5 minutes with... Bill Hughes
PUBLISHED: 19:10 25 November 2015 | UPDATED: 19:10 25 November 2015
DWP Imaging Ltd
Bill Hughes, owner of Herts-based B&M Care, reflects on 40 years in the care industry and a passion for classic cars
You had a background in construction but took on your first care home aged 34 - what led to that change?
It was pot luck. I had moved to Hemel Hempstead in the 1970s, working at my construction business in London, when in 1975 I read an article in the local newspaper about an old folks home that was for sale in St Albans. Out of curiosity I checked it out and it seemed that there could be potential.
My wife was heavily pregnant with our first child and she was totally against me doing it. But I met the manager of the home who convinced me this was a fabulous way to make money. Knowing nothing about the business I was sold on the idea, and six months later I was given the keys of Clare Lodge on Battlefield Road. I had no idea that I was actually saving the home from being closed down due to bad care and neglect - but the staff were caring, and in no time, with a lot of investment we turned the home around.
Clare Lodge made me see that I had stumbled on a niche market and there was a shortage of good quality residential homes, so I used my knowledge in building to purchase more properties and convert them into care homes.
You spent much of your childhood in care in Ireland, how did that impact on your vision for care?
It didn’t. What it did was give me a value for money and a determination to succeed. I came to England in the late 1950s at 18, along with hundreds of my generation, full of hope and ambition. I worked out of suitcases for a number of years.
You opened your 22nd care home this year. What have been the keys to this success?
My success was largely dependent on my appetite to work. I’ve also been very lucky in my choice of locations and staff, and I always watched my pennies. I’m a hands-on person and this has kept me close to my staff, meaning I can treat them fairly and always be honest and upfront.
You have reached out to the wider community to create support groups for dementia sufferers – what’s been the impact?
B&M has acquired a lot of skills in looking after residents suffering from dementia. While there is little we can do to cure it, we can do a lot to understand how it affects people and in some cases slow it down. People who live with dementia often have limited access to support networks, so we have set up dementia seminars and dementia cafes. The group we set up in Hemel Hempstead a few weeks ago has grown week-to-week and the feedback has been very positive.
You also have a passion for classic cars, setting up the Ashlyns Hall Classic Car Show near Berkhamsted. Tell us about that.
I’m an avid collector of all things old, and in particular old cars – the older the better. They have so much character and so much to tell us – if only they could speak!
Having completed our refurbishment of Ashlyns Hall Estate in the early 1990s, we had a grand opening and classic car show to launch Ashlyns Hall and of course our Ashlyns Residential Home. It was estimated that we had over 1,000 cars there that day. Ashlyns Residential Home has continued this tradition and the annual car show is held on the first Sunday of August every year.