Billboard Mastery Podcast: Episode 44

Don’t Forget Access

It’s one thing to drive by a billboard, but another thing to actually get to it. When you build a sign or change the ads out it’s imperative that people and equipment have the ability to access it. In this Billboard Mastery podcast we’re going to focus on the many issues of gaining access to build and operate a billboard sign.

Episode 44: Don’t Forget Access Transcript

It's one thing to get a ground lease and a permit to build and operate a billboard sign, but it's a whole other thing to figure out how in the world to gain the access to get there, to build it and service it. This is Frank Rolfe, The Billboard Mastery podcast. We're gonna focus on access. It's an issue that too many people forget and they can often get themselves in trouble over. The first thing you have to know about access is how are you gonna get there to build the sign, assuming you're not buying an existing sign, building the sign is essential. You can get your lease and your permit, but you gotta get that sign up in the air so it can be seen and advertisers will wanna rent it. How do you do that? 

Well, here are some things to watch out for, number one, most properties have gates if you're gonna build something out on raw land somewhere. But is that gate wide enough? Because a lot of your heavy equipment used to build the billboard is wider than a standard vehicle. The cement truck, the augur, the crane, the 18-wheeler, these are all wider than a pick-up truck, yet many people, particularly in agricultural areas, they only build the gate wide enough for a little regular vehicle. You need to figure out the width of that gate, and if that gate can support bigger stuff and you may have to go ahead and rebuild the gate, make the gate wider. Now in agricultural areas, those gates are not super expensive, and or you may be able to enhance the gate long enough to build the sign and then put the gate back like it was. But make sure when you go to build and the equipment shows up, that they can get through the gate or you have a complete fail.

Next, you gotta think through, are there any streams or things that I have to cross over 'cause that big equipment, it can't go down steep hills and back up. If there's some kind of gully that's there for that occasional monsoon, that's not gonna do you any good when you've got that incredibly expensive 20 ton crane coming in, they can't go down and go back up. You have to make sure that you have a path to get to the sign that's relatively flat. Also, is there a road to get to where the sign goes, because if you're in an area where the ground is very, very soft or very, very moist, you won't be able to get the equipment across the field because it will bog down, it'll go up to its axles in mud. So make sure that the area that you're gonna get there is either paved or at least hard enough the equipment can get in.

Also make sure that you've got plenty of room around where the sign goes. You got to have room to unload the materials, whether it's a metal sign or a wooden sign, you're gonna have to unload all the materials to build it, and then you have to have room for digging and cranes to not only dig the hole to put the poles in, but also lift everything up in the air. It's not a small space, this cannot be done in something the size of a residential bedroom. So you've gotta make sure you have enough room for all the components to be sitting there all at the same time, 'cause that's how the signs are built. They don't just come in and drill the hole and come back the next day and bring a piece of column... No, no, no, it's all gonna happen at the same moment, you have to make sure you have plenty of space.

Also, if it's an agricultural area with livestock, make sure you have a plan for the livestock. You cannot be opening up the gate or bringing in equipment, when you got a pile of cows or horses milling around, they could escape, they could get in the way, they could get injured from what you're doing, so make sure you have a plan on that livestock. And beyond that, make sure you have a plan, if it's not agricultural, but commercial land, let's say it's an area where they paint cars, you have to get those cars protected and moved, you can't have the thing, digging machine, throwing dirt, potentially rocks, as it spins to clean the bit and hit cars. So you have to make sure you have all this planned when you're building it.

Also when you're building the sign, you have to look around and say, "How am I going to get power to the sign?" Assuming the sign will be illuminated, which is 99% of the time, how do you get the power there? Do I have to go ahead and get an easement, do I have to run power lines down the thing, do I have to get the wire from where my property owner's wires end now over? It's time to start thinking about that access too. It's a very, very important point. If there's no power lines around where your sign goes, you may not be able to get lights on it. If that's the case, did you budget correctly in what you think the sign can rent for as a non-illuminated sign versus an illuminated? So you have to make sure that you are thinking on power the whole time you're thinking of building the sign. You've gotta be thinking, "How do I get the power here to turn those lights on?"

Finally, once the sign is built, you still have to access it, you still have to get in there to gain access to service the sign. So how do you do that? Well, you're gonna go ahead and get in there and find out, number one, how you're gonna access the gate. Do you have to have a key? Do you have a copy of the key to get in there to get to the gate? Also, what days and times will the property owner let you come in to service it? You gotta know that. If they've got a business in there and they say, "Oh no, you can't come in on this certain day or this certain time," you gotta know that in advance. You don't wanna get them mad. Also, what is the plan once the sign is in to access. Are you gonna use a different gate, maybe the gate you had before that you went in was far, far away from where the sign went, but however that was the only flat way to get there.

Once your servicing signs the pressure's off. Now you're in a normal vehicle, like a pick-up truck, it can go up and down a little bit of angle of a ravine, it can go in areas that aren't quite so firm. So is there a different way you're going to access? And once again, what are you gonna do with livestock if this is in an agricultural area, even a service guy just opening the gate could let a cow out or a horse out, it could be catastrophe. Cow wanders out in the highway, gets hit, you're gonna be in a liability case, not only for the loss of the cow, but whatever damage to the vehicle or the driver. So make sure you have all of that pre-planned.

The bottom line to it all is, access is typically not a problem as long as you plan ahead. Early on in my career when I didn't know any better, I had many occasions where the equipment showed to install the sign, and it was all for naught. We couldn't get anything in, we couldn't get anything done or built. I had grown men screaming at me, what an idiot I was. It was a little bit demeaning. I learned from those experiences. The key is before you even set foot to build the sign, you've got to have the access plan, you have to have an access plan to build it, you have to have to have an access plan to light it, and you also have to have the access plan to service it, that's the only way you won't get yourself in a bind and lead to an unpleasant situation.

This is Frank Rolfe, The Billboard Mastery podcast. I hope you enjoyed this, talk to you again soon.