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Meeting business ambitions with the right funding partner

18-03-2024|By Anthony Gougeon, Marketing Manager

Gary Meehan, founder and director of Real Care Children Services, a business that specialises in the residential care, transport and provision of support services for children in care, at risk or residents in secure units in the UK, tells us about the company’s journey to success and how partnering with Ultimate Finance helped his team meet their ambitions.

Can you tell us about the inception of your business?

Real Care Support (RCS) was launched back in August 2018 and was an ambitious start-up business created out of spotting a gap in the transport sector when it comes to children in care or at risk. There were many hurdles and challenges for us to overcome at the start, such as figuring out what our market looked like, make contacts with social workers, social managers, commissioners, Emergency Duty Teams, Youth Offence Teams and Secure Units at 349 local authorities across England and Scotland, investing in the right staff, training, premises, vehicles and everything else that comes with starting a business from scratch.

This sounds like a lot to take on – how did you find the right support to help you get started?

We’re a family business, and so my wife Rebecca and I put everything into the venture to get it started. What became apparent very quickly was that working with councils was going to be a challenge as no two councils run the same way when it comes to contracts, referrals, and crucially, invoices and payments. Although we were guaranteed payments for our services, there were an array of different terms, outdated systems and difficult processes, which was extremely time consuming. Because cashflow was starting to become our biggest problem, we turned to our bank and were told Invoice Finance would be the best solution for RCS’ challenges.

That makes sense, especially with a business that sells services and products solely to other businesses on credit.

Exactly, and the bank promised us the earth, but unfortunately delivered nothing. Their systems were even more protracted than the councils’ and we were faced with more delays and more paperwork which was taking us towards the perfect storm with a lack of cashflow, aged debt and inefficient processes. Fortunately, a friend of ours whose business had gone through similar challenges suggested that we speak to their lender’s Relationship Manager, Jane Ruthven.

Jane quickly understood how our business operates and the potential there was for it to succeed, and having had previous experience working with councils herself she was confident that Ultimate Finance could help RCS.

With a £400k Invoice Finance facility in place, we quickly started to see positive changes: processes were much simpler, invoices were being paid and our business was taking off and so Rebecca joined the business full-time. Our therapeutic child-centred ethos helped us gain a very good reputation with social services, but through our experience we came to the realisation that the system we were operating in was broken, with some of the homes that we were transporting children to not fit for purpose and in need of better management, and so we made the decision to move into residential care to fix it from the inside.

That is such a commendable thing to do, but again it must have been a massive undertaking?

We split into two companies, Real Care Support, which is now fully directed by my wife Rebecca and another Director, Steve Brown, and focuses on the residential sector, whilst myself and co-Director Alex Raymond took on the new venture Real Care Children Services to continue to provide transportation, crisis work, family support and other associated services.

And , at the centre of all this development, growth and success was the team at Ultimate Finance: they helped us when councils were proving difficult to trade with and slow to respond, they provided additional funding support through Asset Finance and Bridging Loans when we bought our residential homes, and of course they continued to provide us with 5-star service.

On the topic of service, what was it that made Jane and the rest of the team stand out to you?

For me personally, it has been the way everyone at Ultimate Finance communicates and operates. From experience, whenever I have dealt with the financial industry, I have been faced with someone reading from a script, or worst, a computer that says “no” or asks for several different forms and applications to get nowhere. None of that has ever been a problem with Ultimate Finance, as they were keen to get to know me and my staff as people and understand how what we do as a business benefits the great kids we look after.

Everyone I have had the pleasure to speak with is directly involved in our success and both Rebecca and I always look forward to Jane visiting our wonderful homes to catch up and hear more about what we’ve been doing. It really has made a difference and has shown us what a true funding partner looks like, and for that we are grateful to have this opportunity to say thank you to the whole team at Ultimate Finance.

Invoice Finance and Bridging Finance are two very different funding solutions – was it as easy to access property funding?

We talked to Jane about our ambitions and the home we had found, and it was she who recommended that we consider a Bridging Loan through Ultimate Finance. She put us in touch with (Regional Director) Kay Williams, who was very supportive and made the process a lot easier than it could have been!

It was a challenging acquisition for us due to planning and OFSTED requirements (the government’s Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills), and there were some holdups on the vendor’s side, but Kay and the team kept us in the loop the whole way through and talked us through the legal paperwork with patience, kindness and understanding.

As always, Ultimate Finance took away the pressure and complexities of the whole process and once everything was approved on both sides the transaction was completed within the afternoon and we were one step closer to providing children with the care they deserve.

What does the future look like for both businesses?

We already own a few homes and had an offer on a new one accepted at the end of February, taking us closer to opening a total of six homes which will provide 18 to 20 beds for our kids. We want to continue to do what we do well so that children and staff get to experience safe and happy moments, and so we’re still very much operating with the same philosophy we had when we started, which is to be big enough to matter and small enough to care.

Find out more about Ultimate Finance’s range of funding solutions.

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