Ginny Murphy, the woman who gave birth to an industry

Run your own specialist alloy wheel refurbishment centre. Your own stunning workshop, with up to £150k proven annual income potential (per premises!)
Video

The Wheel Specialist

  Opportunities:
In the UK
  Business Type:
Franchise
  Minimum Investment:
£60,000
  Training Provided:
Yes
  Home-based:
Yes
  Part time:
Yes
  BFA Membership:
Member - Associate

There are super women, and there are superwomen. Ginny Murphy, founder and CEO of The Wheel Specialist, is one of the latter. Though, of course, she is both.

The Wheel Specialist News Image

In what has traditionally and unhelpfully long been considered a man’s world, Ginny has nursed the business from a twinkle in her eye into a highly successful network of franchises that remain the go-to experts for anyone serious about having their car wheels refurbished.

And, in the traditions of the family business from which she grew The Wheel Specialist, Ginny welcomed her son Jack into the company, too.

He’s standing on giants’ shoulders – his mother’s – as they guide the brand to even greater success together, with Jack having spent years working his way up to become managing director.

Like most accomplished women, Ginny takes it all in her stride.

While she was in the throes of labour before giving birth to Jack, she lay in the maternity ward flicking through a magazine: not a parenting publication, but AutoTrader, so she could target new potential customers.

Ginny, with no background whatsoever in the automotive industry, went on to create a household-name business that revolutionised the wheel refurbishment market and provided livelihoods for the franchisees who liked what she was doing so much that they bought into it.

Where it all began…

As a nurse at the sharp end, Ginny not only made life-or-death decisions every day, but discovered she was particularly adept at refining and defining processes – a talent that was to prove vital when she went on to found The Wheel Specialist.

She returned from a spell in the Caribbean and fell in love with Neill, the man who was to become her husband.

He was already part of a family metal-finishing business that powder-coated automotive and white goods, including pioneering special finishes on car wheels that no-one else was offering.

Ginny soon spotted a gap in the market – a diagnosis that was not only spot-on but engendered very healthy livings for those who’ve prospered since as franchisees of The Wheel Specialist.

“There was a growing demand for wheel refurbishment from car enthusiasts, and I realised there’d be a huge market if people could access it where they lived instead of having to bring or send their wheels to our workshop in Birmingham,” says Ginny.

“It needed to be local. We had serious petrol-heads coming to us from all over the country, but most people don’t want to have to jack their car up, take off the wheels, package them up and send them away.

“There was a Hell of a lot of demand and I knew we had this great model of a business that could be replicated all over the UK.

“I didn’t know much about franchising at the time, but I was lucky enough to be introduced to some great mentors through the British Franchise Association – the main one being Colin Chadwick, the then Director of Franchise Development for NatWest, who was fundamental in my learning.”

Premium positioning

Just as Priscilla Presley saw the potential in Elvis’s legacy and built it into an empire that’s infinitely more lucrative than when he was alive and singing, Ginny transformed the family business through a combination of her vision as an entrepreneur and her experience as an A&E nurse.

She knew the automotive industry had a reputation for being far from female-friendly, with reports of disrespect, patronising attitudes and out-and-out rip-offs deterring women from wanting anything to do with it.

“I wanted to take this industry out of the back-street so that my Mum or my daughter or I could go into a place and not be intimidated, and ask for as much or as little information as we wanted without being patronised.

“Men and women can still be made to feel intimidated in some places, but we’ve made our showrooms stylish, friendly, and professional.”

Drawing on her husband’s technical experience in a firm that pioneered spectacular finishes on car wheels when very few were doing it, Ginny’s nurturing instincts infused the business from the start and pervade it to this day.

“The guys who buy franchises from us do it not only because of the brand and the extensive support we offer but because they feel their voice will be heard.

“They’re individuals and know that if they’re having a difficult time, even if it’s nothing to do with the business, they can pick up the phone and talk to us.

“It’s not an us-and-them. We run on mutual respect. And we know how it feels because we ran a small business ourselves and had to know how to look after the pennies while managing all the other areas of running a business.

“Whether it’s cars or childcare or a pizza shop or whatever, the principles are the same – you have the same issues and problems that need resolving.”

Ginny insists she’s “not a natural business person”, yet she built a pre-school from scratch while she was having her own children, and developed a protocol that enabled private providers to become NVQ training centres while she was still a nursing sister.

The journey nationwide

Building a successful business and making it franchisable are two very different things, but Ginny’s vast experience of demystifying the complicated and thinking herself into other people’s shoes helped promote the business concept to a queue of willing franchisees.

The network has grown from that first franchise to 26, with franchisees thriving despite the pandemic, and Ginny is rightfully proud of the business and its ethics.

“I’m chuffed to bits that Jack has come into it. He really knows his stuff and has a superb work ethic, the network trusts him, and they respect his judgement.

“Jack drives the business forward more than I could do alone. It’s great to have such fresh ideas and drive,14 years after I created The Wheel Specialist.”

Those 14 years have been a relentless drive for quality – both in the finish of the wheels and in the service they give customers and franchisees.

Unlike some who are purely competitive, Ginny sees the value of inclusiveness and, indeed, puts a lot of effort into mentoring others, passing the baton and willing them on.

She’s known throughout the automotive industry and the franchising world as the woman who made it all happen, the one without whom there’d be a lot more scruffy cars around with kerbed wheels, awful alloys and wretched rims.

Perhaps it was just her natural instinct for making things better, whether patients, processes, or woeful-looking wheels.

Whatever it was, Ginny’s position as a business leader, entrepreneur and role-model is a far cry from the one dream she had when she was a little girl.

“I wanted to have babies,” she says. “Lots and lots. That was my only ambition. And I ended up with three babies: my daughter, my son, and my business.”

Mum and all three are doing well.

Woe betide anyone who under-estimates Ginny or mistakes her for a mere figurehead. She’s working away at her desk long before many of us have eaten our cornflakes and, just like in the old days, has her finger very firmly on the pulse.

Alongside her son, she presides over a business empire that stretches from Southampton to Inverness and is expanding even as you read this.

The network has an annual turnover of more than £10 million and has grown significantly, year-on-year, in 13 out of its 14 years in operation.

And all of that has come not from focus groups or armies of clipboard-wielding experts brainstorming business ideas, but from one woman’s hunch, or intuition, or brainchild: spotting a gap in the market, giving the customers what they want, then bringing it to far more people through a network of evangelical franchisees.

One woman. One idea. One phenomenon.

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