Interview with Claire Newport, owner of We Love Pets Cirencester
Knowing you’re not alone is extremely reassuring
Claire Newport has been successfully running the We Love Pets Cirencester branch for 3 years.
Claire had initially considered setting up her own pet care business, but knew there would be so much to learn to make it one that would serve the community well, be sustainable and provide an income for her family.
Having worked in customer service for 18 years, Claire knew she had transferable skills that would be an asset to her own business, but where do you start?
How and where do you start?
That’s when Claire’s sister in law mentioned We Love Pets, having met Jo White, Founder and Franchise Director, a few months previously. Claire and her partner James met with Jo and were instantly caught in the passion and drive of the business model, along with Jo’s desire to create local community services around the country.
“James and I only took a month to decide I could, should and would make this leap, but being ever cautious I decided to start the business alongside working part-time. The growth of the business was rapid and after 12 months I handed in my notice at my part-time job (security I’d known for 18 years) and went into the business full time.
It was frightening, of course, and at times in the early months I did feel anxious about how I would cope; could I meet the customer’s expectations, would earn enough to support my two children and our ever growing family of pets?
But, working with Jo on a business plan was all that I needed to see the vision and everything she predicted has worked out.”
While James still continues his career in Logistics, his support of the family business is invaluable.
“James’ is a Logistics Manager, so is able to help with scheduling; something that’s extremely important when juggling lots of pets to look after throughout the week”
What were you most worried about?
“When I first started I was worried about meeting customers’ expectations and covering my wages, but it rapidly went to ‘I’ve got too much to do’ and I needed staff.
Jo and Julie, WLP HR advisor, helped with that new process, guiding me through and ensuring I followed policies and procedures. I now manage it all on my own without even giving it a second thought and have the most fabulous team around me. The only resignations I’ve ever had have been from people who have moved away.”
How has your relationship been since you started in business?
“As a Mum of two children it can be hard juggling your time, but James’ effortless support with family, and the business, has enabled us to do it all.
James has been extremely supportive from day one and it’s probably made us even stronger as a family because we appreciate each other’s strengths and what we each bring to the business.”
Family is obviously a huge part of your life, who is there at home?
“In no particular order; two children, aged 13 and 10, two dogs (Old English Sheep Dog and a Border Collie), three cats and two rabbits (we’re picking the second one up this week)”
You mention your team with a huge smile, they’re clearly an important part of your growth. What stands out for you the most?
“Time keeping, passion and a love for pets. I have two ladies who work for me, who also live together, both desperately would love a dog of their own, but know they wouldn’t be able to afford to keep it, so they’ve become licensed dog boarders for me. They get so much joy from looking after the dogs and never leave them alone for a moment, sometimes even swapping the dogs over in cars to ensure they get endless love and a stress free stay while their owners are away.
Because of my own enjoyment of the business and the hard work of my team we’re extremely proud that we have customers who have been with me since day one”
No business succeeds without hard work, so you’ve clearly been busy these last three years, how do you unwind?
“Yes, lots of hard work, commitment and a team effort. However, I do reward myself with Saturday’s as my ‘day off’; I try to turn off all technology and leave paperwork to one side. Then I start again on Sunday planning the week ahead.
Yoga is also something I enjoy, I currently manage to go once a week, but am hoping to increase that over the next few months.
I also try not to do evening appointments, but I do spend some my time assisting elderly residents who may be struggling to walk or feed their pets. It’s not just giving the pets a walk or some extra attention, it’s an opportunity for me to help out with other little jobs around the house too. The community is so important to me, so it’s lovely to help.”
What have WLP head office done to help you the most on your journey?
“Everything! They, along with James, gave me the knowledge that I could succeed. If I ever have a moment of wonder, I just need to pick up the phone to Head Office and Jo gives me that buzz. It’s like having a business coach on the end of a phone whenever I need it. Completely invaluable.
Knowing I have the backing of the policies and procedures also gives me the confidence to know I am doing everything right for my team, the customers and their pets. Head Office support me with everything from technical issues, to HR to marketing.
Also, because each franchise has their own territory there’s no competition, so each franchisee is also there to support each other and share experiences. That too is invaluable.
Knowing you’re not alone is extremely reassuring.”
What’s been the most challenging part in the last three years?
“Recruitment was the hardest, because customer satisfaction is so important to me, so finding the right people to work to the WLP high standards has been very important. The help and support from Head Office has made this process so much easier than it would have been if I’d have tried to do it alone”
What’s been your biggest highlight?
“Hitting the targets set by Jo; everything she planned with me has come to fruition and I have now tripled my turnover. But, it’s not all about the money, it’s about knowing that the ‘plan’ worked. The plan to do something I enjoy, which equally brings joy to the pets and their owners.”
Do you have future plans for your WLP franchise or is it working so well as it is, you’re happy to remain as you are?
“I want to always be able to manage my customers’ expectations, so I will continue to expand the business locally, but keep it manageable with the support of a great team and Head Office.”
Claire can be contacted at the Cirencester branch.