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Michelle Wimsey has regained her working identity since becoming a WPA franchisee


  • Name: Michelle Wimsey       
  • Location: St Albans and across Hertfordshire
  • Franchise: WPA trading as Hadham Health Ltd
  • Date launched the franchise: September 2017

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you were doing prior to buying your WPA franchise business?

I had been running my Husband’s MedicoLegal side of his business as he is an Orthopaedic Surgeon. This was coupled with me project managing the completion of our new build property we were purchasing from a developer. I was also a full-time mum looking after my 2 young children, one being of school age and the other was about to start when I launched my practice.

Prior to this we spent a year in Australia where my husband completed his Orthopaedic experience before becoming a Consultant. It was also where my son was born.

Before leaving for Australia, I was the Head of the Employee Benefits Broking business at Marsh in London. The division brokered bespoke Health related insurances and Voluntary Benefits on behalf of our clients, with these benefits being delivered to Employees through Flexible Benefit Platforms. The insurances included Private Medical, Health Cash Plans, Dental Insurance and Dental Cash plans, Personal Accident plans, Critical Illness and Travel Insurance. There was also salary sacrifice benefits such as Bikes to Work & Childcare Voucher schemes that we provided, coupled with Lifestyle Discount solutions for employees.  

The role involved a lot of contract renewals, client management, customer service as well as man-management of my team of customer support executives.

Prior to my role at Marsh, I was an Account Director, managing the relationship with the RBS Group, for the products our company provided into their Added Value Accounts. This role had a heavy emphasis on Client Management and Customer Service with me interfacing with internal product and marketing departments to encourage product innovation in line with the client requirements. As this company also ran the membership services call centre, I had extensive oversight of the service our call centre team were delivering to RBS Group customers on a day-to-day basis.  

Can you also tell us about WPA 

I purchased a virgin territory that spans across the majority of Hertfordshire, covering Welwyn Garden City, Hertford, St Albans, Stevenage, Knebworth to just inside Bishops Stortford.

I wanted to build my business from scratch, with my own processes and in line with the standards I wanted to set for my clients in terms of ongoing customer service. I also wanted to be in a position where I personally knew every client I acquired as I felt this would lead to better client retention for the long term.  

Why did you go down the franchise route? What made you choose the health insurance industry? And why WPA?

Working in Health Insurance was a natural industry for my business, as I knew I could utilise all the skills, experience and knowledge I had acquired from my time at Marsh. The fact I would be dealing with families as well as companies was attractive to me, as family policies was an area I had not been involved in before. I was also excited to be able to continue to use my considerable experience with advising and implementing corporate healthcare schemes. Knowing that running my business would involve a mix of sales and customer service/account management was also appealing as my entire career had revolved around these tasks. Delivering excellent customer service is also something I am particularly passionate about and could see how delivering an excellent service to my clients would help me establish and grow my business.

Going down the Franchise route for me reduced the risks you would normally face when setting up a business on your own. It provides all the advantages of running your own business, whilst knowing you have the support of a large organisation that is always on hand to help you along the way. With compliance being managed by WPA, having IT support when you need it, having product support available daily, along with the systems being provided by WPA, meant I could get my business up and running very quickly. Knowing you have teams of people there to help you when you need it removed the ‘fear’ of setting up on my own and stopped me feeling like it was an overwhelming task to get started. I also liked the fact there were other Healthcare Partners you could call on for support, help and advice and to learn best practice from.

How did you raise the finance?

I was fortunate enough to fund the purchase of my franchise from savings, without needing any loans.

What training and support did you receive initially and ongoing?

When you start, another Healthcare Partner is allocated as your Business Mentor who is there to provide additional support during your first 2 years. My mentor and I would have regular catch up sessions on how I was doing and how I was finding things. I had the opportunity to discuss any challenges I had faced as well as to celebrate the wins. My mentor accompanied me to client meetings to spot any areas for improvement and to reassure me where I was doing well. This feedback was invaluable and enabled me to quickly gain confidence in dealing with a wide range of client queries.

WPA also provide dedicated Healthcare Partner support lines that sit within the Corporate and Retail Business Development Teams. Having this team to call upon to gain advice when dealing with complex client cases has been a lifeline. Not only have the team enabled me to respond confidently to clients, but they have been instrumental in expanding my knowledge and understanding of the finite details of the health insurance plans, which in turn has enabled me to offer best advice to clients.

Throughout my first 2 years I had financial support from WPA. I was able to utilise a marketing fund to the value of £3k to help towards my marketing costs when setting up my business. I used this to cover all my initial networking costs for the various groups I joined and attended on a monthly basis. The costs soon add up, so having this fund to draw upon enabled me to immediately implement this part of my business plan without worrying about the cost. The connections I have made through my networking have been long term and have been key to establishing my business.

WPA also provided payment bonuses based on sales milestones. These occurred in addition to enhanced sales commission %’s, that are paid to you in the first 2 years. All these factors helped enormously from a financial perspective in the early days.  Business wins were sporadic and unpredictable and you could be spending considerable hours each week on your business with minimal financial return. The support structure from WPA really did make a difference and took away that fear that it could take months and months before you started to see any real income.

How would you describe your day-to-day role as a WPA franchisee

My day to day role is busy and very varied. There is not one day that is the same. Each day I will always have existing customer enquiries to deal with – either to do with a product query, help with regards to how they claim or an enquiry on a potential change to their plan. At the same time I will be talking to existing clients about their renewals, making changes to their plan to ensure their cover continues to meet their needs and budget, whilst also dealing with sales calls and applications for new customers wanting to take out cover. In between this there will be calls to head office for advice or assistance or to follow up progress on applications or queries raised to business units.

Each month I also attend network groups to help to continue to spread the awareness of my business throughout my territory.

Provide information on challenges overcome as well as your key successes to date.

Key successes started with me bringing on enough customers within 2 years that I obtained the maximum new business bonus payment from WPA. This covered the cost of my Franchise purchase fee. I then went on to win the Best New Healthcare Partner in 2018, followed by the South East Regional Healthcare Partner of the Year in 2021, as well as the National Healthcare Partner of the Year award in that same year.

My biggest challenge is that my business has grown quicker than I expected, so I had to take on some admin support sooner than I envisaged, which was a cost I had not budgeted for at that stage. My PA has been pivotal to me being able to grow my business over the last few years whilst not compromising on the service I wanted my clients to receive.

Throughout the Covid pandemic, interest in PMI surged. Old prospects suddenly had time to discuss their health cover and made contact for assistance. Self employed people were keen to ensure their health was protected, so they could remain fit and well to run their own businesses and with the NHS service decline, more and more people were thinking about their health and were wanting to protect it.

I was home schooling 2 children at the time with a husband working in hospitals to help with the pandemic. It was a tough time trying to keep all the plates spinning but I found so many clients and prospects were in the same boat. I had to be flexible around when my work calls could take place, many of which were shifted to the evenings and to times when home schooling was not needed. Having the freedom to schedule my work matters to times that suited me, enabled me to support my children at such an unprecedented time, without me having to neglect my business or my clients.

As it happens, the 2 years of covid were when my business grew the most. As a result, my business is of a size where I receive a guaranteed level of income that more than meets my needs. This is now enabling me to grow my business more steadily, giving me time to look for ways to improve things and make processes more efficient, whilst also planning how I want to take the business forward to the next level.

Has becoming a franchisee changed your life, if so how?

Absolutely! I really didn’t want to return to London, commuting for hours, never seeing my young children and having a nanny or childminder looking after them. I wanted to work again, have an income and regain my ‘working identity’ alongside being a mother and meeting the needs of my family. Having my Franchise has enabled me to do just that. I have been able to support my children whilst they have been very young, been able to work from home (which is massive advantage when the kids have been unwell), whilst also contributing to our household income. I do now have to utilise wrap around care for my children so I can work the main proportion of the day, but I have been able to implement this now they are older and able to cope with longer school days.

The income I am now generating from my business has also meant we could move my daughter to a fee paying school, that we identified would be much more suited to her. She has flourished as a result and has achieved a double scholarship at her secondary school. She has discovered skills we never knew she had and her exposure to a wider variety of subjects and sports has been the making of her. The extra income I have generated has provided greater financial security and stability for us as a family and has created opportunities for us all that would not have been possible before.  

Seeing how much my daughter is achieving has spurred me on to continue to work as hard as I can. With further education costs looming in a couple of years, I am now able to plan for these expenses so that they will be available to her when needed. With costs already rising, I want to do all I can to support her so that she has the best chance of achieving her career goals.  With me managing her schooling and future education costs, my husband has been able to financially plan so we can provide the same for our son. Being able to share these significant costs has resulted in us now being able to send my son to the same school as my daughter, a year earlier than planned, where he will have the opportunity to experience an enriched school life.

How do you achieve a work-life balance?

Having my own business enables me to do the school runs each day and I can schedule work around my son’s after school sports activities. I work as much as I can during school hours, use after school clubs to extend my working day but do tend to work most evenings to ensure I keep on top of my admin and compliance tasks. Being able to work from home when 1 or both children have been unwell and off school has also been a lifeline as my husband can never take unplanned time off from the hospital.

I love the fact that I can work from wherever we are, so during the longer holiday periods when we are abroad, I can juggle my working hours to spend quality time with my family, whilst also being able to keep on top of my client’s needs. It’s a big advantage not having to worry about how many days holiday you have to take in a year. We know we can always be away together as a family when my husband can get time off. I also try and take the odd day off a month, to give me a chance to do something for myself and I schedule my regular exercise around my meetings so that I continue to remain fit and healthy and have that daily ‘me time’.

If you have staff, how do you retain your best staff and keep morale high and productive; how do you incentivise your staff and recognise success?

I don’t have any staff on payroll. My PA is self employed and I pay her for the hours she works for me. We celebrate my business successes together, as I recognise she plays a huge role in the day to day efficiency of my business.

Can you tell us about any community involvement, including any local partnerships, incentives or charity work you are involved in? 

With the support of WPA’s Benevolent Foundation, I was able to gain some funding to help my son’s village school raise enough money to build a brand new trim trail for the children to use at break time. Without this funding the school would not have met their target in time to get the new trail built during Easter holidays.

I have also donated money in lieu of Christmas cards and made donations to charities involved in my network groups. These have included Garden House Hospice and Streets to Homes.

What is the most invaluable piece of advice you could give someone looking to buy their first franchise? 

Make sure you have a clear understanding of your territory, research where the ‘hot spots’ are in terms of target audience and identify the network groups you want to visit or join in those ‘Hot Spot’ areas.

Have a clear and concise business plan ready to go before you buy your Franchise and then execute it, remembering to check back on it each year to identify activities you may have missed.

If you do the above, it will enable you to hit the ground running and will lead to quicker results.

In your opinion, what makes a successful franchisee?  

Someone who is confident, hard working, self-motivated and resilient. Set backs will happen, but you have to be able to move on from these and focus on the next day as a new day. You also need patience and self-belief. If you put in the hard work then the results will come in time.  As the business grows you definitely need to be organised and have good systems in place, so you can juggle the pressures on time between new business, renewals and administration, whilst ensuring nothing gets missed.

From an experience perspective, it will be a significant advantage if someone has had experience of customer service or being in a client facing role. For me, this has enabled me to build a rapport quickly with clients, present at networking or client events, whilst knowing how best to deal with client enquiries in a wide range of circumstances.  

What are your plans for the future?

To continue to grow my business at a steady pace, so that I can afford to recruit an Account Manager who will support me with giving advice to my clients. My end goal will be to sell my business to help towards our retirement but I am a long way off from that day at the moment.

If you had to do it all again, what would you do differently?

I actually wouldn’t change a thing. For me the opportunity presented itself at a perfect time, just before I had both children in main stream school. I had spent several years prior trying to come up with ideas of how I could work for myself, from home whilst having the flexibility for my children but the enormity of what was involved and the potential risks of it not working kept putting me off.

When the opportunity arose with WPA, everything suddenly fell into place and I have not looked back.

Interested and want to know more about WPA Healthcare Practice ?

The WPA Healthcare Practice profile outlines all aspects of their franchise opportunity and allows you to contact them for further information or to ask a question.

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