An education, by association
Over its first 10 years in business, Mattatall Signs became something of a victim of its own success, with a need for better control over its growth.
“My own focus had been heavily on the trade, but only lightly on administration,” says Mattatall. “I needed to understand more of the facets of running the company. So, I took a series of university and community college business courses, which enabled me to take a more informed approach to our business plans.”
His studies also helped expose him to a vast number of networking opportunities with local business mentors, chambers of commerce and, perhaps most importantly, industry associations, including SAC and the National Electric Sign Association (NESA), the precursors to today’s ISA.
“I spent lots of time at their shows, which helped increase the number of people I could call with my questions,” he explains. “The more you get to know someone, the faster the barriers that exist between you as competitors drop away.”
Inspired by this experience, he sought to break down barriers for other sign companies, too, with the goal of opening up the industry.
“There was a clear opportunity for the sign industry to become much more professional,” he says.
Another of his first tasks was to establish a local presence for SAC, which at the time represented a membership of companies almost wholly located in Southern Ontario. Through inquiries with the association, he found its bylaws would permit the establishment of regional chapters. So, he became instrumental in forming the first of these, representing the Atlantic Provinces.
“Before, we simply didn’t have that kind of industry support here on the East Coast,” he says.
Mattatall served as founding chair of the Atlantic Provinces chapter and held a board seat with SAC from 1990 to 1994. During this stint, he helped develop an ‘umbrella’ organization called the Canadian Sign Council, which combined SAC, the Atlantic Provinces chapter and the previously independent sign associations for British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec, creating a truly national organization for the first time. The primary goal was to share information and programming, with senior executives from all of the different regions meeting throughout the year.
Mattatall was president of the Canadian Sign Council from 1992 to 1999 and president of SAC from 1999 to 2003 and from 2006 to 2007. He was also elected to ISA’s board of directors in 2004, where he would ultimately rise to chair in 2016. His involvement with both SAC and ISA helped bring the two organizations closer together.
“SAC had been a regional association within the ISA framework, but member companies had to pay dues to both organizations,” he explains. “In 2010, ISA restructured its membership much as SAC had done in 2000. Today, all of SAC’s Class 1 members enjoy full status within ISA as part of their dues. And both ISA and SAC create programs that are of benefit to the industry.”