Mike Tankersley, 33, was born in Boise and raised on a ranch in Blackfoot. He remembers his grandfather looking out over the ranch and saying to him: “’Someday this will be yours.’ No, it won’t,” Tankersley told his grandfather. “I’m going to college.”
Tankersley entered college at the age of 18, attending the College of Idaho, majoring in political economics and history. “I was going to go to law school,” he says, “instead I started a sign company.” He had an affinity for graphic design and had taught it to himself in high school and in college. “It’s a passion of mine.”
He began working at Kinkos after school and stayed there for two months. Then, with a loan co-signed by his mom, Tankersley started his sign company “out of my garage.” In a couple of years, the company was successful enough that he moved into a space “twice the size of the garage.” Then again to a space three times as large. Today, Tankersley is president of Signs 2 U, and “we’re now in a building 10 times the size of my garage,” he says with a smile. And the size of the staff has also increased. “We started out with one part-time contractor. Now we have nine full-time employees. Business is booming.”
As president of a small company, Tankersley says what he does is “Small Business 101 – you need to do everything and be good at everything or hire somebody who is. My goal is always to find the best and hire them for whatever it is I need them for.”
And, while Tankersley began his company while he was still in college, that was not an impediment. He began his college career in 2001 and graduated in 2012 because I started my business in the middle of my college career. I never stopped going to school,” he says, “but was only able to manage the time for one to two classes per semester.” Finishing his degree was difficult but important to him. “Completing what I had started was crucial,” he says.
While in school, Tankersley also began another long-term relationship that he continues today with the Delta Tau Delta fraternity. Over the years, he has been an advisor, division vice president, and currently serves as Western Pacific Division President, which Tankersley considers one of his greatest personal achievements. “I visit chapters from Washington to California and every state in between,” he says. “I mentor young men, meet with schools and organize volunteers.”
Tankersley says he strongly believes in “the three ts of life: time, talent and treasure. I devote my work life to running a successful sign and graphic design company … I devote my volunteer life to bettering the community that I live in … I am very lucky to have a phenom for a wife (Jessica Pollack, attorney at Hawley Troxell) who believes in working hard just as much as I do.
“I have been very fortunate in my life so far and I believe it is my duty to give back to those who have benefited me … as much as I have received, I will always focus on giving back more.”
For fun, Tankersley tills the soil. “At home we have a pretty good sized garden (2/3 acre), and a tiny garden at Signs 2 U, where we grow tomatoes, oregano and basil.”
He likes “any movie with Quentin Tarantino, fantasy books and Game of Thrones.” He and his wife also enjoy traveling and visit one or two countries every year. “This year, Australia and New Zealand,” he says. His favorite place? “France. No question.”
Tankersley also loves to cook – traditional French cooking. For Mother’s Day he whipped up a five-course tasting menu. “My mom is still the biggest influence in my life.”
Most memorable airplane trip: “We flew on a puddle-jumper to the highest seawater lake in the world. The pilot let us get out on the wings. I tasted it – yep, it was salt water. It was absolutely 100 percent quiet. Silent.”
Edited on July 13 to correct Jessica Pollack’s workplace. She works at Hawley Troxell.