation after the interview, Derek mentioned to me something that he learned this year.   His mother had a successful business while he was growing up where she employed several hundred employees. The business ultimately outgrew her and then failed. His Mother always felt that the business failed because it grew too quickly. Sustainable growth is something that one must look to achieve but if we internalize the lesson too much we can “learn” to fear rapid growth. It is important to look at what one could have done differently but not to get stuck there. We must use the lessons we learn to grow, not stay stuck. When asked by a fellow EO member why he was growing slowly, Derek realized that he had internalized his Mother’s learned fear, a fear that had no validity for who he truly was and where he wanted to take his company. Derek is committed to blowing his growth target out of water this year because he realizes that only he stands in his own way now. I say ATTA BOY Derek and GO get ’em!

5.) The Balancing Act

There is always a struggle for small business owners to balance the hours in the day so that everyone is taken care of. Your marriage, your children, friends, employees, customers, organizational memberships, your health are all simultaneously battling for your time. It is not easy to keep all the plates spinning in the air and it is a constant struggle . Derek is very aware of how important it is to not let any of the plates fall and he also knows that he cannot focus on just one plate or the others will drop  This is an entrepreneur’s life! Derek embraces it, and every day does his best to reevaluate what he can do to not neglect any of responsibilities and meet everyone’s expectations the best that he can.
Thank you so much Derek for taking the time out to be one of the Fearless 13! I look forward to seeing you again at the Art of Fearlessly Doing Business Art Opening on May 14th at the Walter Gallery from 7-10PM.


Note from the Artist

One man spinning fifteen plates with both hiss hands, one foot and his head. The fifteen plates represent his four boys, his wife, his five employees, his customers, his business, his health, his faith, and one plate for the organizations that he belongs to like EO. The stack of plates on the floor represent an overwhelming amount future prospects, which is in line with Derek’s goals to grow his business this year out of the water. He is dressed somewhat like a jester because at all times he keeps a good uplifted attitude. The light bulb shape to the left is also a door. The door represents new customers walking in the door in part or in total (as walk-in-traffic) due to seeing a Signarama sign.


The Art of Fearlessly Doing Business!

Press Viewing (by invitation only): Friday, May 13 6-8PM
Opening: Saturday, May 14th 7-10PM
Conversation with the Artist: Saturday, May 21 7-9PM
Closing Reception: Thursday, June 9th 6-9PM

 10% Proceeds donated to the Arizona Consortium of the Arts

Walter Art Gallery
6425 East Thomas Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85257


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