Celebrating 25 years of Franchising
In 1992, Nick Dawes became the very first Signs Express franchisee when he opened his centre in Ipswich. We caught up with Nick on his 25th anniversary of becoming a franchisee to gain some insight into the secrets behind his success.
What attracted you to a signs business?
I first came across the sign franchise concept when I spent some time in Canada and found it instantly appealed to me. It was clear to me how diverse the signs and graphics industry was and continues to be, so I could see how large the market could be back in the UK.
At the time, I was working on large scale roll-outs within the retail industry and was ready for a change in career.
Why Signs Express?
The franchising concept made real sense to me. I’ve always been a real team player and liked the idea of running my own business for myself, but not by myself. A franchise with Signs Express offered me just that.
There were other opportunities within signage, but I never wanted to go down the man in a van style operation that was so common place in the early nineties. As a management franchise, Signs Express offered a professionalism that I liked, along with ongoing training and support, so it seemed like the perfect fit for me.
What training and support did you receive initially and ongoing?
My years in retail gave me a broad range of experience, but there were elements of business, and of course of the industry, that were completely new to me. However, that is the joy of entering in to a franchise as they can offer training and support every step of the way.
With a dedicated UK team at the Franchise Support Centre in Norwich, I received full training and ongoing support around all elements of running a sign business. This was invaluable and set me off to a great start.
Obviously, our support needs have changed as the business has developed over the last 25 years and the staff at the Franchise Support Centre have always been very supportive and flexible in the help they offer myself and my team.
Is there such a thing as a typical day as a franchisee?
For me, the great thing about the sign industry is its diversity. As my business, has grown, so to have the number of staff I now employ. I have an excellent team in place that now boast more than 90 years combined experience in the industry.
Having such a strong team in place means I can focus on key customers and larger projects, splitting my time between site visits and office work whilst keeping an overview of the ongoing daily bread and butter of the business.
What have been your biggest challenges?
We work within a deadline driven, customer focused industry which means the challenges are many and varied! Having been established for 25 years we’ve worked hard to create a solid reputation by offering excellent, consistent service. Thus, we have built a very broad and loyal customer base locally.
How has your life changed since becoming a franchisee?
My life has changed a lot over the years and I can now enjoy the freedom and financial rewards of running my own operation. One of the most rewarding aspects for me is seeing members of my team continue to grow within the business, it fills me with pride.
What advice would you give to someone looking at a franchise?
Firstly, ensure you research your chosen business sector thoroughly and be clear in your own mind about what you are prepared to sacrifice to be a success.
There’s no magic formula beyond ensuring that you join an established franchise with a proven business model, in an industry you enjoy. You must be prepared to work your socks off to make it successful.
Likewise, I don’t think there is a recipe for the perfect franchisee, you just need to be credible, hardworking, prepared to follow a proven system and do whatever it takes to keep customers happy and ensure they return.
What are your future plans?
I want to keep growing and developing both my business and talented team, which will then allow me to spend more time at our home in the French Alps skiing!
Tell us your highlights over the last 25 years?
It’s too hard to name just one as there have been many! I great get enjoyment from seeing my team develop. Similarly, I am proud to be a part of a truly successful franchise network and seeing it grow since I became a franchisee has been, and continues to be, extremely rewarding.
Last question, would you do it again?
One word. Yes.