Signs Express

Signs Express

What is SignPost, why was it created and how does it work?

SignPost is an innovative, consultancy style, business development system created to help our Signs Express franchisees achieve their goals for growth.

Like many franchisors, our previous business development service relied largely on the capability and experience of our field based BDMs. As part of our growth aspirations we wanted to enhance and modernise this approach. To do this have we completely restructured our network development team over the past few years bringing in a Network Development Director, two new BDMs and a National Sales Manager. Using their experience, together with research into the most effective business development models operating in UK business, we developed the formal SignPost service.

Coached by our BDMs, each franchisee works through a series of SignPost processes and worksheets to help them identify theirs goals for growth, their barriers to growth and above all identifying an action plan for achieving their goals. They then work collaboratively with their BDM, and other franchisees, to deliver that plan.

SignPost allows us to offer consistent levels of structured BD support, to better leverage the skills and learnings from across our network and, above all, to equip our franchisees with the commercial ‘skills for life’ to successfully run their businesses for growth.

In 2016, we launched SignPost with 12 centres who achieved an average 11.2% growth in sales. In 2017 32 centres are actively engaged in the SignPost process.

How have you developed your franchisee recruitment strategy for the modern age?

We recognised that our previous recruitment model was limiting our ability to grow our network. It relied on traditional roles, traditional marketing and a process that did not recognise how people’s needs have changed when looking to research and buy a franchise.

To address this, we re-engineered our entire recruitment approach with two key principals guiding us. Firstly, to ensure that the candidate experience was at the centre of our whole process and, secondly, that our activities would be digitally led.

Our key recruitment roles now combine marketing and HR skills, rather than the traditional ‘sales’ role. This gives us a twin benefit of ensuring we are generating higher quality, well informed enquiries as well as having the softer people skills to more accurately assess the suitability of candidates. Supporting this has been a new website, a completely new marketing mix and an innovative approach to discovery days and eventual selection.

The results have been exceptional. We have trebled our lead generation, more than doubled the candidates we engage with and are successfully achieving our growth targets and pipeline goals.

What development do you have planned for the future?

We operate with a philosophy of continuous improvement so have lots in the pipeline. For example, we have just launched our most fundamental change to the way we support our franchisees ever. Our ‘Centre Support’ Plan has been really positively received and seeks to align the specific support services each franchisee receives with their business needs and size. This has become vitally important to us with a network that now includes franchisees of only a few months standing to those in their 25th year.

Later this year we will launch a new state of the art intranet based support channel, three new innovative marketing services, further increase our lead generation; and create new services for staff recruitment and training at our centres.

How do you involve your franchisees in the development process?

Engaging our franchisees in our strategy, plans and the day-to-day running of the business is, for us, fundamental and we provide a number of ways for everyone to be actively involved.

Clearly communication is vital and we invest a lot of effort into regular two-way communication with our network – using all manner of tools from the traditional paper and face to face, to the latest digital tools such as video, Skype and our intranet discussion forum.

On matters of strategy we meet regularly with our Franchise Steering Group, a ‘board’ of senior franchisees (voted for by their peers) who give us their input, guidance and advice from the networks perspective - actively moulding our strategy.

Supporting that, we regularly survey our network to get their input and steer into all of our projects. As we develop up those projects we will involve franchisees as part of pilot exercises - this was especially key for our new website which we launched last year. Finally, we operate a programme of peer-to-peer meetings and trade/training events.

How do you ensure your franchisees are receiving the support they need?

In short – we ask them and then we listen.

As we have shown, our franchisee engagement activities are really comprehensive and form the bedrock connection with our franchisees to help us ensure we deliver what they need.

In January this year we also conducted a comprehensive survey of our network to seek their input and opinion on the key areas in which they need future help and support. The results have been enormously valuable and have directly influenced our plans for this year and beyond. For example, our Centre Support Plan was created as a result of this survey.

What have you learnt along the way and what advice would you give other companies thinking of franchising?

For us franchising has been a really successful, stable and cost-effective way to achieve scale and profitable growth. What we have learnt, in this our 25th year of franchising, is that it is also a sustainable method of business growth for the long term. To achieve this our advice would be that to reap those long term benefits never rest on your laurels and be prepared to regularly re-invent your business to stay relevant, modern and connected.

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