Franchise of the Month: Transforming Signal of Austin into a Thriving Franchise

Written by:

Abigail Korinek

When Derek Towne joined the Signal Home Office in 2017, he knew he had found a place where his career could grow. Signal showed him what a franchise company looked like and the benefits that it offers. It presented a unique opportunity, the chance to own a business while benefiting from the support of a Home Office. Towne had spent the better part of his career in retail and remembers the demands of his previous role. 

“We were mandated to work 44 hours a week, but it was nothing to work 50, maybe 60 a week,” he said. “I’d done this since I was in my twenties and early on, I knew I wanted to own my own business, I knew I could do this myself and reap the fruits of my labor on my own.” 

The framework and reputable brand that Signal presented, along with the safety net of a Home Office to guide new owners, resonated with him and he knew he wanted to make ownership a reality. On his one-year anniversary with the company he told CEO Reed Nyffeler he wanted to own a franchise. 

Although he knew early on, he wanted to become a franchise owner, the logistics of buying one proved to be more challenging. Shortly after his conversation with Nyffeler, Towne learned that the owners of the Arizona territory he was interested in were exiting the brandand Nyffeler was offering it to Towne. Although the opportunity was tempting, Towne decided the timing wasn’t right for his family. 

“My son was a freshman at the time,” he said. “And I thought it’s not really fair to make him adapt to a whole new community, a new school. So, I told Reed I really don’t want to own a franchise until my son graduates.” 

After the franchise in Arizona was sold, Towne continued to think about buying a franchise. Over the next few years, he was able to visit Austin, TX and saw the potential the city had to offer. When the Austin franchise came up for sale a few years later, Towne knew it was finally the right time and he and his partner Malerie Weber officially took over the franchise in November 2022. 

Today, Signal of Austin is a thriving franchise. The team has been able to grow their revenue year over year, increase their customer retention and build a culture where everyone feels valued and a part of the team. Towne and his leadership team have fostered an environment that values collaboration and accountability. Their incredible growth and the turnaround Signal of Austin has seen are just a few of the reasons they were chosen as our Franchise of the Month for December 2023. 

However, Towne will be the first to tell you about the challenges that come with taking over a struggling business. When he and Weber purchased the franchise, they were met with poorly priced existing contracts, unstructured management and an unmotivated team. The pair knew they would need to start from scratch. 

“When we got to Austin, we really just started by setting expectations,” he said. “There really were no expectations before. If a patrol driver didn’t show up, they didn’t show up and that whole route didn’t get run. That’s kind of what we faced at the beginning. So, we set the expectation with our coordinators that if a shift is not going to be filled it’s everyone’s responsibility to fill it. And Malerie and I aren’t afraid to go work shifts either. I wouldn’t ask anyone to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself.” 

Once the foundation of the franchise felt solid, Towne and Weber recognized the need to have more efficient procedures, the team worked on refining procedures for both sales and operations. This involved addressing long-term customers who had never experienced a rate increase, something that did lead to some customer losses but ultimately resulted in increased profitability. 

“I went into every customer and explained what was going on,” he said. “I was going to be the new owner and they were going to get a rate increase. We did actually lose customers, but we were still making more money than before because we put in those increases with all our customers. Malerie asked me, ‘What are we going to do if people leave?’ But I think the big thing was being confident in the fact that even if enough people leave and we go from three patrols to two, we’re still going to have a higher rate for those two, we’ll be okay.” 

As they set their sights on continuous progress and expansion, the future looks bright for Signal of Austin. With a strategic approach to team building, emphasizing skills that align with the company's vision and values, the franchise is poised for another year of growth and success. Their unwavering commitment extends to the expansion of their client base and enhancement of their services; a proactive stance in an ever-evolving industry. As Towne and his team look ahead, the excitement for the potential growth in Austin is palpable. Signal of Austin remains resolutely dedicated to not just meeting but surpassing their goals. 

More Articles