Fred Lloyd George spent six years in the army, including in Afghanistan, before moving on to work in the care sector. After several years at a care start-up and then working for NHS Digital, he teamed up with his business partner Alex Hamilton to set up Hamilton George, which provides tailored live-in care and housekeeping support, as well as a new consultation service. We spoke to Fred about building a team during a pandemic, his key piece of advice to business founders, and how to have conversations about care.
Can you tell us about your background before you set up Hamilton George?
I was in the Welsh Guards from 2010 to 2016. That’s where Alex (Hamilton) and I met – Alex was in the Irish Guards so we were in the same platoon training in Brecon, Wales. We’ve had relatively mirrored careers since then – he went into healthcare tech when he left the army, setting up DocTap which provides access to private GP clinics. I went to work for a healthcare tech start-up, which is where I learned about live-in care. It's a large-scale platform that introduces carers to people that require live-in care, and I spent three years there doing operations and strategy. It was there I learned about the emotional drivers and how you really need to find out what people need in order to deliver really good care.
What then inspired you to branch out on your own?
Being an army officer you’re operationally very strong, but you’re also driven by human beings, personalities and trying to get the best out of people. Care always appealed to me because it’s such a personal business, and you need to be able to understand what someone needs and deliver that for them. You also need to understand your carers’ different personalities and how that will work with clients.
I went on to do social care strategy at NHS Digital. It was then that Covid hit and social care became a major focus, so I spent almost two years working on strategy – identifying where resources should be allocated and improving the transfer of information from GPs. All that time I was a sounding board for friends and family who were looking for good, consistent care for their loved ones. Alex and I were always asking ourselves why people couldn’t find an agency that was very person-centred, family-orientated and that cultivated a positive relationship with care. So that was the starting point for Hamilton George – asking what’s going to really improve our clients’ lives through care. That’s always been our underlying motivation in how we deal with our families and clients, and in the way that we recruit and train our carers.
What was the process of setting up Hamilton George and recruiting the team?
A lot of work initially went into recruiting excellent carers. Of the 200 carers who apply for roles, we work with maybe 10 or 20. So we spend a lot of time interviewing and recruiting the best people. Second to that was building a team that could provide great support for our clients, so for example we quickly hired Alyce Sheedy who’s a registered nurse who provides nursing support. If there are any clinical requirements or changes in care needs, she provides a clinical eye on it. So it was a combination of building a really great caring team and having the support team to be able to speak to clients about their needs.
What have been the biggest challenges of running a business through the pandemic?
Working in this area means you’re working with vulnerable adults who are more susceptible to Covid, so we’ve had to be very careful about protecting our clients through rigorous hygiene and infection control measures, as well as very careful testing. There are lots of challenges around bringing a team together when you’re working remotely and of course missing out on the social aspects of work, as well as the creative benefits of being able to throw ideas together when you’re all in the same place.
What qualities do you think make a good entrepreneur? Do you consider yourself one?
I don’t know if I’m an entrepreneur! This is the first venture of my own but I always think that being an army officer is quite entrepreneurial because from quite a young age you’re left on your own and expected to get on with it. I was in Afghanistan in 2012 and asked to build a battalion level checkpoint at the age of 25. You need to be comfortable having an opinion and doing your own analysis to identify opportunities and work out how you’re going to deliver on an idea. I guess it’s very easy to have an idea, but being able to deliver it is much harder. So to be an entrepreneur you need to be comfortable with the process of trial and error, and coming back from failure in the first instance.
Yes. It’s really scary – you take an idea – you run the numbers and even for someone like me, who had worked in the sector for seven or eight years, you still don’t know if it’s going to work out. So yes, courage is pretty important!
What tend to be the key challenges that your clients are facing? Do you have any advice for people who might be beginning to have conversations about care?
We’re constantly surprised by how little people know about care when they get to the point when they need it. Families have lots of conversations about inheritance, wealth transfer and how people want to retire, but care still seems like a conversation that we’re afraid to have. Therefore a lot of our conversations are around education and giving people advice and guidance, and we also discuss care options and how to fund it. So the biggest advice I would give is to have that conversation really early on. You’ll need to think about how to finance it and your loved ones will want to look at the different options. We specifically look at live-in care, but there might be other options that your family member would prefer, like a care home or retirement village, or hourly care for as long as possible.
Even within the world of live-in care there are different options - you can hire a carer independently, use an introductory agency or use a company like us that’s fully managed. There’s also lots of funding from the government that people aren’t always aware of. So have a care plan for the future that details what you want, at what point you want to implement it, and how you’re going to fund it.
What qualities do you tend to look for in the people you work with?
In a small team you need someone who’s able to work autonomously, who can take a complex situation and simplify or improve it. We also make sure that everyone understands our vision. We recruit people who genuinely care.
And finally, what would be your key piece of advice to someone looking to set up their own business?
I like to do things quickly but the thing I learned was to slow down, ask for advice and assess all options. For us each care placement is a partnership between us and our client so taking the time to discuss and agree how care will be managed and any changes implemented is vital.
Hamilton George has launched a new care consultation service. Their team of expert care consultants will take into account the specific needs of both you and your family, helping you to identify the key care requirements. Whether you need assistance managing a carer and building your own care plan, or are looking for an agency to provide and support you with care, their experienced and compassionate consultants can offer guidance and reassurance.
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