"It's more like a friendship than a business arrangement"

Four years into the ownership of Countrywide Signs Leicester, Tyler Smith reflects on the special relationship developed with the franchisor, and his plans for the expansion of his business

For me, the Countrywide Signs franchise has provided an opportunity to work in a business where I am out and about working with people, rather than chained to a desk. For my father, the prospect of building a substantial business through marketing and providing a professional service was the key attraction. We are both achieving our goals with our franchise and we are a perfect team!

We first began looking at franchises four years ago because we wanted to work for ourselves, but without the risk of starting up on our own. Countrywide Signs offers a very professional service, but also develops personal relationships with franchisees. It is more like developing a friendship than a business arrangement, and we were so impressed that we invested in the Leicester territory in 2003 when it became available for re-sale.

Because it was an already established business we hit the ground running with work to do from day one of taking over. The business was performing well, but we could see a lot of potential there to improve it. Every aspect of the business had been covered in the training provided by Countrywide Signs, but there is a very fast learning curve so the reassurance of having support and backup from head office when required is invaluable.

The marketing experience that my father has brought to the business has enabled us to build it quite aggressively and the work has snowballed quickly. We took on our first employee after our first year, a second soon after that, and have capitalised upon the word of mouth we've generated to reach an annual turnover of £120,000.

You need to appreciate the art of erecting for sale boards, and at Countrywide Signs we compete on quality rather than price. We are able to market ourselves as the best by putting boards up quickly and professionally in the best place to maximise interest in a property. This quality of service, combined with Countrywide Signs' professional website which enables agents to track how many boards they have up and where they are at any time, makes us the first choice for estate and lettings agents.

We have won over the agents and get regular repeat business from them, but there's a lot of potential in Leicestershire that we haven't touched yet. We want to expand the business and are aiming to have a fleet of vans out there servicing our accounts.

Interview by Stuart Anderson