Ginny is the founder of The Wheel Specialist, and has also worked within the powder coating and metal finishing sector. Today, Ginny gives us an insight into franchising and how it works, and how she developed her own career.
How did you get into this career?
I founded the UK’s largest wheel refurbishment franchise company 13 years ago. The Wheel Specialist was born following my work within the powder coating and metal finishing sector. My aim was to take the industry to a more professional, approachable level which was accessible to all – one that you would be happy for your mum to visit!
Can you explain a bit more about franchising for those who may not know as much about it and where it fits in to the motor industry?
Franchising is essentially the act of creating and licensing a business-model which can be duplicated, it dates back to the 1800’s and in-fact one of the first Franchises known to exist was a drinks company which led to the creation of Coca-Cola, apparently they haven’t done to badly since then! Franchising is overseen by the BFA (British Franchise Association) in the UK which is a self-regulating body that also provides fantastic networking opportunities and accreditation. Process and procedure is at the very heart of any good Franchise and it’s a model which lends itself perfectly to the motoring industry, where there are often going to be complex processes going on. What makes the franchise model perfect for our market is that we’re able to give a Franchisee (the person buying into our business) all of the decades of knowledge, process and the tools that we have out of the box. Often a Franchisee is going to be someone setting out on starting their own business and they have to weigh up the options. On one hand they can try to figure out this whole business model on their own (learning a lot of tough lessons along the way), with no established brand, no support team or proven marketing strategy… or they can eliminate many of those obstacles by buying into an established Franchise. Quite simply, Franchising, particularly in the motor industry, is so popular because it makes perfect sense.
I now have 28 franchises across the country from Inverness to Southampton, and we also have another 2 locations which are opening soon. The network now boasts an annual turnover of approximately £11m per annum.
What sparked your interest to start a wheel refurbishment franchise company? Had you had a history in the motor industry previously that might have sparked your passion to move in this direction?
The Wheel Specialist has its roots in an older company called Lap-Tab which was established in Birmingham in 1955. It was our original family business and we powder coated a variety of items from automotive parts including wheels to laptop tables and even ironing boards. However, over time we realised that alloy wheels were the real meat in the market and we could see that not only was the market huge, but so was the demand. Our first Franchised location was in Manchester and in-fact our first Franchisees had actually approached us to ask if we could Franchise the business because they had seen the amazing success we were enjoying in Birmingham. People were coming from all over the country to get their wheel refurbished in Birmingham. That was really where the whole Franchise began, it made perfect sense and I got to work documenting the entire process and building the support and marketing tools any potential Franchisee would need. Andy Thompson who was our first Franchisee has been with us for over 12 years now, a few years back he even opened a second Franchise and he’s also our National Technical Director. I think it’s a fantastic example of not only the success you can have in this industry but also how our Franchise network really is one big family who all learn from and share ideas with each other.
What does a typical day look like in your role?
I usually get up at 5:45 am, I’ll feed the dogs, work out and be in the office for around 8 am, but of course that depends on how many emails and calls I have to get to before I leave the house. A usual day will incorporate things like supplier meetings, technical meetings, existing franchisee business reviews and meetings with potential new franchisees. Liaising with all of our support departments is also important to me as I like to be close to the core team. This will include staff who work in technical, sales and marketing, business support and financials. Home time is generally around 6pm, but this varies a lot depending on what’s happening on any given day.
What skills/qualities does a person need for this type of role?
Drive, commitment, passion, and a belief in being the best. Many employers can work with someone who might be lacking in a particular technical skill – most things can be learned, but if someone isn’t switched-on and enthusiastic about what they’re doing, then that’s always going to be difficult. Desirable qualities will differ between roles, but something that is a must is getting to know the brand, and the principles that we stand for. We’ve strongly positioned ourselves in the market as having a focus on quality and customer care, so it’s imperative that everyone who works with me fully understands and embraces that. Oh, and having a love of cars helps!
What advice would you give to someone looking to move towards a role like this?
Never give up, get to know your stuff and work hard. These might sound like simple suggestions, but the importance really cannot be overstated. I always remember that this Franchise began in the beginning of the international financial crisis. We really built it from the ground-up and it would have been very easy to have thought “actually this is too much of a risky time to set up a new business model”, but I believed so passionately about what I was doing that I knew it would work. Once you set out on a journey like that, you’ve just got to go for it, keep pushing and look back only to learn. Everyone makes mistakes in business – the not so closely guarded secret is to learn from those mistakes. As long as you have that mentality, to be continually learning, improving in the ever changing automotive market and getting stuck-in, you’ll be on the right track.
What advice would you have given to your younger self for your career?
That’s a tough one but I think if I could tell my younger self anything it would be to always trust your gut. I’ve always been confident in making calculated business decisions and although in any business there is always a risk element, I’ve never been one for taking silly risks that cannot be reasonably justified. For example, there are a number of backstreet style garages that will spray wheels for a cheap price, using questionable processes, but ultimately you’re going to get what you pay for. I knew our service and quality were second to none, but there were times where I questioned if the market would see that additional value I knew was there. Fortunately, the years have proven that our market does indeed value service and quality above price, so I would tell myself that if you believe in something and it makes logical sense, then you’ve just got to go for it with total commitment. We don’t chase the competition, we make them chase us.
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