Former contractor expands his horizons at Countrywide Signs

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Tom Ricketts was a contractor engaged by Countrywide Signs to help service client demand in the south-west when the chance to invest in a brighter future arose.

Countrywide Signs - Tom Ricketts

Tom Ricketts was a contractor engaged by Countrywide Signs to help service client demand in the south-west when the chance to invest in a brighter future arose.

Tom says: “I had the advantage of being able to ‘try before you buy’ from my experience as a contractor for the company and when the opportunity to buy the franchise came up, I took it.

“It’s the business opportunity that nobody knows exists – everyone sees the signs and assumes there’s some man in a cupboard that comes out and puts the signs up!”

That was just the start for Tom, who quickly expanded further when a neighbouring territory came on the market.

“I bought into the Devon territory and about nine months later Cornwall came up for resale,” he explains. “I combined the territories together, taking on the drivers already in place – and I knew I had the potential of expanding further into surrounding areas.

“Becoming a franchisee made more sense than being a contractor. There’s much more potential, more growth opportunities and existing systems that make everything easier. I’ve already been able to tap into new markets in north Devon and Somerset. You can start working on the business, not in the business, and holds the potential to generate more revenue.”

Those systems and wider head office support have proved crucial to Tom. “The franchise element is really helpful in that respect,” he says. “They’re always there to answer a phone call or email, alongside regional meetings. It’s very reassuring to have that expertise only a call away, be it on the operations, the financial or the infrastructure side of things.

“And in terms of the technology used to run the business, it works really well. Agents input their information into the system on a tablet, and it runs itself. Without it, your life would be a lot harder. You just couldn’t manage day to day without it.”

Would he do anything differently?

“I’d have negotiated on price more! Otherwise everything went smoothly.”

Research rules the roost

As for his advice to others considering buying an existing Countrywide Signs franchise, Tom says proper research is crucial.

“Take the time to understand the business systems and current structure, where things are and how it operates. Make sure you have the right level of working capital behind you, it’s imperative to have proper cash flow.

“And arrange to go out and shadow people, find out how the business works and what it’s all about. I was already self-employed so I understood that side of things. I’d say think about your lifestyle and what you want.”

What about the skills required to succeed?

“You also need to be organised,” Tom says. “You’ve got to plan your working day to make sure you’ve updated the system before the next morning. Estate agents put in job requests up to around 6pm, and most are expecting a next day service, so you need to plan accordingly.

“This is an opportunity for patient, hard-working people. You need to be resourceful and pragmatic. People skills are also really important, dealing with estate agents and providing good service.

“If you’ve got the right attitude and have your eyes open from the start, the potential for growth is great.”

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