Insights

Mark Raeburn: 6 minute read

OLM has been working since 1991 and this is our 30th year of making a difference

On the 30th May 1991, Peter O’Hara set up OLM with a thousand pounds in his pocket. He did so with a vision to make a difference to everyone working in health and social care. Nearly 30 years later and with a little extra grey in the hair, Peter is still here today, pushing forward with that vision.

The decades may have moved on but that passion has not. From a team of less ten people to one of more than 200, Peter has continued to re-invent the Group along the way, adding new ventures to deliver the innovation and investment the sector needs. At the core, that vision has endured, with technology and the development of which being the main driving force.

Our most recent technology platform, the ECLIPSE Software and Services Platform, has been the fourth generation of technology that Peter has overseen. Since day one he has been dedicated to making a difference to the lives of everyone involved in health and social care, alongside doing the right thing and investing in the future.

Growing the business

A look into the longevity of staff reveals that, of the near 250 employees across the Group, more than 30% of them have been with the company for more than 10 years. An amazing statement to the competition, many of whom have seen outside investment and ownership change over the same time frame.

Being fortunate enough to retain members of staff for more than 10 years provides the opportunity to build long-lasting relationships with clients. This is an important component, with regards to building a successful business and one that has continued to flow through OLM since day one.

Since day one OLM has remained independent, leaving the company free to make its own decisions.

Since 1991, OLM has invested in great ideas; The Three Conversations® from OLM’s Partners for Change division is just one example taking a great idea that would deliver real change in people’s lives and scaling it up.

Over the years OLM has also grown the breadth of what it does by acquiring businesses that support our strategy of delivering the best tools for organisations and professionals. Over our history, 11 acquisitions have been made, with each strengthening the businesses capabilities. The purchase of Pavilion Publishing, for example, was due to the business looking to expand its portfolio of content solutions that would support a social worker in their work.

CareKnowledge

CareKnowledge is a knowledge management portal that provides social workers with access to the latest industry articles and policies. It was the first portal of its type to be launched. Soon copied but never matched, the Care Knowledge portal receives thousands of visitors and high levels of engagement each month.

This increasing knowledge base is testament to the core ethos of OLM: to make a difference to the lives of health and social care professionals, through the use of intelligent software and platforms. The keyword here being ‘intelligent’. Without proper market knowledge and experience, OLM could not effectively adhere to this ethos. You cannot make a difference without full market knowledge.

“At a personal level, when I’m faced with a ‘big decision’, I always revert back to asking myself what the difference is between doing what’s right and doing the right thing. There’s a subtle difference between the two things and I’ve always wanted to ensure that our investments and activities as a company are what’s right.”
Peter O’Hara, OLM Chief Executive at the 25th anniversary of OLM in 2016

Keys to success

  • Create a workplace that encourages staff retention
    More than a third of the team at OLM has been in place for more than ten years. This is important because it has allowed the business to retain knowledge and ensure that the solutions we are creating continue to push forward. Everything is retained and shared across the Group to ensure that needs are solved

    For example, the challenge of big data and how to effectively search through it plagued Peter for months and to seek to challenge the preconceptions out there, he set up Nalytics. To head the company he looked at the talent pool he had and populated it with the finest minds from across OLM. This would not have been possible without the longevity of the team as a whole

  • Ensure that investment is made at the correct time
    Nalytics was born out of the need to make sense of data, from disparate sources and the purchase of Pavilion, was undertaken to expand OLM’s knowledge in the creation of learning materials for health and social care professionals. These two purchases and others across the years have always been looked at from every angle and only done so if there was a proven benefit to the end-user

  • Remain independent in order to focus on doing the right thing
    Eleven investments have been made over the last 30 years, each of which has been completed under Peter’s leadership, with the business being free to do so as there are no shareholders. Being free of shareholders has enabled the business to focus on the bottom line and that is making true on our mission statement, to make life easier.

    “OLM is not here because of me, it is here because of the people that work and that have previously worked here. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, the hard work, dedication and loyalty that people show and have shown to this company is humbling and is one of the reasons why I look forward to coming to work each day.”
    Peter O’Hara, OLM Chief Executive in 2019

Challenges along the way

There are always challenges, life is full of them. From the personal to the professional and OLM as a business is no different. From the changing political landscape over the last three decades to financial considerations emerging from Brexit and stock market crashes.

In 1991 the landscape of health and social care looked very different from what it does today. The Children’s Act of 1991, alongside the Community Care Act of 1993, were beginning to be implemented across the country and social workers had begun adapting to a new way of working. These new acts marked the start of the move away from the Government being responsible for organising social care services, to becoming the enabler of these services.

This change in service came on the back of broad political consensus and demanded a major rethink in the way that social care was managed. This was where Peter saw an opportunity and began OLM on its journey to where it is today.

It hasn’t been a journey without incident of course but by continually innovating and never resting on its laurels, OLM has managed to withstand the test of time. Peter and OLM do not tire and mark our continued operation as a thumbs up from our clients, that we are providing solutions to their needs.

“I didn’t expect to succeed and I wasn’t the only one to think this. Most people expected me to fail but with £1,000 in my pocket, I created something that has so far withstood the test of time and continues to innovate and grow each year.”
Peter O’Hara, OLM Chief Executive at the 25th anniversary of OLM in 2016

Covid-19

The latest challenge for the company has been Covid-19 but it is one that is not unique to us and it is something that has affected the entire world. A challenge in which we have a part to play in its resolution. We are responsible for keeping the lights on for our clients, those who work in health and social care. We are responsible for continuing with business as usual, to ensure that they can log key observations from anywhere, at any time, protecting those who are most vulnerable.

We are not involved in the search for a cure but we are involved in supporting those in the industry and it is a responsibility that we take seriously. By using the partnerships that we have created over 30 years of business, we have been able to offer additional services to help during this time. The biggest of which has been the creation of ECLIPSE Lite, which was offered free of charge to all Community Hubs across the United Kingdom over the course of the initial outbreak.

We also offered access to the newly created CareKnowledge communities, free of charge for six months to aid communication between workers. Alongside all of this is additional database administration assistance. All of which we have done is because it is the right thing to do; we want to give back to those we have supported and those that have believed in us since day one.

Conclusion

OLM has faced many challenges over the years, as every successful business does but with Peter steering the ship, we have endured. The success of which comes down to doing the right thing, which Peter regularly quotes. It is a core vision which permeates into every part of OLM. Everyone is here because we share Peter’s vision and whilst we realise that a 30th anniversary is something to be proud of, it is not something to dwell upon.

Relationships that develop with clients are what keep the business going. We quite simply, would not be here today if it was not for all our partners across health and social care. Without our customers, we are nothing and that is why we continue to push forward, developing new technology solutions and services that help make their life easier.

At this time, our thoughts are with everyone that has been affected by Covid-19. Our job at this point is to keep delivering the software and services that those working in care rely on. In addition to this, we will not cease in our mission to invest in the right areas in order to help to deliver a positive difference in people’s lives.