Talking tech: Interview with Bruce Hiscock, director of everyLIFE
Read time: 5 minutes
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Moving from the security sector to the personal care space, Bruce Hiscock has leveraged his years of experience in identifying issues to help everyLIFE become a leading tech provider in the personal care business. The company offers digital care planning for home-based patients, helping care providers to accurately and sensitively provide tailored care with real-time input.
We spoke to him about his path to everyLIFE, and the challenges of breaking the mould for social care tech…
Tell us about your path to everyLIFE.
I always tell people that I'm a Chartered Accountant by profession - I began as a Scottish CA, before later moving into industry from that profession. I first started working for a security business, which led to around 20 years in the security sector, working for installers, distributors, and then manufacturers. That gave me a tech background, and helped me to understand the challenges of developing a new product, trying to break it into new markets, and understanding the early adoption process for “bleeding edge” technology.
Not only that, but it gave me a good foundation for the sector where I work now; 90% of security is about identifying an incident, and then communicating and responding to it. Digital care is identifying what needs to be done in care planning, and communicating what has been done so a response can be made. The common theme is communication.
When did you join everyLIFE?
I joined the everyLIFE business three and a half years ago as CFO, having heard about the opportunity through someone I worked with on and off for 20 years. The company is based just 10 minutes down the road from me, and I thought it would be a nice step for that stage in my career. The first requirement of that role was to bring consistency to management, operations, finance and then to prepare the company for fundraising.
How did everyLIFE begin, and what was your role initially within the business?
EveryLIFE is the brainchild of three founders, but it was driven by one founder’s vision. He had a domiciliary care business, with employees that visited service users in their homes. One of the things that he was really concerned about was the visibility over the care being provided, and to a greater or lesser extent, the fact that it was all paper-based. As the owner and director of the business, he didn't have visibility for things like medication administration until the end of the month. If someone missed their medication on day one or two, it may not be highlighted to him until 30 days later – there was a big risk element.
He decided to look in the marketplace to see whether there was some sort of digital or IT solution that could help him manage the operations and the risk within his business. When there wasn't, he decided to create it, and worked with the two other founders. By getting funding from other care providers in the same domiciliary care franchise, they were able to build and implement the solution themselves.
That was in September 2014 and I joined them around 18 months later. At that point, they needed to take that next step to start building the marketing and sales processes, scaling the business, and also beginning to develop the product a bit further.
Industry: Hospital & Health Care
HQ: Farnborough, Hampshire
Size: 51-200 employees
Sub-sector: Lifesciences & Medtech
What have been the key challenges for the business?
The financial aspect of the business presents its problems; you have to get the right amount of money to be able to achieve your vision. I think that the real challenge, however, is getting the right people. One major issue in the tech space is that the pool of the right talent with the right skills is limited, but having good people for when you need them is a constant requirement in this business. Recruitment is a constant process. We were lucky that we had a good start with the franchise that we were able to sell into; however, I think that gave us the view that further endorsements would be more straightforward than they were. We initially probably got our sales approach and processes wrong, and we didn’t work out quickly enough that we needed to become part of the fabric of the care sector.
When I moved from being CFO to chief executive around two and half years ago, that was the first thing we decided to tackle - what we called our “market engagement”. The care sector is challenging; because of funding, because of the perception that care is a low-skilled sector when it isn’t, because there are so many vacancies and because the press only publishes the negative stories. We had to do more than just offer a shiny new tech solution; we had to facilitate the delivery of great care, but also understand the challenges businesses were facing, so that it was more than just digital care planning. We had to have an understanding of the recruitment challenge, the cultural challenge in the sector and more.
Once we had that, our sales processes were more effective – we scaled back, focused on e-marketing and more, to our success.
What is the USP of the business?
We’re deeply integrated in the fabric of the care sector, rather than being a separate tech offering. We focus on digital care planning, care management, monitoring and the communication – and we also offer an open path solution, which gives relatives and other health care professionals visibility to the care being provided to an individual.
Our main focus is on the care, which is important – other tech providers are roster providers, ensuring staff are on a rota with a roster for visits, with a solution that links to payroll, attendance etc. We concentrate more on the care that is being delivered to the care receivers.
"Other providers – who we integrate with – look after everything up to the point where the carer arrives at an individual’s bedside; we handle the care from then onwards. We’re about the hands-on, bedside care, and that’s our USP. "
How do you guard against disruption?
First it should be said that seeing other businesses coming into the sector is somewhat reassuring, in that we were the first people to do this – it’s nice to know that we caught the market at the right time.
That being said, we guard against disruption by working to fully understand and be part of the care sector. We’ve built ourselves as trusted advisers, thought leaders in the space. We’re nearly the only provider of digital care planning in the sector that has an information, compliance, and risk officer who sits at the top table.
We’ve made data protection and management a priority – it’s right at the heart of our business. The expression “privacy by design” is often talked about in IT data solutions and digital solutions, and we have internalised that within our product. We think about it at a business level, not just at a product level. Everybody in our team across the business - from engineerspeople who do the numbers, HR - have all done the NHS data protection online course. It’s built into our core business.
We also make sure we continue to invest in the product and listen to our customers, making the adjustments that are necessary to keep us ahead of the competition. We’re not complacent; we know that people will be out there chasing our tails, but as we disrupted the care space ourselves, we’re confident that other businesses won’t do the same to us.
What lessons would you have liked to have known before you started out in your career?
We should have known before we started that it was going to be a slower, longer process than we thought. I'm sure lots of other people say that! It takes time to build trust and reputation.
I think a key lesson we’ve learned is that if you want to lead anything, then you have to serve it. You have to solve real problems. You don't have to create some shiny bit of tech and then look around for a problem to solve. You have to actually really dig into what the problem is and solve it.
We also learnt that though social care is aligned to health care, it is a challenge to get social care recognised and appreciated as it should be. A lack of social care is possibly the number one issue for us as a society to deal with at the moment. We’ve tried to tackle that with the CARE badge, an initiative we started alongside Care England, which represents social care in a way people can demonstrate. We’ve sold about a hundred thousand badges since June 2019, raising just over £10,000 for charity and raising awareness of social care. It’s an important part of our company identity to champion social care and the challenge it faces in today’s world.
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