Signs and graphics solutions from Signs Express Colchester and Chelmsford

November 2022

13 Years Later…

After 13 years ownership of Signs Express (Aylesbury), we talk to exiting franchisee Philip Harris about his time with Signs Express, the benefits of franchising and his plans for retirement.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself

“My life before Signs Express seems like some time ago now, however in the years before, I co-ran a family-owned manufacturing business which was a great success. I’ve always had the drive to own my own business and work for myself, so this was a great step into business ownership. After 10 years, we made the decision to sell the business however I remained as MD for a while. Parting ways at the end of 2008, I discovered Signs Express and was the owner of Signs Express (Aylesbury) by the beginning of 2009 (and also in the middle of a recession)!”

2. What made you look into franchising initially?

“In all honesty, I was pessimistic about franchising to begin with (sorry!), I initially wanted to look into ownership of another independent manufacturing business, however I stumbled across Signs Express (Aylesbury) on Businesses for Sale and decided to take a look into it! When I looked at the numbers I was intrigued, I could see potential and the varied nature of the business was especially appealing. It offered me support, both the manufacturing side of things as well as a creative approach, a whole spectrum of projects and a brand that had credibility. After some deliberation and due diligence, 13 years later I’m pleased to say I went for it!”

3. Talk to us about your franchising career with Signs Express…

“It’s been a great 13 years, not all plain sailing and often a lot of hard work, but I feel immensely proud with what I’ve achieved and I’ve enjoyed 99% of it too. Successfully growing the business over the years, not only with turnover, but with an impressive bottom line, 2021 numbers were an incredible 88% up vs prior year, and continuing the trend, I exited the business on a high, with turnover up a further 13% year on year.

Having worked with multiple industries covering projects large and small I learnt what worked for me, which projects I most enjoyed and also how to work smarter with a rigid pricing structure, which has been the main contributor towards a healthy profit line.” 

4. Do you have any pivotal moments that comes to mind during your time with Signs Express?

“There are five key things which spring to mind, two which I’m hugely proud of and three which changed the way I ran my business for the years to come.

1 – Winning the contract to work with the prestigious Buckinghamshire New University was a great moment for me, this created exciting projects and led to more contracts consequently. This all happened at a time that I was looking to sell the business however it demonstrated the skills we’d built along the way and was a credit to the exceptional reputation we’d built over the years.

2 – When I took over the business it was trading at sub £250,000, however over the years, with hard work, new strategies and new ways of working, we hit well over £400,000 in just one year.

3 – It may sound simple, but investing in the Signs Express PPC booster campaign was a game changer for us, we’d tried social media and various things before but this had a noticeable effect on our enquiries and was all done for us.

4 – Amongst the events and communications the head office put on, there’s one virtual meeting which has stuck in my mind especially. The meeting was called Pricing to Win and from that day on, we adopted the approach which led to one of our biggest fundamental changes in terms of how we priced our work and our bottom line.

5 – Head office put on different initiatives over the years and the one that I found completely invaluable was the business coaching. Having that one-on-one coaching support was really valued and again played a part in my success.“

5. What were the biggest benefits of being part of a franchise for you?

“The biggest thing for me is the brand, with an established network, years of trading experience and an exceptional reputation, the brand is a fantastic driver of business on its own, something that wouldn’t be as easily achieved as an independent business owner. The support from the Franchise Support Centre was great also, with a custom-built website constantly being updated on your behalf, the ongoing marketing activity and the technical back-up, I felt confident that I could focus on different areas of the business and driving the sales (and margins) forward.”    

6. What advice would you give to someone looking to work within franchising and Signs Express?

“I’ve heard people say this before but do your research! It really is important to know what you’re getting yourself into. Understand what you’re looking for and make sure you’re comfortable with your decision as it’s a big investment both financially and personally.

Not all franchises can give you the results you want, however for me, the Signs Express brand, varied workload, industry, work-life balance and margins ticked all my boxes!”

7. What’s next for you post Signs Express?

“My driver when selling the business was to retire, having worked incredibly hard over the years I’m ready to take a break and spend as much time as I can on the golf course! I may look at some smaller work opportunities in the new year, but for now I’m having a well-deserved break.”

Philip was a great addition to our network and a real advocate of the brand, we wish Phil every success and all the best for the future!

We also recently caught up with new Aylesbury owner Kris Bell to see how he’s settling in, to read more from his interview click here.

Looking for a career change for 2023?

Signs Express is the UK’s largest signs and graphics franchise, with over 30 years’ experience and over 60 centres across the UK and Ireland. Uniquely positioned to meet the needs of our customers we enjoy a national reputation for providing quality products and supreme customer service.

Offering opportunities to join our network via our established resale opportunities or a start-up location of your choice, Signs Express allows you to work in a creative and dynamic industry where no two days are the same. Every day offers a new challenge, a new opportunity and something to learn, in an ever-evolving industry.

Make an enquiry today!

If this is an opportunity that appeals to you, why not get in touch to find out more? Contact our Franchise Recruitment Manager, Emma Wakefield directly on 01603 598455 or send us an email to arrange a call at a time that suits you.

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