Membership History

Full Member
Joined 1997

Membership History

Full Member
Joined 1997
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Company Overview

Successfully trading since 1979, previous winner of the coveted bfa Franchise of the Year Award, over 45 franchise territories in the UK and Europe and with multiple revenue streams Recognition Express is a stalwart of British franchising and is the most successful franchise network for the sector in the UK.

In a market worth an estimated £3billion plus per annum Recognition Express supplies branded business gifts and promotional products, personalised name badges, staff awards, posters and signs plus a full range of branded clothing to the widest cross section of companies and organisations in the UK. 

Hardworking, ambitious and driven franchisees with good ‘people skills’ are well suited to the ethos of the company and will find the rewards for owning your own business can be substantial.

Walk around your local area and see the opportunities everywhere for badges, branded clothing, promotional products, large format colour posters, corporate gifts and awards. The market is huge, and the good news is that most of the business is repeat business.

Franchise Overview

In business for yourself not by yourself

With 40 years in business the Recognition Express Head Office team have a wealth of business experience from sales and marketing to operations to finance to procurement.

Whilst this is your business and it’s you who makes the key decisions, we are always on hand with help and advice.

More importantly you have access to the widest range of support to help you manage, grow and develop the business.

You also benefit from the Recognition Express business systems, marketing programmes and collateral and sales tools.

As part of the largest franchise network for corporate merchandise and recognition products you will take advantage of our considerable purchasing power – plus we get best products from the best suppliers, keeping you ahead of the competition.

We are committed to supporting you in all key areas of the business:

  • Integrated business planning
  • Centralised marketing activity
  • Appointment generating programme
  • Ongoing training
  • Financial planning
  • Comprehensive marketing launch programme
  • Annual symposium
  • Monthly magazine
  • Dedicated extranet
  • Help and advice lines
  • Franchisee websites
  • Procurement

What our franchisees say

“Having been away from the workplace for 18 years, I was apprehensive about starting my own business. The support I have received from Recognition Express has been exceptional, so much so that at the end of my first year I achieved all my financial targets and have made the transition to business owner. The business is going extremely well and the economic climate has not affected my business at all. In fact, people are very aware of the need to promote the business and keep their name out there.”

Jan Chidley, Recognition Express Hull and East Riding

“The support has been first class with excellent material and an ever-improving range of centralised marketing programmes. I can see significant growth and am aiming to take the business to the next level over the next 12 months.”
Sally Findlay, Recognition Express Mid Surrey

Marketing is the cornerstone of every successful B2B business

Recognition Express has extensive marketing experience in the business to business field.

We have developed several tried and tested marketing systems and programmes to help franchisees to achieve ‘friction free’ marketing and to get in front of customers – old and new.

All franchisees have access to an extensive and comprehensive collection and range of marketing collateral from sales letters, to email marketing to awareness cards to flyers/leaflets to give-aways to a branded and personalised catalogue.

Additionally, we engage professional agencies to coordinate direct marketing activity to prospective customers and generate appointments on your behalf.

Centrally designed, managed and implemented direct marketing programmes form the backbone of the Recognition Express marketing system. These are augmented by high quality literature, marketing tools and ongoing training designed to drive business growth, client contact and brand awareness.

Constantly on the lookout for exciting products and innovations, we invest both the time and money in on-going new product development programmes and in constant R&D, across the whole product range.

Your cost

There are two options available with Recognition Express.

Some franchisees like to have the ability to print/decorate products ‘on-site’ and as such we provide a comprehensive ‘equipment package’ as part of the offering.

Many other franchisees would much rather spend their hard-earned time speaking with and meeting new and existing customers, building relationships, generating new business and looking after existing orders.

In these cases, franchisees have asked us to remove the equipment package.

The Recognition Express franchise is available for £25,000 (+ vat) 

Should you wish to include the equipment then the total price is £35,000 (+ vat).

You will be able to reclaim the VAT in your first quarter.


We have excellent relationships with all the major banks and for a business with the history and performance record of Recognition Express we expect the banks to fund at 70% or the total required.

If you were looking to fund at £25,000 your personal commitment would be under £8,000 (plus vat) 

Initial franchise package includes:

  • Licence to trade and use the trademarks
  • Marketing Launch Programme
  • Extended training
  • Centralised Marketing programmes 
  • Appointment generating system
  • Own website
  • Extensive marketing collateral
  • 250 Recognition Express product catalogues
  • Accounting software
  • Ongoing training; business reviews and network meetings

Who are we looking for?

We are looking for ‘people’ people – good communicators who are comfortable building relationships at all levels.

Successful franchisees are well organised, ambitious, and keen to follow a proven business system.

We want the best 

Recognition Express will provide you with everything you need to ensure a successful start to your franchise business.

You need to bring ambition, drive, determination and a passion to own your own business and to succeed plus a positive attitude to working with the franchisor and building relationships with customers.

We will train you, support you, arm you and be by your side as you start and throughout your journey.


Training is comprehensive and extensive, covering all key business areas – marketing, sales, finance, business planning, production, products, pricing etc.

Daily Life of a franchisee

There is no typical day for a franchisee, but there are core activities that are central to creating an effective and efficient business. Good franchisees will be contacting existing customers or new prospects every day – asking about new business, ensuring a recent job was OK, seeking a first appointment; they will be attending formal networking groups at least once a month; speaking with suppliers; detailing customer quotes; and developing their key accounts.

Steve Sykes

Steve originally came to Recognition Express in 2002 when he set up the Crewe franchise.  He was so successful that he bought a second territory, the Wirral, five years later.

Steve has been married to Karen for 30 years and they have three children; Stuart (26), James (22) and Jennifer (21):

"I didn’t ever want to leave Recognition Express, because I like the business and I get on very well with the franchisor, but somebody made me an offer I couldn’t refuse! Being the franchisor, rather than the franchisee, was a very interesting and valuable experience, but I’m glad to be back where I belong."

Born and bred in Cheshire, Steve started his career in retail management, with a management training course at the Cooperative Wholesale Society. He then moved onto other high street retailers until realising that there was a big world out there and he wanted to be part of it. He was bored of being in the same place day after day.

From retail Steve moved to the signage sector, where he stayed for 10 years, working in a B2B environment providing equipment and sign products to the leisure and hotel sector.

“I did quite a bit of travelling, saw the world and worked very long hours, but somebody else was benefitting from my hard work, and I always knew I wanted to work for myself one day.”

Why franchising?
I came across Recognition Express when I visited the National Franchise Exhibition at the NEC. I felt an affinity with the nature of the business having been involved in the signage sector. I like the idea of actually selling products rather than information and I liked the quality and range of goods on offer. I could see that there was a huge market place.

From a practical viewpoint, I was looking for a business I could operate from home as I didn’t want to take on a huge overhead. Another unique selling point of Recognition Express is that it has manufacturing capability locally through its own in-house production facility, plus nationally and internationally.  This means we have the flexibility and capacity to copy with any size of order.

How did you find your way back to being a Recognition Express Franchise Owner?
I stayed in touch with the franchisor, Nigel Toplis, and he knew that I’d been made redundant. There was a resale opportunity, he approached me to see if I was interested, and I was.

This time around the challenge is different. It’s not a virgin territory and I’ve had to hit the ground running as it’s a busy franchise. You can’t hit ‘pause’ whilst you find your feet!

What are the characteristics of running a B2B franchise?
You need confidence to sit in front of people and promote your business. It’s not all about price and is more about building client relationships. Most people prefer to know who they are buying from and what they are buying. Reliability, meeting deadlines, is very important in this sector. You can’t afford to let people down. Accuracy and attention to detail is key because there are no grey areas. It’s either right or it’s wrong.

What are your future plans for the business?
My ideal would be to develop this into a family business. My eldest son, Stuart, is interested in getting involved on the sales side and developing the territory.
I’ve taken on a 30 year old, established business and my target is to cross-sell a wider range of products to existing customers as well as develop new business.

Paul Mitchell

I’ve been a Recognition Express franchisee since 1981, which means I’ve seen how the business has developed and improved every year. The business today is very different from when I launched. There’s a huge emphasis on branding and marketing – a focus on making Recognition Express the first choice for our customers.

The market has also changed too due to the growing importance of branding to any business.  This means that there’s a lot more potential – any business can be considered a potential client.

I’d always wanted to work for myself and it turned out that Recognition Express provided a great way for me to achieve this. It was their ability to provide great training and support that first attracted me to the business and this has got better and better. The business is always looking forward and has always been focused on improving its systems.  The training is now very sophisticated and with all the added support, the franchise package is second to none.

One of the benefits of a Recognition Express franchise is that a lot of new business comes straight to us through referrals. It’s up to the individual franchisee to decide how to use the marketing tools provided and market their business in their territory – you can look to develop the business as it suits you.

The franchise revolves very much around marketing and sales, and as such experience in this would be a great help. However, it’s not strictly necessary at all. As long as you are personable and can relate to others in a professional environment, everything you need to know can be learned.

I find the work to be very satisfying and still enjoy it after all these years. Recognition Express makes sure you are fully prepared to go into business and, so long as you follow the tried and tested format, everything is in place for success.

Jan Chidley

Jan Chidley, 45, was born in New Zealand and first came to England at the age of 21 for a working holiday.

Jan did a multitude of jobs, including banking, working as a nanny and a credit controller, before meeting her husband Chris and starting a family. Jan and Chris have twins, Sam and Sophie who are at University, and Holly who is almost 16. Having been a full-time mum providing stability for the children whilst they travelled the world with Chris’s job, Jan decided in June 2008 that it was now her time and set up Recognition Express Hull and East Riding. Although Jan is the sole franchisee, husband Chris has been a big support along with the head office staff.

What attracted you to franchising?
I had a business back in New Zealand with my father, growing apples. We sold it and I decided that I wanted to do something in the UK now that my family are nearly all grown up.  I like the idea of doing something that is my own business but where I am supported.

My husband, Chris, is the CEO of a large nationwide franchise, Driver Hire, and I could see the benefits of being a part of a franchise. There is a list of support needed when starting a new business, and on a day to day basis it is good to know you can pick up the phone and there will be help at the end of the line.

What was it about Recognition Express that attracted you?
Nigel Toplis and the team are very supportive, there is a wide range of good quality products and hence a broad range of potential customers, and the business model is sound.

My husband Chris was aware of Recognition Express and had met Nigel on several occasions.  We both felt that Recognition Express was the right sort of business for me.

What advice would you give to others thinking of starting their own business?
It is hard work, with a lot of commitment required, but if you get it right it is extremely satisfying. It is all about meeting people on a regular basis, forming good relationships and being able to deliver the end product.

Having my own business gives me flexibility around my home life, however it is important to remain focused on the business and to continue to put in the time required to keep things on the up. It is not a hobby.

Would you recommend franchising to others?
I would recommend franchising to others. Whilst you have to do your homework before signing on the dotted line you should be buying into a proven business model. For busy women this can be an appealing option.

Hugh O'Neill

Growth is on track for Recognition Express franchisee Hugh O’Neill

Facing redundancy after 20 years in a senior role for a contract caterer, Hugh O’Neill decided it was time to invest in his own future. He put his redundancy payment towards the purchase of a Recognition Express franchise in 2010, and he’s set to reach his target ultimate turnover by 2022. When the time is right, he plans to put the business up for sale and enjoy the fruits of his labour during his retirement.

Setting up any kind of business in 2010 was challenging. The recession was in full swing, and demand for many of the promotional product lines supplied by Recognition Express was in decline. However, Hugh saw the long-term potential of the business and at the outset he focused on selling branded clothing. His catering experience told him that workwear would always be needed by small and large firms alike, even if they were cutting back spend elsewhere. 

This strategy served him well for several years, and the business grew at a steady pace. But over the past two to three years, Hugh has also secured work with a couple of international conference organisers. With the upturn in the economy, the conference sector is one area that is booming, leading to regular large-batch orders for items such as lanyards, name badges and promotional goods. His forecast for year ending March 2019 is a turnover of £240,000, representing 37% growth.

From day one, Hugh knew that he wanted a ‘manageable’ business that he could comfortably run in partnership with his wife Mary. Some Recognition Express franchisees handle their own production, taking on industrial units and bigger teams of staff. This approach delivers better margins, but Hugh opted to outsource the production element of the business. Instead, he focuses on building and managing client relationships, channelling his energy into delivering exceptional service, which helps generate repeat custom. Mary looks after new business activity and the accounts. 

It’s the inherent flexibility, scalability and durability that sets Recognition Express apart from other franchised businesses, according to Hugh. 

“The breadth of the product offering, coupled with the option to outsource production or handle it in-house, makes it a very versatile franchise option,” he explains. “While there’s one core model, there’s a lot of scope for a franchisee to develop it in a way that suits their own ambitions, needs and areas of interest. For me, taking on the business in my late 40s, retirement was very much on the horizon and I’ve been working with that in mind. Other people have different goals and the franchisor can accommodate franchisees at both ends of the spectrum.”

When he took on the franchise, Hugh had a full week of in-depth training at the Recognition Express headquarters, followed by three days of one-to-one support at his own premises. Since then, he’s benefited from annual events for the entire franchise network, ‘drivers meetings’ for smaller groups of franchisees to explore business growth strategies, and ongoing site visits and mentoring from franchise owner Nigel Toplis. 

“In the early days, I really appreciated the level of support from head office – I was working for myself for the first time in an entirely new industry,” Hugh continues. “Today, the support is just as valuable, but the emphasis has changed. I know the ropes, and I have learnt so much about how to nurture clients. But it’s always good to discuss business challenges and opportunities with likeminded people who have your best interests at heart.”

Hugh believes franchising is a solid and lucrative option for people who are prepared to do the work and follow the franchisor’s proven model. But he cautions that not all franchisors are equal:

“Do your homework, and don’t rush into a decision. You need to be absolutely sure that the franchise you’re investing in is credible, that the model is robust, and that you’ll have long-term support and guidance. If you have any doubts, keep looking. There are lots of franchise opportunities out there, so make sure you invest in the one that is best for you.”

SE Scotland

Personal touch drives growth for Recognition Express SE Scotland

Three heads are better than one for Recognition Express South East Scotland, which has enjoyed an average growth rate of in excess of 10 per cent per year since 2014.

David Mitchell, son of former owner Graham Mitchell, teamed up with employees Moira Ashby and Mark Everingham to purchase the franchise when his father reached retirement age five years ago. Combining their skills, energy and expertise with ongoing franchisor support and parental advice has enabled the business to reach new heights.

According to David, outstanding customer service is the cornerstone of their success. This value is heavily emphasised to all franchisees in the network. They’re encouraged to boost differentiation and customer loyalty by providing a ‘total service experience’.

The ethos has paid dividends for Recognition Express South East Scotland, which has achieved excellent rates of organic growth with existing corporate clients. 

“In the digital age, there’s always someone out there who can provide goods more cheaply than you can,” David explains. “Trying to compete on price alone is soul destroying, and ultimately it has a negative impact on quality and service levels. While we receive a lot of orders online and by email, we make a concerted effort to speak with key clients in person on a regular basis. We also take care to ensure orders are delivered on time and in good condition. It really makes a difference. Customers know we offer good value, and they trust us to meet their expectations.”

The business operates from Grangemouth, with David managing customer relationships while Moira and Mark handle the production and fulfilment of name badge orders. Promotional items and clothing are generally sourced from third parties, so David also dedicates time to managing supplier relationships. 

Everybody has a specific role to play, but there is a strong team ethic and a belief in attention to detail which helps the business stand out from the competition and earn repeat orders. Most new business comes through cross-selling and word of mouth, so ensuring customers have a good experience every time they use Recognition Express is essential. 

Five years after they acquired the business, the leadership team still values franchisor support and guidance. Recognition Express is part of the Bardon Group of franchises, and the team meets with MD Nigel Toplis a couple of time a year to discuss business plans and emerging opportunities. They also attend the annual Recognition Express Symposium to meet with other franchisees from around the UK.

Moira says this extended support network has been invaluable, and enables the team to stay focused. 

“In the early days, it was great to know we could call on head office with any queries,” she explains. “Even now we’re in touch with them or the wider network around six times a year. It helps you to keep perspective, and it’s an opportunity to find out about new ideas and learn from examples of best practice. Being in touch with the franchisor and other franchisees really motivates us and keeps us at the head of our game.”

Graham Mitchell formerly owned the Recognition Express South East Scotland franchise for 15 years, so it’s now been in the Mitchell family for two decades. David was attracted to the business as he could see that it was a reliable and low-risk route to becoming his own boss. He also knew that Moira and Mark were committed and highly skilled, so he felt confident that the three of them would be successful together. They have worked hard to grow the business, but they are also able to fit their hours around family life.  

David says that teaming up to buy the franchise enabled the three of them to achieve their business ambitions without over-stretching themselves. They brought complementary skills to the table and have a shared focus on going the extra mile for customers.

“Before taking on the franchise, I worked in the contact centre industry,” says David. “This gave me a good grounding in the importance of customer service, which meant I had synergy with the Recognition Express model from the outset. Taking care of customers and ensuring they have the best possible experience has helped us grow and develop the business.”

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