Please tell us about The Sussex Sign Company and how you came to be Operations Director?
At The Sussex Sign Company we create branding and signage solutions for clients across all sectors. We offer a varied portfolio of products and services, design, fabricate and install our own and others’ work; this can be anything from partially wrapping a vehicle for a local tradesperson, or the traditional sign writing of school honours boards, right through to working with national organisations on nationwide roll outs and re-brands.
We have separate disciplines comprising of; sales, design, production, and installation. Graphic design is a standalone complimentary service that we offer and our work in this area really sets us apart from our competition.
We are able to take an individual or company from the concept stage right through to the creation stage, not only in terms of the physical signage but of the corporate identity, look and feel.
We pride ourselves on producing signage solutions that are not only aesthetically pleasing but above all else, fit for purpose. We work with our clients to build lasting relationships, effectively allowing us to accompany and support them as they grow. A sign is just that, and we therefore have to differentiate ourselves by offering an exceptional level of customer service and support. Our brand, ultimately, is our team, our USP is our people.
We are passionate about what we do. Crucially, we know what we are doing, and instil a confidence within our clients and prospective customers. Our business model has taken a long time to establish, and creating systems and processes for a continually evolving company is not without its challenges, although we like to think that coming to work each day is an enjoyable experience for our team. The Sussex Sign Company has a clear vision for the future, and we know where we want the organisation to be.
My career at The Sussex Sign Company began 14 years ago when I joined the organisation as a Graphic Designer. Over time I progressed to a senior, running the department, then Production Manager, before taking on the role of Branch Manager of Newhaven, which was our flagship unit. Back in 2006 we acquired a competitor; a screen printers, in Hove. In 2008 we acquired the Brighton Sign Company who were based in Portslade; where we are based now, and in 2009 we successfully merged all three branches.
At this point I became General Manager. Today I am the Operations Director of a company with a workforce of 24 people, and a turnover of £1.3m.
When I joined the organisation back in 2003, the first thing that sparked my interest and enthusiasm was the founder; Norman Mayhew. It was clear to me even from the interview stage that Norman was an exceptionally driven and astute business person. He oozes entrepreneurial flair, and that charismatic, if not slightly cheeky but infectious salesman persona captivates those that meet him. Within my current role at The Sussex Sign Company I work closely with Norman, to realise not only the organisation’s mission, but his personal ambitions, and he drives me to be the best that I can be.
Normans goal 14 years ago was to achieve a one million pound turnover. We have now surpassed that, and are striving for more; the next million and then who knows?!
The organisation is so much better than we could have ever imagined it would be. The staff, the types of clients that we were taking on, we don’t want it to stand still, so we are cracking on!
We challenge ourselves continually, whilst keeping our feet firmly on the ground with our sure and steadfast approach to doing business. As our strap-line suggests, we are ‘nice people to do business with’ and keeping that personable approach at the fore of what we do as we grow is a key consideration for me personally.
On a personal level, what are you aware of about yourself that could impact on your company?
I am an incredibly considered, measured person, which can be both a positive and a negative. I would like to think that it both aids stability within the organisation and also the team.
I’m incredibly mindful of my working practices specifically with regards to how I conduct myself. I freely admit that I am not a natural risk taker and entrepreneur, and where my co-director Norman would have us jump in feet first I am more of a dip your toe and see how it goes type! Our two characters and by default, our approaches are so incredibly different, but some might say that this is what makes us quite an impeccable duo, and a formidable force!
Why did you join MDHUB?
Norman attended the Hub and he found it incredibly beneficial and a great support to him. As I have evolved in the organisation and my roles have changed, I have grown as a person but I wanted to be more than just the person in the factory that kept everything ticking over.
I have aspirations to continue to be the head of the organisation and that’s something that Norman and I are very mindful of, and are working towards. I have to lead by example, and for me this means demonstrating that I am continually improving myself, both in-house within my role, and away from the day to day operations; being a true advocate and champion for the organisation.
Joining MDHUB gave me the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone. During my time with The Sussex Sign Company I have gained confidence and a reasonable amount of self-belief, but after 10 years of operating within the four walls of a factory; gaining promotion to the role of Operations Director, and having to step out of that zone to meet with others made me question whether I could cut it.
To find myself in this situation has given me the green light to really step out. I had a voice within the organisation and I wanted to see if I could operate outside of the front door, but I also knew that for the organisation to grow and benefit, I needed to.
I needed to get out there and take one for the team, and MDHUB has supported me with my confidence and made me realise, oh, maybe I do know what I’m talking about!
Being part of the MDHUB has enabled me to demonstrate my abilities as a business person and an individual worthy of my affiliated role and responsibilities – not simply within The Sussex Sign Company but also within the larger business community as well.
I very much look forward to growing within the MDHUB and to discovering and revealing what type of business person I will be in five years’ time.
What do you enjoy most about your membership?
I enjoy being amongst people where I am not just simply the Operations Director from The Sussex Sign Company, where I am not the senior, line manager, or colleague; I’m actually just Linda! Linda the business person, who can come into an arena and have open and honest discussions and realise that there is much more to me than just sticky back plastic!
How might being a member of MDHUB have helped you personally and helped to shape the business?
What I get from the Hub is personal development as opposed to it being about nuggets such as ‘that’s a great idea’. To participate within a professional forum provides the opportunity for my efforts, energies, working practices, conduct and so forth to be constructively challenged; enabling me to process my every-day and move forward accordingly.
I have spent what seems to be a lifetime within the signage industry so to meet with others from different sectors and to gain an insight into other businesses, hear their stories, and feedback on their own journeys, lets me know that the situations and scenarios we experience here at The Sussex Sign Company are in essence not too dissimilar to others, just that they are working with a different product or service!
When I accepted employment at a provincial sign company 14 years ago, I had no idea that it could be what it is today and in that moment, I simply did not think it would be anything more than a job to be brutally honest!
As a direct result of seeking opportunities, accepting all manner of challenges along the way being open to change and stepping out of my own personal comfort zone; it has allowed me to find myself.