We are lucky to have been joined on the sofa this month by Tony Carr, Managing Director of Leading Lives who spun out of Suffolk county council, three years ago under Tony's excellent lead.
Leading Lives is a Social Enterprise operating as an employee owned Co-operative. The company has been developed from local authority run services into a dynamic social enterprise business that is a member of Co-operatives UK. As a Social Enterprise, the business trades for a primarily social purpose
Knowing what you know now, would you still have spun out?
Absolutely. I feel privileged to have been involved in this ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity.
What was the best advice you were given and who gave it?
Always take your own external legal, finance, HR and business advice – Geoff Walker.
What is the best advice you have given?
Always take your own external legal, finance, HR and business advice + Understand fully the requirements and implications of running an independent stand-alone business (e.g. finance management, tax implications, HR management, property management, regulation & compliance etc. – the list is endless).
What have you messed up along the way?
I think at times our communications with staff and customers could have been better, more frequent and more local.
If your experience of spinning out was a film, which film would it be?
The Great Escape!!!
How well do you balance running your business and home life?
Reasonably well I believe. Obviously there are times when emergencies and work priorities take over but I try to leave the office at a reasonable time and fit in short breaks.
What would you 10 years ago think of yourself now?
Not totally surprised as the same passion, energy and enthusiasm remains. I would be proud that we are competing in a commercial sector, have largely achieved (thus far) what we set out to do and proved that it was actually possible to convert a public sector service into a successful commercial venture!
Where do you see your organisation in 5 years’ time?
I hope Leading Lives will have taken the final steps (we have started the journey) in adapting its resources around customers individual preferences and requirements – i.e. delivering what people want, when, where and how they want it.
What is the most difficult element of growing your business?
Unpacking the baggage and moving out of comfort zones.
Do you have any advice when it comes to winning contracts old and new?
Assemble your own small team of skilled, knowledgeable, enthusiastic and reliable players (they don’t all have to work for your organisation). Stick to your values and have your bottom line on compromise (don’t forget, if you win the tender you then have to deliver).
If you weren’t doing this job, what else would you be doing?
Renovating old buildings.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
As Managing Director of a highly responsive, innovative and thriving social enterprise, or renovating old buildings.