Advice from the Experts: Craig Brown, Signs Express Managing Director

Proven route to running your own £500K+ business.

Signs Express

In the UK
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Signs Express Managing Director Craig Brown discusses franchisee candidates, printing material in an increasingly digital world, and what’s next for the business.

Craig Brown, Signs Express MD

Signs Express is the largest signs franchise in the UK and have been thriving in the market for years. They create beautiful, custom signage for business interiors and exteriors, vehicles, window displays, and various exhibitions. WIth over 60 franchisees, their model has been proven and their reputation for excellence precedes them in each new territory.

Craig Brown has spent the last 25 years with Signs Express, climbing the ranks from their first employee to Managing Director, so he knows the franchise as well as anyone. In this edition of ‘Advice from the Experts,’ he gives insight into ideal franchisee candidates, printing material in an increasingly digital world, and what’s next for the business.

Can you fill us in on the background of the franchise and your own role within it?

In 1989 the first Signs Express centre opened, following research in to sign markets abroad and having identified a gap in the UK and Irish markets for professionally run sign-making businesses with fast and efficient turnaround times.

I was actually the company’s first employee over 25 years ago, so I’ve come full circle within the company and am now Managing Director for Signs Express, leading a dedicated team at our franchise support centre based in Norwich.

Signs Express deals with physical, printed material. Have you made any adjustments because of the growing trend of going digital?

In the early years of the business, the vinyl industry was becoming increasingly sought after, along with computer generated graphics. We ensured we were at the cutting edge delivering the best signage solutions to customers, so the digital trend has only strengthened our industry in terms of the tools now available.

In a recent survey of 1000 business owners, 83% of businesses believe signs and graphics form an important part of their marketing strategy and 99% say they help to give a positive first impression of a business.

So, as you can see, physical signage will always be crucial to any business and so we’re continuing to experience growth year on year.

Signs Express warehouse

What makes Signs Express stand out from other opportunities?

A franchise with Signs Express offers an established, proven business model in a diverse and rewarding industry, with the average turnover of our centres being 47% more than the industry standard (Source: Survey of sign companies by the British Sign and Graphics Association).

Prime sites are currently available throughout the UK and we will invest our franchise fee of £20k back in to your business, when opening a new centre. This will contribute to set-up costs that are involved at a new location, meaning you can hit the ground running from day one!

What’s more, our proactive sales and marketing support, as well as strong brand recognition across the nation, means that there are plenty of customers actively enquiring for the services we provide.

What’s your best advice for prospective Signs Express franchisees? Is there any experience required?

You don’t need any experience in the sign industry to become a Signs Express franchisee. We are simply looking for motivated individuals that ideally have some management experience and sales or commercial background. People that are dedicated and driven to run their own business, with the added benefits of being part of a franchise network.

Provided you have the skills and vision to run a Signs Express centre, once you’ve enquired we will then ask you to attend one of our discovery days to give you an in-depth view of our operations. These run on the third Thursday of every month, but bespoke days can also be arranged should you require.

Signs Express Interior

What kind of support can a franchisee expect?

As a new franchisee, you will initially attend a 3-week training course at our franchise support centre. This will give you all the tools and knowledge you will need to run a Signs Express centre as well as a dedicated franchise manager who will assist with locating suitable premises, staff recruitment and business planning.

From then, you will receive continuous support from our experienced teams that are skilled in sales and marketing, HR, accounts, IT and technical support, advising you in your business every step of the way.

Describe a typical day in the life of a Signs Express franchisee.

A typical day begins with a morning production meeting with your team where they schedule the day’s workload. This is generally followed by some site visits to clients as well as taking phone calls, completing quotes and replying to any email queries. As the centre owner, you oversee all aspects of the business, but in the early years, a franchisees’ focus is very much on customers and sales, both existing and new.

This is what I would say is a typical day, but no two days are the same. One of the main reasons I love signage is the diverse nature of the industry. It keeps you on toes and encourages us all to keep driving our businesses forward.

What’s next for the Signs Express franchise?

At the core of our business is the desire to deliver results and exceed expectations. Our aim is to deliver the best solutions for our customers’ and potential-customers’ signs and graphics needs.

We are also focused on growing our existing network of franchisees throughout the UK and continue to operate on a sustainable financial basis of profitable growth, increasing value for our stakeholders and expanding opportunities for development and career growth for our employees and staff within the Signs Express network.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

As with any new business, the early years can bring their challenges, but if you have the right drive and focus you will soon reap the rewards; remember, you are not alone when you are part of the Signs Express franchise.

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