Prior to buying a Recognition Express franchise, Alex Newman had worked for the company for six years. Derin Ibrahim interviews

It is unusual for a franchisee to have inside knowledge of a franchise prior to joining it, however when Alex Newman became a Recognition Express franchisee his six years' experience of working for the company meant he had a unique understanding of the business.

'Before becoming a Recognition Express franchisee I was working for the franchisor as an IT manager and I was involved with the training of new franchisees,' explains Alex Newman. 'Although I looked at other franchises, the fact that I had prior knowledge of Recognition Express was a major reason for me joining. I also liked the fact that the franchise is sales and marketing based with production and design work involved too.'

Recognition Express provides businesses with a wide variety of products including name badges, promotional items, corporate clothing and small signs. Franchisees can either produce the products themselves using state-of-the-art computerised equipment or sub-contract this element out and operate as sales and management hubs. Despite having worked for the company, Alex (pictured right) underwent the same training as all new franchisees. 'The training was excellent,' remembers Alex. 'It covered every aspect of the job such as sales, marketing, accounts and finance, using the software and training on products.'

Since the launch of his first Recognition Express in Coventry in March 2005 Alex has had support from the franchisor whenever he needed it: 'Due to my knowledge of the company I've not needed a lot of support, however I did get support on sourcing products and with accounts. I've also needed some help with sales and marketing, as I'd not really had much experience with that aspect. There is also a network of support among franchisees and we all try to help each other out when we can.'

With his last year turnover of £200,000 and having opened a second Recognition Express franchise in Warwick in July 2007 Alex is pleased with the way his business is going. 'I really enjoy running my own business and being my own boss. Making money for myself and having the flexible hours that comes from working for yourself is great.'

Still building-up his franchises Alex advises those looking into franchising: 'Be prepared to work harder than when you were employed. Also make sure you check out the franchise before you sign-up, I was lucky to have inside knowledge because it is important to know what you're getting into.'

Chris Kerry, Recognition Express North Wales

I was attracted to Recognition Express because of the level of margins achievable coupled with a start-up package that represented excellent value. The initial two weeks training I received was comprehensive but a lot to absorb. As with anything knowledge comes with experience. The ongoing support in all aspects of the business is readily available whenever needed, not for a limited time after training, but on an ongoing basis.

During the first 12 months I was still responsible for another business, meaning I was unable to devote the sufficient time and effort to establish my Recognition Express business. Fortunately, I was able to draw a line under year one and I hit the ground running in year two. Marketing has been my priority and I put systems in place to ensure that an established and proven marketing plan was followed and eventually this began to pay-off.

Currently my office is our converted garage, however in six months I will look to expand into new premises. I am presently making enquires about employing an assistant, as time gets very tight. My wife Mary is more involved in the business now too, helping with the accounts and marketing.

I believe the success of this business is based on a high level of sales and marketing activity. The higher the profile you make for yourself the more doors you will open and the more business you will get.