Close friends Jo and Lorna both worked in the oil and gas industry and had seen their roles and the business change over the years into something that no longer appealed. They were both offered redundancy at the same time and while initially terrifying, the pair admit that without that push they would never have given franchising a go. Four years and three large branches later, this friendship has seen the highs and lows of going into business together and has come through the other side…just!
Did you know each other well before WLP?
LORNA: “We used to work together. We met eight years previous when I covered for Jo on reception as a temp. Jo then joined me in the admin role. I have thoroughly enjoyed annoying her ever since. We went on holiday with our partners and had nights out so there was a good friendship there.”
JO: “We both have the same interests and love animals so we knew taking on this new adventure would work for us. We both wanted a change and taking on another boring 9-5 role was not going to cut it for us.”
What did you do immediately prior to We Love Pets?
LORNA: “Procurement specialist, buying valves and such like. Fun times! But I do miss the office banter, and the team (some of them).”
JO: “Purchasing within the oil industry.”
Any other career changes before that?
LORNA: “You could say that! I worked at a vet’s free of charge on Saturdays when I was young as I’m animal mad then when I left school, I worked in a shop in the plaza on Oxford Street. I then trained as a beauty consultant and worked in Kensington at the same time as I worked in the night club industry (front of house, memberships, event organiser etc.) I worked with the owners for 12 years and also worked on Saturdays as an Estate agent for six years in Wandsworth. When I moved away from London, I had little jobs here and there but nothing to get my teeth into.”
JO: “I used to be a beauty therapist and an inflight beauty specialist for Virgin Atlantic, plus various office jobs.”
What was your day to day like in your previous role?
LORNA: “Well…I met my husband in my previous role so there were some perks! I was doing admin but it kind of grew into other roles. It was a great company to work for when it was small but when we were brought by a bigger global company it changed so much. In terms of my day to day though, lots of schedules, emails, specifications, material certs, iso’s, meetings, phone calls from pushy sales people, lots of different projects worldwide – but always feeling like you were blagging your way through a day to day existence.”
JO: “Yeah, similar for me too. Answering emails, attending meetings and conference calls – I would work through my lunchbreak and stay late most days.”
How did it feel to be made redundant?
LORNA: “Absolutely devastated! Single mum with a mortgage…terrified!”
JO: “Once it was confirmed I was being made redundant the anxiety kicked in, but that was because I wanted a change for myself, and I know I needed to push myself into something that was out of my comfort zone, otherwise I may not of had this opportunity again.”
Had you been thinking about changing your career anyway?
LORNA: “I wasn’t very happy in the role. I spent years pushing for a pay increase, but they kept expecting more from us – travel, conference calls, meeting vendors and visiting sites – but no recognition in the pay. I loved the office banter, the team, annoying Jo was the highlight of my day and my boss Tim found me an absolute pain in the a*** – but he was the one who was always going on about franchises being the way forward…. which got Jo thinking! (Thank goodness for Tim and Jo).
JO: “It was on my mind well before being made redundant. It was my boss that introduced me to franchising and the more I researched it, the more I became interested in the type of lifestyle I wanted.”
Did you have a clear idea of what you wanted to do next or were you completely stumped?
LORNA: “Stumped. The oil and gas industry were in a bad state at the time and I couldn’t see any good job options out there. My heart wasn’t in procurement, I didn’t enjoy it at all.”
JO: “I had no idea what I wanted to do and being a business owner was far from it.”
What made you choose We Love Pets?
JO: “Having not had my own business before I knew I needed support and guidance. After numerous hours on the phone to Ryan and several meetings with Jo we made the jump in October 2016. Jo and Ryan’s positive attitude and determination to make We Love Pets successful was what sold it to us. Here we are four years later, and we are now VAT registered, surviving COVID19 with their support and positive attitude and now run three large branches.”
Why did franchising appeal to you after redundancy?
LORNA: “It didn’t, Jo Matthews convinced me and after a meeting with Jo White we went for it! I was convinced it would be a bad move and at a time when finances were pretty messy and I was a single mum with one income, I was scared. Jo White put me at ease by showing us figures for how the other franchisees had progressed and it made me feel secure knowing they were there as a support network. To be honest, I didn’t have much support from friends or family, they all said, “If this is what you want to do then start it on your own”. To this day I know they were wrong, and it was a good choice.
JO: “Being my own boss with a better work life balance and lifestyle.”
Do you ever argue?
LORNA: “Oh my goodness yes! We have had three huge fights – no hair pulling or face scratching but lots of tears and lets part ways. We also have the little fights too, but I think we have learnt how to handle each other better and are more diplomatic in our approach.”
JO: “In the early days when we were finding our feet and we had a lot to learn, it was inevitable there were going to be heated discussions. We have learned to bring up any concerns or issues with each other straight away and not let them fester. Regular meetings and trips up to head office have also been a huge help.”
How do you keep your friendship and work separate? Or does it not matter?
LORNA: “I don’t think it matters; Jo is like my second life partner! We do still have the occasional night out and meet for lunch. We speak almost daily and not always work related. I do think it is important to make time for each other, just like any good partnership, it needs work and time (and lots of patience).”
JO: “Our friendship is what makes the business a success.”
What’s great about working with each other?
LORNA: “Balance. We are both good at different tasks and we’re both still learning and teaching each other. Trust is a big factor in this partnership, I trust Jo completely but I wish she had more confidence in herself.”
JO: “The support we can provide for each other through work and on a personal level. Being able to play to our strengths by dividing the job roles. I like that we pick each other up when it gets tough, put our ideas together and have someone to talk too whether it is work or personal home life.
Do you feel your relationship has improved as a result of running a business together?
LORNA: “Yes and no. I feel like we have a far better understanding of each other and have definitely become much closer as friends, the business did test our friendship to breaking point and I am sure there will be more tests to come in the future – but I also feel we are strong enough now to ride the storm and be there for each other.”
JO: “Our relationship is so much stronger than it was before WLP. Having Lorna’s support and positive attitude has helped me develop and push myself within the business.”
Would you recommend going into a franchise with a friend and what would your advice be?
LORNA: “Absolutely – I couldn’t and wouldn’t have done this without Jo and certainly wouldn’t have done this with my husband. My advice for anyone considering taking this step with a friend is to make sure you trust them, talk to each other and don’t bottle it up. Learn to look beyond your differences, no two people are the same and we all have different expectations and goals. Support each other, you will both be on a new adventure and feeling different emotions and fears at different stages. Be positive when your friend is down despite your own negativity. Our friendship has made this work.”
JO: “I would definitely recommend it, but my advice is to make sure you have that strong connection with that person in the first place. Lorna and I have complete trust for each other and having a strong bond has made this business successful.”