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Exclusive Interview:Graham Ewart, Managing Director of Direct Healthcare Services

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Direct Healthcare Services is a specialist British manufacturer of products designed to prevent and ease pressure sores in patients. It has a comprehensive portfolio of innovative, award-winning products, including mattresses, cushions and overlays that it provides to customers in both British and overseas healthcare markets. Since Graham Ewart was appointed as Managing Director in 2012, the business has gone from strength to strength. In 2013, it was named as the 17th fastest growing business in the UK by The Sunday Times.

Tell us about your business?

Direct Healthcare Services is a specialist British manufacturer of products designed to prevent and ease pressure sores in patients. We have a comprehensive portfolio of innovative, award-winning products including mattresses, cushions and overlays. We have been acknowledged as the UK’s leading foam mattress supplier in the pressure area care market through our development of cost-saving solutions. The company was established in 2009 to provide a high-quality, British-manufactured alternative to standard pressure area care products that have traditionally lacked innovation. We set out to be disruptive in a market that had stagnated, developing a pioneering model that would help relieve the economic burden of pressure wounds on healthcare providers.

Did you always plan to end up in business?

No, but I always wanted to test and push myself to see how good I could actually be at something. It is innate in me to focus on working hard and to be the best. I used to play golf to fulfil my competitive nature and hunger to win. But equally, it’s important for me to have a strong moral compass and do the right thing. I want to impact the right people through my work.

What is your inspiration in business?

I want to make a difference, and construct something positive that will be there long after I am. I’d like to leave a sustainable legacy to be proud of, and watch other people build it into something greater.

Who do you admire?

I admire my family, especially my mum and my wife. They are caring and want the best possible outcome for everybody around them. I think that attitude translates well into any business proposition – whether it’s in the context of customers or staff.

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?

I’d be doing something that I’m good at, and striving to be successful in it. I like to challenge myself and try different things to build on myself as a businessperson so I can see things from different perspectives.

Looking back at your career, are there things you would have done differently? 

I wish I had celebrated success more and acknowledged small wins. Sometimes I forget to sit back and take stock of how well things are going. I’m always focusing on the next thing and want to do better and more, which keeps me driven. However, moving too quickly can affect people around me, so I take that into consideration when making decisions now.

What are your plans for the next five years, and where do you see your challenges and opportunities?

I want to widen our export markets and establish Direct Healthcare Services as a global brand. We’re currently exporting products to 20 countries across Europe, Asia Pacific, Australasia and Latin America – a result we have achieved in 18 months. In five years time I hope to have strengthened our proposition for international markets and become a world leader in pressure area care products. The challenge is always competing against our rivals in a foreign market, however we have developed a unique partnership model with our customers and globally recognised healthcare organisations, such as the Welsh Wound Innovation Centre, to ensure our products stand out and meet the needs of customers in each market. In my personal life, I want to be the best dad to my daughter and husband to my wife.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in business?

Work hard and have self-belief. The journey is challenging, but the rewards are returned in abundance.

What do you think Wales’ strengths and weaknesses are as a place to do business?

I think the Welsh Government’s focus on SMEs is a huge strength. The level of support, ‘can do’ attitude and level of commitment is available in large quantities from the Welsh workforce, and there is a real push to grow start-ups into thriving enterprises. However, I have always felt we limit ourselves in the UK. Wales is great at building and supporting SMEs, but there is restricted resource available to build the next Apple or Microsoft, for example. This is generally a British issue though.

What do you wish you had known when you started out in business?

I wish I’d known that individuals can’t be perfect, but a team can be. I spent the first few years of my business career thinking I had to be a well-rounded person, however I know now that one set of skills is enough. A good team will complement each other, and deliver the best work.

What was your first job and what did it teach you?

I was an export sales manager for Samuel Heath. I was 23 years old and travelling the world. I had to learn to sell products to people in a variety of languages and understand cultural differences. This job taught me the importance of emotional intelligence and how to be culturally aware – something that is crucial for me now as a leader of an international business.

Do you have an interview question you always like to ask potential staff and why?

“What would make you leave an organisation?” It’s important to understand what would disengage people in the workforce. Lots of people focus on what feels good, and a team is naturally very happy when everything is running smoothly. However, I want to make sure I have people around me that aren’t going to leave as soon as the going gets tough – which is inevitable in business life.

What do you think the most important qualities for success in business are?

Integrity, focus, hard work and self-belief.

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