Consultant Wheatlands Aire Valley Engineering, better known to everyone as WAVE in the refrigeration engineering fraternity, has certainly had a busy first six years.

Founder James Bailey, Managing Director Mark Williams, Engineering & Commercial Director Alan Saban and Operations Manager Ellie Clare give their accounts of the company’s journey with Investors in People so far.

James Bailey: Beginnings with Investors in People 

I established WAVE in November 2015. My original intent was to provide specialist engineering consultancy services on a small scale to refrigeration industry companies that required additional technical and project support.

I have always had a clear mission for WAVE: “through positive disruption, we better the norm, through providing best in class advice, quality and value”. But alongside that, the company has a vision: “To 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 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 the mission and vision remains steadfast. 

Through a blend of hard work, determination and good fortune, WAVE was appointed as ASDA’s refrigeration consultant in late 2016 – an appointment that proved a significant catalyst for our growth.

In June 2017, I was joined by Mark Williams, following the securing of a refrigeration professional services contract with ALDI. With over 40-years of industry experience, Mark has been my ever-dependable co-director who initially led our project delivery services with distinction. 

Mark Williams: Growth, culture and coming of age 

As the business continued to grow and we gained further retail customers, we were joined by colleagues who brought with them significant industry experience and, importantly, who shared in the mission and vision of WAVE.  

James and I set about to create a ‘culture of excellence.’ Our focus has never been on a defined growth strategy: it has always been making the very best people-centric culture – this is our strategy.  

So long as you understand the industry you operate in, have a clear mission and vision, and have products or services that customers need, allow your culture to do the rest, empower your employees, and trust them! 

The coming-of-age moment for our company and team was back in 2018 when the business won the inaugural RAC Cooling Business of the Year. This milestone solidified what we had believed for some time for James and me: that WAVE was one of the very best refrigeration consultants in the industry. The team’s passion had paid off, and this has allowed us to continue to grow and thrive.  

Alan Saban: The next generation 

To combat an ageing industry (a feature of engineering as a whole), WAVE has committed to the annual recruitment of a trainee to the business – this is something that the company is well respected for and helped support my decision to join the management team. 

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.

We are all incredibly proud of our training programme, as there is no greater satisfaction than overseeing the next generation’s continuous development.

Two of our former trainees are now managers in the business and have been shortlisted and won several local and national awards during their time at WAVE. 

We are incredibly proud of the achievements of Sam Cameron, who was a finalist in the 2019 RAC National Student of the Year, and Ellie Clare, who was the Silver Winner in the 2020 awards. We have further trainees who are being developed and encouraged in the same vein as Sam and Ellie. 

Ellie Clare: The importance of marketing and publicity  

Though I know it is not to everyone’s taste, we are passionate about marketing and PR. we make no apology for sharing our successes via social media; for instance: it is free and provides positive publicity that reaches thousands of people, and most importantly, it keeps WAVE in the forefront of the minds of the industry. 

In joining WAVE as a trainee and buying into the cultural ethos here – we have won local and national awards for our work, and our publicity has helped to attract blue-chip clients; enhanced our culture; and most importantly, kept our team in well-paid and enjoyable jobs with a company which cares about our people, customers, and the environment in equal measure. 

A substantial amount of our PR is connected to our Corporate & Social Responsibility. This takes the form of a continuous programme of ethical, societal and environmental endeavours that are linked to the Sustainable Development Goals.

Launched in 2019, we have achieved so much; from sponsoring the Keighley Cougars RLFC NHS playing shirt, where profits were donated to the NHS, to funding the construction of a water well for a family in India who previously had no access to freshwater, to participating in beach clean-ups, refurbishing a shelter in the park close to our office, and arranging for Alastair Campbell to visit Keighley and talk to the team at WAVE and other local businesses to understand how to manage and overcome mental health concerns. We are fiercely proud of our CSR achievements! 

Mark Williams: Investors in People: Part one 

In December 2019, WAVE became accredited as Investors in People. We achieved a benchmark score of 834 out of 900, which saw us ranked an impressive seventh out of 140 IIP-accredited construction sector businesses – and 158th out of all 1,751 accredited businesses with under 50 employees. 

This demonstrated that our culture and leadership is best in class. But it also provided James and Joanne Bailey, as the company shareholders, with the catalyst for the future of what WAVE should be – a company that shares its success with its people. 

James Bailey: An employee-owned business 

Fast forward three months from our IIP 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 in March 2020, and during the three-month first lockdown, Mark and I held weekly video conferences with all of our team to ensure that their mental wellbeing was being maintained. 

It was during this period that we recognised how much WAVE meant to our people. So following the end of lockdown, I began to explore a transition for WAVE in the form of our ‘20/20 vision’. This vision is to change WAVE into a company that shares 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. 

Demonstrating the trust that I have in the WAVE team, on the 11th of December, I delivered our 20/20 vision. I successfully led WAVE in becoming one of fewer 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 purchasing shares.

The progressive ideals of an EOT will serve to enhance motivation, morale and the high-quality customer-focused services that WAVE provides – and this, in turn, will benefit WAVE’s customers.

I believe 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 a natural progression; it is WAVE’s 20/20 vision.  

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. Our much-respected next-generation development programme will continue to thrive under the expertise of more experienced employees. In turn, this will cement a lasting legacy and eternal business model for WAVE. 

Alan Saban: 

As part of the transition into becoming at EOT, Mark Williams became the Managing Director of WAVE. I joined the company to strengthen our position from an engineering and commercial perspective. Alongside several internal promotions, the business has continued to grow and thrive and has ultimately allowed James to define an exit strategy. 

James leaves WAVE in December, and his lasting legacy has been defined by creating and growing WAVE from the ground up into one of the very best companies to work for; both in terms of what we do and our culture, with the latter demonstrated by our 2020 annual Investors in People assessment. 

Mark Williams: Investors in People: part 2 

On 14 December, we received our annual Investors in People assessment, where we scored 866 out of 900. This represented an improvement of 32 over last year, and an incredible uplift against the average Investors in People benchmark score of 726, demonstrating the continuous improvement of WAVE’s leadership and people-centric culture. 

Furthermore, this score ranked WAVE at Number 1 out of 155 accredited businesses operating in the construction sector and 38th out of all 1,917 Investors in People accredited businesses under 50 employees Alan, James and I could not be any prouder of our incredible team. 

James Bailey: The future 

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”. 

I will depart WAVE with many fond memories and am safe in the knowledge that the business will continue to grow and thrive under the leadership of Mark and Alan. Alongside being an EOT company, our investment in the ‘Next Generation’ training scheme and support through our annual Investors in People assessment, WAVE will maintain its position of being the best people-centric organisation with exceptional leaders who always deliver customer satisfaction and innovation.

Bringing an end to my era at WAVE, on the 21st of October we won three notable awards at the annual Refrigeration & Air Conditioning awards held at the Grosvenor Hotel in London. Our third-year Trainee Jack Brockbank won the ‘Silver Student of the Year’ award, WAVE won the ‘Small Company of the Year’ award, and I won the ‘Individual Achievement of the Year’ award – having been nominated by Ellie Clare.

I have recently shared my experiences in writing a book based on my experiences; ‘Culture Redefined – A Leadership Strategy Towards Stakeholder Capitalism – A Time for Change’. I am very proud of my book and delighted that Investors in People have endorsed it! It is available online from many distributors, including Amazon, at the following link: 

The next phase of my career journey will build upon my experiences whilst allowing me to follow passions that are very close to me. 

Providing engineering and manager training & development services, supporting organisations undergoing cultural change and implementing high quality and purposeful CSR through the adoption of Sustainable Development Goals. 

Providing practical advice and guidance on employee ownership, and helping businesses reduce their carbon emissions and energy consumption to achieve Net-Zero. 

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