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The Vinyl Guys

Since Alex Liggett took the leap to run his business full time in 2019, The Vinyl Guys has gone from strength to strength. Carys Evans, finds out how Liggett is now passing his experiences on

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(L to R) Alex Liggett, owner of The Vinyl Guys, with production manager, Chris

Sharing in success

The idea for The Vinyl Guys was born in 2014 when Alex Liggett and a friend were working on a motorsport project as a hobby. The pair had a number of quotes for sponsor graphics and Liggett says the prices seemed high compared to the quality they were receiving. So, Liggett decided to try and save some money by researching the kit needed to produce their own.

He explains: “We found a package deal for a 600mm vinyl cutter, a computer, software and some mixed vinyl for around £700 and I decided to buy it and see what we could make ourselves. Other people quickly found out that we had the kit to do basic numbers, lettering, graphics etc, and we started selling to other motorsport teams.”
From this, Liggett grew a side business selling motorsport graphics alongside his full-time career in the police. Since the beginning, Liggett has utilised the power of social media to generate business and to spread the word about what he is doing.

Operating as Race Vinyl, Liggett produced logos for BTCC (British Touring Car Championship) cars, Clio cup cars and a number of other cars including a GT4 team. “I loved motorsport, so it was great to be invited along to race weekends to support the teams. But as time went on, I realised that as race budgets were so tight, the margins that could be made by solely focusing on motorsport customers were low compared to commercial work.” He says, adding: “Having met a few other sponsors at race weekends, I started to look at designing and installing commercial vehicle graphics. There was a huge market out there and the margins were much higher too.”

Continued growth

Over the two years that followed, Liggett honed his focus in on commercial vehicle customers which led to him producing signage and other promotional print products. All this was done from a spare bedroom using the 600mm cutter and then outsourcing any print work that was needed.

“As this was only a sideline to my full-time career, I had been saving any money I had made from this little venture and as I had been outsourcing so much print towards the end of 2016, I decided to put that money into buying my own wide-format print and cut machine,” Liggett explains.

In late 2016, Liggett purchased a brand new Roland SG 540 and by this time had already taken on a small office space as he had outgrown the spare room, dining room and garage at home. “Much to my wife’s frustration,” he adds. To match the company’s growth, Liggett also changed the name from Race Vinyl to The Vinyl Guys.

“Almost every time I went to install graphics at a race team, van dealer, or customer premises, when I’d go to sign in I’d hear people shout: “the vinyl guy is here!” Liggett says, adding: “The pluralisation of the name was from my desire to sound bigger than I was at the time which seemed to work well, along with an 0800 number that I’d had to forward to my mobile. I wanted fleet managers to see me as a proper business and not as just a guy doing it on the side.”

The concept of being “just a man doing it on the side” didn’t last for long and Liggett explains that the purchase of his wide-format printer completely changed his business. He describes his motivation to sell more, grow his design and artwork skills, and push more eye-catching vehicle branding solutions as “unstoppable”.

Over the next three years, Liggett moved into a larger space and bought finishing equipment and a Roland VG2 640 printer. He also took on a part-time member of staff, grew his customer base and began to see the business as something he could do full time.

Liggett plans to continue to grow The Vinyl Guys and offer more training and education to the industry

Seeing the business grow so quickly was the push Liggett needed to finally make the move and in July 2019 after 18 years in the Police Service, he left his job and took on the business full time.

The business wouldn’t have been able to grow so quickly if it wasn’t for the support and advice of Liggett’s loved ones. Because of this, there was another more personal reason for taking the plunge, which Liggett explains: “Back in 2017 I had lost my dad and father-in-law both quite suddenly and within only weeks of each other. They had both been a huge part of the development of my business, supported me and advised me when I needed it.

They had both worked hard their entire lives before being only able to enjoy a very short time of their own retirements before being taken from us.

“This made me reconsider many aspects of my life but mainly the realisation that life is too short. I knew there was something there with the business, something that I could grow and something that could support my family and give me more freedom to see my wife and daughter. I had to explore that opportunity now. What’s the worst that could happen? If it failed, at least I’d have tried.”

I had to explore that opportunity now. What’s the worst that could happen? If it failed, at least I’d have tried

The risk was worth it and today, The Vinyl Guys is operating from brand new 2,600sq m premises with a purpose-built print room and training centre to help new businesses grow. The company has four Roland wide-format print machines: SG2 540, VG2 540, VG2 640 and a UV LEC2 640, as well as a BT 12 DTG printer. In terms of finishing equipment, the company also has a rollover flat-bed application table, a Keencut SteelTrak 250 and Evo 3, an Easymount laminator, and a Secabo TC7 heat press.

Liggett adds: “I have some amazing relationships with manufacturers and suppliers that have taken me years to build, as well as hundreds of regular customers.”

Liggett now employs two full-time members of staff: Chris who is the production manager and Carl who has just joined the team to run the Print Business Growth Centre. Tom is also completing a part-time apprenticeship with The Vinyl Guys as part of his engineering studies at a local college.

The company operates around four core values: honesty, originality, integrity, and love. Honesty in being straight and open with pricing, the process and turnaround times; originality in creating individual, custom designs in-house; integrity in what they say is what they do; and love by caring about the products the company sends out and showing customers they love what they do. This is in turn reflected in the care and attention to detail of the work produced.

From producing solely car graphics to designing, printing, and installing graphics for vehicles, signage, wall and floor graphics, printed workwear, banners, site boards, custom stickers, labels and graphics, it’s clear to see how far The Vinyl Guys has come in a short space of time.

Paying it forward

One element of the business that has only recently been developed is the launch of the Print Business Growth Centre. Starting out from a desire to help others in a similar situation to when Liggett first started out, the business started to host regular workshops to educate and inspire those just dipping their toes into the industry.

This quickly grew and in August, The Vinyl Guys opened its doors to the centre. Small business owners who currently outsource their print can use the centre as a way to experience what it’s like to operate a working print room. They can also get to grips with the latest technology and software, giving them the confidence to perhaps invest in their own kit.

Inside The Vinyl Guys’ purpose-built print centre

Liggett explains: “People can come and hear about the way I started and grew the business and how we find our customers, materials and pricing. The idea of these workshops is to show the nuts and bolts of the business to people who are maybe in the position that I was in four to five years ago and give them advice and tips on growing their own business.”

Looking forward and Liggett’s goal is to grow this side of the business and to continue to build on his strong relationships with companies such as Roland, Signmaster Systems and Metamark, and as a member of the ISA-UK (UK's International Sign Association). The hope is to develop the workshops into industry recognised courses to help people develop skills, network, and bring like-minded print business owners together to regularly discuss things like products, materials and finding customers to help build a strong community of printers.

Over on the print side, the aim is to expand next year with further investments in machinery and to grow the team. Liggett adds: “I’ve always planned ahead in great detail; it’s been the key to our growth so far. With the growth in our business we have seen through lockdown, we are 14-18 months ahead of our current business plan which is great. But it has meant that I am now having to look further forwards than I had previously been.”

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