Category Archives: Business Essentials

All things have a cost. Pay with your money or your time

We get a call or two a week from potential clients that are very focused on solely on price. There’s nothing wrong with that, as when I shop for some items, I am very price-conscious.

Often the conversation will come to a close when we give a ballpark cost for something, a website, for example, and the person says, “that’s too much. My budget is $500.” Realizing that is way too low for a custom website—the kind we do—I’ll try to give the person a few options, usually an online template-based website. With these, the buyer chooses a template design and puts his or her information in it. Instead of paying us for a custom design, he will spend his time trying to make a template work.

I’ll then often hear, “well, I’ve tried that, but I couldn’t get it the way I want it.” or “I’ve spent a lot of time trying to do this, and it didn’t look good.” I’ll sometimes hear, “I don’t have time for that.”

You can either pay for your project with your money or your time. If you don’t want to pay someone to do your project, you pay with your time when you do it yourself.

time or money?

When you hire Kona Impact for your project, you are giving your money for our time and expertise.

When you are do-it-yourself, you are using your time to complete a project and, in the best of all possible worlds, you are using your expertise. If you have no experience or skills in what you are doing, you will pay again by having low quality or having higher time cost to develop expertise.

The lack of expertise or experience with a design or sign-making project is, based on our experience, the reason why do-it-yourself projects usually fail. We’ve spent thousands of hours doing what we do, so we are knowledgeable and very efficient; whereas someone trying to make his own website is starting with no skills or experience. It’s a long way from beginner to competent.

There is no way to change this fundamental equation: everything has a cost, it’s how you pay for it.

One way to look at this issue is to consider how much you value your time. If you work for someone else, that value is basically what you get paid per hour. Also, consider how much your non-work time is worth. How much is the time not spent with family and friends worth? How much is the day at the beach worth? If the value of your time is low, it might be a good idea to spend your time, instead of money, on your project. Nothing wrong with that.

Another consideration is that Kona Impact will get your project done faster, so what might take you three hours to do, might only take us an hour.

If the value of your time is high, this is when it makes sense to outsource the tasks for which you have few skills or little time.

Kona Impact has helped hundreds of businesses over the past ten years. We are proud of the work we have done, and enjoy helping entrepreneurs reach their goals.

Kona Impact | 329-6077

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How to Get Good Data for your Big Island Business

I was  having a chat the other day with a guy about the 2016 elections. It was clear he was a fervent supporter of one candidate, and he was sure this person was going to get his party’s nomination. I told him that he would have to get well over 100% of the remaining votes to get enough delegates to be nominated, a numerical impossibility. He replied, “Well those are just the numbers. I still think he has a chance.” At which point, I realized that his sincere beliefs in the candidate had short-circuited his logic skills. Just because he believed it was true, didn’t make it true!

As a business owner and person who has helped hundreds of business grow, I like to stick with the facts. Numbers, if they are properly obtained and calculated, don’t lie. Interpretations may be different but always start with the facts.

hawaii county data sources

There are some excellent sources of data for business owners. Here are four of my favorite sources:

Hawaii County Data Book 2015 

This is an excellent source of data about the Hawaii Island, from schools and population to trends in visitors and economic activity. For example, July has the highest number of domestic visitors, and January is the peak for international travelers. At the very least, a business in the tourism sector would know what to expect regarding visitors, and, would also know the best times to take a vacation or schedule repairs.

If you are thinking about your child’s education, there is a plethora of data on where you might want to live. For example, 20% of Kealakehe students do not graduate from high school, but if you go south to Konawaena, that number drops to 11.6%, and the Kohala area has about a 5% high school dropout rate. Interpret how you like, but the data is there for you to find. There is also a lot of information about the enrollment, characteristics and costs of the private schools.

State of Hawaii Data Book 

The State of Hawaii Data Book covers all the topics that the Hawaii County Data Book does and have additional sections on Defense, Human Services, Interstate Commerce and others. This is focused on statewide data.

Native Hawaiian Data Book

If you are interested in data on Native Hawaiians, the Native Hawaiian Data Books is an excellent source.

Hawaii Public Library Online Databases

One of my favorite sources of data is the State of Hawaii Library website. There are databases on grants, business, military, government and much more. Best of all, you can access each of them from your home computer at no cost.

I’m a big believer in getting accurate information and then figuring out what it means. Intuition, anecdotal stories and educated guesses all have a place, but when the numbers are there, I like to start with them.

Happy data hunting!

Kona Impact | 329-6077

Signs in Kona, Hawaii: Three Important Considerations

Kona Impact has made hundreds of signs for businesses and individuals in Kona, Hawaii. This includes banners, real estate signs, window graphics, vehicle graphics and building signs. We have made so many signs, it’s hard to go very far in Kona without going past a sign we’ve made.

The main challenge for signs in Kona is the environment. We are close (30 miles) from the Southern-most place in the United States, so we get abundant sunshine, and with that the deleterious effects of ultra-violet rays. With the sun also comes heat. Add to that salty air (by the ocean), humid air (upslope) and the winds due to the differential temperatures of the ocean and mountain. It’s a wonderful place to live, but cars, houses, our skin, and, yes, signs are exposed to difficult conditions.

Here are three basic considerations for signs in Kona, Hawaii.

  1. Temporary or semi-permanent? Nothing is permanent, so we like to divide signs into temporary—a year or so—and long-term (up to 10 years). Banners are great for temporary signage, as they are easy to put up and take down. You don’t need a lot of space to store them, and they are low-cost. Printed signs with a UV laminate on an aluminum or PVC substrate can, depending on location, last up to 10 years. Indoor signs will last much longer.
  2. Substrate. A substrate is the material on which a printed or cut piece of vinyl is placed. It’s the sign backing material. Wood is a horrible choice, as it’s water permeable, will expand and contract with the weather, and is susceptible to rot and termites. Aluminum is great if you are going to use a standard pre-cut size, but it can be very costly in irregular sizes. PVC is a good choice if the sizes are irregular, as it is relatively easy to cut.
  3. Contrast. Signs are all about being seen. Contrasting letters and background are how we do that. A white background with black lettering is high contrast, as is black on yellow, dark colors with white text and dark colors on light backgrounds. The potential for fading should also be considered. If the sign is going to be South-facing, go with a white background and dark text, if possible. Avoid pastels, light yellows, baby blues and gradients if you are looking for a longer-lasting sign.

The three basic considerations should be your starting point when working with a company in Hawaii like Kona Impact. Cost is always an issue, as is the actual design of the sign. At Kona Impact, we recommend businesses take measurements of their space and begin the conversation with us. We cannot give price quotes without understanding the size, materials and design expectations of the client, but when we do, we are happy to provide free, no hassle price quotes.

Kona Impact prints to paper, banner material, regular vinyl and perforated vinyl. Stickers and labels are made with printed or cut vinyl. We make vehicle graphics, vehicle magnets, real estate signs, window graphics and in-store displays. Give us a call at 808-329-6077.

Just Once: The Value of Trying Something New

How often do we do the same behaviors day in and day out? Do we take the same route to work? Do we do the same tasks in the same order ever day? Do we the same marketing activities year after year?

Of course we do! People are creatures of habit, and it is these habits, if perfected over time, that help us become productive and focused. Imagine having to do everything different for a day? It would be chaos.

What I have been trying to do the past several months is do something, one thing, that I have never done each week. It might be something as mundane as trying a food I’ve never had before, or it might be a more transformative experience.

About two months ago I joined the cast of “Inherit the Wind” at the Aloha Theater. In 47 years I had never felt the desire to act on stage. I was very comfortable seeing nearly every Aloha Performing Arts Company production over the years, when we traveled, we always tried to make theater part of our itinerary.

In the six weeks of rehearsals and three weeks of shows, I experienced a lot. I was not in my comfort zone until opening nights, so it was a challenge for me to figure out what I should be doing Demolition 2016 movie now

By stepping outside of my everyday routine, I was able to learn the following:

  1. The value of following instead of leading. As a company owner, all responsibility falls on me. I set the tone, plan the projects and guide the employees. As an actor (and not even a very important one to the play), I was able to observe how our director, producer, set designer, set builders and other in the play manage and coordinate others.
  2. The value of being unimportant. I don’t mean this in a bad way, but it was great to spend six weeks being, perhaps, the least important person on the stage. I enjoyed the time I spent watching others—the director, main characters—do the heavy lifting.
  3. The value of systems. Theater productions have definite stages: cold reading, blocking (movement), off-book (no script), dress rehearsal and daily “notes”. This iterative process, which told us what to focus on when was a good reminder that you need to break down tasks and focus on each element at a time.
  4. The value of feedback. A play has a lot of moving parts and a lot of egos. Some of the actors were doing their first play and others had been parts of numerous productions prior to ours. The director, of course, gave the most feedback, but every day there was subtle, and not so subtle coaching by the actors to the actors. The overwhelming majority of the comments were constructive.
  5. The value of being part of something bigger than yourself. It’s easy to live our lives in silos: work, family and friends. Becoming part of a play helped me to see how twenty-some people, working together, supporting each other could make for a show that was seen  and enjoyed by nearly 1,000 people.

My call to action is not to encourage everyone to try out for a theater production; instead, it is to encourage readers to try something new, something completely different.

Whether it is stand-up paddle boarding, dance lessons, visiting a church from a different faith, sign waving for a candidate you support or something else. It does not matter: try something new. Commit to doing it once!

UPDATE Ten Bold and Not So Bold Predictions for Kona, Hawaii

I reviewed a blog I had written at the beginning of the year—four months ago.Watch movie online The Transporter Refueled (2015)

Here is an update on my ten predictions for Kona, Hawaii 2016.

  1. Undersupply of affordable home: No progress
  2. Homelessness an issue with no progress: No progress
  3. Marijuana use with increase significantly: No licenses for dispensaries have been issued, so no change in availability. Sales will start in mid- to late July.
  4. NextEra purchase of Hawaiian Electric will not go through: Uncertain at this time
  5. The TMT will find a new home: They are looking elsewhere and the longer the State and DLNR drag their heals, the more likely we’ll see the TMT leave. Sad.
  6. High technology and innovative business will not see Hawaii as a place to invest: Unknown
  7. Mayor Kenoi will face criminal charges and no government ethics movement: Yes, filed in March; no change in ethics laws.
  8. New Ironman owner will test Kona’s commitment: Wrong, so far. The Ironman Foundation graciously gave $25,000 to the Queen’s Lei hiking/walking trail. Way to go Ironman!
  9. Queen K widening will continue: Yes! No major stoppages so far!
  10. County, State, and Federal agencies will offer poor solutions and responses to outbreaks and pests. I certainly got this wrong about the State’s response to the Dengue fever outbreak. While slow to get going, I was impressed by the door-to-door response. A response team visited my office (in an area with no mosquitoes) and my home (where there are mosquitoes). Well done!

I was wrong about a few things—Dengue fever response by the State, and, perhaps Ironman. I was right about our mayor’s indictment, the Queen K widening (so far) and I suspect that I will be right about Hawaiian Electric and the TMT, though in my heart I believe both are these can be good for Hawaii.

The big issues moving into summer and fall will, of course, be the elections. We’ll have a new major and a new U.S. president, with most of the other offices seeing no change. Would I like to predict the outcome of these? Nope!

Maintaining Civility in Business: Agreeing to Disagree

I was hanging out with four business owners the other day, just sitting on a lanai and sharing thoughts about the challenges of doing business in Hawaii. One topic we discussed was clients and customers with whom we have conflict.

We all readily admitted that our employees and we do make mistakes and it our responsibility to remedy those situations quickly.

We then discussed what we do with clients with whom we have significant and what appear to be intractable issues. We all agreed that the adage that the “customer is always right” is an over-simplistic and often misguided way to deal with customer service issues. It might work in a fast food restaurant, but it not a great policy for more complex situations.

Dialogue is important, and it can almost always result in a satisfactory resolution. That said if you find yourself saying the same thing over and over and you hear the customer saying the same thing over and over, you have reached a point of impasse.


At Kona Impact, we have a simple way of dealing with the clients that we have reached a point where further talk is not productive.

Here’s what we do:

  1. Maintain civility at all times. No name calling or threats. Just focus on the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. No need to get personal. It is, after all, only business.
  2. Seek a constructive end. If there is a way to split the differences (even if we take a loss), we’ll take it.
  3. Follow the law, even if the client doesn’t. We have MBA coursework on business law and have a very good understand of contract law. Unfortunately, many novice entrepreneurs lack this understanding. A client disregarding contract law does not make it right for us to do the same.
  4. Keep a naughty and nice list—just like Santa. Kona Impact has a list of five past clients that are to be denied services or products. These past clients have been egregious in their conduct, and we see no value in helping them in the future. One very well-known restaurateur we know in Kona said his life and business got much better when he told a handful of curmudgeons they should find a new place to eat. You have no legal, moral or ethical responsibility to keep bad clients or customers.
  5. No retaliation! We find fake and disingenuous online reviews to be very distasteful (and probably libelous). We do not want to feel better by trying to bring someone or their business down. If a client does us bad, we need to move on, not look back and behave professionally.
  6. Move on. There is no need to dwell on what was. Business is about creating a future.

We accept that we can see the same thing and disagree with a client about the outcome and meaning. Just as much as we feel we are right, our client probably feels the same way, with equal fervor. We do not have to have the client see our point of view, and he or she is welcome to disagree. That’s fine. That life.

We like to say: “We disagree. We accept that you disagree, too. That doesn’t mean we need to be disagreeable.” Simple. Civil. Forward-looking.

Kona Impact | 329-6077


Five Reasons Businesses in Hawaii is Do Poorly

Kona Impact works with hundreds of businesses a year and has worked with thousands of businesses since its inception ten years ago. We have seen tremendous successes, some moderate successes and, of course, several failures. In this blog we love to share our observations how to create and grow sustainable businesses in Hawaii. Here are some of our observations why businesses do poorly in Hawaii.


  1. Bad cost assumptions. Rent, fuel, shipping, materials, labor, taxes and regulatory compliance are higher in Hawaii than almost all locations in the U.S. When you start a business in Hawaii, gather all your anticipated costs, multiple by 20-30% and you might be close. Failure to understand costs dooms a lot of businesses, as costs are the most salient and direct input into what you will charge your customers.
  2. Mainland concepts. Just because an idea is popular on the Mainland, does not necessarily mean it will be so in Hawaii. Our work and leisure habits are certainly different. We typically see multi-generational households, and many of our communities can be quite insular. We tend to drive much less (except commuters on Oahu), and our culinary preferences are very eclectic.
  3. Lack of community integration. Whenever a new business opens in Kona, people talk. Whose business is that? Do you know him/her? Have you been there? We call this the “coconut wireless,” which basically means that a lot of business comes from referrals from acquaintances. Joining a paddling club, theater production, sports team, service club, business networking club or faith community helps to foster connections. These connections are essential to getting your business known.
  4. No marketing plan. “Build it and they will come” is the worst business strategy ever. At the very least, you need a solid website and coherent set of graphics for your business. Add to that signage on your business and vehicles, some online advertising and perhaps print, radio or television advertising. Without a solid plan, you are doomed to failure. Work with professionals for this, as they are many aspects of marketing have emerged in the past 5-10 years that can be game changers for companies.
  5. Lack of effort. I find myself working many Saturdays, and almost without exception, I see three other cars in an otherwise empty parking lot: the owners of the three businesses adjacent to mine. They are there because they love what they do, but they also know that being successful at business requires working harder and smarter than your competitors. If you don’t want to work night and day, work for someone else. It’s much easier!

We always tell new clients that if we had everything figured out we’d be sipping margaritas on our yacht. We don’t. We do know, however, that business success is tough, though not unattainable. Hard work, good ideas, solid planning and a bit of luck are all part of the equation.

Kona Impact | 808-329-6077

One Day Banners in Kailua-Kona? Yes, we can!

We had a new client come in the other day and asked us about the turnaround time on our banners. We answered that it takes one or two days to have them in hand after design approval. She then told us that she went to one place in Hilo, where she lives, and two places in Kailua-Kona and they all had one-week turnaround. She needed the banner in two days.

Here’s why the turnaround time is different between Kona Impact and other providers.

At Kona Impact, we do a few things that allow us one-day turnaround on many sign projects:trailer movie Race 2016

  1. We make all of our banners here, with our in-house printers.
  2. We carry a huge amount of inventory, which means we seldom have to wait for supplies.
  3. We do all the maintenance on our machines, so we seldom have down time.
  4. We have staggered shifts, which means someone is usually here around 7 am (though we’re not officially open) and, if needed, we have people who will stay late into the evening to get the project done. We can print 12 hours a day (or more)!
  5. We also have a graphic designer on staff, so you can work interactively and quickly to get your design done.

The places you see with one-week turnaround are most likely brokering your banner, which means they send the project off-island, wait for it to return, and charge you a markup on their cost. There are three downsides to this: 1) most of the money you spend leaves the island and does not support the local economy, 2) you have to wait at least a week, and 3) if there are quality issues, you have to wait another week to get a new banner, or you just take what you can get.

In the past month we have printed over 600 sq ft of banners, 450 sq ft of foam core and over 75 sq ft of signage—all with a turnaround time of a few days, and in the case of a company that needed 72 sq ft of labels, contour cut, we completed the job in six hours, saving the business hundreds of dollars in rush fees, shipping costs, and travel.

Kona Impact provides banners, foam core, building signs, vehicle graphics, cut vinyl, store graphics (and more) to Kailua-Kona, Waikoloa, Waimea, Keauhou and other communities on Hawaii Island. Give us a call at 808-329-6077 for you wide format and sign printing needs!

Kona Impact

kona impact sign making inventory

Short-Run Labels: Kona Impact Saves the Day!

New employees of one of our clients came to us about 24 hours ago. They have a manufactured product that needed to be labelled in Honolulu 12 hours from when I write this. The labels need to be at the airport to be overnighted, so the whole turnaround times needed to be about a day. We received the final files at noon today, so the turnaround time had to be less than six hours.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

The had two plans: 1) hope that they could get same-day printing on the Mainland and hope (perhaps pray) that the Mainland printer could get everything to Honolulu overnight. There are too many variables, and many places for this plan to fail; 2) Plan B was to have things printed by us and hop a plan to Honolulu to deliver if the turnaround time was too long.

After a few minutes of talking, the conversation changed.

Can you have these done tomorrow? Yes, we said.

What about cutting? We can contour cut. This means we can cut to any shape you have, we said.

What about artwork? Get it to me in the morning and the job will be ready same-day, we replied.

We can even use a thicker vinyl, which will greatly facilitate application, we added.

The light bulbs went off, and everyone took a deep breath and smiled.

It’s now six hours after we received the final artwork, and our client is on his way to our office to pick up several hundred product labels. He gets to go home tonight, instead of spending several hundred dollars for a flight and hotel room in Honolulu, and we get to take some small amount of pride in helping his business.

A few side notes: 1) We did not charge a rush fee and never do. We are honored to have the business, and if we can accommodate a job, we do. 2) We take client confidentiality very seriously, so there is no name, and some non-essential details have been changed.

We specialize in quick turnaround on product labels for local clients. Our capabilities include full-color printing on vinyl, with or without lamination. Labels can be contour cut to any shape.

We serve West Hawaii, with clients from North Kohala to North and South Kona. We are located in Kailua-Kona. Call for your label or sticker design or printing needs: 808-329-6077.

Kona Impact

Ways to Work Effectively with Your Hawaii Sign Provider

We complete approximately 35 sign projects a week. Those 25 sign projects probably come from 20 clients, so it’s fair to say that we deal with a lot of people and projects every week. The overwhelming majority are stress-free. Some, however, present challenges to our clients and us. After ten years in business, here’s what we’d like to share with people looking for signage with Kona Impact.

hawaii sign company

  1. Plan ahead! We usually complete signs in a few days AFTER design approval. The design stage takes time, and each revision pushes back the completion date of the sign. If you want a banner in your hand on Friday, it’s best to begin the conversation at least a week early. We are happy to do same and next-day turnaround on projects, but that is not always possible.
  2. Know measurements before you call. The variables for a sign project cost are size, materials, design time and production time. It all starts with size, so if you want a price quote on a window graphic, we need to know the size first.
  3. Let us help you with materials decisions. We often have new clients come in and want a sign made of wood covered in printed vinyl. This is a horrible idea, as wood expands, contracts, warps, absorbs water and is not a flat surface. We want your sign to last a long time, and your substrate (the backing material) is a key element, so talk to us about aluminum, PVC or glass.
  4. To be installed or to self-install? Some of our materials like see-through window coverings are very forgiving for self-installation. Others, like cut vinyl or traditional printed and laminated vinyl are much harder to self-install. We are happy to let you self-install, but our experience tells us that self-installation seldom results in a professional-looking sign.
  5. Temporary or semi-permanent. We like to say there are no permanent signs…anywhere! If you want to save some money consider lesser quality materials like coroplast (corrugated plastic) or even foam core for interior signage. Banners are inexpensive and make a good temporary sign. That said, if you are planning on using the sign for months or years, consider going for higher quality and longer lasting materials.
  6. Respect the designer’s time and judgment. No business can survive on an all-you-want model for design time. The Kona Impact sign designers have been doing this for years, and we are good at making things look good. Excessive nit-picking and changes on changes are often counter-productive.
  7. Ask for a price quote. At Kona Impact we have a pricing sheet for signs and are happy to give you a price quote. We don’t like surprises, and we are certain our clients do not either!
  8. Tell friends if you are happy with your sign; tell us if you are not. We really want our customers to be satisfied with the results, and if not, we want the opportunity to make it right.

Kona Impact is a sign shop located in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. We work with clients for South Point to Hawi and Hilo to Kona. We make the following: real estate signs, banners, vehicle graphics/lettering, store displays, a-frames, building signs and much more! Give us a call at 329-6077 to discuss your sign project.

  Kona Impact | 329-6077