A Chat With Charles Armitage, CEO of Florence

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Gen caught up with Charles, who is CEO of Florence: an online marketplace where self-employed nurses can find high-paying shifts across the UK, removing the hassle of booking through agencies. 

Prior to starting Florence, Charles was working as a doctor in South London mainly in the fields of Emergency Medicine and Surgery. Charles decided to start Florence following some of his own experiences working as a locum doctor in the NHS. He found it frustrating how he had no choice over the work he could pick and had to do whatever he was given by his agency. He also hated the way doctors and nurses were treated when they arrived for a new shift. And the rest is history! 

Watch our interview below or read the transcript:



Gen:                          Hi it's Gen George. Today I'm here with Charles from the Florence app. Charles, take two, who the hell are you?
Charles:                  Yeah. Hi guys hi. My name's Charles Armitage, I'm one of the co-founders and now CEO of Florence, which is a marketplace that connects health care professionals, that rates health care institutions within the UK. 
Gen:                          Awesome. So how did you guys get started?
Charles:                  Gosh, so, background of Florence. Before I started the business I was a doctor, I was working in a bit of emergency medicine and general surgery, and saw a lot of problems due to temporary staffing within health care in the UK. So, alongside my co-founder Dan, who comes from the other side of the marketplace, he has a background in banking, was in the army, but most recently is the chairman of some nursing homes around the London area.
Charles:                  We both arrived at the problem from different sides of the coin. I would occasionally do these temporary shifts as a doctor and realized the-
Gen:                          [crosstalk 00:01:00] Grey's Anatomy, just to get that story in. Just to make sure that you get that story in again. 
Charles:                  What story?
Gen:                          I'm sure you get a lot of doctor's questions in Grey's Anatomy corners.
Charles:                  I do get a lot of doctor's questions, yeah. We've talked about this before. [crosstalk 00:01:15] I do get a lot of doctor's questions. There was one case recently where someone had some testicular pain.
Gen:                          Make sure you get in trouble again.
Charles:                  Yeah yeah. Testicular [crosstalk 00:01:27] and that was fine. I found that quite amusing. Yeah, and actually, my co ... Dan, recently broke his foot. Out playing football with his son, so. So that was nice, I could look at x-rays and things like that. 
Gen:                          Yeah.
Charles:                  Yeah, so, was a doctor. Saw a lot of these problems. I would occasionally want to pick up extra shifts here and there, it was terribly inefficient. I found a recruitment agent who would charge ... who I knew was taking a huge commission, and running an incredibly inefficient service. Nervous I'm making the right placements, the right matches, the accountability of quality of the staff that makes things run.
Gen:                          And the candidate experience, I'm sure ...
Charles:                  The candidate experience was terrible. So, for example, on a Wednesday afternoon I'd be like, "Oh I don't have much to do this weekend, how about I pick up a couple of shifts to get some poker money," knowing that there was a shift down the road in my local hospital.
Gen:                          Yeah.
Charles:                  I'd phone up my agent and they would say, "Oh well, we've got this place in [inaudible 00:02:24]," or somewhere else across the country and be shipped there, and never paid on time, never paid the right amount. You'd turn up on the shift, actually on the shift, you'd tend to be treated quite badly, 'cause there's a bit of animosity between full-time staff and these temporary workers that come in. 'Cause they know that they-
Gen:                          Second-rate citizens.
Charles:                  Yeah, kind of, kind of. And so, there were all these problems with things like handover. Like you'd turn up on a shift and no one would show you the cupboard with the drug safe, or ...
Gen:                          How handy.
Charles:                  You kind of started on a bad foot. Anyway, I divert a little bit. But terrible, terrible user experience on my side. And then Dan, my co founder, who was managing this nursing home, was short of nurses, and I would suggest these temporary agencies to get more nursing staff and pay massive amounts, typically commissions to these agencies of 50-100%. 
Gen:                          Crazy.
Charles:                  Mainly to just cover their overheads of running a business that's based on picking up the phones to individual nurses and doing the paper time sheets and running manual payroll processes. So, last your in the UK, something like five billion was spent on temporary recruitment.
Gen:                          Wow.
Charles:                  Of which about two billion is going to these agencies. There's a lot space for improvement there.
Gen:                          Definitely.
Charles:                  And ultimately, the more money you save from the providers, the more money the staff can get paid. Not only can they get paid enough, and also, more money can be saved and go back to patient care. So, that's kind of what we're ...
Gen:                          It's a win-win for the whole community.
Charles:                  What we're in for is really to make sure the staff benefiting, and then ultimately if you've got happy staff, you've got happy patients at the end of the day. 
Gen:                          Yeah. Definitely. And, so, from idea to actually getting your first person to sign up, how did you go about that process?
Charles:                  So, myself and Dan, we had absolutely no experience building a tech product at all. So, we approached it in, what in hindsight looks like unbelievably ridiculous ways. We put a little bit of money to start off with, and then we decided we needed to do all these hundred thousand things ...
Gen:                          To make it even possible to more forward, you need every feature.
Charles:                  Yeah, we need every feature. We need it next week.
Gen:                          A mini bar fridge.
Charles:                  Exactly, exactly. And then we kind of went with [inaudible 00:04:39], someone, somewhere said, "Oh, I'm willing to build this product for you for this small amount of money and this very small amount of time."
Gen:                          Too good to be true.
Charles:                  We're like, "Bingo." Yeah, it was too good to be true. Obviously it didn't work. At all.
Gen:                          Shocked.
Charles:                  At all. So, we kind of banged our heads against the wall a little bit trying to get that to work. And then we scrapped it. Kind of almost developed the concepts for that MVP ourselves, 'cause we didn't have any money left anymore. So, I went and got a Google sheet, and we found four or five nurses that we knew, and we found, I printed off a list of all the nursing homes, and I just went, knocked on their doors, "I've got this idea." And then one kind nursing home owner said, "We'll give it a shot."
Gen:                          Great.
Charles:                  And then, we literally started off with a Google sheet, and we just had, there were shifts on there every Monday morning, and the nurse would come in and fill in their availability. Bob's your uncle.
Gen:                          So you wrote a very, very intrinsic algorithm that was matching people to get lucky.
Charles:                  Exactly, exactly. Yeah, yeah, yeah. 
Gen:                          Awesome.
Charles:                  And I remember those ... and that was when we got our first taste of ... sorry. So, tech was difficult. And then we got our first taste of the operation of it. You'll dig in with a human business. You try and make it transactional, and commodity wise, and you have this tech product. But actually, you're dealing with people. And people's cars break down, or their children get sick.
Gen:                          Life happens.
Charles:                  Life happens. And suddenly one of your clients, you thought, you worked very hard to get, doesn't have a nurse on their shift. And actually, apart from just potentially damaging a relationship with a client, there is a risk to residents and patients that are in that home. So, we were kind of shocked. And it was getting progressively more and more used to how high stakes the game is. 
Charles:                  So, there are companies out there, they're like [inaudible 00:06:33], but offers a great service and don't want to lose any of their customers. But someone's meal gets delivered late. That's it.
Gen:                          You give them ten dollars credit, it's fine.
Charles:                  Exactly. If we fail and our transaction breaks somewhere and the nurse doesn't turn up, then ...
Gen:                          People's lives could be at risk.
Charles:                  People's lives could be at risk. So, that was nice getting taxed with that, because that's now our life, is trying to make sure that we de-risk as many of those aspects, the transactions.
Gen:                          Definitely. And always say hindsight's a fantastic thing, couple bumps and bruises along the way.
Charles:                  Yeah.
Gen:                          Knowing what you know now, how would you approach that first six months of getting ... to get those first people signed up?
Charles:                  Yeah. So, I think ...
Gen:                          Know product work, by the sounds of it.
Charles:                  Know product work. Know about how to develop a MVP. Decide exactly what the most basic and core functionality that you need for your product is. 
Gen:                          Yeah.
Charles:                  And then test it. 
Gen:                          Yeah.
Charles:                  And then the other thing that everyone says, but do things that don't scale. So, it worked well in the beginning because we had a very small user pool, and we could be on the phones every single day, driving them to shifts. We were driving to shifts and that kind of stuff.
Gen:                          No way.
Charles:                  And when it does fail, when things break as they always do, at least then you kind of got that relationship to fall back on and you can kind of try and smooth things over. And so, that mantra of doing things that don't scale, we lived off that for quite a long time. And we still live off that to some extent, but at some point you have to kind of try and start shifting the balance towards having tech solutions to these problems.
Gen:                          Yeah.
Charles:                  And that's kind of the stage we're in at the moment. We're still trying to have very, very human customer centric business, where we are visible and present within every engagement.
Gen:                          Yeah.
Charles:                  But at the same time, we know that when we 10 x our volume in the next, hopefully, few months, we can't continue to provide that. 
Gen:                          You can't drive half this country.
Charles:                  Yeah, exactly. How do we have ... we stop driving people across the country. But, how we kind of have scalable ways of keeping that human touch point, but doing it in a way that's a bit more scalable.
Gen:                          Especially to keep your unit complex in check. 'cause if you put your tank of fuel every time against one candidate ...
Charles:                  Absolutely. Absolutely. So we left that kind of bit behind us a long time ago. But you know, you still pick up the phone in the middle of the night when things go wrong. 
Gen:                          Unfortunately, sometimes a startup space is glamorized, where people suddenly wake up one morning, the business is completely fine, it's at scale, you're all good, you don't have to drive people across the country.
Charles:                  Yeah.
Gen:                          What are some of the really tough moments that ... Christmas morning, driving somebody to their shift. What are the things that actually happen, things that maybe new startup founders aren't exposed to?
Charles:                  That's a good question. So, I think one of the funny things that I encountered a lot is, especially within this industry, is you go sell it to care home providers, or health care institutions, hospitals. And no worse for everyone by my guess, I thought it was a good idea. This is ... I was gonna do this two or three years ago. And I was like, "F you, mate. Try doing it." Because even a very simple idea that, just matching supply and demand with someone's labor, is the operations in it, are difficult. There's no two ways about it.
Gen:                          The execution.
Charles:                  The execution's really difficult. And you think you're the most ... Florence is the most important item on my agenda, and the agenda of everyone on my team. But, you go, especially into a health care institution, where there are a lot of things going on. A lot of very important things going on. This really falls down quite low down my list of what their priority is day to day. So, trying to get people to ...
Gen:                          Try and bribe them with pizza, that's what I find is ...
Charles:                  Try and bribe them with pizza. What would we bribe them with? We haven't really bribed them with anything. Maybe we should do more bribing. 
Gen:                          Don't bribe. I'm lying.
Charles:                  But yeah. The challenges associated with just dealing with this human capsule, human resources is quite big. But then, there are ... governments with a new platform to make sure that you're encouraging people to behave the way you want them to behave. And I think we are actually achieving that. 
Charles:                  One of the other things that, again, very basic idea, both parties rate each other after a shift. And you see that in a number of industries, that does improve people's behavior, because they know they're being watched. I rigorously clean Air B&Bs when I'm leaving them, and I don't leave remnants of my party from last night.
Gen:                          It wasn't a party.
Charles:                  Yeah, yeah, yeah. And, it's the same thing with this. Even for like a hospital. If they know that they're having a welcoming, as we say, a member of staff at the hospital for a shift, rather than treating them as a commodity, they introduce themselves properly, show them around, show them where the drug cupboard is. And, bingo, if you do those basic things right, it's a better experience for everyone.
Gen:                          It's a great experience for everyone.
Charles:                  Yeah yeah.
Gen:                          Yeah, that's awesome.
Charles:                  So if you can try and drive some of those behaviors, that's pretty important.
Gen:                          And how does that behavior then translate into your team? Just in your office, lot of people, everyone's head's down. [inaudible 00:12:03], which is great. Be awesome to see. How do you keep that culture going when there's obviously a lot of balls in the air?
Charles:                  It's difficult, because I like to think that everyone's really, and they are, pretty galvanized behind the mission that we're on. And it can, at times, be quite stressful. As you say, there are a lot of balls in the air and people can get stressed about that. And it's important to make sure that even when you're really stressed and shit's hitting the fan, every time you're engaging with one of your clients or customers, that, one of your users, still maintaining that customer centric attitudes and not that it's too much trouble. We try and get that message home quite a lot. 
Charles:                  And I'm guilty of it as well. I can be in a foul mood and not give the best service that we possibly can. So, it's just important to remember ... and the other thing is, as well, is as we see it starting to build and it's working, and there's revenue coming in and there are transactions being made and that's really great to see. Well none of it would happen unless you had the customers there and the users there, so.
Gen:                          Definitely. 
Charles:                  So, even if they do something that annoys you, and behave out with the boundaries of what do you want them to behave how you want to behave.
Gen:                          Yeah.
Charles:                  They're still paying for ... they're paying the bills at the moment. So, you gotta be humble with that. Yeah. Humility is one of our cultural core values, actually. 
Gen:                          What are your other core values?
Charles:                  There are six of them. Do you want to give a finger?
Gen:                          Someone in your team seen the going, "I hope you remember this."
Charles:                  Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's just about customer devotion, being accountable, always learning. Always using every day to do the best you can.
Gen:                          What do you look for when you're hiring anyone.
Charles:                  What do I look for when I'm hiring? That's a good question. I think the ability ... one of the things about this industry is there is a massive medical equipment industry. And there are a lot of people that work in them. We've interviewed a few people from that industry, and I don't want to seem tarred from the same brush, but you see a lot of people coming in, and they've got fixed ideas about how things should work, or-
Gen:                          That's a good point, do you go tech background or do you do medical background?
Charles:                  This is the thing, initially we were like, "Oh, we should get some people from the industry and see what happens." 
Gen:                          Right.
Charles:                  And, just often in the interviews, and just talking through some of our problems with them, you got the sense that they were ... and it's, you can't say that anyone's fault, but they're kind of focused on how things are done right now. So, actually, we don't have anyone from a recruitment background. And I think that's really important that we've ... CMO Buney, who's a very, very intelligent chap. 
Gen:                          He's awesome. 
Charles:                  I think he's probably on the driving forces behind the business, actually. He ...
Gen:                          Also thinks outside the square. Just doesn't have that fixed view on how it needs to happen.
Charles:                  Absolutely, absolutely. And there's a massive recruitment crisis of nurses in the UK, there are just not enough of them. And he's approached it in a completely different way. He's not seeing us onboarding, getting nurses [inaudible 00:15:17] recruitment. What he's seeing is the matching function and the customer success function. And it's kind of taking a slightly fresh approach to the problem that I think has been really good.
Charles:                  So, I've really enjoyed seeing things here, the technologists and engineers and marketers and customer success experts, and then using [inaudible 00:15:38] rather than this recruitment model.
Gen:                          Yeah. We don't wear any ties, so. 
Charles:                  No. So I think ... yeah, no. What's the most important thing? For me it's kind of professional values, really. So, continuous learning. It's humility. And the ability to think outside the box, that's a bit of a cliché, but ...
Gen:                          It's easier said than rather done, right?
Charles:                  Yeah.
Gen:                          You guys seem to be really claiming the space, which is great.
Charles:                  Well, we try. We try.
Gen:                          Otherwise, the marketing's really working that you're playing in that space.
Charles:                  Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. [crosstalk 00:16:11]. What else are you looking for? That's about it, really. We're nice people.
Gen:                          That helps.
Charles:                  Yeah.
Gen:                          Yeah.
Charles:                  I really like the people we work with. It's so many great people. So I enjoy spending all the time in the office if I spend there.
Gen:                          Especially when you spend most of your time there.
Charles:                  Yeah.
Gen:                          Well, you hope so anyway.
Charles:                  And I like to think that I'm not like, don't employ the people that are coddle cocks to myself. I like to think I work very differently [inaudible 00:16:40] backgrounds.
Gen:                          Backgrounds, experiences.
Charles:                  But, they're all still nice people. And they're fun. They're all very clever. And I think that works.
Gen:                          That's great.
Charles:                  Yeah.
Gen:                          And how do you compete against other startups, because there are so many in this space who are trying to hire, whether it's engineers or marketing, or whatever. How do you make sure that you have that edge when you're recruiting?
Charles:                  Yeah, it's difficult. It's very difficult. 
Gen:                          You're like, "I'm not telling you the secret sauce, people."
Charles:                  It's difficult. How do we make sure we've got the edge? I think it's ... I do like to play on the culture, a lot that we have. 'Cause I think that's very strong, and I like to make sure that many, many of the team as there are possible. And bring everyone into the decision-making process. But yeah, there's a lot of god stuff going on here. So, getting talent can be hard. Yeah, definitely. 
Charles:                  It's one of our main challenges of the moment, actually. Growing and scaling is making sure we're getting the best people. 
Gen:                          Yeah.
Charles:                  Not, what's the word? Substituting, getting people in there.
Gen:                          Right. Somebody quicker rather than the right person.
Charles:                  Yeah, exactly. 
Gen:                          [crosstalk 00:17:51]. Marketplaces have massive challenges, whether it's talent or funding or whatever, but supply and demand is one of the greatest challenges.
Charles:                  Absolutely.
Gen:                          What are the metrics that you guys look at? How do you guys do this currently?
Charles:                  Yeah. Good question. Good question. So, Florence is really, pretty type local. So we have a lot of insights about how far these nurses are willing to travel for shifts from areas. And then we kind of split this matching problem, which is really all our business is, is bringing the right people together at the right time. Kind of split it into two different parameters. One is a product platform side of things. And one is this liquidity. 
Charles:                  And [inaudible 00:18:38], something that's the important thing. We take an area and we kind of go ... for example, London, at the moment. We're pretty comfortable that we've got a fairly liquid market in London at the moment. Then we look at how [inaudible 00:18:51] the shifts are filling, how long it's taking, and how many are successful, how many liquidity failures you've got. And, with the assumption that there's enough liquidity there, we can then take all the rest of the failures, as like a platform. And we're not necessarily showing people the right shifts at the right time. Or, doing the [inaudible 00:19:11]. Whatever it is. There's a list of a thousand things to put it.
Charles:                  Once we've removed those as a factor, we then to basically look ... it's difficult. So we basically take, within an area, we look a few key metrics. So, obviously the number one, that North Star is our [inaudible 00:19:29]. So, if a client needs a nurse, if they post a shift on the platform, what is the chance that that's gonna get filled? We have certain integral parameters in [inaudible 00:19:40] within a certain amount of time.
Charles:                  And that's kind of our headline metric. And that's when we have a big thing on the board going up and down. And then we kind of split that out into a few other things as well. So, we have metrics on how point, locus of where the shift is, we then define how many nurses we have in the area. And ...
Gen:                          Just the potential.
Charles:                  The potential pool. There's complexity in that as well. Because you have nurses that are registered, but not completed the enrolling process. So we have those. Nurses that have completed the enrolling process but are maybe not engaged, not active on the platform. [crosstalk 00:20:21].
Charles:                  Yeah, we're not sure how to deal with those. And we need to be better about making sure they're doing the right thing.
Gen:                          Yeah.
Charles:                  And then we have our pool of really active nurses who we know are working that look in forums every day and check for shifts. And we have different ratios of how we kind of measure what we think the optimum volume within a market, within an area is.
Gen:                          Yeah. Awesome.
Charles:                  And then, it gets worse because London, we've worked out how people travel on average, let's say something like, it's not this, but it's something like five miles to get to a shift, you translate that to the Yorkshire Dales, where people travel fifty miles for a shift. And it's trying to overlay some of that geographical data with travel-time data.
Gen:                          Predicting what they're willing to do.
Charles:                  Yeah, yeah.
Gen:                          Versus actually how much they will actually, potentially gonna get paid.
Charles:                  Exactly.
Gen:                          If they need to travel more for the higher paid gig, versus yeah.
Charles:                  Exactly, exactly, exactly. And then it still doesn't let up. So, and then, we can't come up with a nice neat number and go, "Oh, we can"-
Gen:                          42.
Charles:                  Yeah, 42. You got it. You got it. You got it. But, the other thing is that, because it's so much choice, the platform, produce what's work, and homes have these ratings that are paid, and they're specialties.
Gen:                          Do people take their homes off if they're a low rating? Or you haven't got there yet?
Charles:                  It's pretty self citing, actually. So, we have certain rules about who we kick off. So, if they're displaying certain dangerous behavior. Both nurses and homes. And if that's ... we have to get some things that kick in at a different time. Someone kills someone.
Gen:                          That could be fatal, yeah.
Charles:                  Yeah, we'd probably make a decision there and then. But if you're getting some repeat persons of poor experience, would be a sign to start to move. But, what's interesting is you'll get mostly some nursing homes that just sort of grumbling along slightly below the normal. Don't do anything really bad, but no one has a very nice time there. 
Gen:                          Yeah.
Charles:                  It's quite nice, 'cause that kind of self slaps. So if they're getting these consistent slightly poor ratings, well actually, nurses don't choose to go there.
Gen:                          Choose to go there.
Charles:                  Choose to go there. And they kind of drop off. 
Gen:                          Yeah.
Charles:                  Having these ratings is not about making a stick to beat people with. 
Gen:                          Yeah.
Charles:                  We're not trying to ...
Gen:                          Trying to show them where there's opportunity to grow.
Charles:                  Exactly. And it's about trying to get people to just ... Make it more accountable for what they're doing, and realize that people have so much choice these days, and people, if they don't wanna work somewhere, they don't work somewhere. So it's kind of up to them to make sure they're providing a really good work environment for people who come to work there.
Gen:                          Yeah. Definitely. So, from an SEO point of view, having a management style that's always pushing people to learn and be curious, how do you make sure you're doing that?
Charles:                  Good question. 
Gen:                          Who manages the manager?
Charles:                  Who manages the manager? Well, that one really ... the board. Theoretically.
Gen:                          That's helpful.
Charles:                  How do I keep learning?
Gen:                          Yeah. 
Charles:                  Yeah, it's difficult to find time for that. And I'm a real [inaudible 00:23:28] junkie.
Gen:                          Yeah? Which ones do you listen to?
Charles:                  I like all of them.
Gen:                          Which ones should the listeners listen to then?
Charles:                  Well, you know, how-
Gen:                          Besides this, obviously.
Charles:                  How I Built This is obviously great, I love that. If I'm ever feel a bit sort of down, down operationally, we're kind of trying really hard and ...
Gen:                          Not getting the results.
Charles:                  Not getting results. I do-
 Gen:                          Now, but anyway, is there anything that you're trying to do at the moment... but I will ask that actually after. So podcast, what kind of podcast do you-
Charles:                  Yeah, yeah. So, all of them I was saying... This one's basically classics.
Gen:                          With Mozart playing in the background.
Charles:                  Yeah, yeah, exactly. So how I built this industry is great-
Gen:                          What do you normally take from that?
Charles:                  Well he always ask the same questions. But... just it's the personal stories that I find so interesting. So like, James Dyson for example, British inventor, Dyson vacuums, who-
Gen:                          And, hairdryers now, just saying.
Charles:                  Loads of stuff. Hairdryers, hand dryers.
Gen:                          Oh yeah, hand dryers, yeah. They're actually really good hand dryers.
Charles:                  [inaudible 00:00:42] wheelbarrows. 
Gen:                          Really?
Charles:                  Yeah, yeah.
Gen:                          Good for you.
Charles:                  But, you know his story... He was like a real hacker. His thing behind the whole Dyson vacuum was he saw this sawmill and he was climbing up the walls of this sawmill at night. Is that really true? I don't know but it's a nice story about all this stuff. One of the things about that, that really stuck with me was that he kind of risked it all. He was in his 30s with a family in a house and he remortgaged it and piled everything into his business. He owns 100% of Dyson now. Which you think, "Wow, that was pretty amazing, he has 100% of that company." But he's risked a lot to get to that point. And it makes me look at things and I go, "Well, what are we risking? I mean, you know?
Gen:                          Just cruising along.
Charles:                  Cruising along. What's the worst can happen? It makes you kind of put things in perspective a little bit.
Gen:                          Yeah. When you hear those counter stories of those scenarios.
Charles:                  What's worst that can happen, we can run out of money and lose all of our investors money but that would be terrible. That's definitely not going to happen
Gen:                          Yeah, let's make sure everybody hears that.
Charles:                  Not going to happen. 
Gen:                          Do you want to say "not going to happen" one more time?
Charles:                  Not going to happen. 
Gen:                          Just there's no-
Charles:                  Yeah.
Gen:                          There's a Victoria's Secret business, right? They, same thing, guy put everything on the line, got it to a certain point. Sold it for say $10 to $500 million, whatever. But now, its worth billions of dollars and they IPO-ed it or whatever straight after with some massive financial event and he missed out by a year and sold too soon. At least they got there. 
Charles:                  There you go, he got a bit. I just love hearing quite personal stories about people how got what they achieved and what they did. Especially when you hear some really pretty inspirational stories out there.
Gen:                          Yeah. I think something that people miss is that startups is just tough. It doesn't matter what size, how long it's been going, how many people, no matter what industry it's going to suck everyday. So if more startups can just communicate that to each other a bit more so can everyone can relate a bit more and say "hey, how can I help?" Because-
Charles:                  And even when it's going well it's really hard. One of the things I'm guilty of is not focusing on the success, just focus on all the shit that's going on in the background.
Gen:                          Exactly.
Charles:                  On the outside it might look all rose and China but you know there's this list of 1000 things you need to tackle that are-
Gen:                          You're always thinking about that next thing, right. You're going "oh wait, we did that."
Charles:                  Oh we got to that landmark but [crosstalk 00:03:00] you kind of went to a drink and then that was it. Onto the next.
Gen:                          You're still sitting there on your laptop with beer going "yeah, celebrate".
Charles:                  But you know, it's interesting, because I'm still new to this [inaudible 00:03:11] two years so-
Gen:                          But the hours must be pretty similar from a medical background to a startup background. It's constant weird hours.
Charles:                  This is much harder than medicine, definitely. Hours wise, yes. And also just stress [inaudible 00:03:30]. The nice thing about medicine is there's a system, there are protocols there. Even if you're working A&E and there's a car accident and 20 people come in at once and they're all [inaudible 00:03:48] of everywhere, everyone knows what they're doing. There's a protocol and you know exactly what decision you have to make in every single scenario. Your job is basically to learn the decision train. Which is okay, doesn't leave much room for creativity. But it means when things are difficult, it's really clear and [crosstalk 00:04:08].
Gen:                          You just fall straight back into that, yeah.
Charles:                  Yeah, it's really clear and you just pass the text.
Charles:                  That doesn't exist within startups at all. When you're confronted with decisions, there's never necessarily a right answer. You can credit these frameworks about trying to say "well actually our customers are more this side [inaudible 00:04:28] than this side. It's always- 
Gen:                          You're rolling the dice every time.
Charles:                  Yeah, and that's quite a tiring decision making process. But at the same time, with that comes the ability-
Gen:                          Great power, great responsibility.
Charles:                  Yeah exactly. With that comes the ability to be creative which is great.
Gen:                          Where would you rather be?
Charles:                  Sorry?
Gen:                          Startup or medicine? Where would you rather be?
Charles:                  Startup, 1000 times over. Because you can... it's cliché but within... you can't change anything in medicine. If you want to trial this new treatment you have to go through this incredibly - rightly so, because the stakes are high - go through these incredibly rigorous process of testing and trials and all that kind of stuff.
Gen:                          It's a little bit harder to test things out versus in a startup where you can [crosstalk 00:05:17] live and-
Charles:                  Exactly! See what happens. Shit we- 
Gen:                          Crashed a site.
Charles:                  Crashed a site, we pissed off a couple of users. But you know what I mean, you can do that. And that's really fun.
Gen:                          So how did you pick your investors or how did you get to the point of doing a deal where you had that ability to keep testing, keep trying things out, without... weird relationship where they want the best but they need to give you guys the space to test things out to find that.
Charles:                  Yeah, we've been really lucky with our investors in that we've... a lot of its just come from mates at work and then family and then kind of growth from that. So recommendations. So we've got quite a long cast of different people. That's nice because we get expertise from a lot of different fields. They're all very supportive. I'm just trying to run through, is there anyone that's annoying me at the moment. No, no, they've all been very supportive and actually all very forthcoming with advice and help which is great.
Charles:                  But then an interesting thing from that is you get two different investors who are both equally successful, very successful people in their own rights, like build and run their own massive businesses. Bright people, very intelligent. And you go to them with a scenario and say "which road should we take?". And one will be like: "you've got to take this road, if you take the other one you're an idiot.". And then the other one will go, the completely opposite.
Charles:                  A perfectly practical example of that is we were in a juncture where we could either... we knew we had, for example within London, a liquid marketplace that was working. We needed with the investors money and that, we get a really tangible return on that investment and actually it was probably quite a quick path to building cashflow positive. So it's like, okay, we could do that where you just go for market domination growth. And that's kind of like a fairly basic tenement. Kind of start of decision making.
Gen:                          $100 million question.
Charles:                  $100 million question. And we're still... we know what we're doing now. But when we started first coming across that sort of question-
Gen:                          To become a great small business or whatever you want.
Charles:                  Yeah or to redraw, to become a great small business and prove that we can become... prove that we have a positive business model. I know it's not very fashionable these days but prove you have a positive business model and to some extent the pressures off a little bit because you're not counting the days down to day 0. You can raise money from who you want, when you want theoretically because the clocks not ticking.
Gen:                          It's a different conversation than saying "hey we've got a week left" or "hey we're taking conversations."
Charles:                  It's a different conservation. Yeah exactly. So that fundamental decision is, I remember, is just seeking counsel from a few different people and finding out what they thought.
Gen:                          How did you ultimately make that because obviously you can take everyone's advice-
Charles:                  Haven't had to make that decision.
Gen:                          Was a very intelligent decision.
Charles:                  No, it was... I think we all sort of came together and we were like "wow, what do we want to do?". The way our... we obviously decided to go for the latter which is scaling as quickly as possible and not being comfortable in where we were and I think that came down to[inaudible 00:08:40] cultural decision of what we wanted to do.
Gen:                          Why everyone was turning up every day.
Charles:                  Yeah. It wasn't to do something safe and [inaudible 00:08:48]. It was to (click) go for it.
Gen:                          Awesome.
Charles:                  So we didn't really use any spreadsheets or anything like that.
Gen:                          Fair enough. Mental health is a big thing that's not really discussed. [crosstalk 00:08:59] long hours, lots of things happening. How do you make sure your team are doing the right things to keep a great head space, as well as yourself as the leader. How are you doing that?
Charles:                  Mmm, that's a really, really, really important question. And I've spent a lot of time wondering about whether we've put too much on people and whether the goals and targets we're setting is appropriate. Maybe it is sometimes, maybe it's not sometimes. I guess it's just about making sure of talking to people and keeping that dialogue open. And people have different-
Gen:                          Pressure points.
Charles:                  Pressure points.
Gen:                          And obviously you don't know what's going on outside of the business.
Charles:                  For sure. For myself as well, that is a good question.
Gen:                          Are you doing things properly?
Charles:                  No, I'm not, I'm definitely not. I should do things a lot better so yeah.
Gen:                          Well this is the hard talk.
Charles:                  Everyone's guilty of slipping into easy way out, easy ways to relax so you know, choosing a beer rather than going for a cycle ride or something like that. It's hard to take time off, it's hard to take holidays, hard to switch off and not worry about it. Especially if you love it. I love seeing what's going on and what's going on in Florence and stuff like that. So, you know, it's hard to find time to switch off. It takes a lot of discipline. But yeah. It's good, we've got an office dog as well, I think that helps.
Gen:                          That helps, that definitely helps.
Charles:                  Although she does poo on the floor quite a lot.
Gen:                          Does that help?
Charles:                  No. [inaudible 00:10:44] room. She's new, she's a new pup. Rosie, the dog. I got her a few months ago and I've always been brought up with dogs so its not abnormal for them to poo on the floor.
Gen:                          You see everyone freak out [crosstalk 00:11:01]
Charles:                  See everyone be like "what have I come to?".
Gen:                          Or like the "I'm really busy, I can't look in that direction right now."
Charles:                  I'm just like [inaudible 00:11:07].
Gen:                          Pull yourself together.
Charles:                  Pull yourself together.
Gen:                          Fair enough. What's the plans moving forward, are you looking for investment in the future, do you want to hire?
Charles:                  Yeah for sure. Both [inaudible 00:11:26]. Our goal is basically to... we're at day 1 of what we're doing.
Gen:                          Very exciting.
Charles:                  So that's-
Gen:                          On the record as well-
Charles:                  Day 1, yeah. Nurses and nursing homes within England and Wales. We want to get to the point where none of those transactions happen without Florence by the end of next year. So 100% market share is quite a lot to be asking for but we want to be at the point where-
Gen:                          You feel pretty confident.
Charles:                  -We've got it. From there's a lot of different avenues we want to take. We've [inaudible 00:12:06] to get to that point. But then we've got a lot of other... it's amazing actually. As you get more and more immersed into the industry and you speak to more and more people you kind of [inaudible 00:12:17] like oh my god. There's 1000 business ideas, there are 1000 things that could be done better.
Gen:                          Add ons. [crosstalk 00:12:23].
Charles:                  1000 that could be done better for the nurses, for nursing and for the healths of our hospitals, all over. There are so... we've got this list of all these opportunities. We're like: "oh maybe we should just do that but it's a bit small. Maybe we should divert towards this or this thing."
Charles:                  And me and Bam, my co-founder, our COO, one of our biggest, not going into contention but discussion points is-
Gen:                          To stay focused.
Charles:                  Is it to be able to... is it to stay focused and do our core business and just do it really well or is it too see, like [inaudible 00:13:01] really easy opportunity here that could in itself, probably is, a massive benefit to everyone. And bring quite a decent amount of growth in a year as well. And won't require too much work from us. It's trying to navigate that and decide which are important priorities.
Gen:                          Yeah, and is there a right answer of that.
Charles:                  Well, I come down on one side of the coin but... yeah. But then I can be distracted sometimes as well. That's our...
Gen:                          What is one thing you can help other people with in the marketplace startup community that they can reach out to you guys for?
Charles:                  What can you reach out? Ah, any medical advice you need especially if you've got testicular pain of any sort. Expert.
Gen:                          This person's going to hate you so much.
Charles:                  Yeah. Well yeah, free to reach out about... I'm definitely not the brain, I'm the operation [inaudible 00:13:59] to sit there and just answering emails all the time. But you know, our technology team does amazing stuff and our marketing team as well. I think they've learnt a lot in the process and would be very happy to speak to people about that. Especially around things like [inaudible 00:14:18] liquidity, kind of, map, being able to build things in a balanced way. I have learnt a bit about that. I have a lot more to learn about that. But you know, I've got a few ideas about it I think.
Gen:                          You'd hope so by now.
Charles:                  I hope so, fingers crossed.
Gen:                          I ask everyone this. If you could have a superpower, what would it be and why?
Charles:                  A superpower?
Gen:                          Yeah.
Charles:                  God. That's going to take some very [inaudible 00:14:49]. A superpower. I think it would be to... it would be to...
Gen:                          Wow. I can't remove my mind from the first one now.
Charles:                  No, it would be something like being able to, ah, gosh I've never been asked what my superpower would be before. I mean flying's really boring, that would obviously be really awesome. But that's not very interesting. I think, mind reading would be really good as well.
Gen:                          Yeah but then you'd know what everyone's thinking all the time.
Charles:                  I don't care.
Gen:                          Have you ever seen What Women Want?
Charles:                  No I haven't actually.
Gen:                          Mel Gibson.
Charles:                  Is this end up being a curse?
Gen:                          Yeah, you will regret this choice.
Charles:                  I'm worried... I do think a lot about what other people think so maybe-
Gen:                          Really?
Charles:                  Yeah.
Gen:                          But at least you've recognized it right?
Charles:                  But then I've just asked for one of my superpowers would be to be mind reading so that's-
Gen:                          Solved.
Charles:                  Well solved or just made it worse.
Gen:                          True. Okay, good point.
Charles:                  Gosh, I'm going to have to think about the superpower thing and get back to you on that one.
Gen:                          Fair enough. You got a hall pass for this one.
Charles:                  [inaudible 00:16:12] I was thinking about something like improving productivity or...
Gen:                          No, this is just in general.
Charles:                  Yeah, I was going to say something really boring about being able to categorize to-do lists really well. But I thought that is the lamest superpower ever.
Gen:                          Everyone funnily enough says about time. They want to pause time so they can get more done.
Charles:                  Well that was kind of what I was trying to frame but I thought "that's so rubbish.".
Gen:                          Yeah, startups right. They can't help themselves.
Charles:                  Yeah, being able to pause time to get more done. Yeah... that would be useful I guess.
Gen:                          Because even when the deadlines coming up, push pause to go hang out with your family, come back.
Charles:                  Yeah that would be good, sleep less. That's healthy.
Gen:                          Yeah, super healthy.
Charles:                  Yeah I survive on like one hours sleep a night.
Gen:                          Are you like that doctor that sits there and goes "I should sleep right now, I really should, yeah no I'm screwed now.".
Charles:                  Yeah, no, I'm not a good sleeper.
Gen:                          Yeah, fair enough. Well thank you very much for your time.
Charles:                  Thank you for having me.
Gen:                          Really appreciate it.
Charles:                  I've enjoyed it.
Gen:                          Hope everyone learned something.
Charles:                  I've enjoyed it, thank you very much for tuning in.
Gen:                          See you next time.