Recognition Express:

Lauded by its franchisees for its support, Recognition Express is offering an opportunity to individuals with no prior marketing experience.

A flourishing network generating a multi-million pound turnover in the business-to-business sector, including some franchisees generating over £1 million a year, Recognition Express has been operating in the UK since 1979 supplying corporate recognition products to business clients. With a wide variety of products available, including name badges, promotional items, business gifts, corporate clothing, small signs, award programmes and display posters, Recognition Express 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.

'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,' says Managing Director Nigel Toplis, who currently also serves as Chairman of the British Franchise Association (bfa). 'Recognition Express franchisees can serve all of these markets, whether it be 100,000 name badges a year to a major airline, or supplying personalised umbrellas to a local hairdresser to lend to their customers.'

With 46 franchisees established in the UK, Recognition Express is recognised as a national supplier enabling its franchisees to benefit from massive purchasing power and enjoy the best possible margins. Within the franchise industry it has brought compliments from figures such as bfa President Sir Bernard Ingham, who relates: 'I have always found Recognition Express to be a model franchise. It is an outstanding example of a company which takes ethical franchising seriously. The benefits are shared by Recognition Express, its franchisees and its customers. And that is why it is successful.'

An example of a Recognition Express franchise that is prospering is the Ayr-based West Scotland operation, owned by Stephen and Ciorsdan Price, which has been named Recognition Express Franchise of the Year. Having taken the franchise over from from Ciorsdan's parents in 2003, the couple have more than doubled its turnover in the following four years serving clients such as Caledonian MacBrayne, Stagecoach, Ayr Racecourse and the South Ayrshire Council. They have also donated more than 200 branded sports t-shirts to local school children as part of the Adopt a School scheme.

Picking up their award at the Recognition Express head office during an annual celebration of its most successful franchisees, Stephen reflected: 'It's great to receive this award as a testament to our hard work. Both Ciorsdan and I really enjoy owning the company as we have the opportunity to service a great variety of clients, as well as helping the local community.'

Prospective franchisees require no previous sales or marketing experience, as Recognition Express has put in place a 'Fastrak' marketing launch programme to assist franchisees in getting off to a quick start, backed by a Centralised Direct Marketing Programme which ensures a steady flow of marketing activity. 'Once established, franchisees find that most business is repeat business, and most new business is generated through referrals and recommendations from existing satisfied customers,' says Nigel.

'The accessible marketplace is massive at over £2 billion p.a., with every business and organisation having a need for at least one of our product groups.'

Franchisee diary
Tony Quinn
Recognition Express, Newbury

I have a strong sales and marketing background, so for me stepping into the Recognition Express business was a natural move, but you don't need any previous experience because the training is brilliant and covers everything, while the secret of Recognition Express's success is its support. There are head office staff that will come and physically help you out and I've even had half a dozen visits from the Managing Director himself in the two years I've been in operation.

I had been Marketing Controller for Courage in the '80s before establishing my own sales promotion and marketing company in 1989. I sold that in 1999 and spent my time copywriting promotions on products until I got bored and began looking for something allied to what I had done before, but not in competition with my old business. I went to a presentation day on franchising and, although I previously hadn't even known what franchising was, I was immediately impressed with Recognition Express. I actually said to them on the night: 'Give me a brochure and let's get a meeting booked.' Then I went out and interviewed some franchisees and everyone I met emphasised the support you get from Recognition Express.

The business is dealing with marketing people in a range of situations, from one man bands up to companies employing 500+ people. I know what setting up a business is like and the hardest thing is building your credibility. As a franchisee of a national network you immediately have that credibility.

I have been trading since March 2005, and in my first year I achieved a turnover of £130,000, which was 50 per cent up on the previous best performance by a new franchisee. In the second year I reached £158,000 and my plan is to keep on growing through repeat and new business.

Reported by Stuart Anderson