Can you tell me who you are and what your job role is at Vernacare?
My name is Nicola Boulton and I am the Chief Financial Officer for Vernacare. This is a broad commercial role, which means that I head up our finance, business planning and HR teams.
How do you think Vernacare has changed since you first joined the business?
I joined the business as Financial Controller in 2014 and there have been many major positive changes in this short space of time. In 2015 a management buyout was completed and Palatine Private Equity become majority shareholders in Vernacare. This has released investment into the business that has enabled us to step up our product innovation and continuous improvement programmes and increase our global expansion. Since 2014, we've established successful new markets in the India, France and South America.
Towards the end of 2017, Vernacare almost doubled in size with the acquisition of Synergy Health Healthcare Consumable Solutions (HCS), which brings our turnover to more than £60m. This also broadens our market-leading range of products for safe and hygienic care and opens up exciting opportunities in new healthcare and long-term care sectors both in the UK and overseas.
What is a typical day like for you?
It may be a cliché, but no day is the same and my schedule is heavily dependent on the annual financial calendar. At year-end and budget times I am immersed in financial matters and focussed on meeting deadlines. This means working closely with my finance colleagues as well as our investor, bank, board and external consultants.
At other times of the year, there's a lot more variety and focus on the wider business needs. This involves regular meetings with colleagues from across all areas of the company both within my own team and across customer service, marketing, sales, new product development and operations.
In the past year I've been heavily involved in the acquisition of HCS and the subsequent business integration process.
It’s been a year of changes including welcoming HCS to the Verna family, but focusing on key strategic objectives during the integration of the two companies and keeping an open mind to change has made the company stronger with a Group annualised revenue in excess of £60 Million.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
I enjoy the variety and commercial focus of my work and I'm very happy that my job is much broader than finance.
It's an exciting role as the business is very dynamic and we're always innovating, changing and growing. I get immense satisfaction from the fact that we are a successful British manufacturing business that makes products in North West England and exports them all across the world.
What are the challenges?
Fitting everything into one day, especially during the peak times in the financial calendar, is the biggest challenge. As a person who thrives on pressure, it's also part of the appeal of my job.
From a business perspective, we face the same big challenge shared by many manufacturers. That's one of absorbing increasing costs while trying to stabilise or reduce prices to meet customer pressures. This is particularly acute in the UK healthcare markets, especially due to squeezed budgets in the NHS.
We overcome this challenge by innovating and continuously improving our manufacturing and engineering processes to increase efficiency.
What do you think is critical to ensure success?
Open communication with my team is critical to our joint success. I spend the first hour of every day catching up with my team and make sure that my door is open whenever possible so that they are free to discuss any issues and seek any support they need to get on with achieving their goals.
Tell us something we don’t know about you…
I have converted part of my garden into a chicken run for my brood of 15, who lay white, brown and blue eggs. When we started with three chickens, we named them after Downton Abbey characters. Five years on, we've seen a lot of chickens come and go, so the white ones tend to all be called Lady Sybil and the brown ones Lady Mary. I think my colleagues appreciate my hobby because I bring the eggs into work for them to help themselves.
After a day in the office, I love to collect in the eggs and talk to the chickens, or potter in the garden and my greenhouse. I also have two Labradors and it's very relaxing to go out for walks in the countryside with them.Connect with Nicola Boulton on LinkedIn