Express success in Southampton

We take a look at one of Signs Express most successful franchise owners, Mark Kendall, owner of the Southampton based franchise

One of the UK’s leading sign franchise certainly has lots to celebrate as it marks 20 years in the franchise industry. Signs Express recently revealed its brand new look at The National Franchise Exhibition. Managing Director Craig Brown unveiled the new corporate identity in the company of invited guests and press, marking the start of great things to expect from the prestigious company.

Rebecca Dack, Marketing Manager at Signs Express, says: “With a 20 year history and over 70 franchise owners within our network, we are constantly looking to add value to both our franchise offering and wider customer appeal. We’re working on a range of brand new marketing and creative ideas to ensure that the way Signs Express looks and feels in 2012 reflects the fact that we’re a company with enormous drive and ambition, as well as a strong heritage.”

David Corbett and Frank Eliel founded Signs Express in 1989. They spent three years perfecting their business model, developing a strong brand identity and refining production processes at a pilot centre in Norwich: awarding the first Signs Express franchise in 1992. Twenty years on, Signs Express has franchise sign production centres throughout the UK and Ireland, and an enviable reputation for supplying innovative and great quality sign and graphic solutions.

One example of a franchise owner who has capitalised on Sign Express’ enviable reputation is Mark Kendall who took over Signs Express Southampton as a franchise resale, for a career change. In two years he has almost doubled the turnover of the centre. We caught up with Mark to find out what inspired him to become a Signs Express franchise owner and unearth his tips for running a successful business.

“For 28 years I worked in aluminium stockholding; completely different to the world of signs and graphics that is my passion now. However, working for myself had always been a personal goal,” explains Mark.

“I relocated from Bristol to Southampton almost 30 years ago, aged 21, for a sales job in a small organisation, then went on to become a shareholder of a larger company. When that relationship ended I set up an aluminium stockholding business of my own. In 2007 that business was sold as a Management Buy Out.”


So what motivated Mark to change career? “Selling my aluminium stockholding business was the catalyst for my career change. I had acquired a range of transferrable skills, like sales, marketing, people management, IT and so on; and my network of professional contacts in Southampton was really strong. I wanted a new challenge but still wanted to be my own boss.”

What appealed to Mark about franchising? “I had never really considered franchising as I didn’t know much about it, so went along to a franchise show to learn more. It was there I heard that the Signs Express franchise owner in Southampton was looking to emigrate and so the business was for sale. As we talked, the possibilities of the signs industry became clear to me. I realised that my breadth of contacts were a ready-made potential client base. People from all walks of life need signs. By applying the same skills, I could sell signs in the same way that I had previously sold metal.


“My advice is to listen to people, let people manage themselves, make people feel important, and be reliable – direct these principles to both your customers and people within your team.”

Written by Jenna Leeds