Andrew Stevenson and Andrew Barker image
From left: Andrew Stevenson and Andrew Barker

Following the departure of Mandie Lavin in November as director general of the British Healthcare Trades Association, the organisation has appointed two new individuals to interim roles as it begins the search for new leaders. Andrew Stevenson, interim Director General, and Andrew Barker, interim Commercial Director, spoke to THIIS about their new appointments and what the immediate future holds for the Trades Association.

Why has the decision been taken to introduce the role of interim commercial director to the BHTA alongside interim director general?

Andrew Barker: Prior to Tracey White taking on the post of director general in May 2015, she originally started with the BHTA in 2011 as commercial director, so it was a position that had previously existed within the Association.

Her original role was never replaced and, with the benefit of hindsight, it is clear to the Association that it is an essential role for the success of the BHTA.

The plan was for Mandie to have appointed someone for the commercial director position after a period in the role, unfortunately, a change in her personal circumstances means she is no longer with the BHTA.

It is a shame as in the short time she was with the Association, she was well liked by all the members and played a very active role in going out to meet members. Very much the face of the organisation, it is fair to say she established a very good working relationship with those members she met.

Following her departure, it was suggested that the organisation look at appointing two interim roles so we could start doing some of the work that needs to be done straight away. The suggestion was approved by the Board at the BHTA Board Meeting on the 13th November and I believe it is an ideal solution for the organisation moving forward.

What are the benefits to appointing the two interim roles?

Andrew Barker: It avoids a void left by Mandie’s departure and allows the Association to continue moving ahead, as well as providing a degree of breathing space whilst an appointment process takes place to find the right permanent candidate.

Members will not see any difference in the interactions with the BHTA and, if anything, it is a positive step in helping the BHTA develop and implement some activities quicker than it may have been able to do in the past.

What has the response been from your members following the appointments?

Andrew Barker: Very positive. We have both been in the industry for quite some time and it helps that we both know each other as it means we have a positive working relationship which the roles require.

What will each role involve?

Andrew Barker: The director general role is far more externally focused, working directly with our external stakeholders such as members, charities and Government, whilst the commercial director role is far more internally focused.

Andrew Stevenson: As mentioned, Mandie developed a good relationship with all the members she had been out to see and I think there is a lesson to be learned there. Communications surrounding that aspect of her tenure were extremely positive, so that is something I am keen to continue.

It was also an important activity for getting the BHTA’s message across to members and getting the members’ thoughts and feedback back into the Association. It helped us understand where certain areas of the BHTA need development and introduced new ideas regarding activities, guidance or information that we need to focus on.

Having that two-way communication between members, stakeholders and the Association is fundamental in my eyes for delivering that stability in the interim period. It means members know there is a voice they can talk to and a voice that will be asking questions of them.

Andrew Barker: From a commercial perspective the BHTA has three business areas it needs to focus on. The Trades Association itself, BHTA Engage, as well as the National Federation of Shopmobility, with each area requiring development and support to achieve growth.

That growth is essential for providing the BHTA with the resources required to deliver more to our members and the industry.

Also, it is about looking at how we can improve member services, learning more about what our extensive range of members need and expect from us.

I am also interested in not only looking at how we operate as an Association today but also what we need to put in place in terms of process, systems and infrastructure to ensure the Association is best placed to carry on delivering into the future.

What do you both see as being the BHTA’s role in the industry?

Andrew Barker: To continue being the voice for the wide range of members’ needs in the industry, representing members at various levels.

Andrew Stevenson: Agreed. It is about strengthening what I call ‘the conduit.’ The BHTA sits at the centre of receiving information from a range of areas including the Government, the NHS, public sector bodies, charities and more, and translates this into the distinct requirements for members, be it the small retailer or large, multinational manufacturers.

The same works vice-versa, relaying information from our membership to these parties.

That is the BHTA’s strength as it has access to the members that are implementing policies and regulations, as well as access to the policymakers and decision makers to question the impact and effects of policies on our members.

In terms of policymakers, they prefer hearing one voice, rather than five hundred voices, so consolidated messages through the Association have more impact and additionally, it means members’ voices are amplified.

Also, having gained great exposure over the last 12-months to the community and voluntary sector, particularly in respect to the expectations at local and national government level for CVS to support independent living and those with disabilities, I think there is a great opportunity for the BHTA to take a more active role in this sector.

How do you envisage the BHTA working closer in the community and voluntary sector?

Andrew Stevenson: There is a growing trend for organisations in the community and voluntary sector to fund a lot of its own operations, rather than receiving funding from Government.

There is a significant opportunity in the BHTA to create a new Community and Voluntary Sector section, linking organisations from that area with all that our member companies do in regards to products and services.

Helping to facilitate more working collaborations of that nature would be a very worthwhile endeavour for the Association I believe.

What will be some of the key challenges facing BHTA members over the coming six months?

Andrew Stevenson: It is impossible to ignore the elephant in the room, Brexit. As a country, we are going to have a completely different set of trading rules and regulations for importing and exporting products come March.

A large majority of our members trade overseas, therefore as an Association, we need to be prepared to help members manage any challenges that may arise surrounding it. Again, that largely comes down to the dissemination of information and guidance to help members navigate those waters come April.

Relaying any issues faced by our members to the right places and ensuring action is taken is equally important, as Brexit will fundamentally change the way this country does business and as a Trade Association, we have a responsibility to ensure we are there to support our members.

Is there a need to raise public awareness of the BHTA amongst consumers?

Andrew Barker: Certainly. There is a need to increase public awareness of the type of products available that our members manufacture and sell, such as those geared to helping an ageing population lead more independent lives, as well as a need to make people more aware of buying from accredited retailers.

There needs to be better signposting and strengthening of the BHTA brand and its relevance and importance to consumers and the wider market.

I especially want to support our retailer members more and to do this, we need to strengthen our brand and awareness of the Code of Practice and what it means for the consumer.

This is not necessarily something we can achieve by ourselves however, as it is a task that requires a substantial amount of resources and budget that we realistically do not have.  So, we will look to collaborate and work with other partners in the industry in building relationships so that we can expand our voice.

Where do you hope the BHTA to be at the end of your six-month interim roles?

Andrew Stevenson: Strong and stable with a supporting team that is still delivering the services and support that the members need.

In six months’ time, I think we are also going to find ourselves in a very different landscape than we find ourselves today. We need to be preparing over this interim period to ensure we are able to cope with that landscape once it has been clearly defined.

We have a growing ageing population which is gathering pace every year and with that, inevitably, comes a growth in conditions resulting in people requiring more support, be it product or service.

This means the activities of member companies are only going to increase as this continues and subsequently, so too will the activities and importance of the Association.

We’ll need to be fit for purpose and, as Mr Barker touched on, that will mean a degree of reshaping the structure and services that the BHTA provides.

Andrew Barker: Six-months will also take us to the end of our fiscal year, so ensuring the BHTA continues to deliver on its targets and KPIs is a key component, as well as putting the organisation on a strong footing for the next year to be able to deliver on the vision we have set ourselves.

This includes looking ahead to new revenue opportunities that allow us to invest in delivering more for our members to help bring about real change and development in the industry.

www.bhta.com

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