Case Study - Derek Lambie, Water Babies Scotland Central

Water Babies LtdDerek Lambie took over the Scotland Central territory of Water Babies in 2011. Until joining Water Babies he had spent 15 years as a journalist. Starting out as a freelance for the Scottish national newspapers, he became the Editor of the Scottish Sunday Express in 2002 and held that position until he left in May 2012. 

Operating their oficeout of Stirling, in the shadow of Stirling Castle and the Ochil Hills, and they now have a team of 12 and Derek tells us his Water Babies story.

Why did you decide to become a Water Babies franchisee?
My wife, Wendy, and I were introduced to Water Babies when our daughter Jorja was born. We loved the lessons so much that when an opportunity to get involved by running a franchise ourselves we had to give it a go.

One of the things that attracted us to operating a franchise most was the flexibility that it allowed. We could manage a business and work the hours around what we needed as a family, and that was vital at the time of raising a young daughter.

How was the initial training?
I’ll be honest and say that Wendy did all the initial training as I joined her fully in the business after she had started solo. In terms of running the business, there was some initial training but we can also rely on assistance from our colleagues in neighbouring franchises.

What I particularly enjoyed was the six-months training to become a swim teacher in the first instance, as it was so far removed from what I was used to.

How much support do you get from head office?
We get as much, or as little, support as we need from Head Office. What I would say is that having them there has helped us grow our business. The processes that are in place and the support framework that comes with that, whether than be in terms of branding and new collateral, national marketing and innovations to the swimming programme – or simply having a voice on the end of the phone to help – have helped no end.

There cannot be many franchise companies that allows every one of us to have direct access to the managing director 24 hours a day to help with problems, bounce ideas off, or just to chat. 

Water Babies LtdWhat has been the biggest challenge for you so far?
Every day is different and every day is challenging, but every day is very rewarding. While there is a burgeoning interest and demand for baby swimming lessons, our industry is facing a major challenge as a result of continual pool closures. Schools and leisure providers are starting to believe that it is cheaper to run a facility without a swimming pool in it, and are filling them in.

What are the advantages for you of working mainly in the school terms?
Well, for starters, how many people can pencil themselves in for having six or seven weeks holiday during the summer? We can, if we choose to. The flexibility to do this is one of the reasons we decided to embark upon a Water Babies journey in the first place, and we enjoy being able to spend time with the children over school holidays without worrying too much about childcare.

How do you see your business growing in the future? 
Water Babies wouldn’t be Water Babies if we didn’t have a few surprises up our sleeves and over the course of the next couple of years we plan a number of major projects that will help drive forward our business. That aside, it’s really a case of continuing to do what we do and keep an eye on the constantly changing situation as far as pool availability is concerned.

What advice you would give to someone considering a Water Babies Franchise?
Don’t delay! We haven’t regretted a single moment of it, and any potential new franchisee wouldn’t either. The best advice I would give is to research the existing market within your region and, more importantly, whether there are swimming pools available for hire.
The great thing about running a Water Babies franchise is the feeling of being part of a family. It’s different from other franchises. We’re all part of a big team, pulling together and working as one when the need arises. It’s strength in numbers, but at the same time every one of our individual voices can be heard.

How have you found trading so far and what benefits are there to working in this industry? 
In the first instance we work with smiley happy babies and their lovely carers – what can be any better than that? On top of that, we’re in an industry that is finally gaining the full respect it is due by helping to teach children to swim. What’s more, we already have evidence that what Water Babies does is helping to improve the health and wellbeing of babies and toddlers and develop their cognitive skills. And, who can forget we have three year olds that can swim across a swimming pool.

Would you recommend franchising to others? In particular franchising in the kids sector?
There is something empowering about being your own boss and shaping the direction of the business. To begin with it is hard work because, like any fledgling business, you have to do all the long hours and all the jobs pretty much by yourself, perhaps all the while operating out of your front bedroom.

Can you describe a typical working day?  
Each day varies depending on whether it’s a day in the office or in the pool. Typically you’ll find me in the pool for about three hours a day splishing and splashing along with the babies, while Wendy does most of the office-based work with the staff. After school runs and the bathtime routines, you’ll normally find me perched over the laptop catching up on office work. But, you know what, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  • Water Babies Ltd

    Contact details

    Member - Full
    Educational Services
    Mr Paul Thompson
    Water Babies Ltd  
    01404 548 348
    Honiton, Devon

    Business description

    Specialised baby swimming courses with additional underwater photography service

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