A few years ago, a group of car enthusiasts realized there were only two avenues to sell a vehicle in Canada: you could either sell it privately, or take it to a dealership. Selling privately presents several challenges, most notably the large time commitment involved, and the safety concerns that come with it. The alternative of taking it to a dealership has its own challenges, too. A salesman may be more preoccupied with selling you a vehicle than in actually buying yours, for instance.
With this in mind, Justin Kelsey, one of the Founders of WeBuyUrRide, saw a huge void in the marketplace. Along the way, he was made aware of a TV show called The Profit, a reality show in which American businessman Marcus Lemonis offers help to struggling small businesses in exchange for an ownership stake in the company. In that first episode, Lemonis visited Car Cash, a New York based company that people could sell their vehicles to.
Kelsey loved the idea. Upon further research, he realized that other companies were doing something similar in the U.S. and U.K. The biggest selling point with these businesses was their simplicity. When you’re ready to sell your car, you visit their location, get a quote, and leave with a cheque in your hand. There’s no dealing with the time suck of trying to sell privately or the environment and sales tactics of some car lots. Yet nothing like this was in Canada.
The lightbulb went off. Having worked in multiple managerial positions with one of the most successful car dealerships in Vancouver, Kelsey knew something like Car Cash, or the companies like it, would work here.
Kelsey and his team worked out a business plan for a company they’d eventually call WeBuyUrRide, and arrived at a key difference between their company and others like it: they would go directly to their customer’s driveway. Instead of having to visit a bricks-and-mortar location to sell a vehicle, WeBuyUrRide customers make an appointment for a representative to visit them, at a time and place of their choosing. That rep then inspects the vehicle, makes an offer, and issues a cheque on the spot in the customer’s driveway. The only exception is in Ontario, where, due to Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council regulations, the customer is paid at a WeBuyUrRide office.
Fast forward four years and past an April 2015 launch in Vancouver. Today there are 30 WeBuyUrRide franchise units in British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario, with another nine on the way in 2018.
So how have they been able to grow so quickly? Simple: “No one’s doing what we’re doing in Canada,” says Vice President Alex Kouki. “The selling process should be convenient, it should be quick, it should be safe, and it should be stress free. Generally, that’s not the case out there, but that’s what we’re offering.”
Another big reason why WeBuyUrRide has been able to fast-track its growth was the decision to franchise. Those inside the company say that in order to build the business to the size and scale they wanted, franchising was the only option. That’s why they started selling franchises before they even launched. “Franchising allows you to expand quite quickly,” says Kouki. “We’d be a lot more hard-pressed to do it if we didn’t go that route, because it allows you to duplicate. Your dreams and your visions are on a nationwide scale.”
There are challenges that come with franchising, of course, especially when you’re trying to do it right out of the gate. One of them for WeBuyUrRide – and, for that matter, almost any new franchise – is ensuring that the brand remains consistent across the country. Not surprisingly, what’s helped has been keeping tight connections with franchisees and making sure communications are clear.
Another significant challenge new franchises in particular often have to face and overcome is how to find the right franchisees. To be successful, you have to make sure that the person taking on your business is going to be representative of your brand the way you envision it being represented. They also have to hold similar values and standards.
It’s a challenge WeBuyUrRide continues to face. But the key to overcoming it is being patient, says Kouki. “It’s like building any professional relationship – it takes time. It’s a lot of meetings, it’s a lot of feeling each other out. It has to be mutual. We have their interests in mind, as well as ours, because we know that if we scratch their backs, they’ll scratch ours.”
During that feeling-out process, the company is especially trying to figure out if the potential franchisee has the intangibles they’re looking for: ambition, motivation, an aptitude for learning and teaching, and leadership skills.
They should also come with some working knowledge of the auto industry, and have an affinity and passion for vehicles, whether that’s as a hot rod enthusiast, for example, or a dealership executive.
WeBuyUrRide looks for enthusiastic individuals with confidence, an eye towards long-term commitment, and persistence as potential franchisees. “They have to have that before even meeting us,” says Kouki. “They don’t have to have all of the entrepreneurial skills necessary to start a business, but they have to believe in what we’re trying to do, which is to change how an industry that has existed for decades does business.”
New franchise, new perks
Although there are particular challenges that come with starting a new franchise, franchisees can reap the rewards of getting in on the ground floor with a young company.
Chief among them for WeBuyUrRide franchisees is that because the company isn’t a huge behemoth – yet – franchisees receive a significant amount of hands-on support, says Kouki. “Our franchisees aren’t just numbers. Because we’re relatively new, you get a lot more of an intimate and unique experience in the building of the business, because we can allocate more resources to you.”
A good example of this is the company’s franchisee training program, which takes place over a few months and involves in-person and online sessions. If the new franchisee is near one of the head offices in Mississauga or Vancouver, they can do it there.
That flexibility extends to any ongoing support or training a franchisee might need, says Kouki. “We’re very happy to continue training through supplemental workshops and meetings where they’re located. It’s never: we do two weeks of training with you and then good luck. And at any point in time, a person can pick up the phone and call me, our COO, our CEO, talk for an hour, four hours, whatever it takes.”
As for the future of WeBuyUrRide, it looks bright. As mentioned earlier, nine new franchise units are set to open in 2018, and that includes three units in a new (undisclosed) province for them.
Ideally, they’d like to have representation in most, if not all of, the Canadian provinces, says Kouki. But they don’t necessarily have a timeframe for Canadian expansion. “It’s going to depend on where the market takes us, where the demand is, and where the opportunity lies.”
They do have a timeframe for entering the U.S. market, however: within the next two years.
And why the U.S.? “A lot of cars, a lot of customers,” says Kouki. “I think there’s a really high demand for our service there, and I think we’d be doing ourselves a disservice and the potential marketplace a disservice if we didn’t entertain going to the U.S.”
Doing so would introduce a whole new set of challenges, of course, the main one being more competition. Still, says Kouki, they think they’ll be able to succeed because much of that competition has slightly different business models, and most of those other companies don’t go directly to the customer like WeBuyUrRide does.
And how about 10 years down the road? Where would they like to be? Kouki says that they’d love to be established across Canada and the U.S., as well as in Europe and Australia. They’d also like to have two other as yet undisclosed phases of the business model built out that would essentially provide a door-to-door solution for customers.
“But really that’s 10 years from now, and right now we’re focusing on getting Canada humming even more and entering the States,” says Kouki. “It’s wonderful to have those goals, and we certainly don’t lose sight of them, but we’re a pragmatic bunch, and we know that you’ve got to crawl, walk, and jog before you can sprint.”
By Jordan Whitehouse