Stuart Fisher spent nearly 20 years working as an Accountant before realising his ambition to run his own business. He set up Recognition Express Harrow in 2008, providing a marketing ideas and promotional products to businesses in Wembley, Pinner, Edgware and Harrow.
“I’d wanted to run my own business all my life, something other than accountancy, and I didn’t want to look back later in life and regret not making the move.”
“The only problem was that I had no idea what business. I’d heard about franchising but really knew nothing more about it apart from coffee chains and food franchises that I’d seen on the high street. The recession was looming and I recognised that it might be difficult to start a business from scratch in such an uneasy economic climate.”
“I really didn’t want to wear a uniform so my wife and I decided to attend a franchising exhibition to investigate what other opportunities were available.” Stuart and his wife Beverley visited the National Franchising Exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham in 2007, where they came across Recognition Express.
“I met Nigel Toplis [Managing Director of Recognition Express] on the stand and I liked the company’s ethos of relationship building rather than quick sales. I’m not a sales person and couldn’t cope with that kind of aggressive approach.”
“Having worked for businesses during my career I knew about the importance of marketing and the fact that every organisation has to promote themselves in some shape or form. I could see that there was a thriving market place for the kinds of products and services that Recognition Express provides.”
After discussing the opportunity with his wife, despite being very much out of his comfort zone, Stuart made the decision to leave his job and open his own Recognition Express franchise.
“I’m sure my wife thought that I was having some kind of mid life crisis! We had two children to support and there are no of course no guarantees that you are going to be successful. The franchisor is there to offer you all manner of support but at the end of the day you’re doing if yourself. Customers aren’t given to you. You need to get out there and find them.”
Stuart is very complimentary about the level of training and support provided by Recognition Express. “You get what you are promised. The training is excellent and afterwards there is always someone on the end of a phone to help you get to grips with everything. Nigel himself still visits me regularly and is particularly helpful at business strategies.”
“The first year was hard but great fun. It took some getting used to – going from a regular salary to a varied income was a bit of a shock – but I’ve never regretted my decision. I find working for myself so much more satisfying. I reap the rewards of my hard work and watching the business grow year on year.”
One of Stuart’s many achievements includes being awarded ‘New Franchisee Of The Year’ and his turnover has grown steadily year on year. Last year, in spite of the continuing recession, Recognition Express Harrow achieved a 20% increase in sales. Stuart puts this down to focusing on building up good client relations over a long period.
“I’ve picked up some great clients over the years and they are still with me. They include a big charity, the NHS and a major hospitality group.” Recognition Express is continually developing its range of products and in 2010 brought in branded clothing specialist Wayne Cherry to spearhead its personalised garment and uniform product range.
“Having such a wide range of potential income streams means that there is always something that you can offer regardless of who you are speaking to. In most cases customers start off ordering one item and then move on to ordering additional products.”
“When clients come to me I don’t just refer them to the catalogue. I make sure I understand their objectives and target audience, and then send them ideas that are best suited to meeting their needs.” When asked what advice he would offer to potential franchise owners Stuart says, “You need to be disciplined as you’re doing everything. It takes time so keep a long-term view, and keep up the marketing and networking.”