After 12 years in an executive level sales role that demanded frequent overseas travel, FASTSIGNS UK offered Richard Wedgwood the opportunity to fulfil a life-long ambition.
Prior to launching his FASTSIGNS business, Richard was an international sales director for a ceramics company, where he sold high quality, foodservice products to superior hotels within the global market. Richard’s sales leadership role afforded him a ‘glamourous’ jet-set lifestyle where he would travel around America, Canada, the Middle East and Australia, selling the finest ceramics.
Whilst his role appeared exciting to many, Richard frequently found himself living out of suitcases, hopping between airport lounges, boardrooms, meeting rooms and hotels, rarely getting to enjoy any of the countries he was visiting. Whilst he loved his job and the perks of the lifestyle, Richard realised he was exhausted, missing out on spending time with his family and friends and not pursuing his life-long goal of working for himself.
Richard comments “I put everything into my job and I lived a fast-paced lifestyle for more than 12 years, ultimately hotel-living lost its charm. I remember trips that required me to visit 12 different cities during 16-days. It was both exhausting and uninspiring. I realised that I no longer wished to operate in this way and began to consider other opportunities.”
That opportunity came in the form of an attractive redundancy offer in 2009. Richard seized the opportunity with both hands. He moved on from the role that had been extremely rewarding but had also dominated his life for over a decade.
Whilst taking some time away from employment to decide on what the future held, Richard, visited friends in the US and Canada. Whilst there he discovered the franchising opportunities that these countries had to offer. He identified that franchising offered a proven business model, providing a low-risk opportunity to start his own business in virtually any sector. Franchising would deliver the additional training he needed and support for him as he achieved business growth with a brand that was already recognised and trusted by its customers.
“Having found out so much about franchising in the Americas, I did not realise that franchising was a possibility in the UK. I was all set to emigrate to Canada, planning to start both a new life and a franchised business abroad. I believed that’s where the opportunities were!” Richard continues, “It was a chance meeting with the manager at a newly opened franchised restaurant in Manchester, that opened my eyes to the franchising opportunities in the UK. I realised this would be a bold – but ideal step – to help me achieve my goal.”
Having decided to stay in the UK, Richard set about undertaking his due diligence and understanding the UK franchise market. Richard worked with a company that connected franchise brands to potential franchisees. This company told him about FASTSIGNS, an American franchise business operating in the UK, providing signs and visual graphics to local business communities.
After further research, Richard was attracted to the technology that the FASTSIGNS franchise entailed, alongside the management nature of the business and the work-life balance that the franchise opportunity promised to deliver. “After 12 years of travelling, I was ready to find somewhere to establish my future. The technology and equipment required to open the centre was a huge draw for me, even though my background was in sales, I knew through the proper training and building the correct team, I could excel in a FASTSIGNS centre.
In 2010, Richard began his FASTSIGNS journey, by attending the FASTSIGNS Foundations training course, prior to the launch of his centre. Knowing that he did not possess design capabilities, Richard hired a graphic designer and took him and another member of staff to the two-week training course, delivered by FASTSIGNS Head Office, in Dallas, Texas. The course covered everything the team needed to know, including design, installation and customer service.
Richard states that the training he received as the business owner was invaluable. “My role is often incredibly varied. I can be trouble-shooting machinery one moment, involved in customer sales, or dealing with finances. Not only did I gain an excellent overview of the business, from FASTSIGNS perspective, I’ve also developed a wide-ranging array of new skills.”
“When FASTSIGNS Manchester first launched, I knew I wanted to see quick growth. In order to do this, I followed the FASTSIGNS model as closely as possible, I made use of all the systems FASTSIGNS had developed over their 33-year history. I also ingratiated myself into, not only the UK franchise network but also the US and Canadian networks too. This ensured we were not only able to ask our franchisor for help, but also the wider network.”
Each year, FASTSIGNS Manchester has achieved year-on-year growth. In 2016, to facilitate further growth, Richard relocated his centre to a 5,500 square foot, purpose-built facility and invested in the latest signage technology and equipment. Richard believes the investment will allow him and his team to fulfil and exceed their customer’s expectations, experience more rapid expansion in capabilities, and has firmly positioned his centre one of the top 5 sale turnover centres in the UK.
Even after achieving so much in FASTSIGNS Manchester’s first eight years of trading, Richard is not ready to release his foot from the pedal, just yet. “When I first started my business, one of my goals was to make myself redundant from day-to-day operations within 5 years. Eight years later I still haven’t reached this goal but continue to work towards it. I keep upping the bar and the market evolves, providing new challenges myself and my team to achieve more. It’s always about tomorrow. It’s about next year and the goals we can continue to reach for.”