Meet Our Franchisees
Chris and Andy Simpson, FASTSIGNS Leeds
The Joy of Running a Family Business
In January, FASTSIGNS Leeds were celebrated for their achievements among the wider FASTSIGNS family. This family business run by a father and son franchise team aims for the best.
FASTSIGNS Leeds closed 2018 off in spectacular style with the centre’s joint franchisee, Andy Simpson being recognised as FASTSIGNS UK’s Franchisee of the Year. Andy received this award as a testament to his wider involvement in the network; a role he is able to undertake because of his father and co-franchisee, Chris Simpson, is also at the helm of their business. The FASTSIGNS Leeds franchise is a little more “family” than most and has operated in this way for almost 24 years. The father and son team have worked side-by-side to build a successful family business.
In the mid-nineties, Chris had been made redundant from a high-level management career in industry, when he came across the opportunity of owning a FASTSIGNS business. Andy, who was in his early twenties at the time, took the opportunity to join his father on his journey to becoming his own boss. Andy comments, “I was 25 when Chris discovered FASTSIGNS, I thought it would be a fantastic way for me to become a business owner. An opportunity that I also recognise, probably wouldn’t have come along had he not looked into franchising. I was also intrigued by the FASTSIGNS opportunity, signage seemed like a creative and technical operation to be involved in, even in 1995.”
When they first started working together, Chris and Andy needed to sort out how they would split the responsibilities and balance their relationship as both business partners as well as father and son. “Andy and I are both equal in our roles”, comments Chris. “In the beginning, we may have had a few teething problems, but we quickly established that work is work and home is home. By following these simple rules we have built an effective working relationship which has a different dynamic to our familial one.”
Both father and son have both crafted individual focuses for themselves in their day to day working remit. Andy concentrates more on the creative aspect of our business, as well as on building the team and looking after the centre staff, while Chris is naturally more interested in the financial side of it.
“By having clearly defined roles, we are able to run our ‘departments’ keeping the other up to date as we would any other team member. When making strategic decisions for the business we work together, after 20 years, we’ve settled into our roles comfortably and have learned the best way to tackle issues as a team, to do what is best for our business.
Early in the business’ establishment, Andy also joined the FASTSIGNS UK Support Team, working for 3 years as a business consultant, where he would advise other franchisees on best practice, which has meant he had the opportunity to learn about the wider business. This experience has made him a pillar of the FASTSIGNS community and is a steadfast choice for other franchisees to approach for support and advice. Andy continues to work on behalf of the network, taking an active role on the Central Marketing Fund board, the Leeds centre often tests incoming technologies before they are released to the wider network and also assists in training new franchisees.
Over their 24 years in business, The FASTSIGNS Leeds team have developed a customer-focused business and have contributed considerably to the signage in their centres surrounding areas. Chris and Andy delight in walking around Leeds, seeing their work on display. Andy comments, “For example, Leeds train station has asked us to work on more than 75 signage projects over the years. These range from the practical signs to direct users of the station, as well as displays which show off our creative flair. So when we recently collected a number of awards at both the UK and International conventions, they are a testament to the great job our whole team provides to our customers. The awards we won were for our sales achievements, my contributions to FASTSIGNS UK’s marketing efforts and we also picked up the CEO Circle award for the highest sales volume centre across the FASTSIGNS UK Network! Pretty good for a local Yorkshire family business.”
Every member of the FASTSIGNS Leeds team, which is made up of 14 members, many of whom have been with the business for almost twenty years, share the same goal – providing the best possible signs or graphics for the individual customer’s requirements. Chris expands on this thought, “ This is really where franchising has helped us the most. FASTSIGNS always has an eye on the future, in the early days’ signs were hand cut and made from layered vinyl. As time has progressed and technology has advanced, so too have our capabilities. FASTSIGNS as a franchisor, tests equipment, substrates and methodology, they then advise on how to implement these into our business, helping us to stay competitive and consistently skilled.”
It helps as the values of the family permeate through the values of the business. “Our centre is really a family concern, with four family members currently working with us, including my wife, Diane and my mother, Chris’ wife, Catherine, ” says Andy. “Last summer, we had three generations working side-by-side when my oldest son spent his summer working in the business. There was a moment when Jack and I were carrying out a survey for a new art installation at Leeds station and I asked him to write down the measurements. Being of the next generation his response to me was, ‘No! I’ll type them into my phone and email them to you.’ He’s teaching me, as much as we’re teaching him. This is the beauty of running a family business.”