Dan Isterling, managing director of Premier Community, shares his ambitious plans to grow the company’s unique service offering, which combines mobility sales with home care.
When Gill Isterling set up her home care business 25 years ago, she had a vision to enable all older adults to live independently for longer in their community.
Premier Care, as it was known at the time, grew rapidly, and by 2006 it employed 100 carers and had multiple council and NHS contracts.
Gill has now passed the baton onto her sons, Dan as managing director, and Ben, Joe, Tim and Aidan. Together, they have expanded the business to offer both home care and mobility services.
Premier Community now operates four mobility showrooms across Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, and a mobility outlet within its new HQ warehouse in Mansfield.
“We looked at different ways of expanding while keeping ourselves local. One way of doing that would have been to open more office locations, which is the standard growth pattern. But then we saw a business come up for sale that was located in the South of Derbyshire,” explains Dan.
That business was a store owned by KMA Mobility. Premier acquired the business in 2017 and the store, located in Ilkeston, now not only sells mobility aids and delivers mobility services, but also provides a community hub for its home care services.
Commenting on the rebrand and the creation of Premier Community, Dan says: “We found that people were going into the mobility shops and became care customers down the line as well, so it’s helped us develop that presence on the high street and it’s something we are excited about for the future.”
After the company took on KMA Mobility, it opened its own locations in Sheffield in Nottingham.
“At the Nottingham branch, we really wanted to start offering advice, not just around mobility products, but how to access services if someone is feeling lonely. We wanted to team up with local charities and put something on the high street that really matches the Premier Community brand. So we’re now trying to develop the advice hub section of the stores.”
The company now employs around 475 staff, up from 50 when Dan first joined the business in his early 20s.
“When mum launched the business I was about 10 years old and I joined about 14 years later. I’d come out of university and worked in recruitment for a while before I joined, and I’ve been here for about 11 years now,” explains Dan.
“I worked under mum for four years and she then went off to become a Baptist Minister. It was good timing because it was a small business at that point and we had around 40 care workers working with us. I learned a lot in those early days.”
Dan’s first achievement as managing director was winning a home care contract in Nottinghamshire.
“We already had the Derbyshire County Council contract,” he says. “At the time, when I took over, the service was really high quality, but we weren’t a profit-making company. So there
was a lot of financial pressure.”
Dan continues: “We could see that the business model could be successful, but we needed to be at a certain level of service delivery and we didn’t want to compromise on quality. “As a smaller company, we could control the quality of the care staff that was coming in and be a lot more hands on, so we managed to get to that checkpoint quite quickly and make sure the business was stable and heading in the right direction. That was our first mission.”
Going forward, Dan is keen to grow the business, whilst instilling caring values into everything it does, from training to service delivery.
Dan explains: “We want to grow that unique service offering, with that presence on the high street. It’s about tackling loneliness and I think there’s a lot of confusion around home care, when you first need home care. We went through this with my grandmother – it’s hard to get the basic stuff set up, so the attendance licence and things like that. I digress, but I want to make sure that the stores can offer that wide spectrum of products and service, and we want to invest in branch managers who are able to advise people on those.”
Premier Community is also keen to expand out of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire and into other counties.
“We’ve got all the infrastructure we need to go further so we’re really excited. If you were to ask me where we’d like to be in 10 years, I’d love to have a presence in other areas of the UK and deliver more services,” says Dan.
A key challenge for expansion, however, is finding a local authority that offers home care packages which will allow the company to pay a fair wage and deliver a good service.
“I look at some tenders that come up and the price of them…I just can’t go near them. You almost have to look at it and think ‘well, if I’m going to deliver that care for that price, I need to have a private sector market in mind as well. That does worry me, in terms of expansion, that we can’t really go into those territories for that price, it will just compromise what we stand for,” Dan explains.
“So Lincolnshire, for instance, I don’t know what they’re rate is, but hypothetically, if their rate was below what we thought was acceptable, we’d have to go in there with a strategy to have private packages to counter the loss we’d make on the council packages. That’s not the way we want to work – we want to make sure every package is viable.”
To mark its 25th anniversary, Premier Community opened its new warehouse at the Millenium Business Park in Mansfield in July. The Mayor of Mansfield Andy Abrahams and Farad Amirsaeedi, the council’s senior regeneration officer for enterprise and investment, cut the ribbon and joined staff for a tour of the HQ.
Continuing the celebrations over the next year, the business has tasked each of its registered managers to work with a charity that’s local to their area.
“Any excuse to do charity work is great, but on the backdrop of our 25th anniversary we really want to build a profile and celebrate what we do. Gill, my mother, has actually come back to the business and is working on the PR side of things. She wants to get out and about and make some really good connections,” says Dan.
Premier Community is also looking to integrate occupational therapists into the mobility side of the business.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of OT services that are carried out by county councils as well, so it’s trying to find out what we can do to help out in that regard. But we’ve got a platform to be creative. We’re just in the early days for our mobility business, but we’ve got some exciting times ahead,” says Dan.