Workers Turned Bosses (Signarama, Harrogate)
Marc Squires (31) and Kevin Masheder (25) both employees at Signarama Harrogate bought the business following the retirement of Michael Webster who opened the specialist signs and visual communications centre 15 years ago.
By coincidence Marc and Kevin are both product design graduates. Marc started working at the centre ten years ago and Kevin became part of the production team in 2013.
Said Marc: “I have been working here since I left university and have enjoyed every minute of it. Kev and I work well together and it made sense for us to pool our resources to buy the company. We know what a good business this is because we have seen the success for ourselves, so when Michael told us he was retiring and putting the company up for sale it was too good an opportunity to miss. He has built up a really good customer base and we’re looking forward to taking Signarama Harrogate it to the next stage.”
The business support team at Signarama UK have been working with the new owners to help them transition from being workers to bosses focusing on finance, management and marketing skills. The pair went to the company’s worldwide headquarters in Florida for an intensive two-week training course to learn everything there is to know about owning and running a Signarama centre.
Said Kevin: “We’ve got a great team here. Every day is different in the sign business and we get to work with some lovely customers. I have always wanted to be my own boss and it’s not every day you get the chance to buy a ready-made business with a proven pedigree. Being able to access top quality business advice and support through the Signarama Business Support Centre in London helped us tremendously and we learned a lot from the training. We had expert help with putting together a business plan, raising the finance and now have a business mentor to guide us as we adapt to our new management roles.”
Since taking over the business Kevin and Marc have invested in refurbishing the shop and installing a new reception area. In addition to contacting existing and previous customers to let them know about the change in ownership they have launched a major marketing campaign which includes social media, email marketing and radio advertising to establish Signarama Harrogate as the town’s leading sign company.
To begin your journey towards becoming a Signarama centre owner contact business support team member [email protected]
Tracy & Jeremy Andrews (Signarama, Birmingham South)
The Sign of a Great Family Business – Franchisees are as unique and varied in personality and skill sets as the hundreds of different franchise brands they represent. Tracy Andrews falls very much into the ‘highly experienced, highly capable’ category that the best franchisors tend to fight over.
In 1996 Tracy took over her family’s business selling safety equipment into the construction industry. After 12 years at the helm, in which she more than doubled the size of the company, Tracy accepted a buy-out offer from a large competitor that she felt was too good to turn down.
The new owners invited Tracy to stay on and continue running the company and for six years she did just that, before finally acknowledging that what had essentially become a senior management role in a large corporate was no longer for her. It was time to move on and once again embrace the challenge of building up a business that was truly hers. Tracy looked around for opportunities that ticked the right boxes – should she start a new business in the same sector, a completely new sector or buy an existing business that would benefit from her drive and considerable experience?
By twist of fate, six months earlier Tracy’s husband Jeremy had embarked on a similar journey of his own deciding he wanted a new challenge outside of his previous career in hospitality. After deciding that franchising presented a fantastic opportunity to start a business in an unfamiliar sector, Jeremy had the opportunity to buy an existing Signarama business that needed new direction and leadership. Perhaps now, with different yet complimenting skill sets, could they work together to create a new family business that would be even stronger as a partnership? The answer was yes and Tracy met with Signarama to take the new venture forward.
One of the greatest appeals of investing in a franchise is the training and support you get – two things conspicuously absent when you start your own business from scratch. Tracy spent a couple of weeks at Signarama’s global head office in Florida where she learned about every aspect of the sign industry from dedicated trainers and met with other Signarama owners who in addition to the formal support, shared their stories and gave her advice. On returning to the UK Tracy was able to spend an invaluable few days with the Signarama franchise owner in Milton Keynes who was able to talk in great detail about the type of customers they had and the nature of the work they did for them.
Only a month or so before, signage was a brand new industry to Tracy, but now she was brimming with ideas for the business. “The training was excellent. I was very comfortable with being able to run the business, but it was important to learn as much as I could about the industry – the products; the services; new technology; customer types; competitors; trends and potential. My time in Florida was very well spent and I left really encouraged and excited to get started.”
Tracy lost no time in building a great team around her and Jeremy. “We needed to bring certain skills in-house, like Graphic Design and Production. Signarama provide incredible systems and procedures, but unless you’re from the industry yourself, you need to put the right people with the right technical expertise in place.
Six years on and the business is thriving with a full time team of six. Tracy’s experience in corporate sales was certainly to prove a big advantage, but as she told us “There’s no question that being part of such a well known Global brand can open certain doors for you. Often the impression of size and national reach is very instrumental in larger clients trusting you with important and high value projects. We have some large construction companies as customers and being a based in Birmingham we are particularly delighted to produce a lot of work for Land Rover.”
So what’s next for the business? “We are about to take delivery of a very large flatbed printer that will allow us to produce a lot of bespoke hoardings for our building clients. This sort of machinery is a major financial investment, but we have absolute confidence in our abilities and the best way to keep the business growing is to make ourselves as competitive and capable as possible so our customers have no need to look elsewhere!”
Is it still fun? “Yes absolutely! It’s been challenging of course and it’s been a steep learning curve at times, but we have the advantage of always knowing that there is support there whenever we need it. We can call on the Signarama franchise team for anything we need, whether that be for the latest industry knowledge or just simple advice on a project. We are also part of a large network of franchise owners who are more than happy to help each other out or even work together to deliver on national contracts.
What sort of person would suit a Signarama franchise? “I think probably someone like me! You need to be lively and outgoing with the ability to get on with a wide range of customers from small local businesses to large corporates. You need to be both a team player and good leader, as you will need to manage your staff as well as remembering that you are part of a larger network that is strongest when it works together. There’s no escaping the hard work and long hours either, but I don’t think anyone expects to start a business and put their feet up.”
What about experience? “Well I’ve certainly put my previous business experience to good use here, but I honestly think that with the right attitude and work ethic, the training and support from Signarama could see anyone become successful without any industry experience or having run their own business before. That’s the beauty of franchising isn’t it!”
Would you do it all again? “No question. This was a great decision for us both!”
Charlie Sendula (Signarama, Enfield)
Charlie Sendula has owned the Signarama franchise in Enfield for over 5 years.
Whether you meet him face to face or over the phone, you get the immediate impression that Charlie is a man who knows how to get things done. Certainly his customers think so, judging by the number of testimonials praising the professionalism of his team at the Enfield Signarama. He also has a personality and work ethic that suggests he could probably make a success of pretty much any business, so we were keen to understand what led him to buy a franchise and why Signarama?
Fifteen years ago Charlie came to the UK with £100 and almost no English. Four years ago Charlie was running The Jazz Cafe London in bustling Camden and had an impressive property portfolio. No doubt somewhere in those intervening eleven years is a great story, but perhaps one for another time. Tiring of the 24/7 nature of the hospitality sector, Charlie was looking for a new business venture that would give him a challenge, play to his strengths and make money. “I could see the sign industry had loads of potential.” said Charlie. ” but I had no experience of the industry whatsoever, so it made sense to look around for different ways to get started – start my own, buy somebody else’s, invest in a franchise.”
What brought you to Signarama?
“I liked the brand and I knew they were huge in the States. They weren’t the only company I called, but their professionalism stood out a mile compared to the others. That was really important to me, as it reflected the kind of business I wanted to build myself. They responded to my enquiry straight away and invested a lot of time meeting with me and discussing how I could make a Signarama franchise work. They also had a cap on the royalties, which told me they weren’t being greedy and wanted the franchisees to keep more of the fruit of their hard work. It was clear that franchising offered me a great opportunity to learn about the industry quickly and hit the ground running, it was also a big plus that I knew I would have their ongoing support.”
How was the training?
“It was great. I mean I didn’t know anything about the business, so I was really starting from scratch – but fortunately I am a very fast learner! We worked together to find the right location and develop a business plan to get the store launched and up and running a quickly as possible. That was three years ago this month and now I have five staff and have just become the first Signarama franchisee in the UK to have a flatbed printer installed.”
Could you have done it on your own?
“No way! Seriously, who would have taught me about the products and the services? Who would I have called with all my questions – a competitor?”
Charlie says his success is down to visibility, quality and reliability. We suspect there is rather more to it than that, but those are certainly three key qualities of his business. When asked about who a Signarama franchise should appeal to, Charlie said “Anyone who wants to own a successful business that offers a professional service to its customers. I’ve proved that you can learn the technical side of the business and the support I’ve had has been brilliant – still is – but you need to have the drive and determination, it’s not a franchisors job to try and teach you that. You need to be good at dealing with customers, you’ve got to want to go that extra mile and exceed their expectations. People’s branding and signage is incredibly important to them, you need to take what you do really seriously – a great job from us might be a real game changer for a customers business and that’s something I’m really proud of!”
So what’s next for Charlie and the team at Signarama Enfield?
We keep growing, keep delighting our customers, bring in loads of work for this flatbed! I love this business and one day I will be able to step back from it and let it run itself, maybe even take on another one, but for now I enjoy it too much – it was a brilliant decision and I’d recommend it to anyone who is prepared to put in the graft and commitment.”
The Signarama franchise model can support anyone with the drive and determination to build a successful business even if like Charlie you have no industry experience. Equally, a Signarama franchise could be a great solution for an existing independent sign business that is trying to grow to the next level.
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