As veterans return to civilian life, many turn to entrepreneurship as a career. Army veteran Darrin Lawrence sought to tap into the experiences and skill sets he acquired while serving in the military and apply them to creating a prosperous business venture. Through his research, he learned more about the franchise business model and eventually found FASTSIGNS International, Inc. While he didn’t have experience in signage, he loved that the FASTSIGNS franchise opportunity has a proven track record of helping veterans go into business for themselves, but not by themselves, to create a fulfilling life and career. Today, Lawrence owns and operates a FASTSIGNS center in Richardson, Texas, alongside his wife, Mary.
Building a Career Foundation
In 1987, Lawrence joined the Army as a tanker. He later transitioned to the Army National Guard and then spent the remainder of his service in Army Reserve. Since the Army Reserve only required his service on weekends, Lawrence returned to work full-time as a general contractor. After 22 years in the Army, Lawrence retired from the military in 2009 and continued his work as a general contractor. Eventually, with 35 years of experience in general contracting under his belt, he decided to forge a new career path as an entrepreneur.
Throughout his service in the military, Lawrence was equipped with invaluable skills that could be applied to a business endeavor of his own. Considering what he enjoyed the most in both career paths he had taken, Lawrence was in search of a franchise that was within his price point and provided a service he could connect to. While past experience in the sign and visual communications industry isn’t a requirement to open a FASTSIGNS center, Lawrence saw the franchise as a natural opportunity that tied back to his experience as a general contractor. The Army instilled within him leadership experience, a mission-focused work ethic and the strong ability to follow detailed instructions, which all prepared him to be the perfect candidate not only for the franchise model, but also for FASTSIGNS.
Military-Friendly Track Record
Lawrence signed a franchise agreement to purchase a FASTSIGNS center in April 2019. From the start, he recognized how veteran-friendly the brand is and instantly knew this company was the perfect fit for him. As part of the process, FASTSIGNS encourages every candidate to reach out to existing franchisees who are military veterans to learn more about what their experience with FASTSIGNS has been. Currently, over 12 per cent of FASTSIGNS’ franchisees are military veterans—and that number grows every year. The increasing number of veteran franchisees within the company’s network is a true testament not only to the brand’s recruitment efforts and commitment to the veteran community, but also the unlimited potential for success that partnering with an established industry leader can bring.
The franchise opportunity stood out to Lawrence more once he realized that Catherine Monson, CEO of FASTSIGNS International, Inc., and the rest of the team were incredible leaders that constantly work to keep franchisee success and satisfaction as top priorities. The FASTSIGNS team provides a business model that sets franchisees up to succeed and, after his time spent in the Army, Lawrence appreciated that he would have a new career that shares all the tools needed for success. In addition to the inspiring leadership and resources offered by FASTSIGNS, Lawrence was drawn to the brand’s impressive financial incentive for military veterans. FASTSIGNS participates in the International Franchise Association’s (IFA) VetFran program that provides military veterans with special incentives and assistance to open a franchise. Veterans can take advantage of specific incentives, including a franchise fee of $24,875—a saving of 50 per cent. FASTSIGNS is the only franchise in its industry to offer a 50 per cent discount to any veteran, without stipulations.
Lawrence was also blown away by the amount of support FASTSIGNS’ franchisees receive. He was confident that as he grew his business, FASTSIGNS would always be by his side.
FASTSIGNS is known in the industry for equipping its franchisees with training and tools vital to securing the ongoing success of each location. FASTSIGNS has more than 120 support staff, boasting a support ratio of 1:6 worldwide, the largest of any sign franchise. FASTSIGNS’ training and support resources include its online FASTSIGNS University, sales training, a mentor program, a new center business consultant, sales leadership academy, and more. FASTSIGNS also partners with 1HUDDLE, a workforce-training platform that converts unique training content into science-backed, quick-burst training games that are proven to accelerate workforce productivity. The ongoing support has helped lay a foundation for success as franchisees, including Lawrence, work to open their locations.
Amid the pandemic, the FASTSIGNS leadership team fought for the centers across the United States to be deemed as an essential business and succeeded in doing so. Their support allowed Lawrence to open his doors seamlessly in July 2020 despite businesses across the country temporarily shutting their doors. FASTSIGNS’ support and leadership helped lay the foundation for him to transition smoothly into his new role as owner and operator.
The skills learned from his previous careers coupled with FASTSIGNS’ unlimited resources became the perfect match to build a successful sign and graphics franchise center.