For one Chicago businessman, the decision to open a franchise came from a desire to go with something that had already been proven to work and three years in, that decision turned out to be the right one.
Todd Fisher bought his FASTSIGNS® franchise in October 2011 and just celebrated his three year anniversary in May of this year. As part of FASTSIGNS, he offers a full range of custom sign and graphics products.
After being in the commercial print industry for many years, Fisher made the decision in 2010 to own his own business. His first thought was to open his own print shop, but he decided against that because it’s not a growth industry. Franchising seemed attractive, Fisher said, because he was in his late 40s and he didn’t want to start something from scratch. Following a proven system would be better, he decided.
After considering several different franchise opportunities, Fisher decided to stick to an industry he knew well; signs and graphics. And, as FASTSIGNS is a growing business, the decision was relatively easy for the franchisee.
“All the myriad products that we create here at FASTSIGNS is something that is in demand and is something that will continue to be in demand in our growing economy,” Fisher said during a recent interview.
Prior to buying his franchise, he visited other FASTSIGNS franchisees to get a feel for the company. What he has experienced in his first three years has exceeded his expectations. Todd managed to break even sooner than expected and is growing at a healthy rate.
During the process of finding a suitable location and doing the general buildup toward opening, FASTSIGNS requires franchisees to complete a series of educational and training classes with University of FASTSIGNS, which is done online and covers a wide range of topics in the industry.
Shortly before opening their center, franchisees then go to the company headquarters with the two employees they’ve hired for two more weeks of intensive training where they learn about 80 percent of what they need to know, including working with the point of sales system and the wide-format printers and equipment used to make the signs. Once a franchisee is back in their center and has their grand opening (which the company helps promote and execute), FASTSIGNS sends a business consultant to spend the first week with them. Even after they leave, though, the business consultant is just a phone call away. Additionally, franchisees are privy to a lot of different ongoing training from FASTSIGNS that they can elect to take via webinar.
They also hold an outside sales summit each summer, and an annual convention and vendor trade show each January where franchisees network with other owners, and attend seminars and breakout sessions. One aspect that Fisher especially likes is the board groups, which are groups of five to seven owners who all have a similar amount of experience as a FASTSIGNS franchisee. He’s in a group of five owners who are all at approximately the same tenure with the company. Each group stays together for three years and has a representative from the company involved as well. The objective is to help one another write and execute their respective business plans.
FASTSIGNS likes to start its franchisees off right, Fisher said, by allocating $12,500 from each franchisee’s initial investment costs and putting that money toward the first initial few months of marketing for the new franchise. This includes direct mail, teleprospecting campaigns, public relations work, hiring brand ambassadors and extensive local SEO and marketing campaigns. It’s basically a massive initial push to let everyone in the region know the franchise is open. “That worked well,” Fisher recalled. “That worked really well.”
The company also has a full suite of effective marketing tools. One of Fisher’s favorites is the key prospect video brochure, which is a small, hardbound book that you can send out to lucrative prospects — the kind that could potentially spend over $20,000 per year like a hospital, manufacturer or university. The book opens and it actually contains a video player inside that plays a 30 second commercial about FASTSIGNS and the services and products they offer.
It’s such an effective tool for procuring meetings with prospective clients, Fisher noted, that he’s used it with about 10 companies and it’s worked every single time, including four large hospitals in his territory. Using this video brochure, he turned them all into regular customers. He also used the video brochure to land business with the largest advertising agency in Chicago, Leo Burnett USA. “That’s the result of using this sophisticated, savvy tool from the franchise,” he said, adding that the company is always thinking up new ways it can help franchisees with marketing.
With so much help coming from headquarters, Fisher’s decision to go with a franchise seems to be paying off.