FLASH interview - ELFRA

Março, 2021

The Flash Interview of the Month is a very short talk with one of our members, where the interviewed is able to talk about his/her experience in an informal way and where all stories are told in the 1st person. 

This month, get to know Franz & Ellis van der Wateren, ELFRA, who are planning to retire and are looking for someone to continue their business.

How was Elfra created? Franz - In 1988 I started ELFRA as "Empresário em nome individual" - Franz F. van der Wateren - Importação - Exportação e Representação. The very first invoice was made on 19/05/1988. We were mainly active in advising and supplying bathroom products for the Hotel branch. ELFRA-Importação, Exportação e Representação de Produtos Técnicos, LDA was created in 1990, now together with my wife Ellis. The name ELFRA is an aggregation of both of our names: Ellis and Franz. We decided to expand our main activity to advising and delivering hotel supplies in general, also to airports, universities, etc.  

What are your main challenges at the moment? Finding the right person or organization to continue our business. It is a pity that 32 years of experience would be lost, especially for the retention and aftercare of our customers. Our employee, who has been working with us for almost 15 years, is fully employable. Unfortunately, we have to stop working because of our age. We are 80 and 76 years old.  

What are the strengths of this company? Because of our philosophy “quality before price”, we have dedicated ourselves to selecting and offering products from international manufacturers, mainly from Europe, with long warranty periods, and a spare parts delivery. It is about delivering the right product that satisfies the customer and functions without having to worry about it for many years. That is sustainable investment.

There is a saying “I'm not rich enough to buy cheap”, in other words: cheap is expensive. This way, you create the customers around you who are satisfied and come back. You will lose an unsatisfied customer forever.  

Where are the expansion possibilities? There are plenty of opportunities for growth. In the journal of Publituris "Hotelaria" nº 179, it is mentioned that until 2025 there will be 170 projects of new Hotels and renovations of existing Hotels. Apart from the hotel business, ELFRA also supplies to anyone who would like to buy our products.  

You mentioned that after many years you would like to sell the company because of your age. What is the profile of a potential buyer? It could be anyone who is willing to invest in, continue, or expand our ongoing business, or whoever would like to buy as an extension or addition to their already existing company. It is someone who is able to make offers for new or renovation projects, maintenance materials, and answer questions from customers or someone who is able to expand our business with new products and/or services. This is why our potential buyer should be flexible in presentation, treatment, and service.  

What are your plans for after selling the company? Rest, enjoy life, and stay healthy in the years that we still have. And we certainly have no plans of leaving Portugal.