Today is my last day at Gateway Family Services, after a wonderful and inspiring eight years.
I am enormously proud of my achievements helping Gateway to become a capable and trusted provider of community services.
Making the decision to leave the NHS and start Gateway Family Services in 2006 wasn’t a hard one. I believed strongly in what we could do and achieve and that we had an opportunity to do things differently.
We started small, but by our first birthday Gateway had over 60 staff and had developed the Pregnancy Outreach Worker and Healthy Heart services. We learned as we went along and we believed in ourselves. By the end of the fifth year we were still running those services as well as apprenticeship programmes all over the Midlands.
As Gateway has grown it has adapted to changing environments and, after a difficult time in recent years, it’s now in a great place.
My last eight years have been filled with magic moments, of inspiration, awe, admiration, and pride.
Starting a company is easy – it’s 15 quid to register and there you go! Building an organisation with an identity, a personality, opinions and ambitions, however, is much more difficult. What gives a company its strength is its people, its beliefs, its principles, values and commitment – and that comes from the staff, the partners, the stakeholders and the clients.
I am only able to shout about what Gateway does, and how well it does it, because of the work done by everyone involved. If the commissioners didn’t pay Gateway to deliver; if the staff didn’t deliver, or if the partners didn’t support it, none of it would be possible.
But it’s the staff who are at the core of this organisation. People will always need help, but Gateway’s staff don’t stop until they know people have got the help they (sometimes desperately) need.
It was the staff who came up with the company’s core values, which are at the heart of everything Gateway does:
We do what we say we are going to.
We invest in people.
Everything we do has a positive social impact.
We work hard and never stop learning.
I spend a lot of time (sometimes obsessively) reading the Impact Assessment App – in particular the clients’ responses to the question “how have we helped you” – and I can see first hand what an incredible job the staff do: the lives they change and the difference they make. Every day, I can truthfully say I see all the things I hoped for eight years ago.
I started by wanting to make a difference in people’s lives. The difference they made to mine was an unexpected bonus.
What’s next for me?
If the decision to start Gateway in 2006 was easy, the decision to leave, eight years on, has been much harder. But it does feel like the right time to move on.
Gateway has been an enormous part of my life. But now that I know it can flourish without me, it’s time for me to find new challenges.
When I joined the Third Sector, I was determined not to whinge about how hard done-by we were. I believed that the power to influence lay in providing good services. Eight years on… well, I probably have become a bit of a whinger – I still believe that good services have the power to influence, but I have learnt that it needs dedication, investment and a systematic approach.
At Gateway I have focussed on evidencing the impact of what we do; capturing, recording and analysing how the organisation can measure its worth.
I have realised that I love doing this and that also it’s the fresh challenge I was looking for. So I have set up a company (for 15 quid!) and I am going to work with Third Sector organisations, providers and commissioners, helping them to measure outcomes and demonstrate the worth of community-led approaches.
What’s next for Gateway?
I’m very pleased to announce that Gateway has a new Chief Executive starting on 30th June 2014 – and it’s a familiar face.
Katherine Hewitt has worked in the Senior Management Team for the past three years, setting up new services such as the interpreting agency and the Train to Care team. She knows all there is to know about Gateway, having led the Health and Wellbeing teams to new heights. She is a very safe pair of hands.
I know that being a Chief Executive is challenging at times, but I have great faith in Katherine’s ability and I know she will get all the support she needs from the staff, managers and the Board.
Gateway will always be special to me – it’s given me the skills and courage to make this next brave step. I hope to see everyone again soon in my new business.