Frank Rolfe: How I Made A Million Dollars In The Outdoor Billboard Business




By Frank Rolfe


I started building billboards straight out of college, with no knowledge of what I was doing and not much capital to work with. All I had was the desire to make money and an almost equally powerful fear of failure. Starting from scratch, it took me almost a year to find my first location. And even then, nothing came easy since I had absolutely no idea how to rent the ad space or build the thing. But I “endeavored to persevere”, as Teddy Roosevelt would say, and I was able to stick with a pace of building two billboard faces per month for about 15 straight years. At that point, I had 300 billboard faces, which made me the largest privately owned billboard company in Dallas/Ft. Worth. And I did that despite the fierce competition – there were no less than 60 billboard companies operating in Dallas at that time. Every ground lease and every advertising lease was virtually hand-to-hand combat to obtain.

When I sold to Universal Outdoor of Chicago in 1996, I was suddenly rewarded for all that work in one giant windfall. Not that life had been all that bad up to then – I had paid myself a decent salary for most of that time, and I actually enjoyed the fierce competition (as long as I was winning). Immediately after selling, I got a thrill out of calling the automated account center for Charles Schwab and listening to my account balance – I’d sometimes call it four or five times a day. I had never really had much in my account before, and suddenly having seven digits in there was very exciting…


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