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Family finds direct approach to working together

One way of easily establishing your own business is to enlist your family. That is what Dave and Kim Nurse did when they launched their Signs Express franchise in Leeds nine years ago


Dave and Kim Nurse knew they wanted to own a franchise as they would benefit from ongoing training, support and advice while building an asset that could be sold or passed on to their two children, Rick and Michelle.

The couple launched Signs Express, Leeds in 2003 and were joined by their son Rick a year later. Together, the Nurses have become a formidable team in the Signs Express franchise network. In 2005, the Leeds franchise was named Signs Express Newcomer of the Year and, in 2007, it won Signs Express Franchisee of the Year.

“I had always wanted to run my own company,” explains Dave. “The thought of being my own boss really appealed to me. In the past I had worked as a supplier to the sign industry with two major organisations and my responsibilities were diverse – I oversaw sales people, warehouse staff, drivers, stock, and so on. At the time, I didn’t realise it, but these skills were highly transferable.”

Kim adds that initially they had actually been looking at financing an extension to the family home, when she had the idea of using those funds to set up a business instead.

“I guess I was the risk taker of the two of us,” she smiles. “Franchising appealed to me and Dave because of the back-up that it provides – if you’re on your own then you really are on your own. Dave did a lot of research and Signs Express was clearly the right choice for us.”

With his experience of dealing with sign productions centres in previous roles, Dave states it was Signs Express that stood out in that sector.

“They were – and still are in my view – the most professional company in the industry,” beams Dave. “We were proud, excited and reassured at the prospect of becoming part of the Signs Express network.”

When Rick entered his parent’s business, he initially worked in production before moving into sales a year later, where he feels that he has flourished.

“This was the first time I had worked within a family business and the first time that mum and dad had been self employed – so lots of new experiences for us all to get used to,” he recollects. “I vividly remember the point where I was allowed to lead on my own customer accounts – it was a really good feeling knowing the faith that they both had in me.”

Kim believes working with members of her family has afforded her greater flexibility with regard to working hours.

Rick says he has received the encouragement and guidance to pursue his interest in sales that he may not have received from another company.

Dave fully recommends working in a family environment, as it is one that includes people he knows he can trust 100 per cent.

“Work life is totally different to home life, so don’t expect the two to be the same,” he adds. “Decisions have to be made that you may not all agree with, so consider what you would do in this instance. You also have to consider what to do if you all want a holiday.”

The Nurses share the view that within the home environment, a family may rarely have a cross word but, at work, disagreements may be more commonplace.

The tactic they recommend is keeping home and work life as separate as possible. Avoid talking about work issues at home, over dinner for instance. Keeping busy with personal interests, projects and hobbies is a good way of ensuring that work doesn’t overflow into home life.

Written by Fraser McKay