We speak to Kris Bell, new owner of Signs Express Aylesbury to find out all about his journey from initial enquiry to signing on the dotted line and what advice he’d pass on to our next would-be franchisees looking for a new challenge for 2023.
Where to start… My previous work experience saw me work in the media industry for several years before opening and operating multiple successful hospitality locations, including an award-winning Nightlife and Event venue in Dubai which was a great adventure and was also where I met my lovely wife. Having relocated back to England with my family and welcoming our son into the world (a slightly different type of adventure), I felt just about ready for my next challenge, which has led me here. I’m also an avid sports fan, whether that’s watching or playing sports, it brings out my competitive nature and I can often be found on the driving range when I have a spare moment.
As a previous independent business owner, I know how tough and isolating running your own business can be. However, coming from a family with franchising experience, when I suggested running my own business again, franchising seemed like the obvious choice for a number of reasons. After doing my research, and looking at the current climate, the support of a franchisor, an established brand and operating under a tried and trusted model, franchising seemed like the right direction for me.
I was very open when making enquiries that I was looking at a number of franchise options (as everyone should), all of which were very different and across different sectors. As a driven and ambitious individual, I wanted the security of an established franchise, however it was essential to me that I could still feel very much like an independent business owner with the ability to make decisions and drive my business forwards with growth potential too.
After an initial conversation with Signs Express, I found the communication was open and honest and was soon put at ease, finding the process very much a two-way street. Yes, I’m sure they were analysing me as we spoke (!) however I felt very comfortable, able to ask plenty of questions and having discussed the process in depth, I felt assured that it was just as essential the business was right for me as I was for them.
Funding was something I was also interested in, and it felt reassuring to know that Signs Express had relationships and worked with some of the biggest high street banks to support its incoming franchisees.
Support and brand. Support for me is imperative, right from my initial onboarding programme to training and beyond, this is definitely the area that I value the most and can see being a big contributor to my future success. With brand as a close second, I already feel the benefit of working under a trusted and recognised name and feel in a much better starting position as a result of it. There are lots of other benefits including the training, buddy and mentoring systems, marketing, online optimisation etc. which I look forward to utilising in the coming months as I get fully immersed in the business.
The welcome from the network has been reassuring along with the offer of support, it has definitely been comforting to know there is a wealth of experience and knowledge out there. All discussions have been very positive and helpful, and I can’t wait to be able to immerse myself in online discussions and attend the wide-ranging list of events to get to know my fellow franchisees! The mentoring system is also something I’m excited to take advantage of and think this will be invaluable going forwards.
Surrounding yourself with a great team is hugely important. Being completely new to a business and industry as a whole can be daunting, making the skill sets and knowledge within a team essential. A great team will be the backbone of the business and you can’t run things without them, their ideas and capabilities allow you to continue the ongoing efforts of the business but also gives you momentum to try new things and move the business to the next level. It’s also essential to have trust both ways, so take them on the journey with you!
My aim is to have a multi-site business with centres across multiple territories, driving the turnover and profit to a gold/platinum level, pushing the centres forwards, increasing the team and having a good work life balance for me and my family. So not much at all!
I like to think of myself as an entrepreneurial, driven individual and am my own worst enemy in terms of setting myself wild goals! However, from early on in the recruitment process I had my five-year plan in my head and I’m very much still working towards it and excited to see what the future holds for me at Signs Express.
In all honesty, I would say that it’s not for everyone (I’m sure that’s not what I’m meant to say!). Yes, there are restrictions however so long as the benefits outweigh the ‘negatives’ you can easily make your peace with it, and for me, all of the benefits far outweighed anything else. Just make sure you do your research. Just a few weeks into ownership and I already feel empowered, I’ve got creative freedom, can apply my own processes, however I know at the end of a phone, or a short journey away, is a whole host of support from the Franchise Support Centre, along with a support network of over 60 additional Signs Express centres all ready to help with queries large or small.
Whilst I’m still new to Signs Express, having previously run my own business I can already say hand on heart that I feel much more secure and supported as being part of a franchise and would definitely recommend this route as the support simply overshadows everything else.
The key thing is do your research. Whilst you don’t need previous experience, in my opinion it’s important to have a spark or some form of connection to the business you’re moving into, whether that’s at a specific subject level, from a creative perspective or from a production perspective etc., a keen interest is important to add a level of excitement and passion to succeed. Do plenty of research into franchising vs going it alone and understand what you’re looking for in the long run. There will be restrictions with a franchise, so don’t be afraid of these, look at the benefits and weigh it all up!
I’m definitely not flippant about these things, you’re talking about a big investment but at the same time, sometimes you have to just go for it! I went into my first call with Signs Express having done my research and being confident in what I wanted out of a business and from that first call I was excited about what the future looked like for me at Signs Express!
Do your research, make that call and don’t dismiss a Discovery Day! I found the Discovery Day hugely valuable, not only did it give me a good picture of the business, but it also allowed me to meet the team and get to know the people I’d be working with, and it was from this point that my five-year plan went from the answer to a question to being put into practice today!
Looking for a new challenge in 2023?
Kris made his initial enquiry at the end of February 2022 and less than six months later (and after a rigorous onboarding and training programme) Signs Express are thrilled that he’s now part of the UK’s largest signs and graphics business! If you’re looking for a change in career and want to try something new, why not get in touch?
Signs Express have more resale opportunities available, just like Aylesbury, where you have the fantastic opportunity to take on one of their established businesses, or if you want to find a location that suits you, they have start-up opportunities available throughout the UK and Ireland.
If you’re interested in finding out more, Signs Express are happy to arrange an introductory call at a time that suits you and you’re welcome to attend one of their no-obligation Discovery Days.
We’ll follow up with Kris in the New Year and find out how his first 6 months have gone as a Signs Express franchisee!
We talk to exiting franchisee Philip Harris about his time with Signs Express Aylesbury, the benefits of franchising and his plans for retirement.
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Matt Scott chose a Signs Express franchise as he was able to work with an established successful business model.
Martin Geddes-Smith is the new owner of the existing Signs Express business in Telford.
At 29 Janiv Patel is one of the youngest franchisees in the award winning Signs Express Network.
Ray Allenby and Jane Wiles have recently taken over the long established Signs Express business in Cosham, Portsmouth.