“WPS is demanding but what it gives me back in return is freedom and choices. I raise a glass to WPS and offer a big thanks to our wonderful clients”
As WPS celebrates 8 Years of Trading, we take a moment to interview Founder, Lara Ayris, to learn what inspired her to start WPS and how she manages to juggle growing her business whilst still being present for her family and valued clients.
Q: What was your first experience of business?
My Dad owned a plastering company. As a little girl I was used to meeting his apprentices and colleagues when I visited him on site. I witnessed the enjoyable stress of a busy working day and learnt to muck in and help out at goodness knows what time of day to get the job done.
Q: What lesson from your early years of work have influenced the kind of business woman you are today?
At 16 I took a part time job at a hotel cleaning bedrooms. I recognised very early on that my shifts were enjoyable and flew by when I gave myself targets on how many rooms I could clean and how quickly I could clean them.
It was also during this job that I set my first long term goal; to be a business person that travelled widely and stayed in hotels just like the one I was cleaning.
I have achieved this goal and now stay weekly in hotels. I give a warming smile to the cleaners and tip my hat with thanks and acknowledgement of the great work they do behind the scene to make my stay enjoyable.
Q: How about education, did that have an impact on your career choice?
My education played a massive part in my success today as it taught me to think critically, know how to present myself with confidence, and most importantly it taught me how to be disciplined. My Geology teacher, Mr Gilbert, directed me down an ‘environmental’ path to obtaining my degree in Environmental Management; a subject that I am still really passionate about today.
Q: If you studied Environmental Management, how do you know how to run a business?
Early in my career, whilst studying, I worked for a company called Safety Concern Ltd, who provided health and safety services to the construction industry. It was a small company so I was fortunate to have lots of hands on experience of running a business by helping with tasks such as invoicing and consultancy.
Safety Concern Ltd provided pre construction health and safety plans, construction phase health and safety plans. It was there that I got the idea to provide a service for Site Waste Management Plans; that idea, of course, was the principle service offering for WPS.
The biggest lesson I learnt from Safety Concern Ltd was to ensure I charged enough for site visits and my consultancy time so I covered my costs and the client secured great value for money too.
So I’d like to give a big shout out to Ivor Harris, the MD.
Q: Have you experienced any Eureka moments whilst working in industry?
After Safety Concern Ltd, I secured an awesome job with the Chartered Institute of Waste Management (CIWM). Anyone that has had the privilege to work there will know that it is a truly a lovely place to work. I travelled widely and very quickly learnt a lot about the waste industry. Whilst sitting in the library at CIWM, I read the Clean Air Act 2005 which included Site Waste Management Plans. It was my second awakening to this potential business idea.
Q: Did you pursue or build on this Eureka idea?
Absolutely but I needed to gain some more experience before I could jump into running my own business. I was offered a position with the Building Research Establishment (BRE). This position increased my experience further in the field. I really enjoyed my time at BRE and learnt a lot about policies, strategy in local and regional governing bodies. I was also part of a government funded project called BeAware and I was fascinated with the contractual obligations of the project.
My seed had turned into a sapling and I knew it was time to start my own company and really nurture this business idea.
Q: What was the pivotal moment that gave you the courage to start your own business?
The birth of my beautiful daughter, Amy, in 2009. She is now nearly 9 years old. Without having her I may not have left BRE; or certainly would not have done so quickly because enjoyed the role so much.
The commute from Northampton to Watford made me an absent mother and this was against all my values and principles. I knew I had to start my own business as it would provide me with the freedom and choice to work when and where I wanted.
With just a small budget, and a great deal of faith, I launched WPS (which was originally going to be called Amethyst Environmental!), when Amy was 10 months old. I landed my first client the very same month and that client is still with WPS today.
Q: Were you afraid of failing?
I was very scared and very nervous but I pushed ahead and I will continue to push ahead. Initially WPS was a lifestyle business. A business that I intended only to support me until Amy went to school. After 5 years, I stood at the school gate and realised that I had invested too much of my passion and energy into WPS and would let too many clients down if I just walked away. I changed my focus and instead of a ‘lifestyle business’ I turned it into a commercial enterprise.
Q: How has your business changed in the past 4 years since you made the transition from Lifestyle Business to Commercial Enterprise?
The construction legislation landscape changed quickly but through listening to my clients’ requirements and by being nimble, I introduced complementary waste management consultancy services. Soon after I recruited a talented team and created a new software tool that ensured we could grow with our clients and provide them with a cost effective solution to managing their construction waste. In 2017 we also started to support clients with their environmental permitting requirements. WPS is experiencing substantial growth and we are delighted to announce that our client loyalty has enabled WPS to grow in 2017 by 50%.
Q: What would you like to say to your clients reading this interview?
WPS is demanding but what it gives me back in return is freedom and a choice to shape my destiny in whichever way I choose. I raise a glass to WPS and offer a big thanks to our wonderful clients who have enable me to be there for my daughter; visit her assemblies and never miss a school play. WPS will continue to be there to support our clients and make sure they benefit from our experience; safe in the knowledge that they are working with a company they know, like and trust.