From NHS Doctor to Entrepreneur: Dr Charles Armitage, Co-Founder and Managing Director at Florence

Founded in 2017, Florence was set up to save the staffing crisis in UK social care. With over 122,000 job vacancies and agencies charging exorbitant fees for temporary staff, Florence makes supplying vital staff to care homes fast, fair, and affordable.


How did you come up with the idea for the company?

Before starting Florence I worked in the NHS as a doctor. There are many wonderful things about the NHS but the systems that it uses to manage its people are terrible. If you think working for a bank makes you feel like a number, the NHS is x10 worse!

Myself and my co-founder, Dan, realised that people are the only thing that matters in any health or care system – it’s so easy for them to be neglected. We wanted to build a platform that puts care workers at the centre of their own professional experience. Our goal is to create a category-defining company that is the infrastructure on which the care workforce runs.

It’s easy to come up with an idea when you have a deep, lived experience of a problem. Both myself and Dan had that in spades. It’s said frequently but is still very true: concentrate on identifying problems before you get to solutions. If you start with your solution, more often than not you won’t get far.


How has the company evolved during the pandemic?

It’s required a colossal upheaval in how we do things. Our core product, Florence Flex, is a marketplace for extra shifts in social care. We’ve had to adapt and pivot our product and operations infrastructure a number of times. We’ve made a lot of decisions, some very good and some bad.

Ultimately though, whatever challenges we’ve had to face at head office, it’s nothing in comparison to our users who have been on the frontline day in and day out. We’ve heard some tragic stories that are very sobering.

Coming out the other side, I’m pleased with the organisational muscle that we’ve built around moving fast and driving change. If you don’t feel comfortable with change, then you shouldn’t be working at Florence. As we like to say: embrace the adventure!

What can we hope to see from Florence in the future?

We’re investing heavily in expanding our product suite so that we can serve our users better. We firmly believe that you create great, sticky experiences by understanding your users’ pain points and working tirelessly to solve them. And there are so many pain points to solve in care.

What does this mean practically? Our core growth today has been from our marketplace business for flexible shifts. We’re building supporting SaaS infrastructure that helps care homes manage their own workforces more effectively. Rostering and Learning are two areas that are particularly underserved in the market. By building these products, we not only solve our users’ problems, we also deepen our involvement in their day to day workflows and gather amazing insights into workforce utilisation across the sector.

We’re trying to create a beautifully symbiotic ecosystem where our SaaS and marketplace solutions work together to build a great customer experience. If we focus on doing that, then it is unavoidable that our revenue growth and unit economics will be delightful!