Mark Meadowcroft, Owner of Signs Express, moved his business to Brackmills Industrial Estate in 2010. Here, the business owner and father of two talks about business growth and how Signs Express Northampton is operating during COVID-19 …
I had been working in Africa and the Middle East, which I loved, but I had a young family and needed a proper job.
I knew about the graphics industry and understood the business model and in 2009 bought the franchise. When the lease was up 18 months later, I knew I wanted to buy my own premises and move to the best place we could find, which was Brackmills.
In the last decade we have slowly built our reputation as the signage and vehicles graphics business that people think of first in Northamptonshire. It has taken time and been a slow process, but we have built up a regular stream of customers over that time.
We have done glamorous jobs and it’s great to have your flash colour change vehicle wrap shown at Premier League football grounds.
But I am also realistic that the stuff that pays the bills is often local jobs – anything from a vehicle graphic to a piece of signage. The thing I am proudest of are the vehicles I see on the A45. To be able to say ‘that is one of ours’ when you are driving past somewhere is a real buzz.
Pre-coronavirus we had five staff and team of freelancers.
Now we are open by appointment. There are a lot of things we can do but we have to be very careful on social distancing. Some jobs now take longer than they would have done before. We are dependent on the supply chain. One of our main jobs is tp create social distancing floor graphics, although a challenge can be getting a supply of the laminate we need. We may have to phone around so the job can take a little longer than usual.
I have had to furlough four staff and I take my duty of care very seriously.
We have a WhatsApp group to keep in touch and talk regularly. I was able to retain one technician and continue to use freelancers for other pieces of work. Almost exclusively our jobs now revolve around social distancing of some sort – floor graphics, reflective markings for vehicles, hand washing signage. Obviously, this is a situation that cannot stay as it is forever. We are confident of being able to get through to the other side, but this is not sustainable long term.
I feel lucky. I can work from home, work in the garden, we are healthy, and I am happily married.
Probably the hardest time for me was early on when everything felt so out of control. Once I got over that things were better. It has taken me time to realise there is only so much I can do.
I am part of a franchise so I can talk to colleagues and we have tried to be quite zen about this. This includes not working at the weekend and accepting there sometimes not a lot can be done that afternoon. Instead I might do a spot of gardening.
I have a remote meeting coming up with more than 40 other Signs Express franchisees.
We will look at the future, make sure our social distancing practises are spot on and discuss the future. There will be a future.
Before the lock down we produced some basic ‘wash your hands’ graphics and we gave them to customers for free. That was to help people if they needed something in the short term. We have a few left if anyone is in need.
We are also discounting our social distancing graphics until June 30th – for Northamptonshire Chamber of Commerce members and our neighbouring businesses on Brackmills. he best way to get in touch with Mark is to email: [email protected]