SJOG Hospitaller Services has enjoyed growth over the past nine months following the appointment of an entirely new executive team, in a search led by UNW’s Strategic Talent service.
First established in the United Kingdom in 1880, the registered charity SJOG has grown from its North East base to offer support to those in need across 35 locations in the United Kingdom.
We recently sat down with Paul Bott, who joined the organisation as Chief Executive in October 2018, to discuss the work they do, his experience working with UNW, and how the new executive team have dealt with the challenges that they faced. When we spoke with him, the organisation was in the midst of a relocation to its new headquarters at Lingfield Point in Darlington.
When discussing the services that SJOG offer, Paul is particularly keen to point out the variety of support provided. He said, “We have a whole range of services across the country that support people with learning disabilities and complex physical impairments. It’s very skilled work with people that have high levels of need. We also provide support to the elderly, and are currently working with partners like the Salvation Army to deliver a number of services related to victims of human trafficking and modern-day slavery.”
Paul was appointed as Chief Executive of SJOG after a recruitment process led by UNW’s Strategic Talent team, a niche service specialising in board level and senior finance recruitment. “I initially became involved with Strategic Talent as a candidate,” he explains. “I established a relationship with both Peter Neal and Laura Dean, and found the entire process to be very personal. They were very knowledgeable and kept me well informed throughout, and we had very frank conversations about what the challenges would be.”
Following his appointment, Paul worked closely with Strategic Talent to fill the remaining vacancies on SJOG’s executive team. “UNW completely understood what it was that we were looking for,” he comments. “They were fantastic at getting down to the core of what our challenges were, and encouraged us to reflect on our options. We wouldn’t have been able to access the wide range of credible and quality candidates we received without their skillset. We could have hired any of the candidates the team found us, but two particularly stood out as a great fit for the organisation.”
Leanne Welford and Dr Lisa Alcorn then joined as Chief Finance Officer and Chief Operating Officer, respectively. Paul observed, “I spoke with Leanne about UNW and we both had a similar experience. As a candidate, the level of communication we had with the Strategic Talent team was of a different calibre to what we received elsewhere. They’re very human, and they make you feel like you’re important to them, rather than that you’re just a number needed to fill a vacancy. There’s a huge art to that, in terms of recruitment.”
“Having the frank conversations about the issues that were affecting SJOG with Peter and Laura really helped us from the outset, because we knew what we were coming into,” Paul noted. “They helped recruit a team with clear strengths and a wide range of experience. Leanne previously worked for a private equity backed engineering firm, so was able to offer a level of rigour and reporting that was missing in the charity. Lisa brought an established track record in care and support in both charities and private sector organisations.
Paul is adamant that the recruitment process was not about filling vacancies, but finding candidates with the correct expertise to address the challenges facing the charity sector. Reflecting on the transparency of Strategic Talent’s approach, he adds, “The three of us came in with a clear understanding of the issues, and that was really useful in dealing with them quickly. What we achieved in two years in my previous organisation, we have done in six months here. We’ve refocused, rebranded, and restructured the organisation. We have a good plan and good people delivering on it.”
“We’ve also organised our finance team and, through re-establishing relationships with the bank and amending our own reporting systems, have been able to address the financial challenges,” Paul noted. “For the first time in six years, SJOG is starting to make small surpluses, and we’ve achieved that in a relatively short space of time.”
Now that there is a clear strategy in place for SJOG, the team are looking to the future. On this subject, Paul said, “The quality of our services is continuously improving, and we’re now better able to evidence that quality. This is supported by the development of our culture, concentrating on our five core values through our ‘LOVED’ programme – Living Our Values Every Day. By really considering how we can better support our staff and helping them to develop their skills, they will be able to support those in need better.”
“Our mission is to effectively meet and address need where we find it, and we can’t do that alone so we’re continuing to build our partnerships and networks,” Paul commented. “We’re quite happy to work with people, or for people to get in touch with us, if they have any interests in the three main areas of work that we do: supporting older people, those with complex physical impairments, and people affected by human trafficking and modern-day slavery, which will be a huge area of growth for us.”
With the executive team in place for six months, Paul considered the benefits of outsourcing recruitment to the Strategic Talent team. He said, “As a charity, using the team was an important investment for us, and it was one that really paid off. I’m not convinced that we would have been able to hire the quality of candidates that we did if it wasn’t for Laura and Peter’s vast experience and large networks across the North East. Because of their consultancy, we now have really skilled people who have helped put together a great strategy, and are delivering on that at a fast pace. I’ve already had conversations with Peter and Laura about the opportunity to do more work in the future – not just on senior posts, but to our Trustee Board as well.”