We’re lucky enough that we get to spend a lot of our day discovering exhaustingly brilliant entreprenurs. As well as keeping us in our jobs (thanks guys) it makes us want to shout about the start-ups that are keeping the UK innovative. And frankly, how on earth could we turn down the chance to interview Melissa Morris – a woman who rejected £100,000 worth of investment just to go it alone?
Melissa Morris is the CEO of Network Locum, a recruitment platform for GP practises to find and book doctors online, directly. No fuss, no dealing with agencies, and no need to build a list of local connections from scratch. Cutting out the middle man, and ensuring patients get the professional help they need when time is of the essence.
Melissa Morris! How did you begin your business?
Well, I used to work at McKensie Management Consulting, and I did lots of projects for the NHS. I’ve always enjoyed fixing problems, and though I never really considered a career in healthcare, when I was put on the NHS project by McKensie I ended up loving it.
There are lots of processes to streamline, people seemed to listen to you a lot more, they give you responsibility and let you run with ideas you know will work. I ended up leaving McKensie in 2010 to work for the NHS full time, and whilst I was examining efficiency within the NHS that I came up for the central idea for Network Locum.
How did inspiration strike?
It basically came through spotting a problem, and wondering how it could be solved. I kept hearing from doctors that it was very difficult to get locums – that the existing agencies didn’t seem to care much about which locum was being placed where, and that many of them charged an awful lot of money for doing very little. There was no feedback to individual practises, and no transparency as to their methods or why doctors were being placed there. I kept thinking over and over again that this process wouldn’t be acceptable for any other industry, and that considering how much we value our healthcare, it was kind of ridiculous.
I wanted to set up a website that cut out the agency part, and allowed GP practises to liaise with a network of doctors instantly, and do it at a rate all parties could afford.
How did you go about getting funding?
At first, I applied to a Dragon’s Den type programme called The Angel, where the prize was £100,000 investment in the company you were pitching. Amazingly, I ended up winning the programme, and was actually offered the entire amount I needed to get the company up and running, but as soon as I got the term sheet I had second thoughts. The deal was such that I felt it wouldn’t even really be my company anymore, I’d have to share ownership to such a degree that, after a lot of thought, I turned the offer down.
I know. It was scary, but I had faith that we could do it on our own.
Instead, I met William Hoyer Millar, my business partner (who was working for Bloomberg at the time). He’s a brilliant salesman, and that was what I needed – I thought the idea was good, but I needed someone to help others see it. I pitched the idea to him, and he quit his job to come and work with me. I managed to get early stage investment from a man called Jamie Murray Wells who set up his own company when he was 21 – called Glasses Direct, he gave me a small amount of seed money that got the business up and running.
What do you think the most important things to consider are when constructing a business proposal?
Well, I find there’s a basic structure that’s really good to follow: first off you present your market sizing – so, how big you think your potential customer base is. Investors won’t want to get involved if they think that the potential of the market isn’t particularly big, even if you’ve got 100% of it. They want to know the problem you’re trying to solve: you need to paint an engaging picture of the situation and the solution you’re proposing. It might not be an area they know about or are particularly interested in, so you need to keep it clear and interesting.
Then, you need to outline your competitors, and where you see your USP within them. Really know your competitors, because you’ll often be pulled up on them during your pitch. Finally, state you’re going to use the money for, and try and make 3 year projections – your expenditure and your potential for revenue.
What’s the best thing about running your own business?
When it works, you know it’s working because of you, not because of anyone else. When you’re working for a company, all of your successes will ultimately benefit the people you’re working for, rather than you and a team you’ve built. You do great work and the company share goes up; it’s sometimes difficult to get away from the idea that you’re a cog in the machine.
What do you look for in your team?
They have to be flexible; our office is fairly haphazard, you never quite know what you’re going to have to focus on day to day. You can’t be too strict or prescriptive, there’s always an atmosphere of ‘everyone will help with everything’.
Can you tell that by interviewing someone?
Absolutely. And we’re totally honest when we talk to candidates – if you’re expecting something really structured, then don’t enter the room! I think for some people that can be a really scary thing, but for others it’s exciting. If you’re buoyed up by the idea that every day might be different, this is a good place for you. I think for start-ups, having people whose skills can cross-over into different areas is vital – you can’t afford to get hundreds of members of staff all focussing on one small task each, you need people who can step up to whatever challenge you throw at them.
What could someone do at interview that would really impress you?
Really research the company. It’s not difficult to tell on an application when people have tailored their cover letter to us, rather than just sent out something generic to everyone. Even if a CV is really good, if their application isn’t specific to us you just kind of think ‘well, they don’t really look like they care.’ But if they’ve researched your company, and not only that, have been specific about the sort of things they can bring to your company, the role and company, then you’ll give them more of a chance. We’ve had people apply to us with very few technical qualifications, but because they’d made such an effort with their application, it made me want to know more about them.
It’s also to do with the strength of their ideas; if they walk into the interview with new things they thing we could be doing with the role. Because a lot of the time when you advertise a job, there’s room for it to grow in a number of directions, often it’s up to the candidates to help me solidify in my mind what this role can actually become.
We want people who have the same level of enthusiasm for our mission as we do – at the end of the day, the reason you work for a smaller company is because it’s exciting, inspiring and you can help it to grow. We want to see that enthusiasm in everyone we hire.
Want to be featured as CEO of the week? Email [email protected] with a bit about you and your business, and we’ll be in touch.