Denise Roberts interviews award-winning businesswoman Elizabeth Forbes-Stobbe
Elizabeth Forbes-Stobbe was shocked when she was nominated for the Wise Women Awards in 2011, and even more shocked when she won in the Business category. As she stood there that day, clasping her glass trophy, she “felt like a fraud”.
“I had no clue about business,” said the Trinidadian-born founder of Dial-A-Carer, who now lives in Billericay, Essex. “I am doing what I love and, in business, I think that is very important.”
While she may see herself as knowing little about business, she certainly knows plenty about the business of caring. The registered general and mental health nurse has grown the seven-year-old Dial-A-Carer to a six-figure turnover. She provides end-of-life care and now employs 25 members of staff. The business has done well, and Elizabeth has been approached by two companies wanting to buy her out.
“We may be few in number, but we focus on quality,” said Elizabeth. “With small, you can get quality, spend time with clients, and deal with hospitals, GPs and consultants. It’s much more personal.”
Elizabeth has worked in both general and psychiatric hospitals. She was a union rep, and had reached the pinnacle of her profession as a ward manager when she felt that inner yearning for something new. “I used to slip into the linen cupboard and dream of doing more,” she said. “In a ward, you are serving people but, with the bureaucracy, there is only so much you can do. Now I can make decisions about my clients and implement them.”
The 50-year-old has had her fair share of toils along the way. She suffers from bowel inflammatory disease, and so oftentimes could barely crawl out of bed. She trusted the wrong people and lost money. She faced problems with the Health Care Commission, who thought it odd that she had no recorded complaints. “They said I was putting patients at risk, and put me in the local papers. At the time I just crumbled, but today I can laugh and say I was famous once.”
To make matters worse, her 14-year-old marriage to her German Lutheran husband was also on the rocks. He did not expect her to make it, but now he is her biggest fan. “Many times I wanted to give up, to run away,” said Elizabeth. “There must be something that made him change. It has to be God.”
As a Black woman, operating in a predominately White area, she says she has sometimes felt stereotyped. Once she went along to a Chamber of Commerce meeting, and someone asked her what she did for a living. When she said nursing he replied, “So, do you wipe people’s bottoms?” “Yes,” Elizabeth replied. “I get good money to wipe bottoms, and someday someone will be wiping yours.”
Elizabeth is currently 11 chapters into a book she is writing to help others enter the caring business. It is aimed at nurses and carers, and will help them avoid some of the traps she faced, like “so-called gurus speaking business language I did not understand”, says Elizabeth. “I don’t want to just say, ‘Go away and create a smart plan’. I mean, what is a ‘smart plan’? I can say I know now but, at the time, I had no idea.”
She is feeling that itch again to move onto something more. “I am thinking of party planning and event management,” she said. “I love organising.”
Find out more about Elizabeth and Dial-A-Carer at www.dialacarer.co.uk.
How to strategically analyse your business for 2015
The New Year is a good time to review your business plans, and one of the most effective ways to do this is with a strategic analysis. Done well, it can help you to assess where you currently are, and map where you are going to go next. There are many ways to carry out a strategic analysis, but here are four suggestions:
- Start with a SWOT analysis. Review your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
- Consider how social, cultural or even political changes may impact your business in the year ahead.
- Don’t stop with just looking at the general market. Drill down by comparing your business like for like. For example, if you sell Ford cars, you should pay closer attention to others selling similar cars, rather than those who sell Porches or Bentleys.
- Apply your SWOT to your operations, finances and customer services, as well as to your marketing. It will help you determine the actions to take to develop your business in 2015.
Put a little heart and soul into your business
Join Rasheed Ogunlaru, life & business coach, and author of Soul Trader – Putting the Heart Back into Your Business, for a practical workshop to help you start or grow a business that you and your customers will love. Rasheed is partnering with the British Library to run ‘Soul Trader: Your Life, Your Business’, an event focused on helping you build a business in balance with your life. Choose from January 21, February 19 and March 18. Runs from 10am-12noon with opportunities for networking until 12.30pm. Location: The British Library, St Pancras, 96 Euston Road, NW1 2DB, London. Visit www.bl.uk/bipc for more details and to register.