Business Perseveres & Keeps Faith In Employees


Business Perseveres & Keeps Faith In Employees

Rose Snell relied on employees like Clarissa Elizondo, center, and Christina Duran, far right, to get through tough times in early 2020.
Rose Snell relied on employees like Clarissa Elizondo, center, and Christina Duran, far right, to get through tough times in early 2020.

Rose Snell’s two decades of experience of being a business owner were put to the test in early 2020.

The fears and uncertainties of the time left businesses like Snell’s FASTSIGNS to grasp for answers. Business plummeted at her stores in Harlingen and Brownsville. 

“The phones stopped ringing,” she recalled of that time. “We didn’t know if the business was going to survive.”

It wasn’t long before Snell reached a crossroads. How many of her employees could she keep on? She valued every employee, with many of them working with and for her since she began with her first store in Harlingen in 1998. Keeping all of her employees didn’t make business sense in the present. On the other hand, letting them go and being understaffed when things rebounded would result in huge struggles later on.

“We prayed with our employees and decided in March (2020) that we weren’t going to cut hours,” Snell said. “Then every single day that followed everyone showed up.”

They would do what it took. It’s how Snell described the resolve she shared with her employees. Snell would bank on the competencies and experience of her employees and the cutting-edge technology invested in the business. 

An employee at FASTSIGNS in Harlingen works on signs for a fitness club.
An employee at FASTSIGNS in Harlingen works on signs for a fitness club.

A Change In Direction

The crisis that took the business returned it with the new and changing environment that companies were operating in. Hospitals and clinics were in need of face shields as protective equipment for their staffs. Offices and restaurants needed standing and upright plastic shields to place between workers. They were also in need of protection in public places where customers were back. Social distance signs were needed everywhere. FASTSIGNS could create all of those products. Business ramped up so quickly that “by summer, we were so busy that we didn’t know what to do.”

Sitting in her Harlingen Sunshine Strip office recently, Snell thought of the decision to keep all of her employees and leave staffs intact when there was next to nothing in the immediate aftermath of COVID-19 reaching the Valley. Her business would not be one of those struggling to hire back workers and fill out staffs after letting them go thin.

“It was an amazing decision,” she said of keeping her Harlingen and McAllen staffs whole. 

Snell spoke with pride of the resiliency her employees showed as well as the gratitude she feels toward her customers. 

“We always feel grateful for how the community has supported us,” she said. “Things change, but one thing that has stayed consistent for us are the relationships we’ve built in the community that go beyond technology and doing business.”

School districts are among the biggest customers for Rose Snell's FASTSIGNS stores.
School districts are among the biggest customers for Rose Snell’s FASTSIGNS stores.

Partners In Operating Stores

Having gone through a rough patch, Snell now points with pride to her McAllen store moving to a new location on the busy intersection of 23rd Street and Nolana Avenue. It’s a building her business will own. 

“That’s so huge for us after all these years,” Snell said. “It will be nice to be in our building.”

She and her husband, Rod, live in Harlingen, a city where they moved in the late 1990s. He’s an engineer by training but those jobs were hard to find in that era, so being a tennis pro is what originally brought them to the Valley before Rod secured a job at Lockheed Martin in Harlingen.

In more recent years, he has committed to partnering with his wife in running and operating their two stores. They moved into the McAllen market in 2006. Their biggest customers are hospitals and school districts, with many small businesses turning to their FASTSIGNS stores for the array of services offered beyond sign making. Those services include graphic designs, promotional products, exhibits and displays. FASTSIGNS also advising businesses on compliance with local laws, codes and regulations prior to installation.

Technological advances have taken much of the work done by hand in the 1990s to the faster production and brilliant color designs of the present era. Employee know-how and expertise remains as important as ever as does connecting those services to customers that keeps them coming back to Snell’s stores.

It was all of that and more that was needed in the spring of 2020. Adaptability and competencies came into urgent focus as Snell’s FASTSIGNS became one of those businesses that not only survived, but prospered through economic upheaval. 

“One thing we all have in common is we did something,” she said of companies that got through the difficult times. “We didn’t just sit back. We adapted.”

Ricardo D. Cavazos is a Rio Grande Valley native and journalist who has worked as a reporter, editor and publisher at Texas newspapers. Cavazos formerly worked as a reporter and editorial writer at The Brownsville Herald, Dallas Times Herald, Corpus Christi Caller-Times and San Antonio Light. He served as editor of The Monitor in McAllen from 1991-1998 and from there served for 15 years as publisher at The Herald in Brownsville. Cavazos has been providing content for the Valley Business Report since 2018.