Evans Lamsley is an organisation with a difference; instead of charging by the hour, as you would expect, they charge a fixed monthly fee, which means whatever HR issues you come across, big or small, you have access to a wealth of HR knowledge to help you out.
The great thing about that genuinely unlimited advice is that we can support our clients on small issues that often become bigger issues, and the sorts of issues that maybe our clients wouldn’t have gone to a solicitor to speak to because of the fear of the cost of the bill at the end of the month, but because there’s no additional cost, we can often deal with those small issues and stop them escalating.
When a new franchisee comes on board, Nick provides half a day’s training so they get to grips with Apollo’s ways of working. He also introduces them to employment and HR. This is helpful even to those who already have experience managing teams:
What we like to give them all, is a good grounding and a good understanding of the key issues and concepts of employment law and HR, so that they can see issues as they arise and know to speak to us but ultimately, there is no substitute for real-life issues and scenarios and when they arise, our support is always there in the background, and we can talk them through how to deal with those issues as and when they arise so our training never really stops.
One aspect that puts people off running their own business or can hinder a franchise’s success is fear. You can be an expert in care, but HR is a brand-new challenge and one you shouldn’t shy away from, less so when there is support available:
Our purpose is to take away the stress and anxiety that franchisees may have in taking on their first staff and additional staff. Our support is there to guide them through any issues that arise, so they don’t have to stress or worry about them… And it’s important that we obviously aren’t scared of taking those staff on or we can’t grow the business in the way that we want to grow it.
It can feel like a lot of pressure when you first recruit a new care assistant; suddenly you feel responsible for someone else’s welfare and a large chunk of your monthly turnover is to be spent paying wages. It’s no wonder if you feel anxious. However, the way around this fear is flexibility. You don’t necessarily need to offer staff contracts on a full-time basis or even fixed hours; you can create flexibility within the employment contract while you’re establishing your client base.
We don’t necessarily need to offer as many [hours] in the weeks where we don’t have as much work whilst we’re building our client base up and building ourselves to a place where we can offer staff full time guaranteed hours every week.
When you do feel ready to take someone on, Nick is there to advise franchisees on how to recruit the right person for the job. Staff are the most important asset of any organisation, but it’s especially important in care to be selective when choosing who will be delivering very personal services to clients:
I’m big in the idea that we shouldn’t necessarily just recruit someone who’s the most experienced, but recruit the person who we think is the right fit for the organisation. And because we can train people, and we can’t train issues with personality or fit, but we can train skills, particularly care skills. So, what I always say we should look out for is the person who we think fits the Apollo brand the best, and we can obviously give advice and guidance on how to recruit them.
There are lots of questions you can ask in an interview to see who can do the job; for example, competency-based questions to check the candidate knows what to do in a given situation, but Nick recommends an old favourite for seeing how the candidate would measure up as a team player:
There are a couple of old-fashioned ones that I actually really like to throw in as well. And one of those is asking them about their old job… You can learn a lot from the types of issues that an employee will raise about their former employer.
Once you’ve got your team together, there’ll still be moments of strife when you’ll need to have a serious chat with someone on your team. This can be a struggle when you want to be liked by your employees. However, avoidance doesn’t help your business grow. Nick has the following words of wisdom:
The key advice that I always give in relation to difficult conversations is not to avoid them, because they will become much bigger issues if they’re not dealt with early on. And the key thing when giving feedback, particularly negative feedback to a member of staff is not simply to tell them what the issue is, but to explain the impact that behaviour has … If it’s difficult, we may as well do it right to make sure it works.
Nick points out that some of our franchisees actually started out working as carers for Apollo, which is testament to the great possibilities that exist for Apollo care staff. We openly encourage them to consider the Apollo opportunity if it’s the right fit for them if they’re looking to progress:
The opportunity is there to take on your own franchise, run your own business, have your own care business in your own area, and that’s an exciting thing for someone to be able to start as a fresh new employee with all those opportunities ahead of them, and that isn’t something that would happen in a normal business, that’s something that happens when you work at Apollo.
Having said all that, would Nick be happy for us to look after his own loved ones?
Apollo really do care about caring, it’s clear from my involvement with them, and from dealing with each of the franchisees, and from speaking to Cheryl and the head office team that they really care about their clients, and then they strive always to get those outstanding inspections as well, which shows the level of care and support that they offer their clients. And of course, if they ever have a franchise in an area where my family lives, then I would absolutely use Apollo.
Thank you, Nick, for all your great advice.
We hope that if you had any doubts about taking on your own business because you’re worried about what it takes to employ people, you’ll feel a little more assured that we’ve got your back. Download our prospectus to find out more.