Foresight can be a crucial skill for an entrepreneur – seeing the gap in the market early enough can make all the difference.
Married couple Roz and Les Armitage did just that back in 2008 and their reward is now a thriving Southport-based recruitment agency – 247 Professional Health – specialising in health and social care.
At the time Les was working at a senior level for a general recruitment agency and, even before the financial crash, he saw signs the economy was starting to worsen.
Seeing the potential
Roz explained: “Les was the franchise director for the firm and he could see a downturn in the economy which would mean companies would not be recruiting in the same way.
“Demand was falling and he felt there was a need to focus more on recession-proof sectors.”
Les suggested to his bosses they should start looking at the healthcare sector where he felt demand was growing. However, they rejected his suggestion.
“At the time I had taken on a house renovation project and we had a conversation and he told me there was tremendous potential in healthcare recruitment,” added Roz.
First year success
So she started up the business without Les, who was still tied to his existing role.
Roz took on another person to help and, after the first year, the company was turning over £400,000, with Les eventually joining himself.
Since then, 247 Professional Health has grown rapidly and is now a leading North West based recruitment agency specialising in health and social care.
Located on Hoghton Street in the town centre, the family-run agency employs 15 members of staff including Roz and Les’s sons, Ryan, as head of operations and Tom, who is head of sales and marketing.
Supplier of key people
As a Tier 1 supplier of flexible nursing staff for a large number of NHS Foundation Trusts in the North West, 247 specialises in the recruitment of all types of nursing staff, support workers and healthcare assistants.
The agency also supplies many private care homes, nursing homes, learning disability services and private mental health hospitals and services.
Achieving a turnover of approximately £3m last year, the company already has a large bank of agency workers across the North West.
As a Tier 1 supplier for nursing staff to the NHS, the team of recruitment consultants are busy advertising and interviewing candidates in the Sefton and Merseyside areas, to attract experienced care assistants, support workers and nurses of all disciplines, in order to fulfil the requirements of the NHS hospitals and their other private clients.
Les has set up a separate firm, Gardner Riley Franchising, to franchise the 247 concept at 20 other locations across the UK.
“Since the company was created, we have actively sourced and filled a diverse range of healthcare roles as a result of obtaining an unrivalled bank of fully trained staff,” said Roz.
“In addition to operating from our Southport based head office, there is now a consortium of franchises spanning throughout of the UK to ensure that the same level of talent can be found on a national scale.”
A whirlwind romance
Roz was born and brought up in Glasgow and enjoyed a varied career prior to being involved in 247.
After graduating with a degree in economics from the University of Strathclyde, she worked in the personnel department of Marks & Spencer for 12 years followed by a spell as a recruitment manager for brewery giant Bass.
She later spent 10 years running her own wholesale sportswear business, supplying market traders and small retailers.
“We sold lots and lots of trainers,” she said.
Les is from Bolton and the couple met while Roz was still working for Marks & Spencer and Les in the motor trade. The couple had a whirlwind romance and married just five months after their first date.
Doing thorough checks on people is pretty much a given in the recruitment business – it is especially important in healthcare recruitment where the safety of patients is paramount.
Roz explained: “Because it is health and social care you have to put a lot of time and effort into ensuring you recruit the right people.
“You have to do lots of checks, obtain references and make sure they have had all their appropriate training. We are very strong on compliance.”
In September 2011, Les was diagnosed with cancer and round about the same a key person in the business departed unexpectedly.
It was at this point their son Tom joined the business, followed by brother Ryan a short time later.
“Since they joined the business has really flourished,” added Roz. “Ryan is also a trustee of a large school in Bolton for children with learning disabilities called Birtenshaw.
“Running a business is very much about personal discipline. You have to be self-motivated and be willing to learn new skills and have a genuine desire to succeed.
“It was Les who really believed in me and that has given me a huge amount of self-belief.”