Membership History

Full Member
Joined 1997

Membership History

Full Member
Joined 1997
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Company Overview

A full member of the BFA, Signs Express has built an enviable reputation in the B2B arena; and it is this reputation that puts you in the perfect position to succeed as a franchise with regular and repeat custom from businesses across all industries. This award-winning company has seen continued growth and experienced record 1st quarter figures for 2019, which is testament to the success of the business model.

Established for 30 years and with more than 65 centres, Signs Express has a national reputation for providing quality interior and exterior signs, vehicle and window graphics and banners and exhibition displays within the B2B arena.

To provide the best possible start for a new franchisee Signs Express are reinvesting the entire franchise fee plus a further £10,000 for all new start-ups. A commitment unrivalled and a sure ‘sign’ that your business gets off to a great start!

Franchise Overview

With 30 years’ experience of successful trading and more than65 centre covering 80 territories in the UK and Ireland, Signs Express provides a Lucrative opportunity to run your own franchise. The UK-based training and support team provides franchisees with the confidence and capability to manage every aspect of their new business.

We Offer:

– Proven business model
– Market leading brand
– Lucrative B2B sector
– High earning potential
– Training & ongoing support
– No sign industry experience required
– Franchise fee plus £10K reinvestment in all start-ups, Total of £30K reinvestment

Training

You may have little or no experience of signs and graphics or running a business, or you may have plenty. Signs Express believe training is a vital factor in helping you grow your business.

The training course is for four weeks at head office and covers: business development, materials and suppliers, local marketing, day-to-day operations including pricing, HR and employment issues, health & safety, accounts and IT. Continuous training and support is available.

Daily Life of a franchisee

There are very few businesses like the Signs Express business. Your days will be very varied; your day may start with a telephone call, or an enquiry from our website that generates thousands of enquiries per year. From signs as large as a building to van graphics, you’ll meet with customers as well as manage a small team of sign makers, organise and grow your business.

Steve McMurray

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 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.

His achievements saw Steve named as a finalist in the bfa’s Franchisee of the Year awards in 2010 and he has been recognised three times in the biennial Signs Express Franchise Awards. More recently, the business was shortlisted for Sign Business of the Year at the Sign & Digital UK Awards 2012.

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.

Commenting on how he has achieved such success, Steve says: “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.”

He continues: “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 backup and support from the dedicated team at franchise headquarters, help is always just a phone call away.”

Nick Dawes

As one of the first franchises to open Nick has been centre owner since 1992 and now employs six staff from his 2300 sq ft unit based just off Landseer Road in Ipswich town.

1) What would you say have been the ultimate rewards?

Financial security is the main reward along with the freedom of being my own boss and the pleasure of seeing my business grow. We’ve also built a great relationship with a number of our customers, some of whom have been with us since day one.

2) How has the industry changed since you joined?

Franchising seems to have matured since I first started out and is now viewed much more positively as a viable business route. The sign industry has fundamentally stayed much the same, although obviously machinery and materials have changed somewhat with a much stronger bias towards full colour.

3) How did you go about raising the finance for your franchise?

I invested my personal funds plus a bank loan under the Government Approved Loan Scheme for the rest of the balance.

4) What has been your biggest order to date or who has been your biggest customer?

The biggest customer and job so far has been 125 vehicles for Eastern Electricity.

5) Where would you like to be in ten years time?

Skiing!

“Financial security is the main reward along with the freedom of being my own boss and the pleasure of seeing my business grow.” - Nick Dawes, Franchisee, Signs Express (Ipswich)

Nick Baxter-Sibley

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

1. What did you do prior to becoming a Signs Express franchisee?

I 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)

Malcolm Lant

Originally opened in 1998, Malcolm has been centre owner since 2005 and now employs six staff from his 3448 sq ft franchise 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 your franchise?
We’ve doubled our turnover 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 out weighed the positives of buying a ready-made business (franchise). 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.

“We’ve doubled our turnover from £240k to £500K and we’re still seeing steady growth.” - Malcolm Lant, Franchisee, Signs Express (Gateshead)

Ken Venables

Ken Venables celebrated his first anniversary as the franchisee of Signs Express (Norwich) in May 2015. This established centre was the first-ever Signs Express in what has become a nationwide network of franchised sign manufacturing centres since it was founded in 1989. Head office 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.

Joe Smith

Joe Smith opened the doors of his custom designed sign making centre back in June 2006 at the age of 29.  Since then he has become a family man supporting his wife and son as well as continuing to run his successful Signs Express franchise based on the Saxon Business Park, Bromsgrove.

1. What did you do prior to becoming a Signs Express franchisee?

After leaving school I worked in many sectors including hospitality, distribution, the motor trade and building.  I then worked for several years as an Account Manager for an Advertising Agency which lead into working as a Graphic Designer. I grew up in the sign industry as my father has worked in automotive corporate identity for 40 years this background allied with the various industry skills learned have paved the way to the sign industry for me.

2. What made you decide to buy a franchise?

When I decided to start up my own business I was only 28, I had some business skills already but knew that I could benefit from the expertise available from a support network.  It’s always daunting to set up something new but after I had been to a couple of the franchise shows I decided that franchising was the best option for me.  Franchising gave me the comfort of knowing that help and expertise were on hand in all areas of the business from operations to HR, marketing, accounts and technical support.

3. What have been your biggest rewards from having your own business?

My biggest rewards are being my own boss, and having the flexibility and time to spend with my family.  The signage industry is always progressing and helps to keep the work varied which keeps the job interesting.

4. What has been your biggest order to date?

We recently had a school new build which was a £40k job; school signage is one of the areas we specialise in.

5. Where would you like to see yourself in 10 years?

Happy and successful.

“It’s always daunting to set up something new but after I had been to a couple of the franchise shows I decided that franchising was the best option for me. Franchising gave me the comfort of knowing that help and expertise were on hand in all areas of the business from operations to HR, marketing, accounts and technical support.” - Joe Smith, Franchisee, Signs Express (Birmingham SW)

Jayesh Patel

Originally opened in 2003, Jayesh employs four staff at his 3000 sq ft franchise unit based on Vector Park in Feltham.

1. What did you do prior to becoming a Signs Express franchisee?

Worked as an IT project manager/consultant.

2. What have been the ultimate rewards?

Constantly learning new skills whether it be regarding technology, client management, sales & marketing, administration or even application and fitting signs. I think it is also very satisfying seeing your products on display around the area. The business has allowed me to spend more time with my family and gives me the freedom to choose my working hours.

3. How has your business progressed or expanded since you launched?

The franchise has grown steadily although seems to be hitting a peak at the moment. This may be due to the economic environment as we are still acquiring new clients – both large and small. We have also become more efficient and have moved into larger premises which will cater for future growth.

4. What has been your biggest order to date?

Our biggest order was for a company called Masterlease. The project was for a fleet of 70 cars which all needed vehicle graphics. Our biggest client at present is the Rugby Football Union; we’ve been working with them since 2004.

5. Where would you like to see yourself in 10 years?

Ideally retired and playing golf but in reality I’ll be continuing to build the business.

“The business has allowed me to spend more time with my family and gives me the freedom to choose my working hours.” - Jayesh Patel, Franchisee, Signs Express (Twickenham)

Dave & Kim Nurse

Originally opened in 2003, husband and wife team Dave and Kim Nurse now employ six staff at their 1981 sq ft franchise in Leeds.

1. What did you do prior to becoming a Signs Express franchisee?

I worked for a materials supplier who supplied the sign industry.

2. Why did you choose franchising?

The main reason for choosing a franchise was the support available. Although I had extensive management experience, knowing that help and expertise was on hand in all areas of the business from operations to HR, technical support, accounts and marketing was a great comfort, especially in the early days of trading.

3. What has been your biggest challenge?

Finding good staff you can rely on has been a big challenge. As a small business you need to entrust your staff with a number of roles and it’s very important that they reflect the ethos you want to portray to customers. Once we found the right staff, they have been able to grow along with the business which has been a rewarding experience.

4. What advice would you give to someone looking to start a franchise?

Be as active as possible to get your name out to potential customers. Don’t expect the doors to open and everyone to want to do business with you. You need to let as many people know you are open as you can. Tap up old friends, colleagues and ask them to refer their contacts so you have a larger pool of people you can talk to.

5. How did you go about raising the finance to become a franchisee?

Raising finance was quite easy for our business. Once we had sent out our business plan, which was worked on with the help of Signs Express head office, we found that the successful trading history of the franchise meant that all of the major banks were willing to lend to us. We borrowed against our house to raise the liquid capital needed to secure the rest of the bank funding. We found it much easier than looking to start in business alone as a franchise has much higher success rates and so has a better lending policy from banks.

“Although I had extensive management experience, knowing that help and expertise was on hand in all areas of the business from operations to HR, technical support, accounts and marketing was a great comfort.” - Dave Nurse, Franchisee, Signs Express (Leeds)

Resales

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Expert Advice
Latest News
New owner welcomed at Signs Express (Lancaster)
10 March 2020
Sign of the Times
4 November 2019
Loyal Centre Manager becomes Taunton Signs Express Owner
16 November 2018

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