Melissa Morris - Bettering our NHS!

Melissa and I met at Friends of Ours cafe for breakfast to discuss her move from big corporate career to founder of a health tech startup and her accumulated wisdom along the way. Network Locum is a marketplace that connects doctors and shift work and seeks to address efficiency and affordability within the NHS. Melissa talks about her critical path to actually launching her company, her fundraising advice and how she goes about recruiting and retaining women in her business. 


Meet Melissa

Current Job CEO of Network Locum 

First Job Working in a garden centre behind the tills on Saturday 

Education Business and Economics at Bath University which included two six month work placements which I did in M&A at Lehman Brothers and Citi 

Go to meeting spot Friends of Ours or wherever is close to my office 

Necessary extravagance Hair & nails!  

Favourite productivity tool Trello 

Recent inspiration A conversation I had with my boyfriend recently about how to create a grass roots movement. His advice jumpstarted my thoughts about how to scale our offering to doctors

Favourite tech startup in the UK right now Onfido 

The Journey

Can you tell us briefly about your background prior to founding Network Locum and your biggest learning from these experiences? 

After Citi Group I went to McKinsey and I worked on a lot of projects in healthcare. During my time at large corporates I knew I wanted to start my own company at some point, as my parents were both entrepreneurs, so I was always looking out for potential ideas. When I was working in healthcare I was shocked by the fact by the fact that most of the NHS's spend is on staff and that the NHS is the fifth largest employer in the world. That is nuts, it is just behind the Chinese army and Indian railway! So I decided my company would address NHS staffing. 

When I looked further at the processes for clinical staff I saw it was very manual and expensive because of the reliance on agencies. Locum staffing is when a qualified doctor goes to work on a temporary basis in a medical organisation in order to cover for another medical professional when they are off work, a bit like a supply teacher. Recruitment agencies tend to take up to 30% commission on each GP they place, which has a direct impact on the amount of money that is available to actually deliver primary care. I wanted to make this process more efficient and more affordable for the NHS. 

After working at McKinsey for two years and doing a lot of research and validating my idea with the partners I decided to leave and go work in the NHS to gain first-hand experience before setting up Network Locum. 

I went on a TV game show called The Angel - at the time I had nothing to lose! The prize for the show was £100k worth of investment from John Caudwell, founder of Phones4U. I actually won the show but ended up turning the investment down as it wasn't the right deal for us. So after embarrassing myself, I ended up raising money from angels and friends and family and then going full time. 

What is Network Locum & what was the motivation behind it? 

Network Locum is a marketplace that connects doctors and shift work. It is a workforce management software plus marketplace. So we are solving the problem of empty shifts in the NHS. 

The NHS is something I care about deeply after working in it for 8 years. I want to solve the cost and efficiency of staffing and I believe we are doing that. We have had huge successes in whole boroughs of London, Manchester and Birmingham and are essentially running the entire staff banks in those areas. 

What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today?

Do the work
Everyone has to do things they don't want to do

Network Locum

What has been the evolution and milestones to date of Network Locum? 

  • We closed our Series B funding round;
  • We got on to the preferred supplier list to supply to hospitals. It is the biggest red tape we could have concurred. It means we are approved for the next five years to supply doctors nurses and dentists; 
  • We evolved our product from just a marketplace into workforce management software plus marketplace which has changed the metrics of the business;
  • Hiring insanely smart people. We have now got really senior hires who are really passionate and committed and being able to attract that kind of talent is very surreal.

What are some of the KPIs that you measure success by for both the business and your team?

The KPI we focus on is local density and within that the number of transactions through the platform. We used to just look at overall transactions but the key metric really is about how much value you are providing in the area the doctor will travel. 

What values do you hold and what kind of company do you want to build? 

I am about positivity, bringing people together and having a good time solving hard problems. I want to build a self-sustaining and re-enforcing company where those we serve hold the same values as us. 

What do you think the future of healthcare looks like and in that context what is your long term vision for NL? 

It is so hard because it depends on what government we have. But as long as you are creating value, saving money and connecting people there will always be a place for you. We can save each GP practice £20k a year, and we save hospitals £200k a year per department but even more when you include the reduction in fines they face as they are not operating on a skeleton staff as much. 

Women in Tech

Can you share your fundraising history as well as your experience and advice for women looking to raise capital

I feel like every time we do it I could have done so many things better. My one piece of advice would be to keep control of the process. Try to run a parallel process, don't let investors drag you off and have more meetings. Also remember how many factors are outside of your control so just focus on the ones which you can influence. 

Do you consciously think about building a diverse team and how can we do better to attract and retain more women in those teams?

It is something that is always on my mind and a regular agenda item in senior team meetings. I am very pro hiring women and coaching them because I knew what it was like in an investment bank, being objectified, not having the same opportunities as men. It took having to go to another organisation which are pro-women for me to feel appreciated. We have done a good job in our sales, operations and senior team but it is harder in tech. We have quite a few female designers and product owners but just one female developer.

You have experienced both big corporates and startups - what advice would you give to new graduates? 

Everybody is really down on banking and it can be really miserable. But it is also really amazing training - they teach you for 12 weeks how to do financial modelling, how to produce great presentations and that is a toolkit you can take to other organisations or to your startup. They do invest a lot of energy and effort into their grads. If you are a grad do a couple of years somewhere that will give you that toolkit: how to talk to senior people, how to present, how to do financial modelling.  

What personal qualities to you attribute most to your success? 

I have a lot of energy and can get a lot done in a day!

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