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The Journey of WAVE Refrigeration by James Bailey (Founder)

I established Wheatlands Aire Valley Engineering (WAVE) Limited in November 2015, and my original intent was to provide specialist engineering consultancy services on a small scale to refrigeration industry companies who required additional technical and project support. Though I always had a clear mission for WAVE of “through positive disruption, we better the norm, through providing best in class advice, quality and value”. I also had a clear vision that “WAVE would promote sustainable engineering practices that protect our natural environment for present and future generations”.

During the first 18-months of trading I worked long hours almost daily as the need for WAVE’s services grew, all the time being supported by my wife Joanne. Balancing work commitments with family life was difficult, but my passion for refrigeration and delivering WAVE’s mission and vision was and remains been steadfast. Through a blend hard work, determination to succeed and good fortune, WAVE was appointed as ASDA’s refrigeration consultant in late 2016 – this was a significant catalyst for our growth. In June 2017 I was joined by Mark Williams as we were successfully awarded a refrigeration professional services contract with ALDI. Mark, with over 40-years industry experience has been my ever-dependable co-director and friend who leads the execution of our project delivery services with distinction.

As WAVE continued to grow, gaining further retail customers, we were joined by colleagues who had significant industry experience and importantly who shared in the mission and vision of WAVE. I set about to create a culture of excellence, my focus has never been on a defined growth strategy, it has always been the creation of the very best people centric culture; this is WAVE’s strategy. So-long as you understand the industry that you operate, have a clear mission, and vision, and have products or services that customers need, allow your culture to do the rest, and empower your employees and most importantly trust them!

Though not to everyone’s taste, I am passionate about marketing and PR. I make no apology for sharing the successes of WAVE via social media – it is free and provides positive publicity that reaches thousands of people, and most importantly it keeps WAVE at the forefront of industry. The team at WAVE share my ethos when it comes to marketing and publicity; we have won local and national awards for our work, our publicity has helped attract blue-chip clients, enhanced our culture, and most importantly it keeps our team in well-paid and enjoyable jobs with a company who cares about our people, customers, and the environment in equal measure.

Before establishing WAVE, I had the fortune to work for some exceptional people, all of whom had different ways of leading a team. I adopted what I considered to be the best facets of leadership from all of my previous employers, but centralised culture as the key driver for WAVE. Through a blend of decisiveness, promoting and encouraging individual responsibility and accountability the organisational culture at WAVE is industry leading. To combat an aging industry (synonymous with engineering as a whole), WAVE has recruited a trainee to the business annually. The decision to do so has reaped immeasurable benefits, WAVE has provided our young people with a career and a mindset to deliver our mission and vision. I am incredibly proud of our training programme, there is no bigger satisfaction in overseeing the continuous development of the next generation. Two of WAVE’s former trainees are now managers in the business and have been shortlisted and won a number of local and national awards during their time at WAVE. I am incredibly proud of the achievements of Sam Cameron and Ellie Clare – as are all the team at WAVE.

In December 2019, I led WAVE in becoming accredited as Investors in People where we achieved a benchmark score of 834 out of 900 where we ranked 7 out of 140 Investors in People accredited businesses who operate in the construction sector, and 158 out of all 1,751 Investors in People accredited businesses (0-49 employees). This demonstrated that our culture and leadership is best in class. Our accreditation provided me with the catalyst for the future of what WAVE should be – a company that shared its success with its people. Fast forward three months from accreditation and the world as we knew it changed with devastating consequences locally, nationally, and internationally due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We made the tough decision to furlough a large number of our team late March 2020, and during the three-month lockdown me and Mark held weekly video conferences with all of our team to ensure that their mental well-being was being maintained, it was during this period that we recognised how much WAVE meant to our people. Following the end of lockdown, I began to explore a transition for WAVE – our 20/20 vision, to change WAVE into a company that shares in the principles of “the great reset” a vision of a paradigm shift towards a stakeholder capitalist future – where people and the environment are placed first.

On the 11th December 2020, we delivered our 20/20 vision and became one of less than 500 UK companies to form an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT). The basis of an EOT is a method of share ownership whereby employees hold a controlling stake in the company for whom they work, via a trust. Unlike many employee-owned businesses where employees have to “buy” into a scheme across a small number of allocated and often lower value shares, the WAVE EOT will benefit all employees without having to purchase shares. The progressive ideals of an EOT will serve to enhance motivation, morale and the high-quality customer focussed services that WAVE provides, and this in-turn will benefit WAVE’s customers. Owing to the careful financial management of the business, there has been no external financing required as part of forming the WAVE EOT – this is something I am particularly proud of. My belief has always been that longevity and lasting success will only occur when the very best organisational culture is at the core of any business – where fairness and equity are its key drivers. This vision made the formation of an EOT and WAVE’s 20/20 vision a natural progression.

Reaping the benefits of mine and Mark’s beliefs, following our accreditation as Investors in People where our 2019 external assessment concluded that WAVE place its people first, owing to exemplary leadership and best in class organisational culture, WAVE was shortlisted in three categories at the Investors in People Awards 2020; Employer of the Year – Silver Status (0-49 employees), The Social Responsibility Award for WAVE’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) programme, and myself as Leader of the Year (up to 250 employees). Though unsuccessful in winning an award, such high-profile recognition demonstrates the high quality of our organisational culture and leadership, that further supports the transition to form an EOT.

As WAVE continues to grow in the future, our dynamic business model will ensure that the very best people will want to join our business family, and our much-respected next generation development programme will continue to thrive under the expertise of more experienced employees, cementing a lasting legacy and eternal business model for WAVE. As part of the transition in becoming at EOT, Mark Williams has become Managing Director of WAVE, and I will lead the businesses operations, customer relationships, strategic development, and growth, along with nurturing and developing the up-and-coming talent at WAVE.

On the 14th December 2020 we received our annual Investors in People assessment where we scored 866 out of 900, demonstrating the continuous improvement of the leadership and people-centric culture at WAVE. This represented an improvement of 32, and an incredible uplift against the average Investors in People benchmark score of 726 out of 900. Furthermore, our 2020 assessment ranked WAVE at Number 1 out of 155 Investors in People accredited business who operate in the construction sector, and 38 out of all 1,917 Investors in People accredited businesses (0-49 employees); me and Mark could not be any prouder of our incredible team.

WAVE is well placed for the future – a future where all of our people hold a stake in the company, where we will continue to deliver our slightly updated and new mission of “as demonstrated by continued achievements and positivity, we better the norm, providing best in class advice, quality and value”.

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