Name: Mark Tomlinson
Location: Gloucestershire, covering Herefordshire, Monmouthshire and Worcestershire
Date Franchise Launched: September 2010
I had spent 27 years in Banking, in TSB initially and then Lloyds TSB since the 1995 merger. I had worked in branch banking for the first 12 years, including four years as a Branch Manager, before moving into a range of different Head Office roles from 1994 onwards. My last few years in the Bank saw me working between Bristol & London.
I am a Senior Healthcare Partner for WPA Healthcare Practice Plc, which effectively means that my role is that of an Account Manager - a combination of taking on new WPA members (individuals, families and SME businesses), and then looking after a growing portfolio with information, advice & support.
I was attracted to Franchising as I wanted to build my own business over time, but with the support/reassurance of an established business/operating model.
I didn’t so much choose the industry initially, but was very impressed with WPA as a business/Franchisor. Partly because of the fact that WPA are a not-for-profit Provider, and the positive impact this has on their ethos, and partly down to the obvious quality of the organisation and the other Franchisees that I met whilst undertaking my due diligence.
That said, my family and I had benefitted significantly from Private Health Insurance whilst in the Corporate world, so I was already a very positive advocate for the need to take responsibility for our own healthcare for greater choice/control, even though the NHS is a tremendous organisation in very many ways.
I was able to secure Voluntary Redundancy from LloydsTSB as there was significant restructuring needed following the 2010 Credit Crunch and the disastrous takeover of HBOS.
Initial training was a mix of pre-training preparation, reading, and product knowledge, followed by an intensive week long residential course and subsequent additional distance-type learning/support. There’s also a well-established Mentor scheme for the first two years, couple with an ongoing Academy for those in their first two years with WPA.
Healthcare Partners also now work towards an appropriate Chartered Insurance Institute qualification over a two year period (and subsequent supporting CPD).
Initially it was very much a case of raising awareness of WPA and, over time, taking on new Members (both companies and families). For me personally this involved a fair amount of Networking.
The last 4-5 years though have seen that increasingly gravitate towards looking after my growing WPA portfolio, supporting the policy administration, claims and annual policy renewals (and changes), although I still do a degree of networking each week.
Like most 'start-ups' it takes a while to become an established business, and for the peaks/troughs of income vs costs to be less pronounced. My first few years initially were also in the challenging environment of austerity and so it was probably only 2013/14 onwards that I was able to be 100% confident that my business would be sufficiently successful.
Completely. My working week is generally very varied, and extremely flexible. And I can be confident in the fact that I get out, broadly, what I put into my business in terms of time, effort & focus.
My success is largely down to my own efforts – but coupled with WPA’s excellent products, H/O staff and support for the front-end Healthcare Partners. It’s also very rewarding when Members appreciate the benefits and advice that they’ve received have had a hugely positive impact on their, or their families, health.
I have also been a Senior Healthcare Partner for the last couple of years, which – as a member of the South West leadership team – brings an additional dimension in providing help, advice and support to new Healthcare Partners.
Choose your Franchisor carefully and wisely and then Keep The Faith, as success isn’t instant, but takes a real investment of time and hard work.
Desire, Persistence, and a genuine Customer Focus – and a successful Franchisor
To continue to grow my Member Portfolio steadily and organically, whilst ensuring I can maintain excellent levels of service and support for the WPA members I look after. Medium to Long-Term I may well want to look at developing administration/renewals support in my business so that I can gradually switch my balance towards increasing personal time for me and my family, whilst maintaining a successful and stable/growing portfolio.
I would have maybe put a CRM system in place to support the very significant number of networking events I was attending each week. Not necessarily as relevant now though due to internal WPA developments, and the increasing sophistication of Social Media.
Otherwise I’m extremely happy with how it’s progressed over time and was honoured to have been awarded WPA’s South West Healthcare Partner Of The Year award three years back.
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When Robert Westhorp set off for The British Franchise Exhibition in Manchester five years ago, he had no idea that he would meet a former supplier and eventually join the company.
"There’s far more to being a partner with Healthcare Practice than selling insurance policies", find out from Healthcare Practice partner Lorna Smith.
Attending the open day at Head Office was extremely useful and helped reassure me that I was perusing a good opportunity. It allowed me to learn more about WPA, meet a number of staff and experience the culture and transparency of the organisation. It certainly played a crucial role in my decision making process about becoming a Healthcare Partner.Catherine Bennett – Healthcare Partner since December 2014
My advice for anyone looking to become a Healthcare Partner is just do it! If there is a practice available near you then absolutely go for it. The training, the support, the help, the advice - it’s been the best decision that I’ve made.Ross Le Jeune - Healthcare Partner since 2016
The Healthcare Practice is unique… I’ve never worked with a company that look after you so well. Joining them was the best decision I have made in my life, hand on heart.Bob Grace - Healthcare Partner since 1999
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