Q&A: Jan Flawn - Forward Ladies, Women in Business Awards Winner
The HSBC-sponsored Forward Ladies Women in Business Awards recognise talented women running businesses throughout the UK from a broad range of sectors. The awards were “created to celebrate trail blazing women from enterprise”, while giving women “a unique opportunity to acknowledge their successes and become inspirational role models”.
At the Grand Final event in December 2016 at Royal Armouries, Leeds, Jan Flawn CBE, founder, chair and owner of Milton Keynes-headquartered PJ Care, was named Outstanding Female Entrepreneur of the year. She lifted another national award to mark the phenomenal growth of PJ Care - “leading provider of specialist neurological care and neuro rehabilitation for people with progressive or acquired neurological conditions”.
So, how has she built such a successful business and what advice does she offer to other women who want to succeed in business?
Firstly, many congratulations on winning your awards. You must be delighted?
Jan Flawn (JF): “I’m really pleased and proud. It was a wonderful event and winning both awards was unexpected. I was really pleased to reach the final, but winning two awards really was and is wonderful. We’ve won quite a few awards in recent years.”
What did you do before starting PJ Care?
JF: “I left school at 15 with no qualifications, so first I had to gain some to achieve my dream of becoming a nurse. After becoming a registered nurse, over many years I rose to become a senior manager at the Department of Health, after studying for my MBA.”
So, why did you start PJ Care?
JF: “While in that senior management role, I became aware of relatively young people - people in their 40s - with neurological conditions living in care homes for the elderly. This just wasn’t the appropriate environment for them. The solution was to create a care home for younger people with neurological conditions. So, at the age of 53, I left the NHS and started my own business. It wasn’t easy…”
What challenges did your face?
JF: “I put together a business plan, but some people I met didn’t think I knew what I was doing, because I’d come from the public sector, I was a nurse and senior medical manager. And I was trying to do something different. Instead of the traditional care home model of small building footprint with four stories and 140 beds, my first care home had a large footprint with only 22 beds. We bought some land and built a facility in Milton Keynes for people with early onset dementia. I incorporated my business in February 2000.
How much has your business grown since then?
JF: “Now we have seven facilities, including four units and a rehab centre in Peterborough with hydrotherapy pool. And we have almost 500 employees. Even I can’t quite believe just how far we’ve come. Next year we’re planning to extend our reach into Manchester.”
What do you think appealed most to the judges?
JF: “I think they thought mine is an inspirational story. I’m a woman in business who was told many times early on by men that my idea wouldn’t work, we won’t fund you, until finally one bank manager saw how passionate I was. He believed in my business plan and loaned me £750,000, although we had to put our home up as security. It was a risk…”
Do you recommend that other businesses enter awards?
JF: “Yes, it can bring many benefits - even if you don’t win. You can grow your network, learn and raise your profile. Entering business awards is definitely worth the effort. It gives added confidence and winning gives the whole team a boost. You may not win this time, but it doesn’t mean you won’t be a winner next time. Entering awards helps to build your credibility and profile, which can ultimately bring great commercial rewards.”
What advice do you offer to other women in business?
JF: “I’ve encountered sexism in the private healthcare sector, as I’m sure many other women have in other sectors. You can’t let it affect you; be who you are and believe in yourself. You don’t have to dress or act in a ‘more masculine’ way, we all have our own qualities. Whether you’re a man or woman, you have to work hard and demonstrate sound business sense.”