Positive signs point firm in the right direction

Photo Neil Cross
workplace feature
Signs Express
Photo Neil Cross workplace feature Signs Express
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All the signs point to a bright future for a long-established Lancashire company after a series of major contract wins.

Preston-based Signs Express (Central Lancashire) is working on projects ranging from construction to health and education and is now employing a 15-strong workforce at its Rough Hey headquarters.

Photo Neil Cross
workplace feature
Signs Express
Sarah Adcroft

Photo Neil Cross workplace feature Signs Express Sarah Adcroft

The company designs, produces and installs a full range of signage for its growing client base and is owned and run by father and son team Stephen and Ben Hall, from Grimsargh.

They took over the company, which was established in 1996, almost two years ago. Both accountants by profession, Ben previously worked for the National Audit Office in London and one of his jobs was counting the gold bars in the vault of the Bank of England!

Dad Stephen has previous experience running successful businesses in the area and both are delighted the figures are adding up following their switch to the creative and design sector. Signs Express’ growing client list has seen annual turnover grow above £800,000.

Today the business delivers signage for large-scale construction and regeneration projects across the North West being carried out by big-name regional builders including Conlon Construction, Warden Construction and Eric Wright.

Photo Neil Cross
workplace feature
Signs Express
Ben Hall

Photo Neil Cross workplace feature Signs Express Ben Hall

Signs Express’ clients also include hospital trusts, schools and colleges across Lancashire; local authorities, universities and manufacturers.

As well as external and internal signs, the company also creates vehicle and window graphics and has seen a growing demand for its bespoke digital wallpaper. All its work, from design to manufacture, is carried out ‘in house’.

Stephen, 62, is the former managing director of Coupe Foundry in Higher Walton. After a management buy-out in the 1990s he doubled its turnover to more than £7 million in his 10 years in charge, before selling the business to venture capital investors.

He says: “I’m not from a creative background at all, so this has been a completely new challenge and one I’m really enjoying.

“Since we’ve taken over Signs Express, we’ve invested heavily in both our people and processes. Training is really important to us.

“And our design department uses the latest software to create powerful messages. We pride ourselves that we are more than just a sign company.

“We’ve got graphics and fabrication workshops that are also equipped with the latest technology. It means we can produce all aspects of sign work, including illuminated, tactile and braille signs.

“It’s a very competitive market out there, but the advantage we have is being able to take on work of all sizes and to successfully project manage them.

“Much of our work is also about bringing brands to life. External signs are designed to drive customers to our clients’ businesses. And we’re finding a growing demand for digital wallpaper which can give an office or building a real ‘wow’ factor.”

Ben, 35, adds: “When people think of a sign company they don’t always realise the wide range of work we do. It’s a lot more than exit and entrance signs.

“Every person probably sees 400 signs or graphics every day as they go about their lives. The vehicles we have put graphics on can be seen by 3,000 people an hour on a busy road and that’s a great form of advertising.

“We’re creating signs that create business for our clients.

“A business vehicle without graphics is like a business without a website these days.”

Ben adds: “People need signs for a whole range of reasons, they might be rebranding or updating their image, or it might be part of a new marketing campaign. A lot of what we do is helping them get their message across to people.

“And while these external signs drive customers to the business, the internal signs that we produce direct people around the business.

And what of his previous work, which included going into the Bank of England vaults and counting the gold bars?

He says: “What I can say is there are rows and rows of them and they are really dusty!”

For more information on Signs Express’ projects and expertise in all sectors, visit https://www.signsexpress.co.uk/branch/preston