In 2010, Simon Slee, an Australian investment banker met his wife, German born, Friederike, a qualified landscape architect whilst working in the Middle East. After relocating to London, the couple considered how their future would look. Following a redundancy opportunity for Simon and with him being uninspired to return to the banking floor, the couple began considering launching a business of their own.
Initially, Simon and Friederike identified their combined skills, qualifications and experience, using this analysis to generate ideas for business opportunities that would be most suited to them. Ideally, the couple wanted to start a business that utilised strong foundations, a solid structure and delivered excellent future prospects. After some discussion and research into ways of starting their new venture, purchasing a franchise seemed to be the best option for the couple.
Simon and Friederike attended the National Franchise Exhibition in Manchester, where they were first introduced to the FASTSIGNS franchise opportunity; a B2B franchise providing its customers with practical visual communications solutions based on 33 years’ experience in the signage industry; offering a tried and tested business model that combined creativity with sales and technology.
As they spoke with FASTSIGNS management, Simon and Friederike realised the combination of their skills and the FASTSIGNS business model were the ideal partnership. Simon’s sales experience and confidence operating in international business made FASTSIGNS the perfect fit, further complemented by Friederike consultative and graphic design experience.
The couple were also drawn by the wider franchise network, FASTSIGNS really stood out from other franchise opportunities. “It was apparent from the start that the FASTSIGNS vetting process was superior to other franchisors.” says Simon “We saw they were selective about who could join their network. Their approach demonstrated to us how seriously they considered their franchisees, this sense of exclusivity was appealing, we wanted to be a part of it.”
Following their decision to join the network, just four months after attending the franchise exhibition, the couple embarked on the franchisee training programme, which covered all aspects of building a successful FASTSIGNS business. This included a two week residential training course (Link to Emily’s Piece) at the FASTSIGNS head office in Dallas, Texas, laying the foundations for their business success.
Since acquiring FASTSIGNS Hammersmith centre in 2011, the couple have increased their staff team by 30% and have relocated their business to a purpose built facility that can accommodate their rapidly growing business.
Of the move, Simon comments, “We had grown so much in the first five years and required a much larger space. Since we moved into our new premises, we are now able to offer clients a wider range of services, from marketing materials to large format signage, a greater percentage of which we can now produce in house! Throughout the expansion process, the FASTSIGNS UK support team were brilliant giving us a tremendous amount of support and the confidence to grow.
Having a positive work life balance was also a key consideration for Simon and Friederike when they began their search for business opportunities, especially for Friederike who was keen to strike an effective balance between the prospect of a young family and continuing to work.
The FASTSIGNS franchise opportunity, being B2B focused, allows Simon to work a standard working week, with Friederike being in the business part time. This arrangement was a decision the couple made in the early days of their franchise ownership. Now with two young daughters, who often join the couple in the centre, Friederike is able to work during the mornings and be fully focussed on the children in the afternoons.
Simon explains, “We wanted to create a level of consistency for Friederike, our staff and customers and made a commitment for Friederike to come into the office daily but have the ability to leave at midday. The kids also enjoy being with us in the centre, we joke that they are the youngest members of our team, we even have them featured on our website!”
The couple understand that being able to balance the family and the business is a privilege they wouldn’t necessarily have if they had remained in the corporate world. “As a family business, we’re really lucky.” Simon says, “Friederike has perfected balancing the business with family incredibly well, working together in the business means we can lean on each other for support, we are working together to build a future for our family.”