Doug Allan recounts Island Sign’s growth.
By Steve Aust
It’s often been said about living in Hawaii, “When you’re there, you’re there.” Although it’s not likely to spawn a reality show (Tougher in Hawaii wouldn’t sell; who would sympathize with the residents of a tropical paradise?), the 2,000 miles that separate the Aloha State from the California coast often hinders obtaining key goods and services mainlanders take for granted. Therefore, this lack of proximity greatly inflates the cost of operating a business.
But, Hawaii’s charming, somewhat laconic pace and ideal weather provide undeniable appeal. They lured Illinois native Doug Allan there for an education, and, when he needed a professional jump-start, he returned. After years of building his own company, Island Sign, as a one-man operation, Allan has learned the benefits of delegation and the fine art of management. And, as Hawaii celebrates its 50th anniversary – the official milestone occurred on August 21 – and, coincidentally, he celebrates his 50th year, Allan looks forward to using traditional skills and a new business model to grow his business in the future.
Aloha (and aloha)
Simply put, Allan was born under a wandering star. After having graduated from high school in 1977, he briefly matriculated at Northern Illinois University, but soon succumbed to his wanderlust. Two years later, Allan settled near Eugene, OR, where he took a job to build custom, orthotic furniture for a hospital’s treatment facility for handicapped children. Then, Allan spent three years working a tree planter with a tree-planting cooperative. Although he enjoyed the freedom of working outdoors, Allan realized his work didn’t provide ideal long-term career prospects.
“I was living a carefree life, but I was getting to the age where I realized I need some career direction,” he said. “I’d always had an interest in math and art, so architecture seemed like a logical course of study.”
He moved to Hawaii in 1984 to study architecture at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, which served the dual purpose of also fulfilling Allan’s dream to enjoy what he called “America’s final frontier.” After having earned an associate’s degree in architectural drafting there, he worked itinerantly as a draftsman.
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