In the first of series of blogs about going into business with your nearest and dearest, Sophie Atkinson chats to Pamela Easen, Founder of H1 Healthcare, about the birth of her family organisation, and how her son Sam became her co-CEO
How long you have you and Sam worked together?
Pam: Incredibly, it’s been fifteen years. These days, we’re co-CEOs of H1, which offers recruitment, staffing and training, as well as technology services, to healthcare providers both in the UK and overseas. To give you some context, I’m a trained nurse, former care-home operator and a mother of six.
How did H1 come into being?
Pam: In 2002, I was a self-employed nurse in Aberdeenshire. I was working extremely hard – around 100 hours a week. But I identified a gap in the market, which was with staffing care homes. I was lucky and privileged because I knew a lot of the care home owners in the area, and they let me book my own employees. And that’s how H1 was born. That was the 6th of February 2002.
What about from a timing point of view? Did you just make the leap one day or was it more gradual?
Pam: I was combining both nursing and staffing for a while. I was working shifts running care homes with a mobile in my pocket, booking my own staff, which was a unique position to be in. I don’t think I went down very well with other agencies!
I continued to do this for about four months. And then one morning in July 2002, after a night shift, I went straight to our new office in Banchory, Aberdeenshire. Sam picked me up from my shift – I was literally there in my uniform with a box of leaving
gifts from the care home that I’d been working at. And from there I continued to book shifts for other people, and have never looked back. That’s literally how the business was born. It was wonderful and surreal at the same time.
How did the children become involved?
Pam: Initially it was just me – Sam was studying but would work during his holidays. Charlotte – my youngest – would come in on the Tuesday and do the payroll, for which I paid her £20 a day. I still can’t believe I did that!
Sam was at university in Hull doing a course in American Studies. During his third year he went out to America. But when he came back he wanted to give up university for a year. I was mortified. He was the eldest of six – he was our guinea pig in a way and I was certain that if he left for a year he wouldn’t go back.
But he did, and he graduated in 2005. For his graduation present, we paid for him to go to New York where he had two job interviews. He secured one of the positions – he got offered both jobs in fact – but his visa didn’t come thorough in time so instead he worked for the family business for 12 months.
At the end of that 12 months, he had an incredibly hard decision to make – moving to New York (the company had kept the job open for him) or staying in rural Aberdeenshire working for a family business. To my surprise, he chose Banchory. And that’s where the journey really began. From there on it was laughter and tears!
To hear first-hand the highs and lows of running a business, listen to the first episode of our podcast, The Business of People. We’ll be posting more from Pam as well as Sam himself in the coming weeks, too, including how they work from family, and how the natural division of roles came about.