The first role for Eastside People was to develop a business case for the merger. Eastside People’s John Chadwick identified the benefits and opportunities of combining operations as well as providing financial projections. This, says Stewart, was an important validation of the preliminary work that the working group had carried out.
After that, the merger process began under the guidance of Eastside People’s John Gibbons. While several of the hospices’ trustees had been involved in mergers before, their backgrounds were corporate. John brought decades of third sector experience, including being involved in around 15 mergers.
John recognised that this merger was likely to be a success at an early stage. “The motivation to merge was very well placed, focusing on the benefits to the service users,” says John. He adds that the strengths of the two organisations complemented one another well, as did the characters of the trustees and senior management teams, which together provided sound leadership.
Mergers can be enormously complicated, and John devised an ‘issues map’ which visually highlighted the dozens of key tasks that had to be tackled, including communications, legal and regulatory approvals, due diligence and the creation of a new board and management structure. An accompanying master schedule and project plan enabled all the necessary jobs to be dealt with.
“John steered us through those early governance decisions and meetings. He then supported the chair and vice chair with the appointment process for the new Chief Executive job,” says Stewart, who was eventually appointed to that role.
“John’s expertise and breadth of operational experience were really important,” says Stewart.
Now there is a new legal entity called Rennie Grove Peace Hospice Care, and the two original hospices are its members. As the new organisation consolidates, Stewart is looking forward to fresh opportunities.
The new organisation has grown its catchment area of support and through the merger, Rennie Grove Peace Hospice Care will both vastly extend and improve its range of services, enabling more people to access support and receive the very best care while remaining local.
As one larger charity, it will also have a stronger presence and reach, and can harness these benefits to secure more resources to further enhance its services.
“We need to be prepared for the growing population of people needing end-of-life care,” Stewart says. A bigger, more efficient organisation will be able to deliver equality of care across the area, he explains, as well as reaching out to different groups of people who haven’t engaged with the hospices before.
“We received really good, sage advice from Eastside People,” says Stewart. “They drew upon their experience of many mergers and gave lots of options about how to approach different situations.”
As Rennie Grove Peace Hospice Care develops, Stewart knows that he can call upon Eastside People at any time if a new challenge emerges. “The benefit of working with a consultancy like Eastside People is that there is a portfolio of expertise behind your main contact,” he says.
“I know there will always be someone at Eastside People who can offer advice if I pick up the phone.”