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Ask the Expert - Rachel Law from Possabilities

by Craig Dearden-Phillips 17/12/2014

Rachel Law

Q – Why did you leave a good job in the Council to set up Possabilities?

We were unable to compete with the private sector in terms of costs and our services would have eventually eroded away.  We knew that we delivered quality services and it was important for us to find a way to continue to do this.  Spinning out and forming a social enterprise gave us the perfect opportunity to protect people’s jobs whilst ensuring that we were able to continue to deliver quality services which will always remain high up on our agenda.

Q – It is often asked 'Can we not just do this AND stay in the Council?'  What can you do now that you couldn't before?

We are able to invest in our business in order to improve our offer to customers.  When we were part of the Council there was a spending freeze which made it almost impossible to do anything new. Now we can be innovative and make decisions quickly.  If somebody has a good idea we can run with it, if it works great, if it doesn’t we can stop it and try something new.

Q-  Before your services got the work automatically as part of the Council, soon you will need to compete – does this not scare you?

No, as we have very few contracts with the Council as the majority of the people we support have personal budgets. If we don’t deliver excellent services then they will take their funding and look elsewhere for a new provider. However I believe that we are in a better position to be able to meet people’s needs as we are now able to invest in our services.

Q – What keeps you awake at night?

Wondering when we will win our first tender!!!

Q  - People talk about this step-change in staff productivity and attitude when a service is spun out – is this for real in your experience?

Absolutely, there has started to be a real culture change as staff feel part of the organisation.  They have sense of ownership and really want the business to work.  Staff feel valued as they know that they are listened to, and staff morale is high up on the agenda.  We have already experienced a significant reduction in staff absenteeism.

Q -  If you had to do it all again, what might you have done differently?

I would have liked to have had my senior management team in place before we went live. We were unable to recruit to our Finance Director position until we got agreement to spin out which caused problems for us, especially as all our financial systems needed developing.

Q – What, for you, is the 'Secret Sauce' that makes what you have now different from what went before?

That we are able to be innovative and explore new channels within the market in order to create sustained growth. We are able to partner with other organisations to go for larger tender opportunities.

Q  -  What are your ambitions for Possabilities?

To grow and expand providing services across the North West and to diversify our funding streams.

Q  -  If you could get every person leading Council or NHS services in a room, what one thing would you want them to understand?

Spin outs ensure that staff and service users have greater involvement in how the organisation is run which boosts productivity. Social value is at the core of their work benefitting service users, carers, partner agencies and the wider community in addition to the contractual services they offer.  Therefore commission more Social Enterprises!!!

Back to stepping out now