MBO at Signs Express

By Richard Stuart-Turner, Thursday 11 January 2018

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Signs Express has marked the end of its 25th year in franchising with a management buyout intended to further drive the growth of the business.


Bean: "2017 was a remarkable year for the business"

The MBO, which was funded by HSBC and will be completed this month, has been led by Jonathan Bean, who has worked for the company for more than 13 years, most recently as finance director. Bean has taken on the role of managing director as of last Monday (1 January).

Craig Brown, who has been a joint shareholder and managing director of the sign franchise since 2007, is leaving the business to pursue other personal and business interests. He will remain with the company until the end of March to support the transition.

Bean will lead a board of directors, which includes network development director Aaron Davis, who joined the business a year ago from Accenture, and chairman Carl Fisher, of CF Consulting.

They are supported by marketing director Ed Guichard, who has recently joined the business from Norwich City Football Club, IT director Mark Poole and commercial director Mark Harvey.

Established in 1989, Signs Express currently has 66 franchises across the country. Its centres work for clients in areas including construction, fleet management, education and retail as well as office refurbishment specialists and local authorities.

The MBO follows a two-year plan which has seen major investment in infrastructure and support services for the firm’s franchise network.

Bean said: “2017 was a remarkable year for the business. We proudly celebrated our 25 years in franchising and marked that milestone to help us achieve incredible growth in our network.

“Consequently, our trading was exceptionally strong with our third successive record year. All of this adds up to a fitting tribute to Craig’s tenure as managing director and both I, and the board team, are really excited about building upon that legacy.”

Bean added that the company’s 2020 vision, which will see the brand reach 80 production centres, is on-track with nine new franchisees coming on board in 2017 – including Newcastle, Watford, Swindon, Scarborough and Bristol, and additional branches planned to open throughout 2018.

“2020 vision is our five-year strategic plan with very clear goals for increased market share by developing our sales opportunities nationally, regionally and locally. Growth of our network is key as we look to recruit franchisees that share our values and have passion and a real desire to be successful.

“We have exceptional brand positioning in our sector and our goal is to build upon this and drive more space between us and our competitors.”

He added: “Next month we have new franchisees training with us before they open their production centres in areas including the Midlands, Essex and south-east England. In addition to our franchisees on training in Q1, we are working towards another five production centres in 2018.”

Each of the company’s centres operates its own wide-format printer, with some of its larger centres running two or more machines.

“In the main, the network’s printers are manufactured by Mimaki, Epson, Roland or HP and, whilst the franchisee has autonomy on their printer investment decision, we will advise them,” said Bean.

The company’s 2017 network turnover is in excess of £23m and more than 350 staff work within its centres. The network is supported by a team of 20 people based at the Franchise Support Centre in Norwich, and out in the field.

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