Aspray franchisee, Nicola Morgan, opened her doors for business on December 3, and has already been christened South Wales’s “fourth emergency service”. We caught up with her to find out a little more about her five-month success story to date and how life as an Aspray loss-assessing franchisee suits her goals and her lifestyle.
Q. How did you feel when you embarked on your franchisee journey with Aspray?
A. I was pretty nervous and a little afraid, to be honest, as I had been directly employed since the day I left school and being self-employed was something completely new for me. It was actually a huge leap for me to start my own business, but I knew it was something I had to do, to satisfy my own career goals and achieve my wishes for my family.
Q. What sort of area are you covering?
A. My franchise territory is Newport but I can also cover other parts of South Wales if needed.
Q. How quickly did you settle in?
A. I had to get to grips with things very quickly, as I had to handle two new property insurance claims within my first week, so there was no time to sit back. I learnt the importance of resilience almost immediately and threw myself into it, learning as much as possible, as fast as possible.
Q. Now you’ve drawn breath, how do you feel about the future?
A. Really excited. Although I had previously worked on the other side of the fence, as an insurer’s loss adjuster, this role as a loss assessor, but also franchisee, is something very different. It has been one thing to know about property claims, but quite another to embrace all the other things I need to do to run my own business – sales, marketing, networking, accounts and business planning. And, of course, there is a much greater need to engage with the insured property owner, empathise with them, help them as much as possible and also manage our vetted contractors. Although it is different and challenging, with the backing of the Aspray model and support from Aspray head office, plus the business tips I’m picking up from other business owners at networking events, I can see a really bright future ahead of me.
Q. What have you found hardest so far?
A. I’ve realised that I’m not a “natural” networker but am managing to build really strong relationships with others, which will stand me in good stead. I am focusing on just using my personality, rather than having a networking strategy as such, and am finding that having a vibrant attitude and pleasant smile leads to the same positive emotions being reflected back to me. It seems to be working well.
Q. What was the first property insurance claim that you managed?
A. A really tricky one – a property insurance claim relating to subsidence, which has affected so many properties following last summer’s heatwave. It is not an easy property insurance claim to handle, but this sort of claim definitely benefits from having a dedicated loss assessor being on the insured property owner’s side and is a great one for me to get my teeth into.
Q. What has been your toughest property insurance claim?
A. It is one that is still going on, actually. It relates to fire damage caused by two fires, at the same property, within six weeks of each other. In the second fire, the family, including a four-year-old child, had to be rescued from a first-floor flat by the fire service. As you can imagine there is a lot of emotion surrounding this, but the emergency services have been amazing. I am so proud to be part of a team at Aspray that is supporting The Firefighters’ Charity this year, as fire crews do an incredible job.
Q. What made you want to make the move into this franchisee role?
A. My motivation was really that of wanting to help people, which is something that I knew I would do, if I became a loss assessor franchisee, given my past experience in the industry. I think the public just don’t appreciate how much help home and commercial property owners need when it comes to their property insurance claim and it’s not just practical help that is required, such as ensuring they gain a fair settlement and have their property reinstated correctly, but also emotional support, at what can be such a distressing time. I know that I have a lot of empathy to give to people in the situations that I encounter and that motivates me to want to do this job. Making a property insurance claim can be both daunting and confusing. To see a home or business restored to its former glory and have people thanking me for helping them along the way is a great feeling to bank at the end of every day.
Q. Have you had any comments or feedback from clients so far?
A. All of my customers have reacted positively and one lady overwhelmed me by describing me as the “fourth emergency service.” I guess that means that she found my help invaluable!
Q. How are you managing the business around your family commitments?
A. I have five boys at home – my husband, three boys and dog – so life is always very busy, but I am conscious of the need to protect my health by having work-life balance. I never neglect to pass time with my children in the evenings or at weekends, as I know how fast time goes by and they are my world. I’m happy to get up a little earlier to do chores around the house, or catch up on admin in the evenings, when they have gone to bed, so that they can have 100% of me when they are around. There is a lot of work coming in, but I hope to employ someone to help out with administration, once I have made sure the business is built correctly and is flourishing financially.
Q. What has surprised you so far?
A. I am surprised by how resilient I am and how this is getting me over any feelings of anxiety or self-doubt. I have learnt that I can do anything, if I try hard enough and don’t give in. I am now 40 years of age but learning new skills every day. That is exciting.
Q. What would you say to someone else considering an Aspray franchise?
A. I would say that there is a lot to take in, but if you have some background experience, as I had with my insurance knowledge, or if you have experience in property or project management, you will have a head-start and be able to get up and running fast, pushing yourself at first, in areas outside of your comfort zone, but quickly learning how to manage things.
Q. And finally, what is your ultimate goal or dream?
A. I would love to make the business a family concern that gives us a comfortable living, but which also gives us the shared pride of running a successful family business. I would also like to direct the business, as far as I can, towards helping the most vulnerable people in society, as I believe that helping people is what I do best.