Canadian Franchise Association

Keynote Speaker Spotlight: Catherine Monson

 CFA National Convention | April 2-4, 2017 | Niagara Falls, Ontario | Register Now



By: Roma Ihnatowycz

If there were such a thing as celebrities in the franchise world, Catherine Monson would be in the superstar category.

As the CEO of FASTSIGNS International Inc., the largest sign and visual graphics franchise in the world, Monson is a regular speaker at industry events and a sought-after expert in the business world.

Monson’s career has been a steady upward climb following a decision made early on to aim for the C-suite. “I knew by the time I was in high school that I wanted to be a CEO,” says Monson, who graduated from Pepperdine University at Malibu with a degree in business administration.

After graduating from college, Monson worked as a buyer for a medical equipment manufacturing company until she decided that it wouldn’t help her realize her dream. “I went to look for a sales and marketing role, and got hired in August 1980 by a little franchise company called Sir Speedy Printing Centers.”

And so began a 28-year career trajectory at a company that eventually grew into a large, multi-franchise business known as Franchise Services, Inc. She started as a franchise sales coordinator, and ended her lengthy stint there as president of PIP Printing & Marketing Services, a brand purchased by the company in the late 1990s.

Monson opened more than 400 new Sir Speedy locations during her tenure, and was responsible for the turnaround at MultiCopy Europe, FSI’s European subsidiary.

With a track record like that, it’s hardly surprising that Monson was hand-picked to take the helm of FASTSIGNS International when its founder and CEO retired in 2009.

The appeal of the FASTSIGNS brand won her over. “I thought it was a great, mature brand that I could take to the next level, and that has happened.”

With Monson’s golden touch, system-wide sales grew from US$271.6 million in 2009 to US$412.4 million in 2015, while discretionary profit for franchisees increased from 12.9 per cent in 2009 to 18.6 per cent for the same period.

Today, the company has almost 650 locations worldwide. There are currently 28 FASTSIGNS centres in seven provinces across Canada with four more in construction and plans to expand in 50 more open markets. Opportunities exist for first-time franchisees, as well as existing printing operations interested in rebranding.

What’s important for any incoming franchisee is to master and follow the FASTSIGNS system, and to learn from other successful franchisees. “Go to every convention or meeting, and always have two or three burning questions to ask successful franchisees,” says Monson.

For years, Monson has also served on the board of directors of the International Franchise Association (IFA), and was recently elected the association’s secretary. She has received IFA’s first Franchise Action Network FAN of the Year Award and the 2009 Bonny LeVine Award. She was recently honoured with the Leadership Award from Women that Soar.

So why did this business powerhouse zero in on franchising?

“I got into franchising by accident, but I fell in love with it,” says Monson. “I absolutely love that I get to make a difference in people’s lives and help them achieve the dream of business ownership, where they can create jobs, create economic output, and build wealth for their families.”

To hear more from Catherine, attend her Keynote Presentation at CFA National Convention and discover how you can grow your franchise unit level sales and increase locations through targeted franchise development. Register now!