Recently, Herts Review got the chance to speak to Andy Sexton, Director & Co-Founder of Advanced Personnel. For over 9 years, the Dunstable based recruitment agency has been serving Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire, providing high quality temporary and permanent recruitment solutions for residential and home care. They are the go to care recruitment agency due to the solid reputation developed among care homes, families of the residents and care professionals in the local area.
For Care homes, they can always rely on Advanced Personnel to get them the right kind of staff especially in emergency situations to keep their operations ticking over. For families of the residents, they have been happy with the quality of care provided by care professionals trained by the agency. For care professionals, the agency is known to look after their care professionals – offering them quality training, mentorship, good benefits and an opportunity to build a career. According to Sexton “We have unique relationships with Care Homes, our Care Staff and the resident’s families. We are almost an extension of their families”.
It was not always this way. The agency previously known as Advanced Industrial & Driving Personnel was placing staff at warehouses, trucking & haulage companies from its Watford base. Paul Lightfoot, Co-Founder & CEO of the agency observed that the UK has an ageing population and that quality care services would be in demand. Lightfoot and Sexton had worked together previously and with Sexton’s experience in the care recruitment space, they teamed up in 2005 to launch the care recruitment arm of the business. “We are 100% focused on care recruitment and have completely stopped industrial recruitment”.
Advanced Personnel’s core services are mainly residential care and home care. Residential care still accounts for 80% of the business but home care is growing as more families are demanding tailored quality and compassionate care while maintaining their independence. With 11 full time staff and over 140 Care Professionals, the agency has consistently grown achieving revenues of over £2m in the last financial year. “We are happy with what we have achieved over the last few years but want to maintain our customer centric services. Paul and I have worked for bigger agencies and we always felt we could do a better job than they do”.
Advanced Personnel is regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and ensures that it complies with all regulatory requirements. This means having a strong in house compliance team so that all staff have DBS checks, the required training, permits to work and meet all home office requirements. “We juggle four main key stakeholders – CQC, over 40 care homes, our Care Professionals and resident’s families. We have to keep everyone happy at all times”.
It has not been all plain sailing. Covid-19 has been the toughest challenge the agency had encountered. “It was challenging as most of our care professionals relied on public transport to get to work. In addition, the sad and unfortunate loss of life in some care homes meant our services may not be required. There were problems with PPE, some apprehension of care professionals taking on jobs for safety reasons and also the movement restrictions”. Sexton says there were many sleepless nights.
However, the agency turned it around by introducing an innovative solution – transporting their care professionals from their homes to work and back. This meant investing in 5 buses with drivers. Their care staff now get safe free travel to and from each designated work location. This indeed has become one of its USPs as free travel has been a great incentive to the care staff and care homes. It has also helped the business stabilize in this very challenging time. “Over 80% of our care staff are female and their safety is non-negotiable. No doubt we had to invest but it has worked so well and I don’t see us turning back”
If he had to start the business afresh what would he do differently? “Not much to be fair. However, I think we would have launched the home care service much earlier as we see it as an area of opportunity. The Covid-19 pandemic has only reinforced what we thought. More elderly people would want to be cared for in their own homes”.
Looking forward, the agency wants to cement its current recovery, grow the home care service of its business and be on the preferred supplier list with the local authorities. “It is key we are on the preferred supplier list as this would open more doors for our business”. While Lightfoot and Sexton are happy with the growth they have experienced so far, they are not interested in empire building. Rather, they want to be a 360 degree provider.