John & Wendy Morgan's Signarama
Meeting one of Signarama's most successful franchisees
Story by Colleen Bate
Mention the word Signarama and almost everyone will know what you are talking about. After all, this enormous franchise business is approaching around 1000 locations in 50 countries and has been in existence for two decades.
Queenslanders John and Wendy Morgan are well known in Signarama circles. They have been involved with the franchise since March 2003 and have steadily trailed their business path over a 13 year period with strength and determination. From humble beginnings, their signage business has grown to become the Signarama success story it is today.
Initially newcomers to the signage industry, the couple established a signage business in a small post-war shop in Taringa, five kilometres south west of Brisbane. The year was 2003 and within two years they had expanded so rapidly that they had to move
premises to Toowong, west of the city. By 2007 they had to move once more, this time to nearby Milton and by 2010 had gained a new business partner and invested in state-of-the-art equipment, allowing them to diversify in their signage offerings and to embrace vehicle signage as a significant part of their business.
Reflecting on the last 13 years, John can now see how far he and Wendy have come. "We had very little experience and a modest customer base when we started out so I guess you could say we were rather wet behind the ears,” he says.
Despite this, their persistence paid off and for the first few years they achieved a 25 percent year on year growth.
The couple's fierce determination did not go unnoticed by Signarama Corporate in Florida, who bestowed them with numerous Signarama accolades, including the Rookie of the Year Award, Mentor Store Award, Millionaires Club Award and Presidential Most Valuable Player Award. In 2007 they were inducted into the Signarama Hall of Fame, where they were prestigiously acknowledged for meeting exceptional international milestones.
"Around this time we came to realise that it made sense to take on a new partner,” says John. Mark Ellison, a successful Swimart franchise owner, proved to be the right person at the right time. Having successfully sold that franchise, Mark was looking around for other business opportunities. Initially discussing other Signarama opportunities with John over the phone, Mark eventually discovered, when they finally met face to face, that they had gone to school together. A confidence developed between them and John, Wendy and Mark developed a plan to double the size of business in two years.
A year later John, Wendy and Mark looked to invest in new equipment – they purchased a high tech, top end Oce Arizona 350GT UV curable flatbed printer and 12 months after that, a laser cutter.
“The Oce Arizona 350GT with the roll media option provided exceptional image quality and the ability to print photo-quality images on virtually any media imaginable which meant that we could, in turn, provide variety to the types of signage we were able to offer our customers,” says John.
Not surprisingly the franchise again grew rapidly, and they achieved their goal doubling in size. At this time vehicle wrapping became a significant part of the business.
The Nundah facade
The Nundah reception area
The Canon Oce 550XT
The print room
Kieran & John
Says John, "Over the years customers had become aware that vehicles provide a great way to promote their business. Whether parked, in traffic, on the highway or in the shopping centres their business was being promoted. It was up to us to bring to their attention that vehicle graphics are one of the most cost effective ways to promote a business. We set up a website - www.carsignsbrisbane.com.au.
With a young, new partner added to the mix, the company looked to other horizons and within months took over the struggling franchise at Nundah, north east of the Brisbane central business district, and focused on turning the business into another successful Signarama Franchise store.
|The Milton facade|
All directors of the business, the trio balance their roles efficiently. Wendy oversees production and installation scheduling, John takes care of sales in the role of General Manager/Corporate Affairs while Kieran attends to finance, administration and marketing and also runs the Milton sales office.
Not quite ready to retire, Wendy and John have nevertheless come to the conclusion that a succession plan would involve Kieran. At this stage their children have not expressed an interest in the business. One child is a musician, the other a travel agent and the youngest is only 12 years old.
Wendy, John and Kieran believe that the success of the Milton and Nundah Signarama franchises lie in the convergent thinking and optimum customer service they provide together with active research and investment in the best technology. They also adopt the philosophy that their business will live or die on them being able to deliver a quality product in a timely manner. In addition, they attribute a lot of the business’ success on their 15 employees, who collectively have a myriad of skills and talents. Several long term staff have been rewarded for their contribution and loyalty over the years.
With all that has achieved to date, these entrepreneurial business owners do not believe that it is yet time to rest on their laurels. A state of the art sign manufacturing and warehouse facility has recently been developed at the 600 metre squared Nundah site. Investments have been made in a high tech ZUND procut router, HP Latex 260 and 360 printers and an extra wide format high speed Canon Oce 550 XT UV printer, which has expanded the Nundah production capacity considerably.
Mindful that the rise of China is of concern to many Australian industries, John and Wendy have adapted the attitude of American novelist Zora Neale Hurston when she said “I do not weep at the world – I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.”
“We are aware that the Chinese market has has put significant pressure on the margins in the Australian sign industry and that wages rates cannot compete with Chinese wage rates. The same $600 product that we used to make, assemble and sell in Australia can be airfreighted in from China in under a week at a fifth the price – these products are now selling for $150-250. Chinese companies now have their own branches operating in Australia. This is a fact of life in a global economy,” says John.
“However, what they don’t have is significant face to face relationships with large Australian businesses. This is one of our strengths and we will continue to focus on our customers needs as the years go by,” he concludes.
Signarama Milton and Nundah