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Five Reasons to Consider Converting Your Sign Business into a Franchise
By Sign A Rama

Every small business owner would agree that today’s customer is far more aware, and far more educated than ever before.  The Web 2.0 age has enabled people to find more information, about more businesses, and about more products than was conceivable in the past.

In marketing terms, businesses can no longer hide behind marketing slogans in the hope that customers can’t see beyond the hype.  Today, there must be less style, more substance.

So if the secret to success becomes less about advertising and more about trust, what does your brand stand for?  What are the leading brands in the industry, and how can you be a part of that?  The sign industry’s leading franchise is looking for new franchisees as a part of its continued growth strategy and is inviting experienced sign operators to join the brand.

SAR_Conversion_Gympie_Before
The Gympie shop before the conversion
SAR_Conversion_Gympie_After
After the conversion
Speedy_Signs_Dunedin_Cars
The NZ Speedy Signs car fleet
Speedy_Signs_Dunedin_ShopFront
Shop front in Dunedin

Three such operators who have already made the leap of faith are EC Stumpf, owner of SIGNARAMA Albany, New York; Adam Cullen, franchisee of Speedy Signs in Dunedin, New Zealand; and Justin Brown, owner of SIGNARAMA Gympie, Queensland.  Stumpf converted from Infamous Graphics to SIGNARAMA in July 2008, while Cullen did likewise in NZ in 2001.  Brown was the newest to make the conversion, changing from Star Club Printing and Signs to SIGNARAMA Gympie in October 2010.

Below are five great reasons why joining the SIGNARAMA franchise is a beneficial move for your business:

1. Buying Power
For many, one of the most obvious advantages is the immediate savings to be had from better group buying deals.  “Our buying power has definitely increased since joining SIGNARAMA,” said Stumpf.  “Our major supplier stepped up to the plate and gave us great deals that we couldn’t get as Infamous Graphics.”

“We realised that there would be better margins in signs,” said Brown, who operated his Gympie business as StarClub Printing and Signs.  He and wife Kerryn had more of a focus on offset printing before adding signage to their offer in 2005.  “We realised that we could get 5-10 times more profit out the door each day through signage than we could through printing, and Sign*A*Rama’s buying power has helped us get to the next level quicker.”

2. Support
Field support, mentorship and business advice as a wide-angled lens on the business can be a major attraction.  When provided professionally and in a timely fashion, franchise support fulfils the adage that you’re ‘in business for yourself, but not by yourself.’

Stumpf said that his experiences regarding support were very positive.  “SIGNARAMA had a lot to offer regarding support.  I had a ton of attention and support in the beginning.” 

Cullen felt a marked difference in his business with the additional support resources he had at his disposal.  “The major difference for us was in the marketing,” said Cullen of his decision to join Speedy Signs.  “We already knew how to make signs, but we hardly did any marketing on our business.  In our last year as an independent we turned over $150,000.  Three years later we were turning over more than $1 million.” 

“At roughly the same time that we were considering joining the franchise, we started to complete work on behalf of other Speedy Signs stores in the network, so we could see that there was value in being part of the network, since Speedy Signs didn’t at that stage have a store in Dunedin.”

Cullen has been a member of the Speedy Signs Marketing Fund Committee and Franchise Advisory Council for the past few years.

3. The Exit Strategy
One issue that swayed Stumpf towards making the move was to think of the long-term, and what he would do when the time came to sell the business and move on.  “The overall business world is changing and moving to a franchise made sense,” he said.  “It gives me an exit strategy – it is easier to sell a franchise than to sell an independent sign shop.”

Cullen concurs.  “At the beginning our exit strategy wasn’t really a consideration, since we were planning to be in the business for a long time.  However we now realise that our business will be worth a lot more now than if we were just ‘Cullen Signs,’” he suggested.  “Having said that, we’re still not intending on going anywhere for a while yet!”

4. Working for Yourself, but Not By Yourself
The mental challenge of accepting losing that independence can often be the hardest part.  And it’s not just for the owner of the business.

Says Stumpf, “my employees were a little reluctant regarding the switch.  They liked the fact that we were Infamous Graphics.  It was a unique name that had some recognition in Albany.  But having the SIGNARAMA name has definitely helped us become a legit sign company and now we offer a full-service across the industry.  Electrical signs have really helped our bottom line.”

All franchise systems have a royalty structure and these must be taken into account.  SIGNARAMA has a unique 6% ‘Royalty Cap’ system whereby royalties are ‘capped’ at a set level of turnover per month.  “The Royalty Cap was a great incentive for us to join the SIGNARAMA group,” confides Brown.  “It gave us the assurance that SIGNARAMA were there to help us grow our business and profitability – and not just our sales.”

5. The Key Question
With the benefit of hindsight, would either Stumpf or Cullen make the decision to become a franchisee if they had their time all over again?  “I am glad that I made the switch,” said Stumpf.  “The idea of being in a franchise is a great one.  Ours is the best sign franchise in the world, period.  Overall it has been a good move and one that I am glad I made.”

“We’d absolutely make the decision again,” said Cullen.  “Like any business owner, there are some things that we would do differently, but none to do with the franchise itself.”

Brown said that adding the Sign*A*Rama name has given them real direction in the business.  “Sign*A*Rama has given us the systems that we needed so that we don’t need to be working in the business so much,” he said.  “Before I had to do everything but we’re now structured where I can work on the business more.  The brand has also given us legitimacy as a sign shop, which we haven’t been seen as before.”

About SIGNARAMA:
SIGNARAMA is the world’s largest sign and graphics franchise, with more than 850 stores in 50 countries around the world.  SIGNARAMA is part of United Franchise Group, incorporating other B2B industry-leading franchises EmbroidMe, Plan Ahead Events and Billboard Connection. 

For more information, go to www.signarama.com.au.  To meet with our Franchise Development team and discuss the SIGNARAMA franchise opportunity, please call on 1800 662 663 or email us at efoster@signarama.com.au.