Case Studies

Embedding effective business tools in a new social enterprise

Added 15/04/2011

Background

Sustain’s private sector experience was vital in helping a newly-formed community interest company (CIC) to develop the necessary business skills and performance management processes to ensure the venture was a success.
 
Sustain was brought in after a group of clinicians had completed the difficult process of winning approval and grant-aid for the CIC. Although it had a fully constituted board and was successfully running health services, the four clinicians who founded it had no experience of running businesses or managing NHS services at a senior level. 
 
As well as developing performance management processes, a board assurance framework and suite of dashboards for information collation and reporting, a senior member of the Sustain team also spent a day a month mentoring the chief executive and acting as critical friend to the other directors.

 
Key challenges
 
Enthusiastic yet inexperienced, the organisation’s executive directors still spent a significant proportion of their time delivering frontline services, which made availability an issue and meant that training sessions and other projects had to be completed at the end of the day after the clinics had finished.
 
Coupled with this, the chief executive initially lacked confidence when dealing with non-executive directors, and had little experience of the challenges the business was likely to face in its first twelve months. Despite this, all of the executive directors had a keen appetite to develop and fully recognised the importance of engaging fully with stakeholders and commissioners.
 
Although experienced within public services, the non-executive directors had limited knowledge of the private sector. This meant they had to be carefully managed to ensure the systems put in place provided all of the clinical and quality requirements of the NHS but without some of the burdensome elements of corporate governance not required in a private business of limited size.


Main actions

During the first month, Sustain rapidly appraised the CIC, its services and contracts and prepared draft processes, detailed key performance indicator schedules and an outline board assurance framework document. This was validated with the directors and a final document produced for presentation to the board.
 
In addition, Sustain also developed bespoke information and collation spreadsheets, reporting suites and dashboards, as well as innovative methods of reporting risk and the organisation’s Care Quality Commission status.
 
The executive team were provided with essential support and advice as they implemented the full suite of materials.

 
Outcomes and achievements
 
The tools developed by Sustain helped to free up capacity within the CIC to diversify and grow the business further. They also helped to embed daily performance management at the heart of the organisation while establishing structures for reporting, escalating any issues and for all core meetings.
 
As a result of Sustain’s input, the CIC developed a robust yet positive relationship with its commissioner by demonstrating a detailed knowledge of the service, root causes and continuous improvement in conjunction with quality and added levels of service offer. The support which Sustain provided was also essential in preparing the CIC for several difficult negotiations with a variety of stakeholders.
 
By working closely with the board, Sustain was able to introduce a balance which met the needs of the NHS while allowing the business to retain its entrepreneurial spirit and flair.
 
The support offered to the chief executive in managing colleagues, enhancing business skills and personal development has also been a vital part of the business’s success.

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