Earlier this year Billy Wagg was named President of Wagg’s Ltd. At age 25, some of his counterparts in the rental laundry community may consider him “young”, but Billy is by no means a novice to the business. Billy’s entry into the Wagg’s workforce began at the age of 12 when duties included sweeping floors and painting walls. Billy says “I moved to loading the washers and folding. Then I moved to the road where I gained a lot of experience in sales; I love talking to people. I became very comfortable talking about the business. After that I moved to Director of Operations where I managed and looked after the plant and drivers. Now I’m overseeing everything and more as President.”
With experience in all positions at the company, the current President is not above working in production or driving a route when the need arises in order to fulfill the company’s mission to be the best textile rental laundry company in terms of service, products and people; Quality products delivered by great people with fair prices.
Billy’s father and current CEO, W. Kirby Wagg, is an integral player in the family business. Although Kirby no longer oversees the day-to-day operations, with over 40 years of experience in the textile rental industry, he continues to be a key advisor. He is currently working the sales side of the business on the road, visiting existing customers and potential new customers.
Continuing the family tradition, Billy’s sister Christina Wagg-Marwick, Vice President of Marketing, with the responsibility of maintaining and updating the company website among other duties. She works alongside the receptionist helping out with every day office work. Billy and Christina are the 5th generation at Wagg’s.
It is not a new phenomenon to see a member of the Wagg family running the show. Wagg’s Ltd. has been a family-run operation since its founding in 1902 by Newton Kirby Wagg in the small port city of Midland, Ontario. Then known as Wagg’s Imperial Laundry, the company cleaned and pressed a variety of linens for customers and made deliveries by horse drawn carriage. Innovations such as dry cleaning and the first laundromat in Canada fueled the company’s expansion in the following decades resulting in multiple plants serving a large region between Lakes Huron and Ontario.
In the 1960s Bill Wagg, grandson of the founder and namesake of the current President Billy Wagg, continued the tradition of innovation with the concept of mat and linen rental service and offering businesses soap and paper products for washrooms. Today, mat rentals account for the majority of the company’s volume and are the main focus during the long winter season.
In the spring, Wagg’s will transition their floor mat rental to servicing their hospitality clients with towels, napkins and uniforms for the restaurants, resorts and all other businesses on their customer list. They also supply towels to all the YMCAs in their market, many salons as well as a growing segment of healthcare business. It’s a broad offering of services over a large service area with plenty of room for expansion. The main part of the business is the floor mat rentals along with mops and other textile services.
Expanding Wagg’s service to as many clients as possible is Billy’s goal. With 5 routes currently running, Billy is looking to add another to the East of their service area in the near future. The company had also recently purchased some business from a friendly independent mat company with overlapping territory.
There have been some changes since Wagg’s first opened their doors 113 years ago but the innovative spirit is still part of the company today. Billy disclosed that they rent and service dishwashing/laundry equipment to restaurants and resort clients. Then the CSR’s sell chemicals, detergent and other supplies to keep them running. Because hospitality is an important part of Wagg’s growth plans it was important for the company to have a recurring interaction with them.
Wagg’s has also seen innovations in their marketing strategies. Billy relates “Because my sister Christina and I have grown up with social media, using the web, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter are second nature for us.” More and more potential customers are comfortable with social media too and when they look for service companies to help them with their business, Wagg’s will be there. But Billy realizes that not all of his clients are twenty-first century marketing savvy. That’s why he continues to reach out to them with articles in local newspapers and magazines. He knows that cold calling and door knocking will always be the key to new customers.
Soap, paper products and other washroom products play a big part in cultivating the client connection. Billy mentioned, “It’s important to maintain the relationship with our customers and provide them with the products to keep their business running efficient.” The consistent interaction with the rental sales reps keeps the company top of mind during the warm seasons and makes it easier to maintain the core mat rental business.
In order to maintain a positive customer interaction it is vital that the drivers have a clear understanding of Wagg’s core values and product offerings. As most of the drivers have been with Wagg’s for more than 10 years, some over 20 years, this is not a problem with Billy’s team. Due to the extremely low turnover rate, employees are well versed with the company’s strengths and able to communicate them. Billy states, “I have a very strong relationship with all my employees, in the plant production, office and the CSR’s on the road. We all have a great friendship which makes it a great environment to work in. My cell phone is always with me, even if I’m out of the country away on vacation, I’m available at any time for employees or customers. The business means everything to me and always will, I treat it as my second home.”
Drivers aren’t the only employees with a long Wagg’s history. One of Billy’s plant production employees has logged more than 45 years with the company, working alongside 3 generations of the Wagg family; Bill, Kirby and Billy. Billy makes it a point to spend time with key employees and will take them to lunch or dinner to hear firsthand their thoughts about work and anything else going on in their lives.
Bringing new employees into the close knit Wagg’s workforce may become a necessary with Billy’s plans for expansion. One of the first items on the growth agenda was to visit the Atlanta Clean Show 2015 to procure some new washers or products. While there Billy took time for a side trip to visit long-time Supplier, Mountville Mills at their LaGrange Georgia facility. Mountville supplies many of the floor mats that are a key component to servicing a growing customer base.
Wagg’s has been a Universal Unilink Member since 2009 and Billy sees the value of continuing the relationship—not just for the discounts, but also the access to the expertise of other Members. “I am glad to have the connections so that I can deal with other Members that are involved in the same business that I am.”