PROJECT #BEYOUROWN WOMAN: ANTHEA MORRIS
Better2Know was founded in London in 2008. The fledgeling company was acquired two years later by a team of business and healthcare experts and has rapidly grown into a leading global provider of Sexual Health testing, serving thousands of patient across five continents.
Through our global team of leading medical consultants and doctors, the company delivers the highest level of expertise, diagnosis and treatment for all Sexually Transmitted Infections.
Anthea’s #BEYOUROWN WOMAN Story
I am Anthea Morris and I am a co-founder of Better2Know. Better2Know is the world’s leading private provider of sexual health testing services. We have grown rapidly and now provide thousands of tests a year, at 5,000 testing locations across 20 countries, all from our head office in Lancashire.
I graduated from the University of Nottingham with a degree in mathematics, not really knowing what I wanted to do. Most of my friends were becoming accountants, computer programmers or teachers. The last two did not really appeal to me, so I decided I should train to be an accountant. This was because whatever I decided to do after that, it would not be three years wasted. I believed that a professional qualification should help to set my career path in the right direction.
I spent four very happy years in London training as a Charted Accountant at Haysmacintyre. I worked with a variety of different businesses from PLCs, to multinational companies, to charities and private members clubs. I worked with a number of clients for a long period of time, and saw how their strategies and plans worked, or didn’t work, and began to form my ideas of what it takes to succeed in business.
I left accountancy practice to work at Citizens Advice, the national membership organisation for the local bureaux. Here I was the Financial Controller and learnt more about actually running a business rather than acting as a consultant. I started to manage teams of people across different locations. I rounded my skills and completed a Masters in Management at the University of Durham.
After five years, I wanted to further my career again. I was offered the position of Director of Finance as the Centre of Excellence for Life Science in Newcastle upon Tyne. Here I worked closely with the CEO, Michael Asher, to develop a robust strategy for growth for the organisation. Our mission was to improve the healthcare and life science economy for SMEs in the North East of England. I was responsible for the strategic planning, and took on the HR and IT management for the company.
Michael and I found that we have great complimentary skills. He brought business development, sales and marketing skills that I did not have. We decided that we wanted to go into business together to face the risks and rewards ourselves. Instead of working for someone else, it was time to put everything we had learnt into practice.
Our next challenge was deciding what we wanted to do. Staying in healthcare was a natural choice for us, as we had spent five years working together in that field, and Michael had over 25 years of experience in growing and developing diagnostics companies. We began our research of the market and talked to our friends about what we planned to do.
During our research we found that:
- Over 1 million people test positive for an STI every single day
- Over half the people in the UK cannot correctly identify how HIV is transmitted
- Around 500,000 people get tested each month in the UK
- Our friends did not want to go and wait in their NHS clinic for and STI test appointment
From this Michael and I decided that sexual health testing was a significant market. With services largely provided by the public sector, it was a good opportunity to provide a more innovative service that disrupted the market. Our research suggested that most people with busy lives and careers did not have the time to wait for an appointment at a walk in clinic, they did not want to be seen there, they did not want to discuss the circumstances leading to their appointment, and the wait for results could be two to three weeks. In addition, some people wanted specific tests, but these were not available to them.
With this knowledge and research, Michael and I decided it was the time to found Better2Know. We started providing our service with a small number of partners in London. We soon grew to have clinics all over the UK. The ethos of our service has not changed significantly: we provide our patients with a confidential (we do not share their results with anyone), anonymous (we do not need their real name), and fast and accurate testing (results take 15 minutes to 5 days depending on what you choose to test for). All of our patients’ results are reported in our secure online area for them to access whenever they like. We contact them as soon as they are all ready. We also have a partner notification system (which can be anonymous), so that if they do test positive, they can let their partners know, and encourage them to get tested.
Our strategy was always to grow the business internationally. We started with Ireland, and soon grew to include South Africa, Kenya, India, Spain, the Middle East and Australia. To meet what our patients wanted, we started 24/7 call answering. This helped with our expansion to Asia and Australia as it meant that we would be able to meet the needs of our patients no matter where they were in the world.
Our future plans are to continue to grow the business to help more people take control of their sexual health and get the tests they want quickly and easily. We will do this by further international expansion and business development.
Better2Know has been very successful. We have been one of GP Bullhounds top 100 fastest growing tech companies in the North for the last three years. There have been challenges along the way. Most of our patients request an appointment online, or call us to book. When we introduced 24/7 call answering, we had to make sure that the benefits outweighed the risks. We looked at the data showing how many people were trying to contact us, or interacting with the website our of hours. We started a trial with our staff in the early evenings to see how many calls we received. We determined a critical number to make the leap. However, in order to keep the costs down, we decided to open an office in South Africa to answer calls, wages are lower, and the skills of the staff are comparable to the UK, we also thought that this would boost our South African sales by answering national calls in a local accent.
We faced the challenges of setting up a local company, opening a bank account, hiring staff, registering for taxes, finding an office and getting the IT set up. After this, we had to train and mentor the staff, a process that takes around four weeks. An advantage of this process is that I have spent a lot of time in Cape Town, which is a fantastic city, with some great food and activities. I have learnt a lot about the legal system, and different ways of doing business. I have also made good contacts which will help with our expansion into the rest of Africa.
In the UK we face the challenge of working in a rural location. The business has grown organically, and we have been able to expand into the space we need. We have a wonderful working environment with high speed broadband. We have an excellent loyal team of staff, many of who have been with us from the very early days. However, finding people with the right skills to grow the business who want to work in a rural setting has been a challenge. We are working more with the local Universities to help find suitable graduates.
The responsibility comes to our patients and staff. We run a healthcare business, so it is always important to do the right thing for our patients, get them the accurate results they need, and the best advice possible. We also have a responsibility to our staff to grow and develop them
For me, #BEYOUROWN Woman is running our own business with the freedom and the responsibility to do things our way. We can now follow our dreams and take our own decisions.
I talk most things through with my co-founder, Michael, which is incredibly valuable. Together we can analyse the situation from different angles and decide on a better plan than either of us would have come up with alone. My advice for anyone thinking of starting their own business, is to do it with someone whose skills complement yours, or to find a mentor who can help you to think of new approaches.
I am very pleased with the disruption that Better2Know has caused to the sexual health market over the last few years. I believe that we are well on our way to achieving our vision of being the company people turn to around the world whenever they want a sexual health testing service.
Twitter: @antheamorris @better2know_ltd
Website: https://www.better2know.co.uk https://www.better2know.co.uk/page/anthea-morris