Signs Express Franchisee Case Study Feed

Last updated: 06-March-2021

Val and Martin take on a Signs Express Greenfield site, impressed by the level of support! -


Val and I have often talked about working together in the B2B sector, as we both have a commercial background. A Signs Express franchise stood out from the start.

From the Discovery Day onwards, we have only been impressed with the level of expertise, support and training from the Signs Express Support Centre. We benefit daily from their 30 years experience, knowledge, support team and most importantly, their reputation.

Before taking the plunge and choosing a Greenfield site, we had the opportunity to visit other franchisee centres. It was great to hear such positive comments from each of the centre owners and left us in no doubt that Signs Express was for us. 

Although we are all independently owned, it feels that we are part of something much bigger and have been made welcome by the Group.   

To learn more about how you can take advantage of your own Signs Express franchise, click here!

Exclusive Interview: "I chose a resale as they were already trading and had a proven track record." - 06-December-2019


Name: Paul Glover

Location: Nottingham

Franchise you bought: Signs Express (Nottingham)

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you were doing prior to buying a franchise business?

I previously owned a waste management company from 1998-2016, growing it from 5 employees to over 30 and turnover of over £4m. I decided to sell the company as I wanted to try something new (and hopefully less stressful!)

Prior to this I worked for a large blue-chip company for over 10 years in various roles from sales & account management but had always wanted to run my own business.   

Why did you initially decide to go down the franchise route? And what made you choose the industry you are in and ultimately your franchise?

As I was looking for a complete change, I knew there would have to be a certain amount of training or support required in order to make it a success, so a franchise seemed the best way forward.

I wasn’t sure what industry this new venture would be in and had considered all types of businesses until one caught my attention, Signs Express. Signage is a market that continues to grow and there will always be a need for this type of product/service.

What made you choose a franchise resale over starting a new franchise business?   What are some of the benefits?

I chose a re-sale because the business was already trading, had a proven track record and happened to be local to me in Nottingham. This was appealing to me given I’d had been required to travel quite a distance over the course of the last 10 years with my previous company, this franchise made travelling to work easy.

The main benefit for me is that I’m local and know the area well. My previous business was based in North Nottingham, so I already had a good contact base and therefore I planned to utilise this with the new venture. By pursuing a resale, it meant I could hit the ground running.

Were there any challenges you had to overcome with it being a resale you had bought?

The main challenges were to understand the new products and systems. As the business was actively trading, I needed to able to continue the existing flow of business and ensure all customers (especially existing ones) continued to receive the service/quality, they were used to.

Other challenges were working with new staff and getting to know the individuals as quickly as possible, making sure they were comfortable with a new boss and understood my vision for the business and team.

Does the decision-making process for buying a resale differ in any way from buying a new franchise?

Buying an existing business was always the first option and for me as it represents less risk. I’d sooner run with a business that has been successfully trading and then plan to grow it.

Was it easier to raise finance because you were looking at a resale opportunity?

As I didn’t require finance, I wouldn’t be sure, but I’d imagine that a proven business with decent margins, will always sit favourably with the banks when looking for financial support.

What training and support did you receive initially and ongoing from your franchisor?

Prior to the three weeks training course, I spent some time in the business and getting to know the team, so I gained a feel for the ‘day to day’ operations. This time was invaluable to me as I could see that the team on site worked well together and had a very good knowledge of the industry.

I got to know the varying types of customers we serviced and thought the business had superb potential to expand.

The three-week course at Norwich was very good and extremely informative. Ongoing support from the marketing team at the Franchise Support Centre is excellent and there is always someone available when I need them. I’m learning every day from my team and just being in the business, which I’m sure I will be doing so for a long time.

What is a typical day for you as a franchisee?

Most of my time is spent working on quotes for new business, speaking to customers about current work and new projects and generally looking at ways in which to grow the business.

I’m learning new systems, speaking with suppliers to see what areas we can improve on and there are site surveys to carry out which incorporates meeting new and existing clients.

All these elements mean every day is different, something which I thoroughly enjoy.

Has becoming a franchisee changed your life, if so how?

Being a franchisee has made me more relaxed and given me an opportunity to test myself in another environment. I look at this as running my own business but with the added value of having support and guidance when I need it.

Having other franchisees available to give their advice & expertise, is another huge benefit for me.

What is the most invaluable piece of advice you could give someone looking to buy their first franchise?  And would you recommend a franchise resale?

My advice would be to spend time with an existing business and its employees prior to going through the sales process. Research as much as you can about current markets and competition to see if you can imagine running this type of business.

If you believe you can improve on anything, and most importantly for me, believe the business has got potential to expand you’re at a good starting point.

What are your plans for the future?

Now I’m settled in, I am looking at areas for improvements, refurbishing the centre and updating the office.

I’m looking at adding new machinery to enable us to be more self-sufficient as well as exploring new products and more specialised markets where there is less competition and possibly even higher margins.

My focus is to grow the business year on year

Would you do it again?

I am thoroughly enjoying the experience and looking forward to seeing the business flourish over the coming months & years. 

Exclusive Interview: "Signs Express has a dedicated Franchise Support Centre" - 22-September-2017


Name: Thomas Somers
Location: Lancaster
Franchise: Signs Express
Date launched the franchise: November 2002

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you were doing prior to buying your franchise?

Before opening Signs Express (Lancaster) I worked for Courtaulds Textiles PLC for 15 years in various senior roles in factories across Northern Britain mainly supplying Marks and Spencer. I was then made redundant whilst working as a Commercial & Production Director for a weaving business in Yorkshire when the company was taken over by another PLC.

Why did you go down the franchise route initially? And why did you choose your franchise?

Although I thoroughly enjoyed working in textiles, manufacturing in the UK was a shrinking operation so I felt it was the ideal time to look for a new career. By chance I came across franchising and having had roles both on the commercial and production sides of businesses felt that my skills would be well suited to running my own business.

I had manufacturing based experience working within the business-to-business sector, so I narrowed the choice down to three franchises operating in these areas.

"Signs Express was the most professional and well established which was ultimately why I decided to join their franchise network."

Why have you decided to sell your business?

Having grown the business steadily for 15 years and built up a very loyal customer base the time seems right for me to sell and allow somebody take it to the next level. Whilst a few years away from retirement age I am looking to cut down the number of hours I work to allow me time to explore new challenges.

What’s the key selling points of your business?

This is a ready-made business that will enable you to walk in from day one with a full set-up, staff, customer base and sales. My business is very profitable, has a diverse, loyal client base with a long-standing team of highly skilled, reliable staff.

"I have also invested in the centre so a new owner doesn’t have to. This has included completely refitting the unit and purchasing new equipment and machinery."

What support should the new franchisee expect to receive?

One of the major benefits of joining a franchise is the ongoing support you receive from the Franchisor. Signs Express has a dedicated Franchise Support Centre based in Norwich that is committed to helping make your business a success. Support includes an initial training course for new franchisees, comprehensive marketing activities, operational assistance and growth planning.

There will also be a handover period from myself to ensure a smooth transition for the team and key customers.

What are the other benefits of buying a resale?

There is less risk attached to buying an existing business because it is already established so you can start earning from day one rather than trying to build a client base from scratch.

What is a typical day for you as a franchisee?

A typical day involves dealing with customers’ requests, this might be emails, phone calls or on-site meetings looking at their signage requirements and advising on possible solutions. The next stage is to produce quotes and artwork (there are two others in my team who also do this). Finally, I often then do some of the day-to-day administration required to keep the business operating smoothly.

Has becoming a franchisee changed your life, if so how?

Nobody has given me another P45! It has enabled me to have a great work life balance. I am always home for tea with the kids and have built my business up to the points that I have the freedom to take time off as and when I want it. On top of that I have also earned more than I would have as an employee.

What is the most invaluable piece of advice you could give someone looking to buy their first franchise?

"Don’t try and do it all yourself, trust your team to do it."

They are much more capable that you (or they) think! I have reached the point that nothing relies solely on me anymore and I would recommend any franchisee builds their business to do the same.

In your opinion, what makes a successful franchisee?

Ambition and self-belief are important as well as being able to understand what drives the business forward. Make sure you train your staff thoroughly and trust them with the responsibility for all aspects of the business allowing you to take a step back. By doing this you can focus on managing and growing the business rather than get sucked into the day-to-day issues as this is where you will add most value.

Exclusive Interview: "The great thing about the sign industry is its diversity" - 18-April-2017


Name: Nick Dawes
Location: Ipswich, Suffolk
Franchise: Signs Express
Date launched the franchise: 1992

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you were doing prior to buying your Signs Express franchise business?

After a career in retail management, where my main function was to facilitate the roll out of what is now a household name across the South-East, I was looking for a change. I then spent some time in Canada where I came across the sign franchise concept, which greatly appealed to me.

Why did you go down the franchise route? What made you choose the sign industry? And why a Signs Express franchise?

Although I had a broad range of experience from my time in retail, there were many elements of business which were completely new to me. As a real team player, I liked the idea of being in business for myself, but not by myself.

"I’d always had an interest in graphics and design and knew I wanted a management franchise rather than a man in a van operation, so Signs Express seemed like the perfect fit for me."

How did you raise the finance?

I raised the initial investment and start-up costs from personal savings, which I combined with bank finance supported by the Government Small Forms Loan Guarantee Scheme at the time.

What training and support did you receive initially and ongoing?

I received full training and ongoing support around all elements of running a sign business. Obviously, our support needs have changed as the business has developed and the staff at the Franchise Support Centre have always been very supportive and flexible in the help they offer myself and my team.

What is a typical day for you as a Signs Express franchisee?

The great thing about the sign industry is its diversity. I tend to 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 challenges have you faced?

In a deadline driven, customer focussed industry, the challenges are many and varied! Having been established for 25 years we’ve worked hard to establish a great reputation by offering excellent, consistent service. As a result, we have built a very broad and loyal customer base locally.

Has becoming a franchisee changed your life, if so how?

Definitely. I now enjoy the freedom and financial rewards of running my own operation and take great personal enjoyment in seeing members of my team continue to grow within the business.

What is the most invaluable piece of advice you could give someone looking to buy their first franchise?

"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.

In your opinion, what makes a successful franchisee?

A credible, realistic, hard worker, prepared to follow a proven system and do whatever it takes to keep customers happy and ensure they return.
What are your plans for the future?

To keep growing and developing both my business and fantastic team, which will then allow me to spend more time at our home in the French Alps skiing!

What would you say have been your highlights so far as a franchisee?

There have been many, but developing a great team and being part of a truly successful franchise network and seeing it grow since I became a franchisee in 1992 has been, and continues to be, extremely rewarding.

Would you do it again?

One word. Yes.

To find out more about Signs Express, please click here to immediately download our FREE franchise prospectus. 

Exclusive interview with Signs Express franchisee for Falkirk -


Name: Steve McMurray
Location: Falkirk
Franchise: Signs Express
Date launched the franchise: 01/04/2005

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you were doing prior to buying your Signs Express franchise business?
After being in the sign business for around 15 years I decided to take a break from the industry. I worked for several companies, one of the most notable in the retail sector was the worldwide franchise Harley-Davidson. Working with the Motor company was a fascinating experience and gave me some insight in to the concept of a franchise.

Why did you go down the franchise route? What made you choose the sign industry? And why a Signs Express franchise?
I had been doing freelance work within the sign sector and found myself being tempted back into running a company again. Having started a family I was keen to look at a way of starting a business with accelerated growth, by having an established brand. I decided to choose Signs Express as they were, and continue to be the market leaders.

How did you raise the finance for your franchise?
We had some capital available and after speaking with several banks, raised the remainder through a loan. Obtaining funding was more easily achieved due to the fact we had a business plan provided by Signs Express. Major banks view franchisees more favourably over start-up businesses as there’s less risk involved.

What training and support did you receive initially and ongoing?
Initially I attended a 4-week training programme and have continually received ongoing support from Head Office. To be honest, with my previous experience within the sign industry, I didn’t require much training and haven’t necessarily required a great deal of support, however head office have always been on hand for whatever I may need. For example, when I have been on holiday with my family, I can switch off knowing that my staff have access to a wealth of sign industry experience and knowledge from the dedicated support centre.

Since I took over my Franchise 12 years ago, the training from head office, now known as the Franchise Support Centre, has been under review & is now even more robust, enabling new franchisees to get themselves established more easily.

What is a typical day for you as a franchisee?
I am usually in the office early, which lets me get up to speed on things and also catch up on anything outstanding from the previous day whilst the office is peaceful. Once the centre opens, I catch up with my team & go over the day’s schedule. This is really me just checking in as my team usually have everything in order, but if there are any issues we can get them resolved at the start of the day.

Then its onto my sales role, quoting work, engaging with customers and attending client meetings. At some point in the afternoon I check in with production to schedule in work that we have been successful in securing for the business. The day winds up around 5:30 – 6:00pm and most nights I’m home in time to sit down and have dinner with the family.

There are the odd occasions when I might work later or bring work home with me but that’s part of running your own business, sometimes you need to put in that bit of extra effort, thankfully for me, now that the business is well established this only happens on rare occasions.

What challenges have you faced?
We took over an under-performing territory and in the first few years it was very much like a greenfield site, so a brand-new start-up.

After a lot of hard work and building the right team we are firmly established as a business and have certainly dispelled the myth that a poor performing territory is due to a bad territory selection.

Of course, not all territories will perform at the same level as there will always be areas that perform particularly well, however all territories should be able to provide the Franchisee the minimum agreed level of business as stated by the Franchisor.

Has becoming a franchisee changed your life, if so how?
I wouldn’t say it has changed my life, but it has offered me and my family a nice lifestyle both in terms of financial benefits and time. As I now have a larger team working for me I can reap the lifestyle benefits of this business so we can go and enjoy our holidays.

What is the most invaluable piece of advice you could give someone looking to buy their first franchise?
Research, whatever sector you are considering and when a franchise catches your eye, check out competitors and learn what makes them different. The competition when buying the franchise will also be the competition when you are in business. Even if it’s costing a bit more money always try to go with the market leader as this will set you up for the greatest chance of success.

In your opinion, why is Scotland a great place for franchising?
I don’t think Scotland is better or worse than anywhere else in the UK for Franchising. To get the most successful result you need to choose the right Franchise for you, select the best franchise provider and carefully select your territory.

When deciding on a location, do a bit of your own research to assess whether you could potentially be the best business in the area, considering competitor franchises and independent businesses.

What qualities do you think make a successful franchisee?
An ability to learn quickly and a passion for hard work. A new greenfield franchise can be tough to get going, but with the right attitude and determination, along with the support from the franchise support centre you have a better chance of succeeding then if you were to go it along.

Signs Express have a track record of successfully opening new franchises, as well as with those taking on existing businesses. Remember that the franchisor won’t do all the hard work for you, but you just need to learn and follow their model for success.

What are your plans for the future?
Ultimately there will come a time when I would like to retire and this is another factor as to why I was interested in franchising. A resale franchised business is more attractive for potential buyers of business rather than a freehold business.

Would you do it again?

If you would like to know more about a Signs Express franchise click here

Exclusive Interview: From the forces to franchising - 17-October-2016


Name: Craig Tiley
Location: Stoke on Trent
Franchise: Signs Express

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you were doing prior to buying a Signs Express franchise business?

I was a Sergeant in the Corps of Royal Engineers British Army. My job was mainly based around logistics and procurement of construction tasks from Bridges in Afghanistan to Police Stations in Kenya.

Why did you go down the franchise route?

I have known people in and around franchising for years and it had always attracted me seeing the success of others and I always thought that I could do it!

How did you raise the finance?

I raised part of it myself with my retirement money from the Army, bank loan and also had some help from my family.

What training and support did you receive initially and ongoing?

The ongoing support I receive from HQ is invaluable. I am on the phone daily for advice, tips and inspiration and have never been let down.

Along with my business advisor, Signs Express’ dedicated support team ensure I look at the facts and figures and give me advice on the next steps to take.

It’s important to keep looking at the bigger picture in order to keep on track with the growth I want for the business.

It is not easy to see the grass through the weeds sometimes so the guidance I receive is very motivating.

Signs Express franchise business resale owner franchisee army ex-forces soldier franchising success lucrative signs graphics corporate

What is a typical day for you as a Signs Express franchisee?

As the business owner I can be fairly flexible, so will work either at the centre or at home. I have a fantastic team in place who run the centre while I am not in the unit, so my focus can be on building relationships with customers.

I meet quite frequently with my larger clients to catch up and see if I can help with any upcoming work and also go out to meet new potential clients that have got in touch via our website, which is the most searched for signs brand on Google.

What challenges have you faced?

Keeping focused on business growth is hard because you need to adapt your premises, staffing and keep the work coming in all at the same time, but I find it very rewarding.

Has becoming a Signs Express franchisee changed your life, if so how?

Absolutely, I now have so much more freedom and have been very blessed with the growth we have achieved in only one year. I have a very exciting future ahead of me.

What is the most invaluable piece of advice you could give someone looking to buy their first franchise?

Do your homework. I could never imagine having anywhere near the size of business I have now going at it alone. There is a tonne of advice out there, picking the right franchise is obviously the key.

What are your plans for the future?

For now, I am going to keep doing what I am doing with the support of Signs Express.

Once I have grown the business to the level I want, continued to develop my team and have a comfortable lifestyle, I may take my foot of the gas a little and enjoy the rewards.

Would you do it again?

In a heartbeat, best decision I have made in my life.

To immediately download Sign Express' FREE franchise prospectus (with no obligation tied to it), click here.

Exclusive interview: From professional golfer to Signs Express franchisee - 09-May-2016


Franchisee name: Tina Surface
Franchise: Signs Express
Location: Basildon
When Established: February 2002

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you were doing prior to buying your Signs Express franchise business?

My husband Tony and I opened Signs Express (Basildon) in February 2002 and we have grown the business substantially over the years. Before becoming a franchisee, I was actually a professional golfer.

What attracted you to franchising versus started starting up on your own or finding employment?

Having always worked for myself I’ve always had the drive and ambition to start my own business but was unsure of how to do it. That’s when we began to look into franchising.

Franchising offered me the tools and knowledge of an established, proven business model, whilst ensuring I was still the business owner, so it really gave me the best of both worlds.

Why did you choose your particular franchise business (Signs Express) ? What research did you undertake?

Tony and I attended quite a few franchise shows and seminars before deciding on Signs Express. We looked into each business and decided which one would fit into our lifestyle, budget and family life.

Do you feel there is enough support or training in the industry, or externally, to help mums looking to get back into work and considering starting a business? What additional support do you think would help?

I felt I had all the information and support I needed with regards to getting mum’s back in to work within this industry. Having attended various franchise shows I personally never felt the need for any specific additional support. I’ve had four children since taking on the centre and have found that being a franchisee has allowed me flexible working hours that work with my family.

How did you raise the finance for funding your franchise? Did you use any financial support (grants etc.) specific to business start-up?

With our deposit already saved, we secured additional funding with a bank loan. We actually paid back our bank loan in our very first year of trading.

What training and support did you receive initially from your Franchisor?

The support we have received from Signs Express has been invaluable. We both attended a 4-week training course at the Headquarters in Norwich that covered everything we needed to know to hit the ground running. The training included knowledge about signs, marketing, sales and general businesses management.

After the initial training we then had regular visits from Signs Express HQ to help us to get the business off the ground. But their support didn’t just stop when we opened, there’s continual support in all areas of the business from Procurement to finance, marketing to operations, so you never have to ‘go it alone’.

With 25 years of experience it’s fantastic to be able to tap in to that wealth of knowledge as well as connect with other franchisees within the Signs Express network.

What is a typical day for you as a Signs Express franchisee?

My day typically consists of dealing with accounts and customers’ enquires, whether from new or existing clients. We’ve been lucky enough to be involved in some really interesting projects over the years.

In 2015 we were presented with the Most Striking Sign award at the Signs Express convention, in recognition of work we produced at Heathrow Airport. It involved us manufacturing and installing a free-standing sign for Etihad Airways, which is designed to look as though it is floating. Tony and I attend the annual awards almost every year and it is an amazing feeling to have our commitment and the hard work of our team recognised.

Balancing work and family life is important for all franchisees but more so for working parents, do you think franchising gives a good work and family life balance? Has becoming a franchisee changed you and your family’s life?

Becoming a franchisee has enabled me to spend more time with my family as I can arrange my work hours around them thanks to the fantastic team we have put in place.

Did you take advantage of any support available to women looking to get into business? E.g. member of a women in business network, attend any specific women business events?

In the past, particularly when we were first opening Signs Express (Basildon), I attended women in business events. For any woman considering franchising, there is a great deal of support available throughout the UK.

What is the most invaluable piece of advice you could give other mums looking to get back into work and considering starting their own business through franchising?

I think the most important piece of advice I can give is to pick a franchise which you are really interested in and will suit your family life. At times all business owners will have to work long hours and weekends so make sure you carefully consider how this is going to fit into your lifestyle.

For me franchising has given me the chance to become a business owner, but still be a mother and have the kind of family lifestyle we’ve always wanted.

What are your plans for the future?

We expanded into new premises in 2014 and I want to keep expanding the business. We’d also like to open more Signs Express centres as well.

Would you do it again?


To find out more about Signs Express and to receive their free and non-obligatory franchise prospectus, click here.


Signs Express franchisee looks back over his first year -


Ken Venables celebrates his first anniversary as the Franchisee of Signs Express (Norwich). This established centre was the first Signs Express in what has become a nationwide network of franchised sign manufacturing centres which has been trading since 1989. We caught up with him to ask how things are going.

So what made you want to be your own boss?

I’ve held senior management positions for a number of years but ultimately wanted to secure my own future by running my own business.

And why Signs Express?

I was manager of the Norwich centre from 2000-2008 but left to pursue a career as a general manager in a completely different business sector. When the opportunity arose to become a franchisee with Signs Express rather than employee, I was very excited about the proposition as my experience meant I was fully aware of the business model, support structure and profit potential of the business. Plus, this trade is something I really enjoy being a part of with the dynamic day to day opportunities and how often does someone get the chance to return to an environment they loved but this time being the owner?

The strong brand presence, support and opportunity to earn from day one from buying an established business were a real attraction to me rather than starting my own business from scratch.

How did your family feel when you talked about the opportunity?

I have two children and I was the main wage earner so naturally we had to think carefully about my decision to leave the security of a regular salary paid position. However, the benefit of knowing the company and learning how positively things had been going in the six years since I had left meant that we were confident in both my ability and the business performance and its future capability

What skills do you think are most important as a franchisee?

You need to be able to manage your staff effectively and love the challenge of juggling tasks as no two days are ever the same. You need to be organised, comfortable delegating to your team and speaking with customers but above all, you do need focus, empathy and commitment to your goals.

How do you market yourself?

As an already established business, we have the benefit of being well known in the area, however you cannot rest on your laurels and so we have continued to be very proactive in marketing to help drive business. We have our own Signs Express branded black cab, we sponsor a local youth football team and we have supplied banners for the local ale festival which means our logo appears across the city. We are also key supporters of local charities, causes and events which give something to the community and also raise awareness of our brand.

This year, we’ve also taken the step to sponsor a GoGoDragon!, one of 80 dragons which will appear in an interactive arts trail across the city in aid of the charity Break. By working with the charity and promoting our association with other sponsors, it has more than paid for itself.

We’re also able to benefit from a very proactive website and e-marketing campaigns organised by the franchise headquarters along with our own high profile social media activity and of course customer referrals.

What sort of customers do you work with?

The nature of our business means that any organisation is a potential customer and it is this breadth and flexibility which makes our industry so interesting.

Over the past year I’ve maintained accounts established during the previous manager’s tenure with increased business from the University of East Anglia, ITV Text Santa and the Diocese of Norwich academy school roll-out.

I’ve been delighted to win new business from large customers such as the two shopping malls in the city centre and several marketing agencies who act as resellers of our services. We’ve also developed a good working relationship with Abellio Greater Anglia railway.

How do you win business against your competition?

There are strong competitors in the area with many other smaller sign makers present.

My quote winning formula is simple; we agree a plan, assist the customer with the specification, understand a customer’s needs and deliver. I accept that there are always alternatives that cost less, but they are not always the most cost-effective and we work to build trust and add value in our liaisons which in turn, benefits the customer further.

People buy from people and they want a reliable, quality service they can trust. Signs Express has a positive reputation, working systems and processes in place to stand out from the competition.

Any advice for someone starting out?

As with all business opportunities you need to make sure it is right for you. Will you enjoy it? Will it make you the return you’re looking for? Does it have a sustainable business model? In my opinion Signs Express has all these credits.

Training and ongoing support is really important so even if you don’t have industry experience (as 95% of Signs Express franchisees don’t have when they join) you can feel reassured that there are the processes and a support team in place to help you in every step of the way. It’s like having an experienced member of staff in all areas of the business on hand.

How has the past year been?

Initially, it was naturally an intense time. I was eager to get stuck in and having an established team in place as part of a resale meant that I was soon able to get myself integrated into the business and its day to day workings. My business plan allowed for the time to adapt and I am delighted to say that we’ve been able to exceed all expectations and we’ve consistently been over target. This means that I have been able to reward my staff, move forward my growth plans and look at new investment, thereby building the core strengths of the business.

Best bits?

As cheesy as it sounds, getting an email from a delighted customer or a mention on twitter makes you feel valued. We’re able to supply products which help create business for our customers and there is no better feeling than someone saying ‘we have people saying how good our vehicle looks’ when we’ve just done their vehicle graphics.

Having staff go the extra mile – for example an out of hours install at a shopping centre, and then my ability to reward them as the business owner is a proud moment.

It’s definitely a full time job at the moment but if I want a long weekend or to leave early one day, then it is just myself to answer to.

Plans for the future?

I’m indeed very positive about the future. We’re currently recruiting for a trainee sign maker and an experienced sign maker to allow us to cope with demand and grow the business. I’m also building on what is already a great business by expanding our customer base further. After being ahead of budget consistently this year, new targets have been set and I have ambitious plans for 50% growth in the next 2 years – no mean feat for such a well-established franchise but one which we will all work to achieve.

Looking further forward, I want to give the business and myself options. With options, you have flexibility and breadth to expand whilst continually providing a remarkable and sustainable service.

Sailing into pastures new with a Signs Express franchise - 29-January-2015


New owners are at the helm of Signs Express (Portsmouth) as Ray Allenby and Jane Wiles have recently taken over the long established franchise of the market leading signs and graphics company.

Based on Railway Triangle Industrial Estate in Cosham, Ray and Jane have invested heavily into their new business, updating equipment and recruiting for extra staff as they look to grow.

With a focus on customer service and quality products, Jane is no stranger to Signs Express, having previously worked for the Hull centre for 10 years in an office manager role. It turns out she loved it so much, she was keen to come back to the network, this time as a franchisee with her partner Ray.

Ray previously worked in South Africa, and as his contract came to an end, was in the wonderful position of having the world as his oyster. Choosing to come back to the UK was a given, but the real choice came in where exactly to settle. Ray and Jane were keen to relocate to the south coast for its beautiful surroundings and sailing pursuits, and to top it off, there was a Signs Express resale opportunity in the area, offering them the perfect new business venture.

Jane commented: “After previously working at another Signs Express branch, I had seen first-hand the support given to the franchisees and their staff and had no hesitation in returning to the business. Every business needs signs and our variety of work means that no two days are the same. I’m so excited for our new venture, we’re looking forward to growing our business and seeing what the future holds.”

Established in 2002, Signs Express (Portsmouth) has gone from strength to strength over the years and has a fully trained and highly skilled team in place. The centre offers a full range of signs and graphics solutions to areas in and around Portsmouth such as Gosport, Fareham, Whiteley, Segensworth, Havant, Waterlooville and Chichester.

Interview with Steve Lloyd, Signs Express Chester - 03-December-2014


Signs Express franchisee Steve Lloyd, who opened his sign making centre in Chester in 2012, tells us about his experience of joining a franchise.

Why did you choose franchising?

The main reason for choosing a franchise was the reassurance that I had the back-up of a successful organisation and a knowledge base in all the necessary disciplines that I could easily tap into.

What did you do before taking up a franchise?

Prior to taking up the franchise I had (and still have) a small specialised company installing and operating newspaper processing equipment. I would spend ninety percent of my working life overseas in such diverse places as Russia, Belgium and Dominican Republic.

How did you raise the finance?

I was fortunate that I already had a reasonable percentage of the money required but I was put in touch with a company who specialised in arranging the paperwork for bank finance. In the end I had a couple of banks offering me the required additional funds necessary and I went with the bank/relationship manager that I felt most comfortable with.

What training and support have you received from your franchisor?

The official training was a three week course at head office but the truth of the matter is that the training, encouragement and back up has been from the first moment that I contacted the Franchisor to the present day. From choosing a location to recruiting staff to managing sales the training has really never stopped.

What are the main challenges that you have faced?

Staff and cash flow have been the biggest challenges but both these areas just need managing correctly and once you get a handle on these they go from being the biggest challenge to the biggest joy.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of buying their first franchise?

Do your homework. The legwork at the start is the most important time that you can spend as all the research that you do in going to franchise exhibitions, talking to franchisor/franchisees and just driving around potential territories will pay you back massively in the end. I have always worked on a gut feeling that if you feel comfortable with a company straight away then this is normally correct. I had visited about five different potential franchise operations but when I first made contact with Signs Express I knew that this was going to be the one.

What are your plans for the future?

We will be looking to take on another employee in the next couple of months which will help us handle the amount of work that we have on the books. My long term aim is to bring my children into the business but as yet they don’t find ‘Signs’ as exciting as I do!!

Signs Express have over 70 franchised centres within their network and are the UK and Ireland’s largest signs and graphics franchise.

Signs Express franchisee sees steady growth - 10-March-2014


Originally opened in 1998, Malcolm has been centre owner since 2005 and now employs six staff from his 3448 sq ft unit based in Gateshead.

1. What did you do prior to becoming a Signs Express franchisee?
I worked in the sign industry straight from school at 16.

2. How has your own business progressed or expanded since you launched?
We’ve doubled our turnover from £240k to £500K and we’re still seeing steady growth which is very positive. We’ve also expanded our unit by buying the unit next door which has meant increasing our centre from 1724 sq ft to 3448 sq ft. The extra space has given us the opportunity to broaden our production capabilities and tender for much larger projects.

3. What made you decide to buy an existing franchise?
Having worked in the sign trade since leaving school I could have started a sign company from scratch but the risks involved outweighed the positives of buying a ready-made business. The idea of having loads of shiny new machines and no work was a concern so I looked at two other local sign companies that were for sale at the time, but the added bonus of taking on a franchise with additional support came out as the winner.

4. What has been your biggest order to date?
The biggest so far has been for Gateshead College’s new Baltic Campus and other campuses when they opened. The overall order in the end was in excess of £100k.

5. Where would you like to see yourself in 10 years?
Hopefully we’ll be in a very comfortable financial position. The plan is, or should I say I am hopeful that my children will want to work for the business and eventually take over from me.

Hear from Signs Express franchisee, Malcolm Lant (Gateshead) in this video as he explains how he got into franchising and the benefits of being part of a well-known brand bame.

Doubling his turnover with Signs Express franchise - 10-May-2012


Franchisee: Mark Kendall
Franchise: Signs Express
Territory: Southampton

Signs Express is the UK and Ireland’s leading signs and graphics franchise, established over 20 years ago with a network of more than 75 franchisees. In this series of special features we introduce some of the inspiring personalities behind the brand.

Mark Kendall took over Signs Express Southampton as a franchise resale, for a career change. In two years he has almost doubled the turnover of the centre. We caught up with Mark to find out what inspired him to become a Signs Express franchisee and unearth his tips for running a successful business.

“For 28 years I worked in aluminium stockholding; completely different to the world of signs and graphics that is my passion now. However working for myself had always been a personal goal” explains Mark.

“I relocated from Bristol to Southampton almost 30 years ago, aged 21, for a sales job in a small organisation, then went on to became a shareholder of a larger company. When that relationship ended I set up an aluminium stockholding business of my own. In 2007 that business was sold as a Management Buy Out.”

So what motivated Mark to change career? “Selling my aluminium stockholding business was the catalyst for my career change. I had acquired a range of transferrable skills, like sales, marketing, people management, IT and so on; and my network of professional contacts in Southampton was really strong. I wanted a new challenge but still wanted to be my own boss.

What appealed to Mark about franchising? “I had never really considered franchising as I didn’t know much about it, so went along to a franchise show to learn more. It was there I heard that the Signs Express franchisee in Southampton was looking to emigrate and so the business was for sale. As we talked, the possibilities of the signs industry became clear to me. I realised that my breadth of contacts were a ready-made potential client base. People from all walks of life need signs. By applying the same skills, I could sell signs in the same way that I had previously sold metal.

Mark explains how changing industries has worked for him: “My proven business management, sales and team leadership skills have laid the foundations for building a successful Signs Express centre; the team around me are the technical experts on the production side of things. Being part of a franchise provides peace of mind as support is always available on all aspects of running a business. As well as head office, the network of more than 75 franchisees provides plenty of first-hand experience to draw on.”

“In my view, the two most important skills for a franchisee to possess are, 1) being prepared to get in front of people to talk about your business and, 2) being good with people. My advice is, listen to people, let people manage themselves, make people feel important, and be reliable – direct these principles to both your customers and people within your team.”

So what are Mark’s goals for the future? “I am proud to have doubled the turnover of this centre within two years of having taken it on; though increasing business and becoming more profitable is always going to be a goal. I think Signs Express Southampton has built a reputation for excellence and quality. In ten years time I’d like to be in new larger premises, have a bigger team and see people around me who have helped build this business up taking on more prominent roles.”


A triple turnover with a Signs Express franchise resale - 17-April-2012


Franchisee: Steve McMurray
Franchise: Signs Express
Territory: Falkirk

A strong brand and support from a dedicated team at franchise headquarters were the main attractions to Steve McMurray – one of the few franchisees with a sign making background to join the UK’s leading sign franchise Signs Express.

A chance meeting with an old colleague at a franchise exhibition lead to Steve hearing about a resale in his area, with Steve taking on the Signs Express business in Falkirk in 2005.

After restructuring the business, Steve has been able to more than triple turnover, turning the business into one of the largest sign companies in the area and becoming one of the most successful Signs Express franchisees in the network. By keeping control of his costs he has also achieved excellent profit margins enabling reinvestment into the business; ensuring he has the latest technology in house to meet his customers exacting demands.

Such is his achievement; Steve McMurray was named a finalist in the British Franchise Association Franchisee of the Year awards in 2010 and has three times been recognised in the Signs Express franchise awards held biennially during the Signs Express convention. In his latest accolade, the business was short listed for Sign Business of the Year at the Sign & Digital UK awards 2012.

Steve McMurray said, “When I first took over the business it was underperforming and had poor brand presence but I could see the potential. We’ve worked really hard to build our reputation in the Falkirk area which has resulted in around 80% of our business coming from repeat orders due to our customer relations.”

Through his strong belief in customer service, great attention to detail and his exemplary management skills, Steve and his team have been commissioned to work on many of the largest projects in the region.

Steve continued, “I could see many benefits of being part of a franchise rather than starting up my own business, even though I had already worked in the sign industry. Being part of a network of established sign businesses means we can gain many competitive advantages over our local counterparts and with the back up and support from the dedicated team at franchise headquarters help is always just a phone call away.”

As a management franchise with full training and support provided in all areas of the business, Signs Express franchisees do not need experience in the sign industry and come from all walks of life from the military, IT, local government, manufacturing and retail to name just a few.

Signs Express has been established for over 20 years and is still looking for enthusiastic business professionals to fill a few key areas in its network including Dundee, Fife and Inverness in Scotland as well as having a select number of franchise resales available.

Owning a Signs Express franchise is rewarding - 23-February-2012


Originally opened in 1995 husband and wife team Nick and Marion Baxter-Sibley now employ ten staff at their 2000 sq ft unit based on Waterbridge Court on Matford Park Road.

1. What did you do prior to becoming a Signs Express franchisee?
Worked as an IT project manager.

2. Why did you choose franchising?
Franchising was a route into starting a business in a market sector where I had no prior experience but where I could adjust my skill set to fit with the business structure; the benefits of being part of a larger group was also a key element I took into consideration along with the much lower failure rate as a franchised start-up businesses. Statistics spoke for themselves as approximately third of new businesses fail within three years, but only 10% of franchises do. Franchising was therefore a lower risk.

3. What made you decide to buy a new Signs Express business?
Starting a business from scratch really gave us a sense of achievement. However, when we started there wasn’t as much scope for buying an already established franchise and we wanted to keep within our local area.

4. What would you say have been the ultimate rewards?
There are a number of rewards from being your own boss, but namely the gratification of building the business; having control over mine and Marion’s destiny; flexibility of our own working arrangements; being involved in actually making something and also the satisfaction of seeing completed work all around the area.

5. How has your own business progressed or expanded since you launched?
We initially employed 2 people – myself and one sign maker - but as the business has grown we have gradually taken on more staff and now employ 10 people, however we still have plans to increase on this. We also bought our own premises as part of the growth process and now occupy a unit on a modern business park in Exeter.

Starting in business from scratch really gave us a sense of achievement. When we started looking there wasn’t as much scope for buying an already established franchise so we were lucky that our local area was still available. It was ideal and fitted well with our requirements.” - Nick Baxter-Sibley, Franchisee, Signs Express (Exeter)

Exciting times ahead for Sign Express Gloucester Franchisee - 11-March-2011

As an already established sign business, Signs Express (Gloucester) is now under new ownership.  Darryl Lillie has joined the UK’s largest sign franchise, buying the established business covering Gloucester and Cheltenham.
Signs Express provides a wide range of signs and graphics for all business purposes across the country.  Darryl saw the big potential the franchise had to offer and in January this year, bought the business from former owner Jon Hill who has now retired.  John Hill was one of Signs Express first franchisees, trading since 1993.
Darryl previously worked as the General Manager for a large packaging company.  After working there for 14 years he decided it was time for a new challenge and wanted to set up his own business.  “The aim was to find a business with a secure structure in place and a firm foothold within the B2B sector.” 
Commenting on purchasing the Signs Express (Gloucester) franchise, Darryl Lillie, says “After working for a large organisation I felt it was time to look to set up my own business and after doing a lot of research I immediately became very enthusiastic about the concept of the Signs Express franchise.  It has been great to buy a business which has been trading for the past 18 years very successfully, which is very reassuring when you’re starting out on your own business in the current recession.  I am very much looking forward to the future and seeing my business grow from strength to strength with the support of Signs Express head office based in Norwich!!”
Signs Express (Gloucester) is one of the most respected van sign writing specialists in the area and offer a complete sign writing and sign making throughout Gloucestershire; including completing projects such as school signs and shop signs - a one stop shop for all customers sign solutions. 
Specialising in vehicle graphics and sign writing more than 1000 vehicles of all shapes and sizes per year, Signs Express (Gloucester) also makes 100's of banners, 1000's of printed stickers plus interior and exterior and DDA compliant safety signs for shops, offices, councils, industrial units and schools.
Operating since 1989, Signs Express has developed into the largest sign company in the UK and Ireland with over 75 franchised production centres.  They provide a complete design, manufacture and fitting service for all forms of signage including interior and exterior signs, vehicle graphics, banners, window graphics and exhibition display products. 

All the Signs Point Towards Success -


The UK’s Leading signs and graphics franchise, Signs Express, will be exhibiting on stand E30 at the forthcoming Scottish Franchise Exhibition 8th – 9th June. With over 80 centres across the country, Signs Express offers a comprehensive management franchise package with comprehensive training and ongoing support. Celebrating during Scottish Franchise Week their decision to join an established franchise are two of Signs Express’ franchisees –Neil & Carol Fraser from Glasgow and James Bain, franchisee for the Dundee area.

Successfully growing a business has been a particularly satisfying and rewarding experience for Neil and Carol Fraser, who were awarded the franchise of the Glasgow area of Signs Express in 1995. They have continued to expand over the last 11 years and now service the whole of Glasgow, in addition to moving to new larger premises and buying some of the most advanced sign making equipment.

Carol said, “What has made the business work so well for us has been the continued support we’ve had from our Head Office including marketing, technical support, new products, new machinery, accounts and National Accounts. In the early days, not many people had heard of Signs Express, but it’s well known nationally now. We are also well established here in Glasgow with our customer base extending beyond our expectations and plenty of referrals and repeat business.”

Also experiencing the advantages of the extensive Signs Express package is James Bain, who opened his Dundee Signs Express centre in February of this year. An entrepreneurial self-starter, James has had vast experience, having worked at director level for a number of companies in the oil and gas industry before becoming a franchisee.

James said, “When I decided that I wanted to buy a franchise I had a defined set of requirements already in place. Whilst researching my franchise choices, the Signs Express package really stuck in my mind as they were the ones that time and time again, ticked all the boxes for my needs.”

“I was very impressed with the level of support available to the franchisees, and also with the great enthusiasm for the business shown by the directors and staff at the Norwich Head Office. I took time to visit some existing franchisees nearest to my location and all had strong and continued enthusiasm for the business - many still growing strongly after over 10 yrs of trading.”

Each Signs Express franchisee takes part in a comprehensive training course covering all areas of the business and receives ongoing support and advice from a dedicated team of over 25 industry professionals at the Head Office; covering all disciplines including technical support, accounts, marketing, IT and operations.

Signs Express Dundee Continues to Grow -


Leading signs and graphics franchise, Signs Express is the UK and Ireland’s largest sign company with over 80 centres. Exhibiting at the forthcoming British Franchise Exhibition in Glasgow on Stand E30, Signs Express offers a lucrative b2b package unlike any other – giving franchisees all the tools they need to make the best possible start.

Experiencing the advantages of the successful Signs Express package is James Bain, who opened his Dundee Signs Express centre in February of this year. An entrepreneurial self-starter, James has vast experience in running businesses, having worked at director level for a number of companies in the oil and gas industry before becoming a Signs Express franchisee.

Born in Lanarkshire, Scotland James has travelled the world with his work, spending time in America, Canada and South Africa, working at Director level for each organisation. While working for Weatherford International, formally BBL, James helped the company to grow from supplying the central North Sea area only, to becoming a world-wide supplier of innovative oilfield drilling technology products. A multi-award winning company, Weatherford International was at the forefront of Casing Drilling technology.

Commenting on his career path James said - ‘After so many years in the oil and gas business, I was ready for a change. Although I had a very enjoyable career in this business, I was missing large parts of family life due to having to work overseas for much of the year. I had been planning ahead and looked closely at Franchising or buying an existing business for some time.

Franchising was more appealing as it allows you all the growth capacity of a brand new business but with a time-proven system already in place.’

‘When I decided that I wanted to buy a franchise I had a defined set of requirements already in place. One was that it had to be business-to-business, it had to be non-food and it also had to be a product based business.

Whilst researching my franchise choices, the Signs Express package really stuck in my mind as they were the ones that time and time again, ticked all the boxes for my needs.

Each Signs Express franchisee takes part in a comprehensive training course covering all areas of the business and receives ongoing support and advice from a dedicated team of over 25 industry professionals at the Head Office; covering all disciplines including technical support, accounts, marketing, IT and operations.

James comments - ‘I was very impressed with the level of support available to the franchisees, and also with the great enthusiasm for the business shown by the directors and staff at the Norwich Head Office. I took time to visit some existing franchisees nearest to my location and all had strong and continued enthusiasm for the business - many still growing strongly after over 10 yrs of trading.’

‘It’s important to get up and look forward to coming into work in the mornings; this is true for business owners and staff. I had another visit to Norwich HQ a few weeks later but had my decision already made that Signs Express was where I wanted to be.’

Since opening in February of this year, the Signs Express (Dundee) centre has grown and prospered. The business employs 3 people and James has many plans for the future.

Signs Express is a well established franchise with over 80 centres nation-wide and is the UK’s largest sign company.

New ownership shows all the right signs -

Signsex_Falkirk.jpg Steve McMurray is delighted with his new business enterprise - becoming the new owner at the Falkirk centre of established signs and graphics franchise, Signs Express. The move follows over 35 years of family tradition and his own 20 years experience as owner of McMurray Speed Signs.

And the venture is already showing all the signs of success with the announcement that they have secured a valuable contract with Petrochemical company Innovene, which became a wholly-owned subsidiary of BP in April 2005. Signs Express (Falkirk) has provided new temporary exterior signage for their manufacturing facility in Grangemouth as well as vehicle graphics for almost 75 vehicles and health and safety signage across the site.

Steve McMurray is one of the first franchisees with sign industry experience recruited to the network. Franchisees do not need previous industry experience to operate the management franchise as full training and ongoing support is available via the head office. He decided to join Signs Express after a chance meeting with an old collegue.

He said, "I was looking at franchise opportunities as a way of establishing my own business and visited the Signs Express stand at a franchise exhibition. I was obviously very familiar with Signs Express, being in the industry for so long and was very pleased to hear there was a resale available close to my home. The advantages were obvious to me – lucrative National Account contracts administered from Head Office, a well known brand name and in my case, an established customer base I could service from day one.”

Signs Express centre owner Steve McMurray explains,"I am delighted with the progress we have been able to make since I took over a couple of months ago. The response from customers has been brilliant and we have also had the added reward of working for such a prestigious company as Innovene. To cope with increasing demand for our services we have recruited extra staff and are considering investment into new technology in the near future; a great start to my business."

Steve continued, "Another interesting project we have recently undertaken was on behalf of Harley Davidson. This involved the design and production of a partial vehicle wrap with full colour graphic images, almost completely covering the original paintwork of the vehicle in vinyl. The finished results are stunning and it’s this kind of work we are looking to build on over the next year."

Signs Express provides a complete design, manufacture and fitting service for all forms of signage including interior and exterior signs, vehicle graphics, banners, window graphics and exhibition and display products.

Signs Express (Falkirk) is a member of the British Sign & Graphics Association and part of the UK & Ireland’s largest sign company which has over 75 centres nationwide. For further information log onto or call 01603 625925.

Satisfaction with Signs Express -


Neil & Carol Fraser
Signs Express

Why I chose franchising

Carol and I had reached a crossroads in our careers and wanted to try something different. We wanted to be in control of our own lives and experience the satisfaction of owning our own business and pooling our resources and talents together seemed to be the best way to achieve this. We could see the advantages and benefits of owning a franchise and researched the opportunities available.

What I did before taking up a franchise

I worked as the Managing Director of a transport company.

Carol was a qualified PA with Ernst and Young.

How I raised the finance

Part personal savings and the remainder of finance from the bank

The training and support I receive from my franchisor

The training and support we have received has been fantastic. Apart from the initial 5 weeks training when we joined the franchise, we have received ongoing support and advice in all areas from the support team based at Head Office. There are also regular regional meetings and training days which cover all areas involved in the running of our business, anything from new sign-making techniques to accounting procedures. We also receive updates on changes in legislation and advice on suppliers and can take advantage of national account contracts established by Head Office.

The challenges I have faced

The sign industry is often thought to be one type of sign. In truth we manufacture and supply many different types of signage, anything from banners to vehicle graphics and interior/exterior signs to exhibition stands. Every business is a potential customer in the Sign Industry. There is never a difficulty in finding customers, just choosing those to do business with.

Keeping up with the rapid pace of changing technology has been another challenge.

My advice to someone thinking of buying their first franchise

  • Research all opportunities thoroughly.
  • Check Franchisors are members of the British Franchise Association
  • Make sure you are going to be interested in the area of business you are looking at as franchises are usually agreed for a fixed period of years.
  • Talk to other franchisees independently to see how they view the business.
  • My plans for the future

    The business has grown year on year and we have high hopes for the future. We have recently placed considerable investment in a wide format printer and flat bed router which has allowed us to do more work in house and improve profit margins. We intend to develop the business further and hope to have a very profitable year.

    Over 12 years of success with Signs Express franchise - 16-October-2009

    Following a successful career in IT for a blue chip company, Nick Baxter-Sibley was tired of the inflexible approach of most large corporate organisations and wanted to establish his own business to provide a stable future for his family and reach his own career and business goals.
    Following an initial meeting and a tour of the pilot operation, Nick & Marion were very impressed with the company and were awarded the management franchise to operate the Exeter territory in 1995. Nick said: “The business-to-business market interested us in particular and the sign industry itself is a thriving industry, with every business needing signs. After visiting Signs Express we decided to take our enquiry further and were delighted to take on the management franchise for our chosen area.”
    Such is the success of the husband and wife team, they were also awarded the Signs Express Ambassador Award at Signs Express’ annual convention and also received industry wide acclaim with a highly commended award at the National Sign Industry Awards for imaginative exterior signage on behalf of the Met Office.
    As technology and sign making practices continue to develop, Nick and Marion have invested in the latest digital printing equipment and also purchased new larger premises, fulfilling a greater number of jobs in-house and offering extended services to their customers. He said, “The support team at head office have been invaluable, providing advice and support on the different machinery available as well as negotiating group discounts and providing feedback and information.”

    Early Signs of Success - 18-June-2007


    Steve Read, franchisee for Signs Express (Aylesbury), has been open just under a year but is already showing all the signs of success as he describes his franchise choice and his business progress so far.

    “Before I became a Signs Express franchisee, I had spent 25 years in the RAF as a navigator on the Tornado Ground Attack aircraft. I reached a natural break in my contract period and could have stayed and although I loved my time in the military I wanted a new and different challenge. The timing was also right with my family and children settled so I decided to make the break.

    I had an aspiration from an early age that one day I would start my own business and following 25 years in a large organisation I wanted to run a smaller concern where I could take decisions on my own and which would take effect immediately.

    Although I had a lot of management experience from the military I did not have a lot of commercial experience so a franchise with a proven record and excellent support seemed a logical choice. I looked at many different franchises and in particular I focused on the business model and support provided from the various franchisors. Some franchisors offer the world but with little to substantiate it so I was drawn to a more established franchisor with a proven track record and the potential market for signs and graphics is enormous. This ultimately led to me setting up the Signs Express (Aylesbury) centre.

    It has been a huge change moving from the armed forces to a start up business and the thing I noticed first of all was that running a business could be a lonely position to be in. However, with the support of the Signs Express HQ staff and the other Signs Express centre owners this was made much easier – there is rarely a day goes by without some form of contact with the rest of the group.

    The first year is always going to be the most difficult and has been extremely busy for us, but also thoroughly rewarding as we have had a great start to the business, exceeding our targets before the year end. The key is definitely hard work but also simply following the basic principles that we were taught in our training. Our aim is to be noticed above our competitors, provide excellent service and quality products and market ourselves, with support from HQ, in any way we can.

    One of the most satisfying feelings is when you first start to get repeat business. This means you have satisfied customers and is the foundation for the future.

    My goal is to continue to grow the business and also give those working for me more responsibility as time goes on. This will allow me to focus on the wider issues involved in business planning – who knows maybe even on the golf course!

    In the longer term I look to other franchisees and see the possibilities – so am very excited about what the future will bring.”

    Kitchen Nightmares - 23-November-2006

    Ramsay_L.gif Channel 4's Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares visited the Fenwick Arms in Claughton near Lancaster this week which has received top chef Gordon Ramsay's sharp tongue and effective criticism to make improvements to the pub’s menu.

    The Lancaster centre of leading signs and graphics franchise, Signs Express, were on hand to provide signage improvements to the exterior of the pub, manufacturing and installing a banner and a double sided sign promoting the pub's ethos.

    Brian and Elaine of the Fenwick Arms have used real gravy in their dishes for over 30 years and now want to drive people back to making good traditional meat stock gravy. They are campaigning for people to stop using granules through a new website and also through signage at their premises, provided by Signs Express. The campaign is supported by Gordon Ramsay, who praised their gravy making skills whilst offering tips and advice on the business to generate increased sales.

    Thomas Somers Cocks, owner of Signs Express (Lancaster) said, "We were delighted to work with Optomen Television on the new signs for the Fenwick Arms and to fit in with their tight deadlines and filming schedule. It's a great local pub and their campaign for real gravy and traditional British food is effectively communicated with the signage installed so that everyone in the area is aware of what the pub stands for. With the help and assistance of Gordon Ramsay, I am sure that the pub will go from strength to strength and become a very popular destination for anyone looking for good quality food."

    A digitally printed banner, spanning 1.5m x 0.5m, was installed over the entrance to the pub and a double sided sign measuring 0.5m x 1.2m with the text 'Great British Pub Food' was fitted to the establishment's freestanding pub sign. The banner and signage were digitally printed in-house on Signs Express (Lancaster's) large format printer. The signage was finished off with an over laminate for a long lasting and high quality finish.

    Signs Express (Lancaster) is based on Caton Road in Lancaster and provides a complete design, manufacture and fitting service to businesses throughout the region. Supplying a full range of signage solutions including interior and exterior signs, vehicle graphics, banners and window graphics, Signs Express (Lancaster) is a member of the British Sign & Graphics Association and part of the UK & Ireland's largest sign company.

    For further information on the real gravy campaign, visit or for further details on Signs Express (Lancaster) call 01524 389966 or log onto

    Buying into Success - 05-September-2006


    Malcolm Lant took over Signs Express (Gateshead) a year ago after retirement lead to the resale of the business which was first established 1998. Operating an established centre, Malcolm has had to hit the ground running and in under a year, has achieved fantastic results - over 28% more turnover in just the first year!

    “I contacted Signs Express because of the great reputation they had built up, not just in the North East but throughout the UK and was pleased to hear there was an opportunity in my chosen area.

    Most importantly Signs Express has the back up service I needed. I knew that help on any business related subject such as accountancy, technical support, health and safety and personnel was only a phone call away and the marketing department are always working hard for all of the franchisees. I look at it this way - Signs Express HQ are a valuable and very experienced member of staff that can solve any problem or issue that is thrown my way.

    I think the secret to my success is always being ahead of the competition. If somebody wants to see me about a sign project I will always try to respond promptly and most of the time get a quote in and receive an order before the competition has even been to see them. If I say the client will have a quote tomorrow it will be there. Once a customer is happy with your quick and efficient service they are always happy to come back and refer your name to others.

    The freedom of being my own boss is very satisfying and what has given me the most pleasure is seeing a customer walk out the door happy or phone you to say what a great job you have done.

    One year on, I am starting to reinvest in the company. I have just purchased a new wide format digital printer and a new plotter to enable me to move the business further forward.

    My lifestyle and personal goals are firstly to pay off the loan for the company and then my mortgage all before I am 40. I am 32 now and I see no reason why this not achievable. Had I not been involved with Signs Express I would still be working for another employer making money for them without any of the thanks or financial stability. As it happens my previous employer has now become a good customer!”

    For further information on a management franchise with Signs Express log onto or call 0800 731 2255.

    Franchisee Accolade for Geoff & Lee Eaton - 26-July-2004


    Recently awarded Signs Express’ franchisee of the year award 2003 and winner of the National Sign Industry Award 2004, Geoff and Lee Eaton were first awarded a management franchise with Signs Express in 1995.

    Geoff had worked for a number of years in corporate sales for a well known car rental company but was keen to start his own business with his son. He handles all of the sales and pricing for the branch with Lee handling the production side of the business. The management franchise was an ideal way for Geoff and Lee to work together, holding joint control over decision making whilst using the back-up support and knowledge from Signs Express Head Office.

    Such is the success of the father and son team; they received the Gold award in the Signs Express Franchisee of the Year Awards in 2001 and were also presented with the top accolade at the company’s annual convention in November 2003. A reward for their continued increasing sales and the purchase of an adjacent area to expand the business.

    Neither Geoff or Lee had any experience of the sign industry but were reassured by Signs Express’s proven track record and were confident that the venture would be a success.

    Lee said, “Signs Express stood out from all of the franchises we researched. Their extensive training programme and professional approach was just what we were looking for. We even received help in finding premises and staff. Even now, they offer ongoing support and advice on all manner of things including accounting, sales and marketing and technical issues”.

    The Manchester centre works for a number of blue chip companies, many of which are high profile high street names. Geoff and Lee now employ seven staff and have also purchased the adjacent area widening their customer base to the whole of South Manchester.

    “We have been able to build on the existing reputation of Signs Express, establishing a name for ourselves in the local area. Customers know what type of service to expect when they come to our centre and we always make sure they leave feeling satisfied. We feel this is one of the key features of our success and are very positive about the future”.

    Signage can be seen everywhere in modern society and takes many different forms. Signs Express can cater for all requirements ranging from vehicle graphics, exhibition boards and illuminated signs to standard interior and exterior signage.

    Signs Express is a well established franchise with over 80 centres nation-wide and is the UK’s largest sign company.

    If you would like to find out more about a Signs Express franchise, log onto, or call the Norwich franchise headquarters on 01603 625925.

    Silver is a Sign of Success for Stuart Harrison - 26-July-2004


    Having worked for over 10 years as a Highway Network Manager, Stuart Harrison was hungry for a new challenge. After visiting the National Franchise Exhibition and researching a number of franchise opportunities, Stuart was awarded a management franchise with Signs Express in 1995.

    In recognition of Stuart Harrison’s commitment and adherence to the franchise system Managing Director, David Corbett, presented Stuart the Silver award for Franchisee of the year 2001.

    “When the chance of voluntary redundancy arose, I applied knowing this would be the perfect opportunity for me to change my career. Unfortunately, it took three applications for my request to be accepted, so the change didn’t happen as quickly as I would have liked. Finally I was in a position to consider the options available to me and I attended the National Franchise exhibition at the NEC to find out more”.

    “There were a couple of franchises which interested me but Signs Express stood out from the rest. The staff were friendly and approachable and I found the literature I was given very comprehensive. I left the stand feeling convinced that Signs Express was the franchise for me”.

    Stuart went to visit the Signs Express head office, where he found the professionalism which had attracted him to the stand at the exhibition, communicated throughout the company. After further discussions Stuart was awarded a franchise for Milton Keynes and opened his doors with one other member of staff in November 1995.

    “The support I received when I first set up the centre was far beyond what I imagined. A comprehensive training course and help with finding staff and premises meant I was positive about the venture from the first day of trading. Ongoing support and advice in all areas has also helped me remain competitive”.

    “The course also made me realise the full potential of signage. I was able to offer a full range of services from interior to exterior signage, exhibition boards and vehicle graphics; helping me build my customer base over the years”.

    Now operating with four staff, Stuart’s business is booming and with an ever growing customer base, the future looks bright for Signs Express in Milton Keynes.

    Signs Express is a well established franchise with over 85 centres nation-wide and is the UK’s largest sign company.

    Ken Soldiers on With Franchising -

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    FORMER soldier Ken Bevis yesterday gained recognition in a top national business competition after pioneering work helped expand his franchise business sevenfold in just ten years.

    Ken's Signs Express franchise in Grimsby won a Highly Commended Certificate of Merit in the British Franchise Association's Franchisee of the Year Awards sponsored by HSBC Bank, and supported by the Daily Express.

    He invested in ground-breaking technology to build up one of the biggest sign-making premises in the East of England. He bought Signs Express' first large-scale sign cutters, the first colour printing technology and some of the first letter engraving machines. He now operates from purpose-built premises with an 18 metre long vehicle graphics bay - far bigger than anything his rivals can offer.

    His determination to keep investing in his Grimsby-based business has boosted turnover from £69,000 in 1992 to nearly £500,000 last year. His workforce has grown from two to 12.

    Ken spent 12 years in the Army where he learned the discipline needed for business life. He also ran his own haulage business for ten years but sold it when the export market for British beef began to decline in the early 1990s.

    Ken said: “With the benefit of hindsight, the foot and mouth crisis would have finished the business had I not decided to change direction.

    Now, by exceeding many of the expectations laid down in the franchise system I have built a business of which I am very proud.”

    Cathryn Hayes, HSBC's national franchise manager, said: “Ken has shown a pioneering approach and a determination to build his business.

    Franchising is growing in importance thanks to people like Ken who invest in their businesses, follow a proven commercial plan and then innovate.”

    The theme for this year's contest is “Adding Value”. A panel chaired by Sir Bernard Ingham, president of the BFA, judged the competition .The awards were made at a gala dinner in Birmingham.

    (From left to right: The BFA's director general, Brian Smart, Ken Bevis of Signs Express and HSBC's national franchise manager, Cathryn Hayes.)

    Signing the Deal with the Right Franchise -

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    Maintaining a good quality of life, avoidance of big company politics and diminishing job security in corporate companies, were the three issues which led Richard Browne to investigate the prospect of buying into a franchise.

    With a wealth of management experience behind him, Richard was intent on finding an opportunity which made best use of his skills and one which would be up and running within a short period of time. Having taken redundancy payment from his previous employers he was aware that unless he moved quickly, his finances would be eaten up by other means. With the choice of business sector being of lesser importance than the use of his previous experience, Richard looked into some seventy different franchisees on the Internet. The shortlist came down dramatically to only six and then to a final four which Richard pursued on a more serious level.

    Richard comments “There were a wide variety of operators, especially at the bottom end, but I found the majority of these were only interested in selling their franchises and not the longer-term health of the business. At the other end of the scale, operators had proven business models with good infrastructure in place to substantiate their projected growth. To me, this was the single most important criteria in choosing to invest in any given franchise.”

    After meetings with the final four potential franchises Richard decided upon going forward with Signs Express, who were able to provide a re-sale opportunity within his time-scale and in a territory which suited him.

    “I was impressed with the professionalism shown by Signs Express and inspired with their willingness to pull out all the stops, enabling me to open my doors within my chosen time-frame. Signs Express has such a good position in the market, it offers clients the most widespread national coverage available whilst its size generates excellent supplier leverage,” commented Richard.

    Richard took the reins of the Signs Express centre in Slough at the beginning of October 2001. With turnover currently running 60% ahead of plan, things are progressing beyond initial expectations.

    Priorities currently lay with servicing the existing client base as effectively as possible, ensuring a smooth handover between ownership. However, plans for future expansion via recruitment and capital investment will be put into action once an established turnover has been formed.

    Signs Express produce a wide variety of signage for all types of business including a diverse range of interior and exterior applications, large format signage, vehicle graphics, exhibition displays, directional signs and Health and Safety signs. Each centre is equipped with a dedicated drive-in livery bay which provides a climate-controlled environment creating optimum conditions for vehicle graphics application, and is part of a nation-wide group covering 75 areas in the UK and Ireland.

    If you would like to find out more about a Signs Express franchise, visit the Signs Express website at, or call the Norwich franchise headquarters on 01603 625925. An initial personal capital of £27,500 is required for a Signs Express franchise.

    Returning to Old Pastures -


    Dave and Anne Hitch join the growing Signs Express franchise network after purchasing the company's Peterborough franchise from its retiring owners. The Peterborough centre has been in operation since 1993 and employs three staff. Dave and Anne are very confident about the future and are looking forward to working with customers old and new.

    After growing up in the Peterborough area, Dave was keen to move back to his home town. Following a career in the RAF and a long spell abroad working for British Aerospace in Saudi Arabia, Dave set up his own IT consultancy business in 1999. A desire to work with his wife and spending excess time away from the family working in London led to the couple looking into business opportunities in the Peterborough area.

    Dave comments, I heard about Signs Express following a chance meeting with an old friend. He had been awarded a management franchise with Signs Express in the Grantham area after leaving the RAF and was getting on really well. He gave me the contact details for Head Office and I called them to find out more.

    Anne continues, We found out more about franchising as a business venture and decided it would be the right avenue for us. Both Dave and I have considerable business experience and are looking forward to having the responsibility of making our own decisions whilst benefiting from the support network of a national company. I have recently completed a BA Hon. degree in Management Administration so am enjoying controlling the sales and admin support side of the business whilst Dave concentrates on overseeing the production side.

    We were delighted when the Peterborough franchise became available. It is such a well established business with a large customer base we have been busy from the outset. Signs Express has an excellent reputation for customer service and quality workmanship and we are determined to maintain this in the Peterborough area.

    We have received excellent training and support from Head Office. It is great that the back-up of a well established system is just a phone call away.

    Signs Express is the largest sign company in the UK and Ireland with centres serving over 75 areas across the country.

    For further information log onto or call 01603 625925.

    10 Years of Success -

    signsexpress_nick.jpg At a time when John Major was appointed Conservative Prime Minister, the average house price was £55,000 and Take That were topping the charts, Nick Dawes of Signs Express Ipswich first started trading.

    In 1992 he became the first Signs Express franchisee and now 10 years on, Nick is celebrating ongoing success and growth as he continues into his second 10 year term. This is Nick's third renewal after signing five year terms in 1997 and 2002.

    Nick decided on a franchise business after a career of management in retail. He no longer found this role challenging and looked into franchising as a way of starting his own business. He first visited the National Franchise Exhibition in Birmingham to see what types of opportunities were available.

    Nick preferred the idea of a business which incorporated design but had no experience in this field, so was delighted when he met with Managing Director David Corbett and found out about a management franchise with Signs Express.

    Although Signs Express did not have any franchisees in operation when I spoke to them, they had a successful pilot operation in Norwich which was already a proven business after only a couple of years. I was very impressed with the pilot unit and their ideas for franchise expansion and confident the venture would be a success.

    ?The five week training course enabled me to develop my existing management skills and also advised me on sales and marketing, accounts and other functions. Help and guidance with finding staff and premises gave me the start I needed and I was ready to start trading from day one. I quickly began to build up a customer base and over the past 10 years I have expanded my premises and the workforce from just two people to a staff of eight.

    I am very proud of what I have accomplished but could not have achieved the success I have experienced without the ongoing help and advice from Signs Express head office throughout the past 10 years.

    Signs Express has grown considerably over the last decade, becoming the UK and Irelands largest sign company with centres serving over 75 areas across the country.

    Signs Express Managing Director David Corbett said, Nick joined us when we only had our pilot operation in Norwich. He has been a shining example to all of the centres who have joined the network over the years. His dedication and continued commitment towards customer service and high standards is undoubtedly one of the key reasons for his success. Nick was the first but his continued commitment to the franchise system keeps him amongst the best.

    Nick works for a number of well known local companies including Ipswich Town Football Club, SGR local Radio and Ipswich Council.

    For further information about Signs Express call 01603 625925 or log onto

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