Supporting a care home during challenging times

Aspen House was first established 30 years ago, providing care services for individuals requiring mental health support. The pandemic has created new challenges for the organisation, but the Small Business Leadership Programme has helped Aspen House remain resilient. 

Learning how to develop a long-term strategy

Gurd Sohal has been leading Aspen House for the past 14 months. His main focus is on business development, financial management, and strategic planning, whilst the management team take care of the day to day running of Aspen House – something which has been particularly challenging during the pandemic as Gurd explains. “Sarah and Sabina from our management team did a fantastic job steering us through the pandemic. We had to deal with PPE shortages and at times completely locking down the home to ensure the residents were safe, but this was never at the expense of the high level of patient care we pride ourselves on at Aspen House.”

Before taking over leadership of the organisation, Gurd had mainly worked for large global car manufacturing companies. Although his engineering background enabled him to develop systems and processes, his new role meant he was responsible for developing a business strategy – something he wasn’t so familiar with. Realising he needed to develop these skills, Gurd signed up for the Small Business Leadership Programme.

“I wanted to understand how to map out a strategy for the organisation from the very beginning and I had no idea where to start. The programme appealed to me because it offered an overview of the areas I needed to know about to successfully run a business.”

Developing skills for productivity and sustainability

The productivity and sustainability module proved to be particularly helpful to Gurd, helping him to identify areas where improvements could be made. When he had first taken over Aspen House, much of the documentation was paper based, which proving to be inefficient. Gurd decided it was time to upgrade to a more sustainable solution. “We invested in an Emar app-based software that we could use to record patient medications, including quantities and time issued. Our care staff can now record the person-centred details at the time of issue and spend less time afterwards completing paperwork.”

The programme not only inspired Gurd to make these changes, but the leadership element of the course also helped him to convey the benefits of the new technology to staff so that they were on board too. “Once fully implemented, I expect to see up to 90 minutes saved every day which will directly improve the quality time spent with the residents”.

Female nurse walking down a corridor with older lady

Improving efficiency and leading change

The programme not only inspired Gurd to make changes, but also helped him to convey the benefits to staff so that they were on board too. “Once fully implemented, I expect to see up to 90 minutes saved every day which will directly improve the quality time spent with the residents.”

Another area reviewed as part of the productivity and sustainability element of the SBLP was patient contact with family members. The pandemic had meant in-person visits were no longer available in care homes and the only other means of communication available at Aspen House was the telephone. Realising this wasn’t as re-assuring as seeing the faces of family members, Gurd decided to introduce online calls through applications such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. However, the team soon realised the wi-fi infrastructure wasn’t set up to deal with the increased level of activity, and a new broadband platform has since been installed.

Financial management techniques from industry experts

Gurd hadn’t been responsible for the finances of an organisation before, so found the finance module useful in developing his skills. He also enjoyed the practical way in which the programme was taught.

“The academics on the programme all had previous experience in industry, which shone through. They were able to offer working examples of how to use the tools in our businesses. Having had industry experience, they understood that we’d perhaps been doing things in a particular way and were able to highlight important areas of the models we were likely to have missed.”

The SBLP incorporates peer to peer group learning with other leaders of small businesses. Many participants have found this to be extremely useful, and Gurd was no exception “It was good to hear from other businesses and we were all quite open about the challenges we’ve faced during the pandemic. It stimulated different thoughts and inspired new solutions for my own organisation which was really helpful.”

Time out to focus on the bigger picture

The programme allows business leaders time out from the day to day running of their organisation, enabling them to work on the business rather than in it as Gurd explains. “The time I took out each week was invaluable. It allowed me to step back and focus on the direction of the business moving forwards, including my vision for the future of Aspen House. I’ve found the whole experience to be really rewarding and I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending the programme to other business leaders.”

Gurd was so impressed he’s already considering sending his management team on similar skills development training. He is confident about the future of Aspen House and is already experiencing the benefits of the changes he’s made through implementing his learning from the Small Business Leadership Programme.

For further information or to discuss working in partnership with us, please contact our Business Enquiry team on +44 (0)800 001 5500 or businessgateway@derby.ac.uk