Franchising Personified

One of the Signs Express Network’s first franchise owners, Ken Bevis, has turned his Lincolnshire franchise into a thriving business, with a yearly turnover in excess of £1 million. Here, he talks about his 20 years as a franchise owner and how entrepreneurs considering their own franchise can make their fortune with Signs Express.

Ken invested in the Signs Express franchise in 1992, after operating a successful road haulage business. He says: “Many people will remember the worldwide ban on British cattle and meat exports due to CJD back in the early nineties. I knew this had the potential to damage my business, so before the downturn could take hold, I decided to move on. Signs Express was advertising at the time and the opportunity of setting up a franchise interested me.”

Ken’s interest in a Signs Express franchise was confirmed after visiting the original Ipswich branch. “I could see the potential and diversity in this line of work, which would challenge me and hold my attention. It also had a practical focus – something I could be hands-on with – which appealed to me.”

After 20 years of steady growth, Ken has seen most things in the franchise world and now employs 20 staff through his business in North and North East Lincolnshire. His experience as a Signs Express franchise owner has further convinced him of the benefits of franchising. He says: “The two co-founders of Signs Express convinced me at the time that their format and ethical approach to franchising would provide a good model. 20 years down the road that’s been proven, with a network of over 70 franchise owners surviving the recession. Statistically, the failure rate of small and medium-sized start-ups in the UK is seven in 10 – in franchising it is just 2 in 10.”

Ken’s business provides a complete design, manufacture and installation service for all forms of signage, including interior and exterior signs, vehicle graphics, exhibition and display products, window graphics and health and safety signage. After 20 years, he has built up an enviable client list, including two large oil refineries, a large agricultural company and a national holiday company. Ken is quick to allude to the source of Signs Express’ continued expansion. He adds: “Technology has always driven us forward in every area of the business –particularly production and communication, which is what we’re all about. As a network, we are always evolving, continuing to look inward and externally, moving with the requirements of the world, plus maintaining our position in the market-place. We are never standing still.

“A well-managed and well-thought through franchise can be far more effective than a stand-alone business start up.”

Through Signs Express, Ken has been able to create a business with strong foundations that has given him more time with his family and increased profits. He explains: “I know that my centre has the ability to continue for many years after I’ve gone.”

In 2010, Ken’s dedication to driving the franchising industry as a whole was recognised by the bfa and he was elected to the board of the famous franchise regulatory organisation. This was the first time in history that a franchise owner from any company had been appointed to the board. Over the years, his achievements have been recognised through numerous award wins – one highlight was being named Franchisee of the Year at the 2009 Signs Express convention.

When asked to distil his abundance of knowledge about the franchising industry into three top tips, he simply comments: “Always review how you operate, continue to invest in staff and never forget where you came from.”