What do matchboxes and fridge magnets have to do with leading a growing business?
A lot, according to Angela Hamlin, the former deputy matron of a major London hospital and founder of Draycott Nursing and Care. Angela launched Draycott in 1996 after looking after her own mother with dementia. Starting with just two patients and no staff, working from a borrowed flat and an internet café computer, Angela has grown her care business into a company with 17 office staff and almost 100 care staff looking after scores of clients in London, the UK and abroad.
Here Angela explains how her commitment to care still informs her work daily, and why a good quote can inspire business success.
"I'm always raring to go when the alarm goes off at 6am. I love my business and constantly want to develop it. My staff say my enthusiasm is infectious.
I arrive at our office in Chelsea by 8am. First I look at the bank balance - it's vital to know exactly what's happening with money and that it's being managed properly.
I'm a strategic thinker so I spend time planning new projects and building relationships.
We are currently expanding Draycott Nursing on a daily basis outwards from London, initially to Chichester and eventually across the country so that takes a lot of my time. I also spend time on our new initiative, Draycott Homeshare, which offers people a room in the home of an elderly person needing care or companionship in exchange for donating ten hours of their time weekly. We match the home owners and sharers carefully and often they strike up great friendships.
I have an exciting project to set up a luxury, five-star hotel which will provide superior nursing care, but I'm having trouble finding a suitable location. Meanwhile I'm also on the board of a charity granting loans to UK start-ups, a member of the Independent Doctors' Federation Council and I was recently asked to help turn a health spa into medical spa, so I'm on the phone a lot! That said, I have an open door policy and spend a lot of time among my staff in the office. I get them all involved by setting up working parties to push forward new projects, such as Homeshare and our new website. They come up with some valuable insights.
For lunch I bring in a salad to eat at my desk, usually while on the net and in the afternoons I usually continue working on my projects, and take time to focus on developing the team, who are nearly all women. I find promoting from within is a great way to motivate and it’s good for the business too, so developing my staff is a priority for me. By giving the chance of promotion it inspires those who are keen to develop and enhance their careers. This has a knock–on effect as it instills a healthy competitive base. People definitely stay in a business longer if there is a chance for promotion. It also makes people feel that they are able to make a difference to the company.
Recently I recruited a new human resources manager from the NHS, where she was not getting the chance to grow. She goes to college one afternoon a week as she has progressed so fast that I have abandoned my plan to bring in someone senior to her - I know she'll be up to the job on her own.
In my view, if you want to improve staff performance you have to focus on strengths, not weaknesses - everyone is made up of at least 80 per cent strengths, so you can build on that to increase the percentage.
My standards are high but we have fun too. If it's someone's birthday we have drinks or cakes and I always give presents and cards.
Some days I have a strategy meeting with senior staff; on others there is a clinical group, where a member of staff talks about a clinical aspect of care. About a quarter of our carers have a nursing background (but all are trained by a qualified nurse tutor, which is almost unheard of in this type of business). I love growing the business but I'm still a nurse at heart.
Fridays we have office staff meetings and I always give them a quote of the week. One of my favourites is 'Obstacles are what you see if take your eyes off the goal'. I am passionate about goals and have always set goals for the business, and myself, I believe if you have goals you can see that you are achieving so I'm aiming to have individual goals for everyone in the team.
As a business owner you are so busy managing the business and the team that you often forget to focus on you, so for myself, I write inspirational thoughts on little cards that sit on my desk and I turn one over each day.
I learnt it from my mother - she used to have 365 quotes on cards in a matchbox and would take one out daily and think about it in what she called 'thought bricks'.
I needed thoughts like that to keep me going when first started the business because it was so tough, and I still put magnets bearing inspirational quotes on our office fridge.
I usually leave about 6pm.
Sometimes I to go to meetings, but I also go to the theatre, ballet, or for long weekends travelling. It's important to get the balance right because I could easily work seven days a week.