Discover how award-winning franchisee Danny Cleasby kept the wheels from falling off in 2020
Cometh the hour, cometh the man - and Danny Cleasby proved to be exactly the right man in exactly the right place when the pandemic came along to challenge the Durham branch of The Wheel Specialist.
He and his team of six turned what could have been a disastrous year for the business into an undeniable success, then capped it by being chosen as the chain’s Overall Best Performing Franchise of 2020.
While previously viable businesses in other sectors had the life crushed out of them by the pandemic and the lockdown restrictions, Danny’s franchise in Durham did more business in 2020 than in 2019 and, in July, saw it surge by an unprecedented 33 per cent.
That rocketing demand meant Danny and his team had to work 15-hour shifts to satisfy it - and the team’s willingness to do that, he says, is what made all that success possible.
“It isn’t just about me,” he says. “Without those people standing alongside me, it simply wouldn’t work. You need people who are committed and want you to be successful as a business.”
Most business owners would love their workforces to be as committed as Danny’s, but the secret to his success - though he’s much too modest to admit it - is his leadership style.
That’s obvious when he’s asked which title he’d like to be called by - Owner, Managing Director, perhaps? - and he says he prefers Manager.
“I’m exactly the same as the rest of the people who work here,” he says, emphatically. “I come in to work and get my hands dirty.
“I’ve always been hands-on. I don’t sit in the office and direct from there. Leadership is about treating people in the right way - it’s not rocket-science.
“If you ask people to do a job that may not be very pleasant but they’ve seen you doing it yourself, they’re happy to do it because they know you were prepared to.”
His leadership made a difference, too, when the business was allowed to reopen after the first lockdown.
Head Office had worked hard on a comprehensive protocol for reopening, with signage and precautions and best practice to follow.
Realising that his colleagues might have fears and apprehensions about returning to the workplace while Coronavirus was still spreading so rapidly, Danny kept them in the loop with text messages, asked them how they felt about returning to work, then arranged it in stages with their full support.