January/February 2023Next Generation in FranchisingPrevious Issues

Next Generation in Franchising: Lasting Impressions

SpeedPro Canada franchisee Kevin Burns learned about the business from watching his father. Now he’s taking the signage business into his own hands with the launch of his own franchise.

By Gina Makkar

A first impression is a lasting impression, and in the world of advertising, creative print solutions can draw attention and propel branding and visual communications to the next level.

With more than 170 studios throughout North America, SpeedPro Canada has been a leader in the business-to-business (B2B) large-format printing sector for more than 30 years. Innovative and dynamic printing solutions include eye-catching vehicle graphics, vibrant displays, striking signage, and more.

Franchisee Kevin Burns first learned about SpeedPro from watching his father, Stuart Burns, who’s been president of the franchise for many years. After graduating with a Bachelor of Management degree and major in marketing from the University of British Columbia, Kevin started as a sales representative at Labatt Breweries of Canada and worked his way up to district sales manager. When a Winnipeg franchise territory became available for purchase in February 2021, Burns was able to realize his entrepreneurial dream and became the next generation of SpeedPro franchising.

As an owner, Burns works with his team to help bring big ideas to life and manage client projects from start to finish. “We conduct a consultation on-site to determine what the project will be and manage the process from production to installation.”

Even though the sector was deemed an essential service, opening during the pandemic came with its own unique challenges. Travel restrictions and quarantine mandates created barriers, spurring the franchise to dream up creative solutions for areas like training. Like many other businesses, they pivoted to embrace online solutions, conducting sessions remotely via Microsoft Teams and Zoom. They also took advantage of a Manitoba job grant to garner additional coaching and training to better position themselves to cull prospects while many companies couldn’t work in person.

At a time when trade shows and events were suddenly on hold and gatherings halted, Burns says his team rose to the challenge, logging multiple record months and achieving many of the key success metrics recognized by SpeedPro. “We just celebrated one year in business, and it’s a big milestone,” says Burns.

All signs point to support

He adds that although the learning curve is steep, there’s comfort in working within a franchise system. For him, one of the big advantages of a seasoned system is the wealth of knowledge it brings. “People say ‘can’t you just send it to print?’ It would be nice if that’s all we were doing, but there’s so much more to it,” says Burns. “I feel like I’ve said this at least 20 times: I have no idea how someone can just start up their own independent signs and graphics shop. The amount of opportunity for error when building something from scratch, the waste would be so high. SpeedPro Canada offers a direct number for franchise support that I’ve used at least two or three times a week since we opened. They walk me through issues from start to finish, so I don’t have to make a very expensive and costly mistake on my own.”

In addition to being at the forefront of the industry, another benefit of SpeedPro ownership is the technical knowledge and support the brand offers. When technical difficulties arise or materials underperform and produce undesired outcomes, the franchise’s connection with national suppliers also allows franchisees to pivot and continue operating seamlessly. Innovation is also at the forefront of the brand’s success. “In a world that’s finding more and more reasons to be on the go, we’re able to provide branding assets to physical pieces that already exist.”

Burns says he appreciates the seamless marriage of flexibility and structure that comes with business ownership. “Coming from a corporate background, you’re expected to be working at certain hours of the day. It’s an expectation because there’s a lot of visibility associated with being seen in the office. Now, as a business owner, the flexibility has been awesome. It’s really up to me to drive my business as fast as I want.”

The structure of following a tried-and-true professional system is also a benefit, especially when things don’t go according to plan. “There are different people to call on, whether it’s our head office or the network of other owners. The owners across the network are all very supportive and are always happy to help.”

New ways to wrap your world

As life returns to normal post-pandemic, franchisees are beginning to enjoy the benefit of in-person site visits and new product presentations again. In fact, a new product is in the works that will allow SpeedPro franchisees to offer architectural finishes that cater to the subtleties of their clients’ brands. “It’s like reskinning. In the same way that we wrap vehicles, we can now wrap desks in their offices or create a feature wall that has the look of marble or wood. It’s taking physical items that exist but transforming them to fit the brand.”

As a next-generation franchisee, Burns brings a unique perspective to the world of printing services. “Sometimes, the clients that are older look to me not only to provide them with marketing and branding advice, but they also see me as belonging to a larger portion of their target market.”

Cross-generational learning is essential, as the parties share the same goals and work toward a common denominator, creating synergy as a business passes from one generation to the next. In a recent meeting where the team shared best practices and ideas, Burns revealed his studio’s success in using different cloud-based platforms and integrating an online management system for quoting. The systems allow clients to communicate via portals and are tailored to each client’s specific needs. “They can see proofs and share revision requests and manage back-and-forth communication.”

Post-meeting, Burns assisted other franchisees in setting up their own systems. “It was really cool, because I call them all the time with my own questions because they are so experienced. It was nice to see that there was something I could help them with.”

As for Burns’ advice to prospective franchisees? Understand the finances of a business operation and spend time at a franchise location to observe its daily operations and truly grasp the concept.

“I went to a very successful existing franchise and spent the day there from start to finish. We went to a site visit, and we measured. We ran the printers. Just by shadowing, it was eye-opening; I learned a lot. I think it’s really important for someone that is interested in a business to go into that franchise and spend the day there.”