The story behind this article: Preface by Hannah Ingram Ignys Marketing Manager
9 months ago I got hooked on the world of new business after meeting Ignys MD Richard Fletcher and Sales Manager Poppy Sinclair on my first ever Teams interview. I never dreamt of how many diverse start-up stories I’d hear after that. It was not long after joining Ignys that I received a Whatsapp message from Sue, a former teammate, from my first ever marketing job to be exact, telling me that she’d collaborated with other healthcare professionals to start a new company of their own.
That driven individual is Sue Bradley of Cube–Group Services Ltd, a brand new (and I mean brand new!) first aid company, bringing a lot of colour to their offering.
I hope this story will be a real inspiration to those of you starting your own businesses in a scary uncertain world still in the clutches of the pandemic.
This year has taken so much from each and every one of us but these stories of inspiration, passion and hope are here to empower us. As well as give you some useful business tips along the way including how to find your niche in a crowded market.
Who are Cube-Group services and why are they different?
Cube–Group Services Ltd is made up of four professionals who all bring something different to the table.
They are Connor Judson, Sue Bradley, Colette Woodall, and Sarah Shepherd.
They all share the same disillusion about the current status quo of first aid training, which tends to follow the same standard pattern with a ‘follow to a t’ message.
Their goal is to bring real life situations to their first aid training with effective blended learning.
So how did Cube-Group Services start?
Cube is the creation of Connor Judson, health services manager and HART paramedic. He had been working on the project for 2 years, plodding along. As a busy paramedic he didn’t have the time or resources to give the idea his full attention, even though he could see a clear gap in the market: For down to earth training that focused on people and went beyond just the compliance side.
Connor and Sue have previously worked together as first aiders in the world of theme parks. Sue describes their previous working partnership as a “direct affinity” and nostalgically describes how Connor would bounce through the door. Fast forward a few years and Sue came to Connor with the news she was starting her own first aid company.
Sue was at this point unaware of Connor’s Cube project which left him with a dilemma. “Do I tell Sue about my plans?”
Reluctant to directly compete with a trusted contact and fully aware that they both brought something truly unique to the table he went with the old expression.
“If you can’t beat them join them!”
After chatting further they felt they “sang off the same hymn sheet.” So they officially started the company in an active status 6 months ago and since then they have been surprised at the exposure they have already received online.
Sue explains that moment of leaping into the abyss and the scary feeling of “I’ve just started a company, but I don’t really know how.”
Connor says “It was an amazing feeling to join forces, great to have a joint goal together and exclusivity in our offering. We hope to grow our team of 4 people and continue to build our staff diversity as well as the breadth of the different people we’re training.
There will be challenges along the way but we’re really proud of what we’ve achieved in such a short space of time, especially during the pandemic and we’re not stopping. We have so much further to go.”
Have you found your USP? What are your plans for making Cube a sustainable business?
Connor shares his insights on their Articulated Sales Argument “we have made it affordable and simple.” After researching the market Connor and Colette found many pricey packages on offer. They have gone for a simple pricing structure per person per day. They were keen to empathise that their prerogative for making profit is to put that money straight back into the new services within their business in a sustainable way to help Cube grow.
This will allow them to invest in the mental health side of their business. “It’s not about money, it’s about making it accessible for everyone and providing realistic first aid.” They have certain markers to hit, responsibilities to their awarding body but the rest is up to them.“ We want to help our customers with the real life questions such as ‘how would I help a colleague if this particular healthcare emergency happened?’ And those emergencies vary wildly by location and sector. In other words, they want to see less tick boxes and be adaptable to the customer’s unique situation.
Speaking of less questions they had a good giggle over their questionnaire which, when they first developed it was like a new version of war and peace. We cut it down, Sue explains, and we are looking at a QR code.
It’s about how we make people feel…
Sue explains “We want to give people the confidence to react when a situation happens so they don’t feel powerless. “We also know that Covid-19 is very much still present so we have taken time to think hard about how we can run a first aid course whilst making people feel safe. But we also know that first aid can’t stop just because of a pandemic. The likelihood of mortality increases in the first few minutes so it’s really important people have the right skills to perform CPR and other first aid when it’s needed, especially when there may be less people around in offices.”
Stopping companies falling behind
Similar to the MOT extension, which has now ended, the HSE recently gave updates saying that whilst companies could keep their current first aid status’s until the end of October 2020 that time has now passed.
First Aid at work or EFAW certificates that expired after 16 March 2020 are valid until 31st October 2020 or 6 months from the date of expiry. “All requalification training for these certificates should be completed by 31 March 2021”
Cube are keen to get the message out there that businesses can’t ignore expired qualifications.
“These ‘bread and butter’ services with first aid training will also allow us to continue our expansion plan for employee wellbeing amongst other elements.”
What are their expansion plans and how is mental health involved?
Initially medical event cover was on the agenda as a service, inevitably this took a backseat due to the pandemic, as the roadmap progresses, and large events start to take place again this will evolve. When people find out Connor is a paramedic, they often say “I wish I could do that and actively help people.” Connor wants people to feel they can do this too. “We want to present this as something that’s possible for everyone and make it fun engaging and easy.”
The Cube team really want to expand into mental health. “We want to pioneer mental health causes. We can’t fix the many problems particularly in the business world which need real change in terms of culture and legislation, however we can empower and educate people to have these conversions. And hopefully as the business evolves, we can invest and create even more cost effective and accessible ways for people to speak to someone.”
It just takes a conversation…
Two members of the team shared stories of people they had given mental first aid too. Both anecdotes involved incidents which could have been avoided had those involved been able to speak to their bosses or their family. They needed that option to have someone listen to them before their anxiety levels got so high.
HSE started pushing mental health in 2018 recommending wellbeing portals and mental health first aiders. Read their mental health article from August 2020. The team feel this is a hint at a further push of things to come with more focus on employee wellbeing. The pandemic has accelerated the conversation and suddenly everybody is talking about mental health.
What does employee wellbeing look like?
“People need achievable timelines, resilience training for managers to give them the tools to actually understand their team. If one of your team is getting headaches ask for a cup of tea and a chat to find out what’s going on. It could be that this sudden onset of poor health is due to unavoidable stress. Employees have realised WFH isn’t skiving but equally their team still need that support and it’s vital they feel connected whether they are in the office or not.
What also gets missed with first aid training is looking after the trained employee during an event. Do they have support afterwards if they are affected by what happened? One of the Cube team describes a time they were left looking after an injured person for an hour unable to move (it’s important someone makes sure you stay warm too not just the person whom the incident has happened to). Sue says people sometimes don’t understand the weight of responsibility someone feels in that position.
We also have aspirations for family first aid. Not everything has to be aimed at the average business person. Sue has a favourite phrase “You get more information buying microwave than when you have a baby.” We have even talked about branching out into pet first aid…
Their power is in their people
During the group interview, done over Microsoft Teams, an Ignys favourite for communication, one common theme came up again and again; and that was the power and ingenuity of each member of the team.
Colette says “We all bring something to the table and have our own areas of expertise. That’s why we have been doing as well as we are so quickly. The core of our business is so strong. We’ve all experienced first aid training that made us cry out for something better, so we created something ourselves.” Sue adds “and added more pink.”
Sarah has been a whizz with the technology side and is the brains behind the original website and many of the marketing plans. Connor is a “walking clinician” helping to make sure they do a sense check on what they can and can’t do.
Whereas Colette has spent a lot of time delivering babies at 30,000ft in the past! So she knows how to train people to react to stressful situations, especially in small confined spaces!
“People don’t have attacks in open spaces. It often happens in awkward places and that’s what we want to bring to our training. We want to bring that realism.”
Speaking of confined spaces…
Many training courses happen in meeting rooms or at events but as Sue comments “most heart attacks don’t happen in wide open spaces.” They happen in all sorts of places from locked down rooms in factories to rooftops!
So Cube have set about replicating these tangible environmental conditions. They look at the surroundings of a premises and take the time to get to know a place before they visit. They spoke to one company and found they were having most incidents of cardiac arrests up a tower. So they simulated those scenarios to help them work out…how would they help someone in that position and get them down from there safely.
The power of pink
I doubt Sue would let me approve this blog without this in here somewhere! Inevitably with Connor somewhat outnumbered by the girls the #powerofpink had to come into it somewhere. It features prominently on their website and on their very pretty merchandise bags.
Of course here at Ignys we’re all for pink since we also chose it as part of our logo and icons. Great minds think alike!
The Cube concept – A brand evolution strategy
Connor explains the thought process behind their cube logo.
“It’s a concept with a brand initiative at its core heart. It’s about allowing people access to education in a way that’s fun, engaging and inclusive. We’ve chosen to use ‘endless colour’ in our brand on purpose to reflect the diversity of the people we want to help as a business. I spent 2 years coming up with the concept for the colours in a way that will allow us to grow with the branding.”
The sides to the Cube offer new dimensions. As the training services they offer start to evolve these sides to the cube will reflect these expansions. They plan not to force these extra services but to grow naturally with a branding that has a strategic aspect to it.
Their start–up success stories so far
I conducted my original virtual interview with the team when the company had just been launched and they shared their first success stories; experiencing the highs!
Sue “Our best success for me so far was a completely new company that didn’t know us taking us on board for an emergency paediatric course. We assessed their situation and advised they may need a higher level of training to get what they wanted out of the course and convinced them to go down the route of a two–day blended option. For me knowing that the company had trusted our advice and gone ahead and done that was empowering. It was great for us since we hadn’t delivered a course or met them and yet they felt safe with us. For me that was one of the most positive things so far to show how credible we are.”
Also networking in the start-up community and seeing how so many are willing to help each other is so empowering.
Colette “I really enjoyed my first course which was school based, on the first day we completed that course from start to finish. We got in gear and we were in our element, ending on a massive high and in bed by 7 O’clock!”
Sarah “For me it was when the course adapted really well to Covid restrictions and how secure we were able to make people feel with full PPE made available. This is so important to me and the customers we help.”
It’s now 6 months down the line. What are your big wins now?
Sue says “Since the roadmap out of lockdown was announced by the government it’s gone mad! We’ve planned H&S courses with large companies in particular those set to reopen soon, who need to be prepared to protect workers and visitors alike. We worked right up to Christmas we were so busy. I’m amazed that despite lockdown there has been so much interest.
Celebrating each little win
Our feedback has been positive making us eager to do more and get involved.
When the hard work is worth it
Sue who has a background in pressure area care recalls many sleepless nights trying to sell massive contracts within the public sector and describes how every time she won a contract it made it all worth it. One of her mottos is to “live for the wins.” For her, building those long–term customer relationships means they won’t be running around trying to sell. They want to capitalise on word of mouth to build their client base. This will mean more time to work on ticking off those extra cubes and squares on the branding and add services. It also means if a company asks them to do something extra, for example training on safeguarding, they’ll be able to say yes more often.
Sue might not be training every day but she’s all over social media learning and adding photographs, in virtual meetings and networking. She doesn’t underestimate the courage that’s needed to send that email saying “we’re good, give us a go.” She says the key to this is thinking “what’s the worse they’re going to say? That they’re not ready to use us yet?” Often as professionals our fears about reaching out and being rejected are unfounded.
What challenges have you faced as a start-up or expect to face?
Running multiple courses on the same day was so busy and with such a small company capacity can be a problem (not to mention when a team member puts their back out!). But they sorted it.
Connor spoke about how with Covid it’s inevitable that people are holding off so trying to get the message across about compliance and government rules needs to be circulated more widely.
It’s frustrating that the events market is currently out of bounds. It’s been tough for the whole industry. Cube know they have a niche as a lot of big music festivals use several security companies which leads to real problems with communication, quality and procedures. “We know we’d be able to do everything without that inconsistency.”
There have also been hold ups with equipment. We have our accreditation but we often need the equipment to do these courses and lead times for these has been affected.
“The biggest challenge is getting people to care as much about Health and Safety as we do.” As a team they care deeply about their mission so communicating it is key.
Sue shares how weird it has been not being able to call an IT manager “Luckily Sarah has been amazing.”
Using technology whilst keeping that blended learning experience.
The technology world is evolving and Connor would like to channel these advances in the tech world to work for both the environment and improvements. How can they use mobiles and tablets to reach out to more people whilst keeping it accessible for people who don’t yet use all the latest technologies. “There’s a place for it to make what we do better, blended and more intuitive. Perhaps a study online option that’s also got a practical element.”
“Sometimes you need a balance, spending all day online you’re not going to learn anything. Getting the theory versus practical balance right is really important. There is a face to face fun value which hopefully we can do even more with as the pandemic roadmap eases social distancing restrictions.”
Sue says so many have said “I’m bored of PowerPoint how can we train more dynamically and visually?” If we ever use a digital platform it needs to be an immersive experience.
A final word from Cube-Group Services
We’ve loved sharing our story and we really hope this inspires others to look at their own business journeys
This blog was created as a collaboration between Ignys Ltd and Cube–Group Services Ltd conducted via a series of virtual interviews and co-written by the two companies as an awareness blog and start–up story.
Ignys Ltd and Cube-Group Services Ltd are not affiliated as companies. Hannah Ingram of Ignys and Sue Bradley from Cube–Group Services previously worked together in the pressure area care sector in the early 2010’s.