Starting a business in the sign making industry is an attractive prospect for many budding entrepreneurs. Requiring a unique blend of creativity and business smarts, it’s a sector in which only the best survive and thrive. Here, we take a look at how you can start your own signage business and what role franchising can play in your success.
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It’s all about first impressions
It's incredible how important first impressions are. Though we all recognise the truth inherent in the old saying "never judge a book by its cover", the reality is that we're making snap judgements about anything and everything all of the time. It's one of the reasons that branding is so important.
For businesses, this means that it’s necessary to put your best foot forward and present yourself in as appealing and accurate a manner as possible. It's also essential that you attract the attention of those passing by and identify yourself to those customers who are already aware of your existence. That's where good signage comes in.
Signs are everywhere
Though it's easy to forget it, the fact is that signs are everywhere. In going about our everyday business, we come across countless signs – some of which we acknowledge and interact with, others which we don't even recognise as signs, and some which we don't see or ignore.
Outdoor signs have become an essential part of our everyday visual vocabulary. They provide us with crucial information, guide us through our environments and communicate a sense of identity. Essentially, they're the system by which an environment explains and advertises itself.
An enormous amount of investment and considerable research has gone into developing signs that are intuitive and easy to read, while also being capable of attracting attention. This means that the field of sign making has become increasingly specialised and that the expertise required to succeed in the industry has developed as well. Making signs is no longer just an art; it’s now a science too.
Types of outdoor sign
The complexity of the job has grown as the number of different kinds of signs has risen. Businesses can advertise themselves with A-frame signs, pavement boards, illuminated signs, fascia signs, shop front signs, monolith signs, canopies, awnings, and outdoor plaques, amongst other styles.
Creating this diverse array of signs requires specialist knowledge of printing techniques and how to manipulate a wide range of materials. A modern sign maker must understand the various benefits of each type of sign, as well as knowing how to create effective models. After all, it doesn’t matter if you create the best sign known to man if it’s used in the wrong place.
Outdoor signs UK
In the UK, there are always trends and movements affecting the sign making industry and the types of signs being produced. This makes for a healthy sector, as new trends lead to rebranding and more work for sign makers. Currently, there's a movement towards an industrial aesthetic. These signs are bold and eye-catching, and often utilise materials that we would typically associate with manufacturing, such as metals. A rough and aged finish also contributes to this ‘heavy manufacturing’ feel.
Likewise, tactile signs are also a popular choice. Tactile signage offers business something a little quirkier and more individual, helping them stand out as an organisation that’s fun and playful. Finally, companies are also reconsidering the way in which they frame and bracket their signs, with more ornate and traditional designs coming back into fashion.
As a sign maker in the UK, it's vital that you keep on top of the latest trends and know what's happening in the industry. Not only will this help you attract new clients, but it will also ensure that older clients are willing to return whenever they need an update or are rebranding.
Outdoor business signs
If you're considering opening a signage business, there are a few ways of going about it.
- Firstly, you could launch your own start-up and try to build a business from scratch. While this gives you complete creative freedom over your business, it's the toughest route to navigate successfully.
- Secondly, you could do an apprenticeship at a sign-making business and, after a few years of training, look to go it alone or partner with your mentor to expand their business. While this ensures you receive all the training you need, it's a long process that doesn't even guarantee you your own business once you've finished.
- Finally, there’s franchising. Franchising is by far the most successful route to business ownership. Franchises fail far less regularly than traditional businesses, and the quality of training and support you're likely to receive will endow you with all the skills necessary to grow your business.
Start an Outdoor Signs Franchise
As a franchisee, it’s not even necessary to carry out the hands-on, practical work associated with sign making. If desired, you can take on a purely managerial role and hire gifted technicians to create your signs. Though you’ll be working closely with your franchisor, franchisees still manage and run their own business and reap the financial and personal rewards of doing so.
Top franchise opportunities in the signage industry
Within the franchising sector, there are many signage franchises that you may want to consider. Below, we take a brief look at two of the most enticing investment opportunities.
Outdoor signs business for sale
1. Signs Express
With nearly 30 years of experience and more than 65 centres around the country, Signs Express is one of the largest sign makers in the UK. Franchisees benefit from an incredible training and support programme, as well as guaranteed reinvestment from the franchisor.
This franchise operates one of the most thriving business models in the B2B sector, providing signs to businesses up and down the UK.
What training will I get?
If you join this franchise, rest assured that you will be trained to a high standard and will only be left to your own devices when you are fully confident with the business model and operational processes. This is why it isn’t a requirement to have any previous experience in the industry.
Who is Signs Express looking for?
Signs Express is looking for candidates with a background in management and leadership. But above all, you should have impeccable communication skills that can be drawn on to motivate employees and provide exceptional customer service. It is also essential to have the motivation and drive to ensure the business succeeds, as well as uphold the brand’s integrity.
The typical investment involved in becoming a Signs Express franchisee is a capital requirement between £40,000 and £45,000 and a bank loan of between £60,000 and £70,000. This, therefore, makes the total investment cost £115,000.
What have current franchisees got to say about the opportunity?
Jane Wiles, a franchisee based in Portsmouth, says that it is “one of the most financially and emotionally rewarding things” she has ever done. Meanwhile, Stephen Lloyd from the Chester branch notes how much flexibility the franchise provides so he can shape the business round his lifestyle and ethics.
This is an advantage of franchising in general; as franchisees can generally choose their hours to fit their personal life, a healthier work-life balance is created. Stephen adds that he can also involve his children in the business, and leave them a profitable business to uphold when he retires.
Franchising allows you to run your business to suit your lifestyle – within reason. Despite there being some restrictions set by the franchisor, you can make franchising work for you and your own personal goals. If you want to own a franchise where you can have more of a say in the direction of the business and how it is run, then look for one that offers that. However, if you are happy to run a franchise where you can’t have much input, then there are plenty of those to choose from too.
Signarama considers itself the world's largest sign franchise and, with 900 locations in 50 countries, it may well be. The franchise focuses on being a one-stop-shop for all their clients' needs and utilises all of their years of experience to help franchisees prosper.
Whether it’s for windows, exhibitions, vehicles or health and safety purposes, Signarama provides a vast selection of signs and graphics for almost every purpose.
What training will I get?
To ensure its franchisees get off to the best start, the franchise has developed an extensive training programme that covers all the essentials. It is tailored to the existing skills and expertise of the individual franchisee, so will last as long as is needed. Topics covered will include – but aren’t limited to – local marketing, business development, IT and accounts. It doesn’t end there either - ongoing support is included in the management service fee.
Who is Signarama looking for?
If you’re passionate about the brand and its growth, then Signarama encourages you to apply. You’ll need to make a minimum investment of £35,000 and a total investment of around £85,000.
Becky Martin, Point Franchise ©