The Right Direction
John Anthony Signs offer a turnkey solution for signage and graphics manufacture and installation, manufacturing all products at their 20,000-square-foot factory in Rayleigh, and offering services such as consultation, technical drawings, manufacture, installation and reactive maintenance. The service provided is both national and international, the Company have now seen their business complete installations in more than 50 countries across the globe.
Sales & Marketing Director, David Fagg likes to lead by example – his recognition in the 2016 Leadership Awards more than attests to this. He is responsible for all customer facing elements of the business including the Sales team, Project Management, Estimating, Administration and of course, everything else that comes with being a partner in the business.
‘I strongly believe in giving our staff the respect that they deserve as they try to achieve results for the business,’ he says. ‘I believe that we have created a professional environment in which staff treat each other with respect; the language between the staff is clean and respectful, and I try to get the team to enjoy their time at work, so as to get the best results out of everybody. I always strive to be friendly and approachable, so if any of the staff have problems they can come to me and we can resolve it and move forward. All of my staff would know me as firm but fair.
‘Whilst all the staff know that my door is always open, should they wish to discuss any issues, they know I work hard and that I expect them to do the same. That said, I am honest and respectful of them, and I strongly believe that this is reciprocated and creates a pleasant, focused, enjoyable environment.’
After 27 years in the industry, David is more than able to guide his team on what is the correct methodology for any particular contract. Probably the most important consideration in this completely bespoke industry is to keep a cool head when things get tough or difficult decisions are needed. David expresses great pride in the fact that, on many occasions, the team have been cautious to take on a complex project due to the risks involved – ‘I was confident of who we are and what we can deliver, and therefore took the projects on and implemented them successfully. This approach has given JAS a name for excellence in delivering complex or challenging projects.’
This leadership style seems to suit David down to the ground, and just as well, considering the competition that the company faces. John Anthony Signs was established in 1969 by John Anthony Pleasance who died in the 80’s but the reputation for quality was very strong with Designers and Architects so we continue to promote his legacy even today. Since the Company came under new management, there have been massive changes in the industry, not only in terms of the machinery that is used, but also in terms of the development and the growth of LEDs. Probably the biggest factor of change that David can note is the number of sign manufacturers in the UK, making the competition very fierce.
The sign industry is, in reality, much more complex than people give it credit for. It involves numerous amounts of materials, illumination effects, structural calculations, and access issues, so it is critical that any participant in this market has a sound understanding of sign manufacturing.
‘Currently,’ David explains, ‘our industry appears to be quite buoyant after what were five or six difficult years. During the recent recession, we decided to make a stand as we watched prices plummet around us but we decided to stand strong and believe in the values of quality and service, although we lost some clients during that period who were striving for lower costs, we have seen over 90% of those clients return to us to ensure quality of product and service was achieved once again. We stand by our quality and this is instilled in all of our staff that we deliver only the best to our clients on time and in budget.
‘We saw many small, medium and large sign companies disappear during the recession but we stood firm in our core values. The recession made us look deeply at our business and the opportunities that might be available to us to create improved profits and stability for our business. It was at this point that I decided to see if we could create better margins through overseas opportunities, whilst the UK was scrapping on bones as a result of loss-making strategies employed by some of the competition.
‘With reverse auction tenders becoming the norm, we decided not to be involved in those sort of pricing strategies, and so looked at overseas markets. We had great success with large projects in Egypt, Kuwait, Oman and Dubai, and we are currently completing a major international airport in Kazakhstan. We have now worked in 52 countries worldwide and continue to strengthen our international reputation.
‘Our number one aim is profitability,’ David states, ‘and we strongly believe that turnover is vanity and profit is sanity. It is critical that we make a profit to maintain the livelihood of our staff and strengthen the business to ensure that we have a ‘war-chest’ for the more challenging periods.’
The industry appears to be much more stable now, but ‘Brexit’ could quite easily change things as prices rise and David sees the impact of coming out of Europe upon our clients. Nonetheless, he envisages that there could be many other UK sign companies following a similar strategy to John Anthony Signs and looking to find business overseas.
‘The key to our success is our staff that regularly go beyond the call of duty,’ he continues, ‘to ensure that deadlines are met and our customers are happy with the service they receive. This has instilled trust in John Anthony Signs as a business and has helped forge and shape our business model and create the success that we enjoy.
‘Integrity, hardworking, professional, respectful, honest and a positive attitude no matter what the circumstance.’