All Wales Ambulance Services Ltd
All Wales Ambulance Services Ltd. (AWAS) has been in operation for over 20 years. Situated between Swansea and Carmarthen, the business provides a broad range of services including private medical transport, event medical cover and training courses in first aid, health & safety and manual handling, amongst others.
AWAS started in 1991 under the name of First Aid Services Training. In 1993, they expanded and became the first registered Private Medical Transport Service in Wales. Since then, the business has continued to grow to now work successfully in both the public and private sector, including NHS Trusts, repatriation companies, social services teams and private clients.
AWAS Ltd now hires almost 30 employees, both full-time and self-employed. Their staff come from all walks of life, from ex-Police and Fire Services to Care Assistants and Military personnel.
What they did
In 1991, two experienced Emergency Medical Technicians broke off from their careers to form a first aid training company. Gareth Llewellyn and Paul Bennett became partners and founded First Aid Services Training. They quickly sought and gained HSE approval for their training and began to grow the company.
"Our first transport request was in March 1993, assisting a 93-year-old lady to travel from Scunthorpe to Llandovery by an estate car. Since that day, we have carried an uncountable number of patients. Our oldest patient to date was a 107-year-old lady, our youngest, a boy born at 26 weeks gestation.
As the company grew (also taking on a third partner, Steve Parry, in 1998), we quickly realised we needed to diversify to bring in the kind of business that would feed our families. We then decided to expand the transport department and focus on its development.
The first ambulance purchased by the company was a Ford Transit, affectionately dubbed ‘JayWoo’. We bought the vehicle for £1,750, and in the first year of ownership, JayWoo returned £82,000 of business at the Royal Gwent Hospital. We kept her for five years; we were too attached to her to let her go any sooner.
In 1999, we formally changed our name with Companies House, becoming All Wales Ambulance Services Ltd. By this point, our transport services had become so popular that it simply made sense to rebrand. We still continued to provide first aid and health & safety training right through to the current day." – Gareth Llewellyn, CEO of AWAS Ltd.
Their proudest moment in business
"Since 1991, I have seen many proud moments within the company but our “proudest moment” would have to be handing my children Dean and Ria directorships and a legal place within the company.
Both have worked their way up the ladder, starting out as Patient Transport Technicians and Trainers, before slowly taking seniority and taking on board more responsibilities. Since that time, I’ve seen so many new “young” ideas coming from them and have realised that a company has to move with technology and change to suit the needs of our clients.
Having Dean and Ria on board as Directors has given me the confidence to know that AWAS will fight to continue and grow well after I have retired. AWAS to me is more than just a business and a company. Our staff and their families rely on work and income, so our success is tied to their futures, too." - Gareth Llewellyn, CEO
Describe the type of support (financial / non-financial) they’ve received from Business Wales / Welsh Government
In the Spring of 2018 AWAS contacted the Welsh Government’s Business Wales service for support with their growth plans. Their Business Wales Relationship Manager, Steve Maggs, undertook a diagnostic and agreed a set of priorities. They were keen to win more business and were looking to develop and implement a new marketing strategy. Steve was able to facilitate some expert marketing advice which has proved to be a real springboard for the business. Part of this involved them re-examining and refreshing their brand identity, a project which is still evolving. They also took advantage of Business Wales branding, marketing and digital marketing workshops.
AWAS also received specialist HR advice ahead of them recruiting additional staff. Their HR Adviser, Amanda McNamara, was able to assist with new policies, and well as imparting new processes which the Senior Management Team have used to good effect to help with an internal reorganisation.
Their Relationship Manager is also providing them with specialist Tendering advice as the business is bidding to win a number of new contracts.
Ria Rees, Director at AWAS, said: "Working with Steve Maggs and the advisers from Business Wales has been truly helpful. Generally, we are experts in Patient Care and Health & Safety training. We are far less comfortable dealing with Human Resources, marketing or looking for grants and financing. So, having advice in all these areas has given us a great deal of confidence moving forward, and we’ve seen direct and immediate results from many of our meetings.
For example, we met with Dai Nicholas, who came to advise us on how to improve our marketing and build a realistic strategy for social media. Whilst I had a vague idea where to start, having Dai’s experience to guide me has saved a great deal of wasted time researching and has given me an immediately actionable plan which is now already in effect. We’re now working with a local design company to rebuild our website and develop our online marketing even further.
I’m truly so pleased to see the results of our time with Business Wales so far, and I’m very excited to see how much further our business can evolve and grow with their support in the future."
Here are AWAS’s top tips for anyone else looking to start or grow their own business:
- it's all about the people. Too often we see companies offering a service or product who only give a short, limiting list of options, at All Wales we always speak directly with our customers and build our services around what they want, rather than dictating their options to them, this flexibility is, and always will be, one of our biggest strengths
- your staff are even more important than your customers, if you are lucky enough to employ people to help you and your business, you must always be looking at ways to improve their morale and help them feel involved in the growth of your business, at the very least, you must talk to your staff, ask them their opinions and value their input – generally, they want your business to succeed just as much as you do after all!
- outsource tasks you’re not sure about and spend more time doing what you do well, we’ve experienced a great deal of wasted time and effort over the years in setting up processes and policies, only to then find further down the line that it needs to be started over, if we’d outsourced some of these tasks, or sought advice from consultants and advisory services beforehand, we’d have saved a lot of time, stress and money, and spent our time better elsewhere, that’s not to say that you must outsource everything, just that if you can budget for it and find a reputable service, it’s often money well spent, in the case of Business Wales, of course, it’s free advice waiting for you! all you need to do is take that advice on board