Over the years, many motor factors have diversified their offering in order to keep up with market demand – perhaps deciding to open a retail arm or venture into bike parts. However, WRS Motor Factors, primarily based in Weston-super- Mare, is a different story, starting out as a recovery service and gradually, piece by piece, growing into a multi-branch factor with a garage, CV workshop and driving school attached to it.
WRS is, first and foremost, a recovery service. In 1983, Robert and Lynn Hopkins founded the business to aid in breakdown recovery in the Weston- super-Mare area. From the outset, WRS started to build a reputation for offering a fast and reliable service, and within the first 10 years had attracted interest from some of the big national roadside assistance companies, such as the RAC and the AA.
With the success of the recovery service, the need grew to make sure that the service vehicles were performing at their best. Having considerable mechanical experience of his own, Rob saw the benefits of opening a repair centre to cater for his fleet of recovery vehicles. Therefore, in 1998, the WRS business upped sticks and moved to its current three-acre base of operations, the Old Creamery, still in Weston-super-Mare. The new residence provided breathing room and afforded plenty more space to expand into.
The company’s excellent reputation for recovery meant that its repair business hit the ground running. Thus, it seemed completely natural, almost organic, for WRS to test the water in another area of the automotive field; the distribution of spare parts. The repair business, now covering both passenger and commercial vehicles, required a steady flow of replacement parts, something Rob found was not always available at the unsavoury hours that were required for recovery service vehicles. So, he started WRS Motaquip in 2007 off the back of some motorsport parts selling that had been going on since 2002.
Moving into the parts distribution business meant that WRS had access to the components it needed for both its repair centre and its customers, particularly since the factor had the backing of Motaquip, the automotive parts supplier. Once again, much like the other sides of the business, the factor quickly found success. So much so, that the company identified a number of locations in the surrounding area that would support a second, third and fourth branch of WRS Motaquip; Shepton Mallet, Bridgwater and Wellington.
Whilst the factoring took off, the company’s WTTS Driver Training School, which runs alongside the main recovery operation at the Old Creamery, ensured a steady stream of HGV drivers was fed into the business. With the WRS Motor Factors established, it became the final element to WRS’s ‘one-stop shop’ ambitions. Starting out as a recovery service, the business needed technicians and a garage to repair its vehicles, so it started up a workshop. As the business grew it needed drivers for its recovery vehicles, and accordingly, the driving school was born. With the recovery service in full flow, WRS needed quick and reliable access to spare parts, so it opened a motor factor.
The interconnected nature of WRS is a crucial aspect of the business’s success, and it is worth keeping this thought in mind for the rest of the article. Rob, when asked about how this all came about, provided telling insight into the kind of mindset that has allowed his business to grow: “When customers from any part of WRS ask us to do something a little out there, the answer is never ‘No’, but rather ‘How?’”
WRS Motor Factors today
Rob puts a great deal of value in WRS’s independent status and it is this asset that resulted in the factor recently joining A1 Motor Stores. Rob was keen to discuss the thinking behind the venture: “WRS prides itself on its flexibility and its ability to cater for a wide ranging customer base, as well as some often unique demands. Now this is only possible if you have the freedom to run your business as you wish to run it, rather than being directed by ‘the powers that be’. A1 was the answer for us. The group allows us the liberty to choose our suppliers, offer our own bespoke service and, crucially for us, continue our agreement with Motaquip.”
So, why does WRS need to be associated with A1 at all when it’s already an established business, with plenty more besides? Rob continued to explain, “The factoring business has changed in the last decade, and it is still doing so. Independence is very important, but that doesn’t mean opportunities for support should be ignored. A1 offers that support. We get access to suppliers that we would never have got close to on our own, whilst we’re also benefitting from the events the group runs throughout the year. In effect, A1 means we don’t have to concentrate as much on sourcing product and communicating with suppliers, which frees up time for us to deal with our customers. This is, after all, what we enjoy doing most!”
To expand on his point, Rob listed some of the more ‘out there’ parts requests from his customers. Among them were a number of classic and vintage car components, but there have also been requests for the reconditioning of Japanese calipers and processes of a similar nature, so it makes sense that Rob savours the time and freedom necessary for WRS staff to deal with their customers.
“The crux of the factoring business is this: Good service is reliant on good people,” said Rob. “As much as success at WRS has come from reacting to demand and trusted agreements with suppliers, without the factor staff taking care of customers and their demands day in, day out, we would not have the WRS we know today. We have a number of second generation employees here and I think this pays testament to the type of business WRS is trying to be.
“Due to the fact that there are many angles to WRS, we can offer employees plenty of training opportunities. I mean, we have a driving school on-site, so finding recovery drivers is rarely a problem for us! It’s almost as if WRS is self-sustaining, and with A1 to help us when and where it is needed, this should ensure further success for us in the years to come.”