Joanna Graham takes us into the Waves Group Franchise in an exclusive CEO interview
1. Tell us about the Waves concept.
Waves supplies hand car wash and valeting services to supermarkets, property owners, retailers and car park operators across the UK. We have developed a brand that provides a highly professional level of service to our customers and our Landlords.
We work hard with our Franchise Partners to consistently deliver the highest levels of customer service, compliance and marketing: all our Franchise Partners are fully trained in every aspect of the business (including Health & Safety, ethical employment practices and environmental compliance) to ensure that the Waves model is industry leading.
We pride ourselves on our family values and the culture of support and collaboration that this entails. We are also committed to innovation, and the importance of continuous reinvestment in developing and improving the customer experience and operating transparency. As part of this, we launched our bespoke software system in 2015 and have continued to develop this year on year; the system gives our customers a genuinely industry-leading customer journey and greater security through an onsite booking-in system and a customer pre-booking app that offers a secure payment method. The system gives us greater operational, financial and compliance transparency across our estate which allows our customers to make an ethical car wash choice and provides reassurance to our landlords.
2. How and when did you become involved with Waves?
We started Waves in April 2006; Waves is a privately-owned company with an experienced management team.
3. What was your background prior to joining Waves?
I always knew that I wanted to own and run my own business. After finishing university where I read Business and Modern Languages, I joined a recruitment company running their business sales team. I then pursued an opportunity to develop my sales and client management skills in a growing car wash business. After this I decided to start a business with my father providing a new car wash operating model. We still work together today.
4. What are some of the advantages in being a Waves franchisee?
Waves is the fastest growing hand car wash franchise in the UK: we offer fully-equipped car valeting centres operating from some of the best retail locations available. Waves offer intensive, hands-on training, covering all aspects of running a hand car wash for the Franchise Partner and their team members.
But the support doesn’t end here: Waves Franchise Partners are supported by a team of people, with this support led by your dedicated Regional Manager who supports your business development through on-site coaching and mentoring. We have 2 training centres as well as a Franchise Support Team who together provide additional ongoing training as well as valeter certification programmes and customer experience development support. Also in the field we have a full-time maintenance team to keep your sites operational. At our London offices we have a team of people to support your business including: innovation / IT / model development; maintenance support, trade effluent and planning; customer experience / complaints; finance and marketing: offering national and local marketing support through social media, national promotions and ad artwork.
All Franchise Partners have access to our industry-leading customer processing system, a powerful business management and accounting tool that enables you to monitor and improve daily operations.
5. Who is your ideal franchisee?
Our Franchise Partners may have a lot or perhaps very little management experience, but one thing they all have in common is a strong desire to run their own, successful business.
We look for Franchise Partners that understand that excellent customer service is one of the key requirements for running any successful service business, including a car wash. Good communication skills and a motivation to gain new customers (and keep them!) are necessary to succeed.
With the comprehensive technology we supply as part our package, our Franchise Partners are increasingly able to become multi-site operators / management Franchise Partners as they have a level of remote site supervision and operational transparency unlike any other hand car wash model.
6. What are some of the great lessons you’ve learned in growing this franchise?
Teamwork is the most important element of running a business: this dictates how we work with every stakeholder (including our franchise partners, customers and landlord clients). Similarly, our franchise partners need to develop the right teamwork within their individual car washes – respecting every employee and creating a fair and ethical workplace. I believe passionately that every single person has a role in standing up for the ethical rights of all employees, particularly in industries like car washing that have faced challenges in this area – and continue to in certain sectors of the industry. Waves has taken a proactive, industry-leading position on standing up to modern slavery by working with charities such as Unseen as well as government agencies like the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority and the Modern Slavery Police Transformation Unit – together we can drive change in an industry that needs it.
7. Do you have a mentor and is there someone you use for inspiration?
Yes I am lucky enough to have a fantastic mentor. I think a carefully-chosen mentor can provide invaluable guidance, inspiration and support to a CEO. I am very grateful for the help I have been given by my mentor and also to our non-executive directors who provide further support.
8. What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise?
Firstly, you need to be sure that you want to operate a franchise (rather than pursuing a different business ownership model). Good franchise packages provide numerous benefits including a proven trading track record, training, support and clear operational methods. However, if you are very entrepreneurial and like to do things your own way, you may find adhering to an operational model prescriptive or frustrating.
Once you have decided that franchising is the right model for you, you need to consider which type would suit you best – some franchise businesses are suited to individuals, some require extensive management experience, some require high levels of investment etc. You should consult franchising industry sources for detailed guidance on how to find the right franchise package for you (there are lots of online references), and ensure you have good and qualified business advisers to support you e.g. lawyer and accountant. You should ensure that you (with the support of your lawyer/accountant etc.) check all franchisor credentials and all legal documentation thoroughly before you sign or pay!
9. In your opinion why do you think that Waves would be a fantastic opportunity for someone?
1. Opportunity: The Waves business model makes for a great long-term opportunity – there is a real market for compliant, high quality hand car washes. For many people a car is their most expensive possession after a house and yet we all have increasingly busy lives with less and less time to clean our treasured car! And with more than 30 million cars on the road there are plenty of customers out there…
2. Profit: The Waves team is passionately committed to helping our Franchise Partners develop sustainable, profitable long-term businesses. We always remember and respect the level of investment and commitment you have made in us, and we strive to ensure that you make the best of the opportunity – it takes hard work, grit and possibly thermals in the winter… but we hope you enjoy it as much we will enjoy working with you.