Wednesday, July 22, 2015

My LED Sign won't work - HELP!

-Deacon Wardlow
So you purchased an LED Sign from XYZ "manufacturer" online. Maybe they had a salesperson in the area who sold you on the system - maybe they were the lowest price or seemed to have a great system. Whatever the reason, you sold it and now (when there's a problem) that company is gone like the wind... What do you do?

We're all too familiar with this scenario. I got into the LED sign side of Digital Signage because people kept asking for my help with systems (both domestic and off-shore/Chinese displays) and I quickly learned there's not a lot of support out there. International trade and a lack of standardization in the LED Sign industry have left a HUGE GAPING HOLE allowing for easy entry to market. Anyone with 5 minutes and access to a web search engine can find off-shore companies willing to (cheaply) white-label product shipped to the USA and suddenly there's a new LED Sign company in the market.

If you're looking at this article, chances are you've taken that leap and landed in a hole. If you haven't yet purchased from a company selling (or reselling) off-shore product... take these words seriously - Check our articles on buying offshore vs. Domestic. I'm biased and would rather you bought from one of our LED Sign manufacturing partners, but really anyone domestic is likely going to be better than buying product sourced from a manufacturer outside of the USA. I know there are many of you who are out of the USA/North America and yes we do cost more than the Asian options... but you really get what you're paying for with technology in this industry. Word to the wise - CHECK - RE-CHECK - and Triple-Check your potential source for LED Sign Systems... Now, let's help you out.

First - checkout the previous blogs on troubleshooting and support I and Scott have put out there:

More often than not, issues are fairly simple and can be quickly resolved without too much outside assistance. Back in the day, I needed to lean on translating A LOT of Chinese documentation and finding sources for parts - this isn't as big an issue these days. The increased amount of people buying direct from China/Korea/Taiwan (and companies buying from "manufacturers" who resell Chinese/other product) has spawned a backstage support industry as many of the reseller companies quickly disappear after a few years of opening their doors, leaving both end-users and sign companies to fend for themselves for any support and/or repairs required.

If you're stuck with a "black box" (dead LED Screen) - try some of these tips and hopefully it'll help you out.

1. Have the client clear their existing schedule - create a new message (has to be new content - just a simple 'TEST" text message) and send it to the display. If it shows, it may be the content just timed out or there's some bad content in the system. 
2. If the display is working (showing TEST) then have the client redo their content as a message may have become corrupted or have a messed up asset (image/video/etc.).

Check the cable connecting the sign and/or computer to the network (or eachother if directly connected). It's possible a cable is damaged/misconnected - a radio isn't receiving power, or something got damaged causing the display to no longer communicate.

Power Issue
1. Sounds silly - but simple steps are often best to try first - turn off the power to the system, count to 30 and turn it on again. Sometimes there's a fault in the controller or the boards, or power and rebooting the system may (temporarily) clear the error.
2. Check the source power - is the system receiving a steady 120V (or 240V - whatever source power is)? If the voltage in is less than 110 - there may be a feed problem. This would have been noticed earlier with the sign "flickering" or going out at peak usage times (morning/afternoon/evening).
3. Check the power supply (PS) - most power supplies have an LED indicator which should be on. If the indicator is off or not visible, a quick check with a multimeter should show the PS is operational and what it's outputting for power.
4. Check the leads/connections on the power supplies to the controller and the main control boards in the system. Make sure the connections are clean (not rusted/oxidized) and if there's a connecting plug - unplug and re-plug it is to make sure the connections are secure.

Controller Problem
1. Check the control system. Start with the controller (it's either a small black box (PC) or a small black box (control card with power supply using an embedded control system). Disconnect power and reconnect. Check to see if the display "blinks" when reconnected and shows anything. If it (at least) blinks... that's a good sign.
2. Check the connections from the controller to the DVI/Video card (this will be a card connected to the controller with a video cable (likely DVI/VGA computer cable). It should have some small LED indicators - if so, is there a constant lit one and a blinking one? This means there's power and signal. If there's no indicator - move to the next card.
3. Check the next card (logic board aka distribution board aka hub card) - this should have a power LED (constantly lit) and a signal LED (blinking). If you have power, but no blinking - there's no signal and there's a problem with either the controller or the video card. If you have power and blinking (signal) - check the connections to the LED modules and check power to the LED modules. If there's no power or blinking - go back to the PS (Power Supply) and check it.

Note all posts - thoughts - writings- etc. are strictly the viewpoint of me and me alone and do not reflect nor speak for Vantage LED’s beliefs, attitudes, thoughts, etc. unless specifically noted. Direct emails can be sent to for queries and/or assistance.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The myth of the Instant Success

-Deacon Wardlow
I was recently having coffee with some entrepreneurs in Boulder, CO and the topic of "gazelle companies" came up. These are companies who increase their revenue by about 20% every year (doubling in sales/scope every 4-5 years).

There's a myth of "instant success" out there. People hear about an app company being bought for a billion dollars, companies which are competing in the same industry as you "magically" grow their sales to three or four times your level and yet they have the same (or smaller) sized business. What's the "secret sauce" or magic mix involved? The answer is simple: hard work, persistence, creativity, and determination.

The companies I work with who are the most successful are also the most active. They play the numbers game. These companies fill their sales funnel to overflowing acknowledging they may only close on 10 opportunities out of 100 - they opt to quote 1,000+ opportunities. When they can't quote as much, they look at what they're quoting and remove the obstacles for the client to buy their product or service - they take a hard look at why they lose opportunities and fill the holes so the next one wins.

The successful companies are out there, in front of customers as much as they can be. If they're local - they hit the local market so hard every client in a 50 mile radius knows their name, their product/service, and who to call. If they're national you'll note they're heavily marketing online, active in social media, and hitting every tradeshow and event they can to get in front of national clients.

An "overnight" success is rarely anything but. If you feel your business is in a slump and you're confident you could be better - push back to the companies you work with. Don't let vendors just provide product - they should be actively helping you with marketing, sales resources/tools, digital assets for your websites, and partner with you on tradeshows. If your vendor doesn't step up as a partner, take a look around and find someone who will help you grow. Their success is (ultimately) tied to yours. Don't settle for a vendor when you can have a partner.

In business - the market doesn't reward laziness nor will clients come beating down your doors if they don't know where you are. The harder you push and strive, the more you'll see those efforts rewarded. Perhaps you won't win every deal - but the more you're out there - the more deals will ultimately come your way and you to can be an "overnight success" that leaves the competition scratching their heads at how they can stay in business against you.

Note all posts - thoughts - writings- etc. are strictly the viewpoint of me and me alone and do not reflect nor speak for Vantage LED’s beliefs, attitudes, thoughts, etc. unless specifically noted. Direct emails can be sent to for queries and/or assistance.