A chat with Charles, CEO

Every week, we’re going behind the scenes at Florence to chat with different team members to find out how they help our mission to ‘provide tech that empowers social care teams, so everyone can receive the care they need’.

Who better to start off with than our CEO, Charles Armitage? We found out all about building a business, Florence’s future plans, and gardening!

Who are you and what do you do at Florence?

I’m Charles, I’m one of the co-founders and the CEO at Florence.

On paper, I have to do three things. One is to help set and define a strategy, two is to help build a team and execute on that strategy and three is to make sure that we have enough money to do it.

In practice, I try to make sure we have a great environment where we can build and nurture a team so that they can do amazing work to help us serve our customers.

What made you want to start up Florence?

I used to be a doctor and I occasionally worked ‘locum’ shifts, extra shifts at weekends or holidays to get a bit of extra money. I was pretty frustrated with the way it was set up.

These staffing agencies were really expensive for the NHS and really, really painful to deal with for the doctors and nurses on the other side.

For example, you’d get sent to random places you didn’t want to go. I thought it would be a great opportunity to use technology to create a system that allowed people to work when they wanted, where they wanted and they didn’t have to speak to a recruitment agency on the other side of it.

I met Dan, my co-founder and COO, in 2016.

Dan came from the other side of the market in that he was the chairman of a housing charity that looked after some nursing homes, so he came more from the care home side of things.

We started to think about how we could use technology to make the system better and Florence was born!

Had you always wanted to start up your own business?

I think I’ve always been interested in business. I guess from being a child, I’ve always had a little bit of a side hustle like bulk buying sweets and selling them at school.

I would sell on credit but lost money as my credit control process was non-existent. I didn’t always know I wanted to have my own business – I wanted to be a plastic surgeon. I wanted to do that because I thought that was a really interesting combination of bringing together my passion for painting and sculpture with actually practically doing stuff like operating which I liked.

I really enjoyed that, but you make a decision to become a doctor at quite a young age and I think you don’t necessarily fully understand what drives you as an individual or what you’re good at.

I’ve realised now that when I’m most in flow and do my best is when we’re doing creative things or when we’re taking risks. I get really excited by taking well thought out bets and making bold moves and that’s not something you want a surgeon to do! As much as I enjoyed the medical things, I think my skill set is more suited to something like this where you’re able to make bold bets about the future.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

In life if you do things for other people without any expectation of them doing something back for you, good things happen to you.

What piece of advice would you give someone thinking about joining Florence?

I would say, come in and make sure that you build strong relationships with lots of different people across lots of different departments, don’t be afraid to make mistakes and always be looking for things that can be done better.

Ask for forgiveness rather than permission.

What’s your favourite thing about working at Florence?

The people. I love the people I work with and I love working with people who think about the world in different ways to me. Whether that’s people who work in the finance department or the tech department or marketing or whatever; it’s a real spectrum of outlooks on life and ways to approach problems.

I find that really exciting. Particularly in my role, I love being able to see when people who work here decide that they want to go in a certain direction and build and create something to go in that direction.

I love seeing people execute on stuff, that’s cool.

What’s the biggest challenge Florence is facing?

There are many; probably the biggest and most relevant one I think is making sure that, as we grow and build a team that all those teams are structured and targeted in a way that people have clear goals in where we’re going.

It’s also important to make sure that individuals have what they need to execute to move towards that goal. You need to make sure that you can create an organisation where people are empowered to make their own decisions but are still all pulling in the same direction.

What are you most excited about with Florence at the moment?

I’m excited about seeing the team grow and bringing new, amazing people into the business.

Where do you see Florence in five years?

I think Florence will be doing a lot of things. We’ll be doing what we currently do, Florence in a number of different places, in the UK in social care and the NHS, internationally across Europe and many other countries.

I think we’ll be on our way to creating the platform for healthcare providers to manage their internal workforce. Everything from permanent hiring all the way to onboarding to training and professional development.

I think for nurses and care workers I’d like Florence to be the platform where they manage their entire professional lives; whether that’s finding shifts, or learning and developing or moving into new things. I’d like Florence to be the infrastructure that powers that.

What’s a fun fact about you that might surprise us?

My favourite pastime is gardening. I go through phases between vegetables and flowers, I’m in a flower phase at the moment. My garden is quite north facing and shady and obviously you have to garden to the space so I’m particularly enjoying my ferns at the moment.

Like the sound of working with us, and want to join a tech startup with a purpose? We’re looking for talented people to join us across our product, tech, marketing and operations teams. Check out our open roles here.

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