When a founder's values are "lived and breathed" by everyone

8 min read

01 February 2018

Deputy Editor, Real Business

Culture, they say, has an incredible impact on the performance of a business. We found out how the PJ Care team has gone from strength to strength by "living and breathing" the values set out by its founder.

Forbes held a Jargon Madness tourney in 2012, in which readers would eliminate words and phrases in various rounds to find what was “the most meaningless business jargon” that year. “Corporate values” initially passed with flying colours, but was KO’d by “Lots of moving parts” in the second round.

It was summarised that the expression “corporate values” was “so suffused with phoniness that it churns the stomach. Corporations don’t have values, the people who run them do.”

Glancing over the description, one starts to realise that employees rarely look to handbooks and written statements to pinpoint how they should behave. They look at each other, at those in control – monkey see, monkey do, the saying goes. It makes the concept of crafting a culture infused with those beliefs difficult.

As a business owner, you can’t simply herd employees towards the values you want them to exude. You have to walk over that rickety bridge first and show them it’s possible to accomplish – and do on a daily basis.

This is among the reasons why PJ Care stood out to those judging the Amazon Growing Business Awards – also a factor in why it won the family-owned business category.

The company is a provider of specialist neurological care and neuro rehabilitation for people with progressive or acquired neurological conditions. Founded by Jan Flawn in 2000, PJ Care has grown from one care centre – Bluebirds – to three, each having achieved good CQC ratings across the board.

Hoping to learn more about the company, Real Business spoke with Gavin Elsey, PJ Care’s general manager for sales and marketing. He expanded on how the team pushed its values forwards.

How growth and prosperity can coincide with core beliefs and culture

Your business is expanding. You’re obtaining more customers, establishing offices world-wide and filling holes in production as well as acquiring additional skill sets from new staff. But hopefully you set out some core values beforehand.

Flawn’s son Neil has since taken over the company, but he’s stayed true to the core principles founded by his mother. “Compassion, commitment and care,” Elsey said, were what drove the team to achieve success.

“When recently assessed for our IIP Platinum status, the assessor commented all through our report that these values are ‘lived and breathed’ by everyone she met in her inspection and in the care they provided,” he said.

“The company is family-owned. There are no external investors or shareholders to appease, so decisions are based on our principles and beliefs. The care and welfare of residents and staff alike are our key interest. We are a private company and as such need to make a profit, however, profit to us is a consequence of caring well, not a reason for being in business.”

Elsey details how PJ Care overcame its biggest obstacle on the next page.

To “care” so thoroughly is what makes PJ “Care” unique. As Elsey explained: “There are companies that offer parts of what we do, but nobody covers our business model. We work with families, charities and the NHS to ensure high quality care for their residents. We also have three specialist neurological units available in Milton Keynes, as well as four care units and a rehabilitation service at our Eagle Wood centre in Peterborough.”

Never was there a better time to shine a torch on helping with a smile. The sector is facing numerous challenges, not least funding, bed shortages and an ageing population, according to Elsey. He pointed out a national shortage of qualified nurses. However, there have also been improvements in terms of understanding, diagnosis, prevention, cure and advancements in care.

He places much emphasis on the word “understanding,” telling Real Business how it proved an obstacle in PJ Care’s growth journey – and how it impacted on the company’s culture.

“When Eagle Wood opened, there was a lack of understanding in the adult social care team working for the City Council, which to some extent was replicated through our colleagues in health. The complexity of the needs and the presentations of residents, was on the whole, incomprehensible and the result was a ‘blame culture’ and suspicion on both sides,” detailed Elsey.

“From the perspective of PJ Care, the safeguarding team sought opportunities to find fault and did not know the difference between an ‘Incident’ and a ‘safeguarding issue’ was. And from the perspective of the safeguarding team, PJ Care and specifically Eagle Wood, demonstrated a defensive and uncooperative stance. There was a breakdown in relations that resulted in the involvement of legal teams.

“A sequence of meetings were undertaken with senior adult social care officers of the council and the senior management team of PJ Care. These meetings had a positive outcome and, consequently, there were a number of changes in personnel, creating an opportunity to rebuild professional relations from all sides.

“Through this process, common ground was found and a mutual desire to move forward in a coherent and constructive way was sought. It was agreed that a forum, populated by local care providers, the adult social care team, the safeguarding board and partners from health, would help. This would enhance communication and understanding, devising a framework for collaborative working with the aim of caring for and protecting vulnerable adults.”

Since then, the company has gone from growth success to growth success, with Elsey suggesting the business will “never stay still.”

Pointing out what was in store, he added: “We are continually reviewing what we do, we are a learning organisation so we are always looking for ways to deliver better care. We are currently finalising the location of our next care centre so we are hoping construction will be underway before the end of the year.”

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