Easy Signs named Top Innovator

Easy Signs has won the 2017 Top Innovator award by SmartCompany, for its successful company restructure to an online-first business model.

The award cites Easy Signs’ results of 157 per cent revenue growth rate over a three-year period, to a revenue of $8.1m, following the restructure, and its position for SME growth in Australia, 23rd.

Customers can get instant quotes on the website, are put in contact with an online assistant as soon as the homepage loads, and it also features a countdown clock for customers to place orders before the next dispatch.

The company was founded by Andy Fryer and Adam Parnell, who moved into signage from a massage equipment importing business in 2006.

Fryer and Parnell say, “Restructuring the business was a hard decision, as we let half of our team go, from 22, down to 11 in 2012. That was very tricky, but we saw opportunity and wanted to move from a traditional sign shop, meaning we did not need the sales reps and installation team."

Five years down the track, the business now employs 44 staff.

"We moved into products that had more transparent pricing, so that customers could see how much things cost instantly. We produce, put it in a box, and send it the customer.

"The industry has moved towards online models. There will be a lot of products supplied in a purely online model.

"However, there will always be demand for the local sign shop, where they go out, quote, and advise customers, and install for them.

"This was a more complex business model but one that provided the challenges we were after. One of the biggest things we learnt was the importance of having processes for everything.

“One of the first lessons we learnt was that starting a business with less capital than is required can be a real challenge. We nearly burnt through our capital in the first four months and had not managed to get revenue to where it needed to be.”

"There are online-only companies, but they are trade only. Not a forward facing presence online like we do.

"We are one of the select few that has brought it together with fast, transparent pricing online.

"If someone contacts us, we are replying within an hour, and a very fast lead time. 75 per cent of our products can be made in 24 hours. And we run 99.4 per cent on time.

"We were extremely pleased to be awarded. You put a lot of work in, and feel like you are working on something great, so it is nice to get recognition. I think there were 8 companies shortlisted, and very few of those were in manufacturing. We feel like we are flying to flag for Australian manufacturing in that regard."

They are now looking to both increase the company’s product range and seize some opportunities in the business-to-consumer market, with an eventual goal of replicating the business in other markets, like the US.

“It is not a challenge we plan to take on until we are sure we are ready, and we still have huge growth potential in the Australian market,” say Parnell and Fryer.

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