Customer Success: How Recognition Express Has Enjoyed Four Decades in Business

Nigel Toplis
Recognition Express Nigel Toplis

Managing Director

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We found out about Recognition Express’ long history from its Chairman and former MD, Nigel Toplis. Here’s the story of this successful promotional materials franchise, from the man who knows it best. 

When Nigel Toplis took the reins at the B2B franchise Recognition Express, the business was in the midst of a significant transformation—and had just 18 franchisees. Now, the former bfa Franchise of the Year has built a thriving network of more than 40 members who run successful businesses all across the UK. 

We sat down for a virtual interview with this multi-brand franchisor and extremely experienced franchise professional to find out more about the promotional materials business, which has survived more than its fair share of challenges. 

A multi-billion pound market

Until 2002, Recognition Express dealt primarily in the manufacturing and supply of name badges. And although it had enjoyed great success in this niche area, it was clear there was a huge market—and a number of other revenue streams—the franchise had barely scratched the surface of. 

Nigel’s first mission when he joined the business in early 2003 was to expand the range of products. He knew it was important to offer add-ons and distinct products that would appeal to new and existing customers. 

So to help its franchisees diversify and grab a bigger slice of the estimated £3billion corporate recognition marketplace, Recognition Express introduced new promotional products. Over the years, its range has continued to expand: Today, its franchisees can produce everything from medals, personalised corporate clothing to school uniforms, branded pens, and plaques. 

Nigel explained how franchisees enjoy income from “at least seven distinct revenue streams” and reiterated how all businesses can benefit from Recognition Express’s services. 

“Every business or organisation needs to increase its recognition factor, whether it’s a multinational corporation, a medium-sized charity, or a local flower shop—and the demand for branded clothing has never been higher.”

Adapting over the decades

One of the secrets to Recognition Express’ consistent success over the decades is its ability to evolve with the times. 

“The business has been re-engineered four times over the past 40 years to account for the ever-changing marketplace,” said Nigel. “It’s also allowed Recognition Express to keep up with the increased demands and rising standards of our customer base.”

And during uncertain times such as these, the franchise hasn’t stood still. To meet the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, it introduced a range of ‘Workplace Welfare’ products, which includes everything from branded masks and bespoke workplace signage to ‘AntiBug’ bottles and mugs. These new products have helped to keep customers safe and allow franchisees to enjoy a stable income from yet another revenue stream. 

Nigel also explained how Recognition Express franchisees are supported throughout their journey. 

“I tell our franchisees ‘you’ll make the key decisions on your franchise business, but you are not on your own’. We’re always on-hand with help and advice, on everything from business and financial planning to marketing programmes. Running your business can sometimes be lonely and knowing there’s a franchisor with a friendly ear there for you can make all the difference.”

Raising its online presence

Previously, franchise exhibitions and print publications were the only ways for people to find out more about opportunities like this. Now, Nigel says there has been a “marked shift in the way people access information about franchises.”

“Today, the franchise industry has effectively only one hard copy magazine and even pre-COVID, I felt the impact of exhibitions was already becoming limited.”

Franchise resource and recruitment sites like Point Franchise offer a new way for franchisees to find out about opportunities. At the touch of a button, curious entrepreneurs can request more information and explore their chosen areas and sectors with ease.

Nigel explained:

“Being part of these online portals makes it easier to target prospective franchisees that are right for the business.” 

In the last 12 months, Recognition Express has received 75 leads from Point Franchise alone and is looking forward to more productive conversations over the course of 2021. 

A resilient business model

Not many franchises can proudly say they’ve been operating for 41 years, but Recognition Express has shown its business model is both adaptable and strong enough to survive. No matter what has been thrown at its franchisees—from numerous recessions to an ever-changing market to a global pandemic—this network has remained solid. 

“During the last banking crisis we did not lose a single franchisee,” Nigel revealed. “And to-date, all of our franchisees have continued to trade despite the challenges presented by the pandemic.” 

He added:

“I think our greatest achievement is the network’s resilience and robustness. We owe these qualities to our willingness to embrace, harness and implement change.”

Looking to the future

After decades flourishing under Nigel’s experienced guidance, Recognition Express is about to welcome a new Managing Director. Chris Masters, who has been with the brand for two decades, is stepping up to take over the day-to-day operations of the franchise. 

“Chris has worked for Recognition Express for some 20 years in a variety of roles, so he was the ideal choice as my successor. I’m really proud to be moving to the role of Chairman, and I’ll be acting as a mentor to Chris as he gets ready to take the franchise to new heights.”

Nigel concluded with some parting wisdom for franchisors across the country. 

“If you want to be a good franchisor then you need to care a lot. You need to show you’re passionate and be prepared to lead from the front.”

Recognising a great opportunity

We wish Recognition Express the best of luck for 2021 and hope its network continues to expand over the coming months and years. And under such expert guidance, we’re confident this well-established franchise will continue to thrive as it already has for more than four decades. 

If you’d like to join the Point Franchise network and get your name out there to thousands of prospective franchisees, visit our advertise page. And if you’re looking for expert advice, we’ve got thousands of thoroughly researched articles covering every topic from podcasts to mental health to business plans to funding.

Recognition Express franchise

Recognition Express

Specialist suppliers of corporate branded merchandise for 40 years – UK leaders in a £3billion marketplace – bfa award winners.

£9,000 Minimum investment
Business & B2B Services
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