Douglas Adams is the founder and chief executive of Connected Health Group, which was established in 2013 in Belfast. It has grown from a team of 47 to more than 1,800 staff members in that period. It delivers 35,000 hours of care per week, amounting to more than 5½ million physical care visits annually.
What vision/lightbulb moment prompted you to start up in business?
After mum had an accident and needed help, we had carers come to the home. I soon realised that the sector was crying out for disruption, better training, increased efficiency and higher pay for carers.
What is your business model and what makes your business unique?
Our model redefines traditional homecare. We want to keep people at home, ensuring they live with dignity and independence. We hire empathetic individuals, provide accredited training, offer a career pathway and use smart systems for smoother operations.
What was your ‘back to the wall’ moment and how did you overcome it?
There have been a few: nearly running out of money; losing a large supply contract; competitive tensions. Covid-19 was the most challenging period. My team made a few early decisions to protect and continue the service to work closely with the commissioners and families to provide what care they needed or wanted.
To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your future plans/ambitions?
We are one of a few all-island care providers as we scale in-country and develop efficiencies in operations online recruitment and training. We have ambitions for UK and US expansion either by partnership or acquisition.
All countries are experiencing the same issues – ageing populations and overcrowded hospitals. I believe our model will travel well to ease problems for families and build capacity in communities.
What is your growth funding path?
We are an efficient operator at scale, borrowing wisely to buy or investing to grow organically. We seek and are open to opportunities to partner with like-minded operators or investors.
How will your market look in three years and where would you like your business to be?
The home care market is a growth market. We have ambition to grow the core business across the country, upskill our people to undertake more complex care and to ease the burden on the HSE and the NHS. In three years, we would like to be in the top three in Ireland and in five years’ time we would like to be a significant player in UK.
Is AI impacting your business and industry?
AI is very exciting, and will no doubt have massive implications for home care – if not in the front line then certainly out in the community where we meet, greet and support our clients. It will continually update and improve processes around rostering as well as financial and regulatory functions. However, nothing should take the place of face-to-face care. Human interaction is vital and necessary for good, safe care.
What makes your company a good place to work? For example, diversity and inclusion, flexible working, supported learning, health promotion, CSR initiatives?
Connected Health is a melting pot of diversity, embracing differences in age, gender, roles and communities. Our culture prioritises fairness, care and personal growth. A glance at our online presence proves we’re an organisation that fosters a healthy and vibrant work environment.
How is the current inflationary environment impacting your business? How do you expect things to unfold?
Recruitment and retention in an inflationary period is critical. Inflation affects salaries supplies and fuel – the pinch points in any business. We have an advantage in that 90 per cent of our revenue is Government-backed. However, it takes time to negotiate an increase in the rates in line with higher levels of inflation.
What is the most common mistake you see entrepreneurs make?
With discovery, there is always a certain level of risk. Hence, we are often reminded of the uncertainties attached to entrepreneurship. A double fault is we don’t go far enough fast enough and, at the same time, overstretch.
What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?
Choose what you want to do. Research it. Focus on it. Start it. Build a team.