ONALASKA, Wis. — Having quality employees, customer focus, a strong workplace culture and acquisitions have been key to the growth of the La Crosse Sign Co., which this year changed its name to La Crosse Sign Group in conjunction with its 100th anniversary.
The company designs, manufactures and installs custom signs. It also maintains, repairs and updates signs.
Paul Fuchsel, who with his wife, Abby, owns the business, said making “group” part of the company name makes sense because it now has three locations. The Onalaska-based company purchased Badger Display Sign in Madison in 2010 and purchased Wisco Signs in Eau Claire in 2013. Both locations switched to the La Crosse Sign name.
“We continue to look for more opportunities” to grow through acquisitions, Fuchsel said.
“All of the heavy (sign) manufacturing is done here” in Onalaska, he said.
The company has 65 to 70 employees between its three locations, up from the upper 40s before the two acquisitions.
It had 16 employees when Fuchsel bought the business in 1988 from Charlie Collins.
Fuchsel, 63, was raised on a farm near La Crescent, Minn. He has been in the sign business since 1975, when he went to work for Collins-La Crosse Sign Co.
In 1988, he purchased the on-premise sign part of the company from Collins.
Fuchsel said his sign business had about $750,000 in sales in 1988. Last year, it had more than $10 million in sales.
“I think you have to attribute it to finding the right people, having the right culture and customer focus,” Fuchsel said of the reasons for his company’s growth.
“Part of our success over the years is a realization that it’s not about us, it’s about the customer,” Fuchsel said. “Customers tell us their story, and then we help them share their story through visual marketing.”
“It has a lot to do with how Paul has treated employees,” said Fuchsel’s son-in-law, Joel House, who works at La Crosse Sign Group. “He always has an open-door policy. There’s a lot of transparency there.”
Fuchsel said the fact that he spent six years working for Collins in sign manufacturing and installation, and then seven years in sign sales, has been a big help. Because of that experience, he said, “I’ve done almost all of the things that I’ve asked anyone else to do.”
The company also offers profit sharing to its employees.
La Crosse Sign Group says its mission is to help customers make a statement by using leading technology, quality craftsmanship, superior design, and a team of empowered individuals.
“We’re very community-focused by supporting nonprofits” through donations of money, signs and use of signs, Fuchsel said.
Other family members who work at La Crosse Sign Group include Paul’s daughter, Audra House; his sons Anthony and Ryan and his brother James.
The company traces its history to 1917, when Theodore Schultz established the La Crosse Sign and Advertising Co., focusing on commercial advertising and wall signs.
The business was in downtown La Crosse when Fuchsel bought it, and moved to new facilities in Onalaska in 1993. A 6,000-square-foot addition completed in April at its Onalaska manufacturing plant was its fourth expansion there.
The company has kept up with advancements in technology, Fuchsel said.