Interview with Brian Wieters of FASTSIGNS International
Brian Wieters is Director of Franchise Development for FASTSIGNS International, Inc. With over 20 years of experience in franchise operations, real estate and sales with brands such as Baskin-Robbins, Dunkin’ Donuts and Schlotzsky’s Deli, Brian understands the value of franchising and what someone should be looking for in a franchised business. Currently he oversees the development and franchise sales for FASTSIGNS International, Inc. in Canada and the Western US and Midwest US.
BeTheBoss - What is the FASTSIGNS franchise opportunity all about?
Brian Wieters - FASTSIGNS is a leading provider of signs and graphic solutions to business customers across Canada and the US. Founded in 1985 in Dallas, TX, we have been franchising in Canada since 1991 and currently have over 540 centers open worldwide with 16 centers open in Canada from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Victoria, BC. Our franchisees assist other business people with their marketing, advertising and operational signage needs across all industries and demographics. It is a 5-day-a-week business with normal business hours making it a smoother transition from a corporate environment than many other opportunities out there.
BTB - Who is your ideal candidate for a FASTSIGNS franchise?
BW - Ideally, FASTSIGNS is looking for potential franchisees with sales and marketing backgrounds along with management experience. We have franchisees from all types of backgrounds in our business, but the ability or personality to network and sell is imperative for a successful owner in our system today. There are actually 5 areas of experience we look for in a potential franchisee, while we don’t require experience in all 5 of these areas, we definitely want to see that a candidate recognizes which areas they will need assistance in the most. The five areas are: Proactive outside sales experience, Personnel management experience, Cash flow budgeting and management experience, Experience with using technology to make their jobs easier and positive, “can-do” attitude when approaching opportunities that present themselves.
BTB - What type of training and support do you offer FASTSIGNS?
BW - As you can see from the information we provide you when you make an initial inquiry to FASTSIGNS, we provide a comprehensive support and training structure to our new owners, as well as those franchisees and employees already in the system. Training starts with 3 weeks of Franchisee Advanced Center Training held both in the local market and in Dallas 10 times per year and continues with additional training on site and throughout the time a franchisee is in our system franchisee. We provide full pre-opening support in the areas of real estate assistance, construction, hiring, budgeting and loan acquisition. We continue to support our franchisees through ongoing field visits from their Franchise Business Consultant, the opportunity to work with their own Field Marketing Consultant, a full service Tech Support team available 24/7, website management and maintenance, advertising packages and many additional programs.
BTB - What are some of the advantages in being a FASTSIGNS franchisee?
BW - You join one of the leading providers in our industry; you have access to over 400 franchisees within the system for assistance, guidance and advice. You will receive award-winning support and training from our expert staff. FASTSIGNS has annually been ranked among the top 5 franchises by Franchise Business Review based on franchisee satisfaction. We encourage anyone interested in the franchise to go through the due diligence process to the point that they are talking with our existing franchisees. Once you talk to our existing owners, you will know very quickly what to expect from us as your franchisor.
BTB - Are you a member of any Associations?
BW - We are members of the Canadian Franchise Association, International Franchise Association and British Franchise Association.
BTB - Tell us a little about the quick sign Market?
BW - The quick sign market continues to grow in North America, despite a slower economy. Over the past 10 years sales in the quick sign market have grown at an annualized rate of just over 9% based on information provided by Signs of the Times magazine, a major trade publication within the sign industry. The quick sign industry continues to be very fragmented, meaning there are more local, independent shops vs. large national brands. This being the case, the presence of a large national brand, such as FASTSIGNS, in a market tends to help our centers attract more customers. There is a comfort level that a client has when they can do business with a local business owner who has the ability to provide the services of a larger company. We are able to provide world-class service utilizing state of the art technology that your local competitors cannot match.
BTB - How successful is your company today and what are your future growth plans?
BW - FASTSIGNS continues to add new centres and have positive store growth. We added 8 new FASTSIGNS centres in Canada in 2008 and are looking to continue that trend in 2009 and beyond. With each centre enjoying a protected territory, we can eventually build out a market, but there are still prime territories available in most of the major metro areas of Canada. Our existing franchisees in Canada embrace additional unit growth as a way of maximizing market share and advertising dollars across the country.
BTB - What are your franchisees saying about the business?
BW – Here you can see a composite of responses from our franchisees to questions in the categories of support, financial strength, return on investment, training, marketing, overall relationship with the franchisor and ethics of the franchisor. Franchise Business Review’s franchisee satisfaction survey, completed annually for the last 4 years, has ranked FASTSIGNS among the top 5 franchises overall each year and the #1 business to business franchise for the past 3 years! As part of your due diligence we provide you with direct access to these surveys so that you can look at each of the 230+ completed by our franchisees and contact any of those you wish to speak with about the business.
BTB - What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise?
BW - Picture yourself in the business. If you can do this and like what you see, then you may have found the right business for you and your family. Play to your strengths. Don’t get into a business to business franchise if you don’t like to sell. And, conversely, don’t get into a retail or food franchise if you don’t like dealing with the general public or with large staffs. Use the information provided by the CFA and 3rd party websites to evaluate franchise companies. And listen to what the existing franchisees in any system have to say. They know the day to day battles and how a franchisor assists them in growing their business, or not.
BTB - In your opinion, why do you think that FASTSIGNS would be a great opportunity for someone?
BW - FASTSIGNS can provide the right person with a business that is scalable to as large as they want to take it. Being in a business to business environment, selling a product that is necessary for a business to continue to attract, sell, direct or inform customers and/or employees provides some defense against tough economies as we are experiencing today. FASTSIGNS simply put, is in the business of positioning entrepreneurs for success! You will not find a company more focused on the success of its franchisees than FASTSIGNS.