The Business Owner: Ben & Oliver Black, My Family Care
The brothers talk about running the 'uber of the care industry', how they act like a tech company, and the dangerous temptation to sit back
Founders: Ben & Oliver Black
Company: My Family Care
Location: Putney, London
Proposition: My Family Care provides a backup childcare and eldercare to employees at many of the UK’s biggest and best known employers
Size: 65 members of staff for My Family Care (465 across the group of companies)
Describe your business model:
It’s a bit like the uber of the care industry. Every working parent or carer will have a time when their family commitments clash with their work ones – the nanny is sick or a bit of conjunctivitis prevents your child going to nursery. We developed a platform that allows parents to book last minute childcare anywhere in the country on as little as half an hour’s notice. We sell it mainly as an employee benefit.
How is your business different from what’s already out there?
Its ground breaking and unique. It’s obviously quite a niche area and the regulatory and risk factors are huge. We spent 10 years building up a large childcare business which is how the current business was incubated.
How did you finance your business?
Cash flow has always been very good and we had various slices of luck along the way: we won a business prize that came with a £50,000 cheque; our first large client paid us three years in advance; and we bought a business from BUPA in Year one which they let us pay for out of its existing cash flow. Probably more luck than judgement.
What is the most important thing to keep track of in business and why?
Well, cash probably but whatever is going wrong tends to be the most important.
What is the biggest day-to-day challenge you face?
The pace of change. We now think and act like a tech business. We started as a childcare business. These days we are vaguely successful and there is always a temptation to sit back and enjoy life. That’s a death knell. We need to keep developing at a rate of knots. That’s sometimes quite painful!
What marketing techniques do you use to attract new customers?
We sell into the HR community. It’s a long complicated sell so the marketing tends to be quite high level – thought leadership pieces, conferences and think tanks. As and when they are ready to buy they will know about us.
Do you think it’s important for small businesses to export, any tips?
Depends on how big the UK market is. We have a huge opportunity overseas – we see it as an opportunity to make money or waste money.
What’s the business app you couldn’t do without?
We make a lot of use of LinkedIn and SalesForce, they are very embedded now in what we do.
Describe your company’s culture in three words:
Friendly, Free, Open.
What would you like the government to do for small business?
Reduce corporation tax.
Who’s your biggest small and medium enterprise hero?
I love the way Luke Johnson commentates on the life of an entrepreneur.
Where do you want the business to be in three years?
The three-year plan is just about keeping it on the same path as it is now. We have 150 clients. We’re adding them at a rate of 40 a year and clients never leave. So the three-year plan is growing the revenue by 50% and the profits by about 200%.
What’s your top tip for keeping it lean and making profit?
Well, the two go hand in hand. Keeping it lean is a constant challenge. You have to keep looking at costs. As for profits – well, they will come as long you work hard, look at costs and the initial idea wasn’t totally useless.