Building a Culture of Care:
A Conversation with our founder Andrew Richardson
Andrew is the founding director and CEO of Friends Helping at Home, an award winning care agency. With a background in business development in the hospitality and service sector, his innovative and empathetic vision has shaped a unique organisation that provides a much needed service.
In this interview, Hazel Anderson asked Andrew about his career, ethos and the principles that led to the development of Friends Helping at Home; and impact on care provision, community, and his vision for the future.
A leader committed to fostering a culture of genuine support and companionship.
Background and Early Career
I asked Andrew to share some insights around his career and to reflect on his time working in the hospitality and services sector.
“I started my management training after college in the 1980s, gaining practical insight into running every aspect of a business and developing a broad range of skills. I think that I have always been client led and worked in businesses where I have had the opportunity to add value. I always ask myself how I’d want this or that if I was the client. I like to delegate and hopefully empower people. So identifying how to add value and grow the business with consistency and quality has always been something I’m passionate about and key to any successful business. Growth and development (revenue and product) always has to be sustainable and when this is achieved, opportunities and great things can happen.”
Founding Friends Helping at Home
The motivation behind starting Friends Helping at Home (FHAH) was deeply personal and vocational:
“When I returned to Torquay, a solicitor asked me to act as an attorney for one of their clients. This involved managing a property portfolio and arranging care, the later turned out to be a nightmare. This experience highlighted the general lack of a client focus and delivery. It was difficult to get continuity or a good professional relationship between carer and client. Clearly there was a need for an alternative to the traditional dom-care provision and way of working. I wanted to create what I would want for myself or a loved one: the ability to arrange good care and enabling services that, put simply, means being able to remain living well in your own home.”
Mission and Values
I asked Andrew what were the core values of Friends Helping at Home:
(to) “Treat everyone, irrespective of who they are, as you would want to be treated in any given situation. That is, ‘the Friends way’. It’s in our business’s DNA and our approach with everything that we do. ”
How do you ensure that the Friends stays true to its core values and founding principals?
Challenges and Lessons
What were the main challenges that Friends faced when you started? “I think that (Friends) was offering something outside the norm that sounded too good to be true! We overcame this when we started to be recommended and prospective customers appreciated our non-salesy approach, that was focused on what the customer would like. Never overpromising.”
What lessons would you share with anyone going into business? “Start by asking yourself a simple question: can I deliver what my client wants? Research and investing in the right people is so important. Be prepared for the unexpected. Andrew highlighted the importance of keeping everything under review and listening to all stakeholders. “Then you can make a positive impact. I would recommend that growth is managed. It’s better to grow slowly and consistently, rather than to let people down by overpromising and under delivering. Always ensure that you’re offering good value. Ensure that you have sufficient funds to reinvest back into the business. It’s important to maintain consistently high standards and to do this you probably need resources that you didn’t start out with.”
“I think that it’s a shame that the CQC doesn’t regulate introductory care agencies. That would provide a statutory framework and benchmark that would ensure greater safety within the market. From day one, we have wanted to provide a safer way for customers to find good carers and have created a system that enables CQC standards to be met by the care-givers registered with us. As we have grown we have invested in bespoke systems that observe the protocols for introductory agencies. We are able to ensure safety and support with a dedicated Quality and Compliance Director to oversee good governance.”
Friends Helping at Home has made a positive impact on the community, providing sustainable income and careers for over 100 families and clients.
“We receive a lot of unsolicited thank-you letters,” emphasising the strong relationships built with local hospices and professionals.
We encourage and support our franchise branches to develop relationships with community groups and charities, especially organisations that fall into the care sector. It also creates great team building across our network. So far there have been sponsored walks, cycle rides in aid of organisations that we work alongside such as hospices, cancer and dementia. I have personally declined to do a sky-dive jump that our Teignbridge branch is organising this June in aid of Rowcroft Hospice and will definitely support that with both feet on the ground! They hope to raise £5,000. We also are the main sponsor for a conference that Rowcroft Hospice is leading in palliative care in March.
Looking to the future, Andrew wants to expand the franchise network further. “To do more of what we are currently doing and extend our network across the region. I’d love that to be national, so that more people are able to get the help and support they need and great vocational carers find the career opportunities and rewards they deserve. That would certainly disturb the market! ”
Andrew’s leadership philosophy revolves around supporting a culture that delivers the vision. “The old-fashioned organisational tree needs to be inverted with the boss at the bottom, holding up or supporting the managers, co-directors, care providers, and enabling them to become the best for our clients.”
Advice for Aspiring Leaders
What advice would you give to aspiring leaders? “To remember that leaders are there to serve those whom they are leading! You need to be consistent and set good behaviours and to help people become the best that they can be. A leader needs a good vision to follow. I think it sets the sense of purpose.”
I ask Andrew about the opportunities that exist:
“There are many opportunities developing within our growing network. We are always on the look out for people with management experience or transferable skills that love the concept of our business and vision to open a new branch as part of our franchise network; or those considering a career in care, or indeed, those that have left or are disillusioned working in the care sector, wanting to attain their true value and vocation as a care provider in one of our branches. There are also opportunities for key members of staff (our HQ team) to develop their roles and areas of expertise as we grow”
I’ve been part of the Friends HQ team for a couple of years now, supporting the central management team that provide the services and support for the Branch managers and franchise owners. So I think I know Andrew fairly well!
He’s been married for donkey’s years and has three grown-up daughters and three grandchildren which he says keeps him young. Having recently reached a milestone, he says that life begins at 60. He enjoys homemaking, although there are certain jobs that his wife, Mandy doesn’t allow him to do. Garden is something of a sanctuary, and I know entertaining is also something that is enjoyed with friends and family. I and work colleagues have enjoyed family hospitality, barbecuing and note that there’s always claret in the wine rack. Andrew says he’s trying maintaining a healthier lifestyle with regular gym workouts and leisurely walks along the South Devon coastline, but then confides in me that its downhill (sic) as a healthy walk culminates in a delightful pub lunch. Slapton Sands is a favourite. This glimpse into Andrew’s personal life underscores the balance he brings to his leadership, embodying the ethos of care and joy that defines the Friends Helping at Home family.
Explore Our Team page to meet the remarkable individuals who make up the Friends Helping at Home Team. Discover their unique roles and delve into the inspiring stories that shape our collective journey.