Dallas-Fort Worth is teeming with business opportunity, and one married couple’s multi-location franchise, the sign-and-graphics provider FASTSIGNS, has cemented itself in the metroplex’s commercial sphere.
FASTSIGNS is a visual communications company specializing in custom banners, signs and graphics, exhibits and displays, digital message boards, and more. The company also provides an array of services, including consultation, graphic design, and installation.
Industry veterans Mark and Shawn Glenn first met in 2002 while working at the FASTSIGNS corporate headquarters in Carrollton. Mark was a business consultant in the operations department, while Shawn worked as a graphic designer in the marketing department.
Fast forward to today, and the couple has been married nearly 18 years and recently purchased FASTSIGNS of North Dallas, making it the fifth business center they now own and operate. As owners of five FASTSIGNS locations and a 9,000-square-foot production facility, the Glenns employ 30 team members throughout DFW.
In an exclusive interview with The Dallas Express, the husband and wife team elaborated on what makes a franchise like FASTSIGNS the “perfect” business model for the DFW market.
“The DFW market is one of the strongest markets economically in the country right now. We are fortunate that our market has a broad customer base, as well as the industrial diversity that the DFW market offers,” Shawn said.
“We have a strong appreciation for the benefits that the franchise systems and processes provide as the foundation for our individual success,” Mark added. “FASTSIGNS continues to be the perfect business model, and it has enabled us to be in business for ourselves but not by ourselves.”
Working alongside one’s spouse can be challenging, but Mark and Shawn said they are confident in their abilities individually and together. After all, it is up to them to grow the business, execute their business model, and reach the goals they have in place.
“As for being wary going into business for ourselves, we were both cautious with practically every decision we made in the early days,” said Mark. “We are still cautious when making major decisions that impact the business.”
“It is important to realize that making informed decisions is the right thing to do to keep the business moving in the right direction,” said Shawn. “I also realize that not making hard decisions is the worst decision.”
Mark and Shawn acquired their first FASTSIGNS center in Carrollton in 2011. Three years later, they expanded this location to accommodate more production and office space. In 2015, the Glenns expanded their business by acquiring three additional FASTSIGNS franchise centers in the Dallas market: Oak Lawn, Love Field, and Downtown Dallas.
Of the five centers the couples own, the Carrollton center is the most established location with higher sales volume and profitability.
“A major contributor to the performance of this center is credited to the daily involvement of our General Manager and Operating Partner Josh Sylvester, along with a solid team of experienced professionals,” said Mark.
According to the Glenns, the key to growth in the Dallas market is putting together an aggressive, relationship-driven sales team. The sales team, or outside sales representatives (OSR), are described as the “quarterback of the project” and are responsible for generating the sale and building the relationship with the client.
As the franchise grows, Mark and Shawn’s goal is to remain focused on the sales growth trajectory for each center while actively managing their bottom line.
In addition to staying involved in the daily operations of their company, the couple actively gives back to Dallas communities. During the pandemic, FASTSIGNS produced and donated 15,000 face shields for the local police department and healthcare workers.
Mark said a friend helped orchestrate the donation, and his conversation with officers at the time was eye-opening.
“You know, in the field, we have to deal with a lot of things – spit, blood, contaminants – and this is a very simple, easy, workable solution to our problem, said Mike Mata, president of the Dallas Police Association. “I think cops and firemen are going to be really, really happy.”
“FASTSIGNS was deemed to be an essential business during the pandemic, and we were fortunate to be able to stay open during the shutdowns. The pandemic forced us to evaluate the changes in our customer’s needs and to adapt to those requests,” said Mark.
The duo successfully navigated the impact of the COVID pandemic by adjusting their product mix to include face shields, acrylic partitions, and COVID-related signage.
FASTSIGNS donated COVID-19 spacing-and-sanitation signage for AT&T across seven of the telecommunication giant’s high-rise locations. Columns, elevators, restrooms, common areas, and other locations across every floor received the new signage. In addition, students and faculty members at Carrolton-Farmers Branch ISD received clear acrylic partitions designed for desktops to reduce the spread of harmful germs.
Amid the fierce competition in DFW, complacency and an unwillingness to adapt stand to harm growth prospects for companies within the industry, the couple said.
“We compete best with our level of service and quality over our competitors. With our broad product offering, we have numerous strong competitors in the market, including other franchise brands, strong independently owned shops, and the online marketplace,” said Shawn. “Not evolving with the business, customer needs, and employee support are the biggest threat to the demise of the FASTSIGNS business model.”
FASTSIGNS clients include school districts, hospital networks, nonprofits, property management, and country clubs. Its largest client is the State Fair of Texas, an account the company won in 2019. Most recently, FASTSIGNS won a contract with Addison to provide the city with event signage.
When asked what advice they would give young entrepreneurs, Mark emphasized that those aspiring to run a successful business should keep their eyes on the prize.
“It has been said many times before, but write down the goals and keep them available as a reminder of what you are working toward,” he said.
“Never underestimate the power of networking and the value of relationships,” added Shawn. “Network and build relationships with the people that you are striving to reach their levels. The importance of these relationships will become much more valuable than your individual efforts.”
Mark and Shawn concluded the interview with a bit of parting wisdom.
“Finally, be a nice person, be genuine to who you are, and never jeopardize your integrity,” they said.
Both Mark and Shawn are active in the FASTSIGNS network, with Mark serving on the FASTSIGNS Franchise Advisory Council and Shawn serving as a board member on the FASTSIGNS National Advertising Council.
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