Mother and Son Duo Start Family Business With Signal 88

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Mother and Son Duo Start Family Business With Signal 88
Mother and Son Duo Start Family Business With Signal 88
Signal 88 franchisees Marsha Morrell and Jeff Gilhooly find success in Fort Myers.

The stars aligned for mother and son duo Marsha Morrell and Jeff Gilhooly when they found a business that combined both of their skills and interests: Signal 88 Security. Morrell’s business savvy and administrative skills blended perfectly with Gilhooly’s security background. And after just 15 months in business, they’re already discussing where and how to expand their operations next.

Morrell has always been a bit of a wanderer, getting her masters in math and then moving to Colorado to “ski for a year” before working at IBM and then in software development in Vermont. When she started to feel restless at her development job, she began considering the franchise industry, but she wasn’t finding anything that made her immediately want to commit. Meanwhile, Gilhooly had begun working for a security company while working towards earning his masters in criminal justice in Fort Myers, Florida.

In retrospect, Gilhooly and Morrell starting a security business seems like a natural next step. But it took the encouragement from Morrell’s youngest son, Brian, to guide her to Signal 88. Brian had been talking to Morrell for a while about opening a franchise, wanting the family to build something that would allow them to be their own bosses. That’s when Morrell came across an article Brian had emailed her about top franchise brands to watch. Signal 88 was No. 1.  

“Signal 88 really believes in their core values, and that’s really important to me,” says Morrell. “I like to be honest and transparent, so the business model fit us. I wouldn’t have gone into this if it was just any old business, and I was only looking at numbers. I really respect the core values of integrity and honesty. It works for me.”

The transition for Gilhooly was a seamless one. After having spent nine years working his way up to a managerial position at a major security company, he found that he wasn’t impressed by the quality of security guards they were hiring, or the opportuntiees for career advancement. When they signed onto Signal 88, Gilhooly amicably left his former security company, creating a network of executives that would prove fruitful for everyone. Offering different services, Gilhooly and the other security company are now able to refer clients to one another when the business model is more appropriate, while also sharing advice and experiences from their market.

“Signal 88 offers a service that most security companies don’t,” says Gilhooly. “Whereas most security companies offer a security guard who sits at a gate, Signal 88 franchise offers the patrol model where our guards are highly visible and active, which gives our clients a greater peace of mind. There’s not a lot of competition because of that, and that’s allowed us to collaborate with my former company, since we offer such different services.”

Now that Morrell and Gilhooly have found success with their business—revenue is up and their client base is growing—they’re shifting their focus to when, where and how they’ll expand. As Morrell has said, it’s not really a matter of if, but where and when. The duo has lots of options. Morrell’s son, Brian, is also considering joining the new family business, bringing with him a keen sense for business and finances.

“We really believe in the model,” says Morrell. “It’s cost effective and we’ve found that it really works. Our clients really appreciate the model, too. So that just leads us to believe in it more and more. And our fellow franchisees are a huge component of our success. We’re a tight-knit, super helpful group. Everybody tries to jump in to help.”


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