By maintaining a strong, professional network of people he developed through his previous employers, Mark Simmons quickly grew his SpeedPro Imaging franchise in Apex, North Carolina. He hit the break-even point in the fourth month of ownership and started earning a salary by the eighth month.
The Jump from Retail to Large-Format Printing
Mark spent more than 30 years in retail, beginning as a store manager at a lumber retailer and ending as Regional Vice President for Advance Auto Parts. In between, he held other high-level management positions with Target, Linens N Things and Wegmans Food Markets. In 2015, his position was eliminated and Mark had to decide whether he wanted to stay in retail, which often requires you to move to where the jobs are, or pursue a new career path. With roots established in the Raleigh area and a daughter in high school, Mark chose the latter. He decided to become a business owner.
Intrigued by wide-format printing – car wraps, large wall murals, window graphics and more – and the cool and fun factors involved, Mark pursued the franchise opportunity with SpeedPro Imaging. Plus, being a hands-on operations guy, the owner-operator model appealed to Mark, as did the strong gross margins in the large-format printing industry. Mark opened his SpeedPro in Apex, a suburb of Raleigh, in 2016.
“SpeedPro made the short list,” he said. “The business model was attractive to me. I enjoy the B2B interaction, which I experienced in some of my previous positions. Plus, I felt like SpeedPro offered more work-life balance as opposed to retail, which includes a lot of hours and traveling that caused me to miss a lot of holidays and other important events.”
Tapping Extensive Network for Lucrative Jobs
Mark wanted to start his new career as a SpeedPro Imaging franchise owner strong, so he reached out to people in his professional network that he spent more than 30 years developing. Doing so gave him a significant head start.
“I jumped in with some large companies that I had connections with very early on that has paid dividends for me,” he said. “We started doing work for American Airlines in our first six months of business. That’s been very fruitful for us – we’ve done signage for them in Charlotte and Raleigh, Pittsburgh, Washington D.C., Miami and Tulsa.”
Mark was also able to leverage the relationships he maintained with people at Advance Auto Parts, the national retail company where he had previously worked. SpeedPro of Apex has taken on large projects for that company all over the United States.
Landing repetitive business accounts has helped maintain the momentum. For example, SpeedPro of Apex works with home builders, which require a lot of large-format printing work. At the beginning of July, the printer had 12 projects for 10 neighborhoods with a single builder. With six to eight clients like that, franchisees should do well, Mark said.
“Once you show them how great you are at project management, hitting deadlines and quality of work – there’s really no conversation on price,” he said. “They trust you’re going to do the work, charge a fair price and they don’t worry about it.”
The Right Team Contributes to Strong Growth
When he started, Mark was not up to speed on large-format printing. There was a lot to learn. But, he did have an eye for detail and a vision for the way things are supposed to look. To fill in the gaps, he hired a team of four people with printing experience, including a production manager with a graphic design degree.
In the two years since opening, Mark has also assembled a network of subcontractors for installations. He has purchased a lot of equipment, which has allowed him to bring most of his printing jobs in-house instead of sourcing it out to other SpeedPro locations.
“We can now do 95 percent of our jobs in-house with our own equipment – that’s a good feeling in the first two years,” he said. “SpeedPro is a unique model. You can scale the business without multiple locations. You can scale it with just one.”
To learn more about what sets SpeedPro Imaging apart from other franchise opportunities, visit our website.