Exclusive interview with Amrit Dhaliwal, CEO and Founder of Walfinch
Tell us a bit about yourself
AD: My parents came to the UK from India and my Dad was a huge advocate of self-education. He gave me a copy of The Power of the Subconscious Mind when I was 11 and I still use those insights today.
Mum and Dad started in factories, then got a market stall and finally a shop in West London. I worked in the shop after school and I was taking the cash to the bank aged 11.
I studied History and Economics at university, then was an employee for eight months, but it wasn’t for me. Entrepreneurialism was in my blood.
My first business venture was transforming an Italian deli into an Italian restaurant, and then I developed a local cafe. I still wanted to make a tangible difference to the community so my wife suggested setting up a business in the homecare sector – and I knew she was right.
I was new to homecare, so I invested in a franchise with one of the big franchised care companies, to get the advantage of their experience, name and business model. I developed it from nothing to £1 million turnover in four years, but the main reward was doing good in my community.
I loved it, but it showed me that there was a lot to fix in the homecare sector so created Walfinch.
What is your role / responsibilities in the company?
AD: I’m the franchisor so my job is to lead the National Support Team and strategise about how to best support franchisees. I’m also responsible for leading meetings with potential franchisees, to make sure the network is strong and successful.
Can you tell us about the business
AD: Walfinch is a combination of my surname and finch, an evolutionary bird. It was important to me that our name represents continual growth and evolution when setting up the brand.
Today, we have 27 franchisees and have built a strong National Support Office with expertise in business development, marketing, search engine optimisation (SEO), compliance, and more!
Who is your target market / what is the demand for your services?
AD: Care is absolutely for the elderly, who make up a large chunk of our customer base, but it’s also for younger people. We provide services like stroke rehabilitation and convalescent care to people of all ages, and companionship care which is often for people aged 65 years and over.
Since 2011 there has been a 20.1% increase in people living in the UK who are aged 65 years and over so we’re seeing a growing demand for the care services that Walfinch provide.
Why is Walfinch franchise a great investment for potential franchisees?
AD: I’ve been a franchisee and I’m now a franchisor, so I understand the business from both sides. I’ve also run successful businesses that weren’t franchises, so from a leadership point of view, I get it.
We’ve got a phenomenal National Support Team from operations and compliance to marketing, which is important especially in the early years. I learned this when I was franchisee, so I wanted to get this right for Walfinch franchisees. This allows us to really hold our franchisees’ hands and get them from £0-£1m quickly.
What differentiates Walfinch from the competition?
AD: We’re heavily invested in new technologies and how they integrate with care which keeps us ahead of the competition. We hire support staff who understand the developments around AI, for example, to make sure we’re helping our franchisees get new clients and streamline their processes in modern and creative ways.
We also have a highly technical expert National Support Team who work to help franchisees reach their financial goals as quickly as possible.
What is the role of one of your franchisees?
AD: Walfinch franchisees are business owners, so their primary focus is on growing and being profitable. To do this, they must design business and marketing plans, they must recruit staff and carers and they have to stay on top of compliance. We have experts in all these things at the National Support Office to support quick and sustainable growth for our franchisees.
What qualities do you look for in a franchisee? And what makes a successful franchisee?
AD: We look for people with a management background. You don’t need to be from a care background to become a Walfinch franchisee because we teach that bit.
This means that we look for people who are willing to live and breathe our values: integrity, excellence, teamwork and fun. We also want people who pass the Mum Test. The Mum Test is where we ask, “Would we want this person to look after our own Mum?” If the answer is yes, you pass emphatically!
A successful franchisee is someone who understands that we’ve created a system for success and they should be willing to buy into and follow that.
How did your franchise adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic? How did you support your franchisees during this time?
AD: At this point, we were already fully paperless and using Zoom, so actually it was pretty pain-free for us. We were already systemised to work remotely, as were our franchisees.
What other challenges have you had to overcome and adapt to over the years in your franchise and the industry in general?
AD: One of my biggest challenges has been to look at infrastructure, constantly. I’m a big believer in getting the right people on the bus and building a strong central team to provide the correct support for success. We’ve been very deliberate about cultivating the right leadership team and this has been challenging but rewarding. This will, in turn, help our franchisees get to success much faster.
What have been Walfinch’s biggest achievements to date so far?
AD: As well as our leadership team we’ve created to help our franchisees succeed much more quickly, our culture is also something I’m proud of. Plus, we’ve won some brilliant awards over the years.
Our carer retention rates are also much higher than the industry average.
What does the future hold for Walfinch? What are your growth targets?
AD: My aim is to have over 200 franchisees in the UK in ten years and I’d like to take the business oversees in five years.
The important thing here is that we like to expand the team with experts in various fields before we really need them. This is to ensure that the leadership team gels and will be successful for our franchisees, before they even need them!
What advice would you give to someone considering franchising their business?
AD: Firstly, get a mentor. This helped me hugely. Make sure you always keep learning and absorbing information in the industry. I like to attend lots of events because if you surround yourself with experts, you’ll learn so much and quickly.
If you had to do it all again, what would you do differently?
AD: I’d build a solid network of other franchisors and leaders in care much sooner to benefit from idea sharing and new perspectives.
Interested and want to know more about Walfinch?
The Walfinch profile outlines all aspects of their franchise opportunity and allows you to contact them for further information or to ask a question.