A 25-year career as a successful real estate broker left Steve Siciliano feeling complacent and in need of a new challenge. He found the perfect cure for his restlessness when the owners of JT Signs decided to retire and close the doors of their business for good. Last February, Siciliano purchased the mom-and- pop shop and left his career as a real estate broker behind to forge a new path. His intention was to improve upon a long-standing service and make technology integral to the process, knowing that the industry had not been fully serving the needs of agents at the time.
“I literally walked in my clients’ shoes,” Siciliano says. “I fully understand what they like, what they expect. Even though it seems like a simple thing, signs are pretty important to their clients, the sellers, which makes it important to them.” His teenage son Nicholas handled all the labor until the business gained momentum and Siciliano brought on staff. Ten months later, his company and another small firm were acquired by Lowen Corporation, a major manufacturer of signs and graphics since 1950, to form a new division, Loyal Real Estate Sign Installers, with Siciliano at the helm as general manager. A premier, one-stop shop for real estate sign printing and installation, the company serves clients in both the city of Chicago and its suburbs.
“We had an understanding that smart phones are a way of life, like an extra limb to most real estate agents,” Siciliano says of his relationship with Lowen. “In this industry, there is a desire to make anything more simple and paperless whenever possible. Our smart phone app takes the pain out of ordering via fax, email, or phone. In less than 30 seconds, you can request a sign to be put up or taken down.” In addition, the app allows real estate professionals to easily manage all of the signs throughout their territory. If they prefer, they can also place orders from the company’s web site, www.loyalsigns.com.
Siciliano lives in Western Springs with his wife Cathy, a pharmaceutical specialist, and their three children: Nicholas, 20; Isabella, 18; and Gabrielle, 15. Chicago Agent recently spoke with him about how his long-time career as a real estate broker informs his every move at Loyal Real Estate Sign Installers and makes the sign aspect of real estate sales seamless for his clients.
Chicago Agent: What did you like most about the service you received from the previous owners, that you sought to replicate when you took over the business?
Steve Siciliano: The personal touch that you get with a mom-and-pop shop — I make sure that I am visible and available. I get back to people quickly and have ideas ready for them.
CA: What is unique about your business?
SS: My experience as a broker makes it easy for me to train my installers on what to look for, how to do it right and where to pay particular attention to certain details that most people wouldn’t grasp for a while. For example, you have to realize there are sight lines from two directions. Signs are printed on both sides. You want it visible from any direction in which traffic flows. Sometimes it means placing a sign on an angle for a corner lot or getting creative for a home in a cul-de-sac by installing the sign parallel to the road, rather than perpendicular, since the road is a dead end.
CA: How can new agents benefit from working with you?
SS: I might have ideas for them that they are not aware of because they are new to the industry or have not seen that particular application before, such as placing a sign inside the transom window of a commercial property instead of trying to put it up on a post or on a brick wall.
CA: What qualities do you attribute your success?
SS: What made me successful as an agent will convey here as well. My clients always understood that they will get an A+ effort from me all the time and that I always put their interests first and foremost.
CA: What is the greatest lesson you have learned about the sign installation business?
SS: On the outside, you might think putting up real estate posts and signs is fairly simple and insignificant. But most people would be surprised at how fast paced and fairly urgent this is to the people we serve, the agents whom we deal with directly and ultimately, the sellers.
CA: How has the pandemic impacted your business?
SS: We had a lot of clients putting up signs in the beginning of March for the spring market who were taking them down in the beginning of April, due to fears and restrictions associated with the pandemic. Now that open houses and showings are no longer prohibited, all those signs that went down in April are back up. More buyers are getting out and buying again.
CA: What do you like most about what you do?
SS: The engineer in me likes to build things. Although the service itself is not new, I feel I am building something new, essentially from scratch, since we’re doing it in such a different way than ever before.
CA: What is the best advice anyone ever gave you?
SS: My father always told me to be honest and always do your best. And if you do those things all the time, you will find success, or it will find you.