Those who know me know that I’m an entrepreneur with a strong social conscience. You will never find me driving a large car or wearing a crazy watch!
Over the years, I’ve studied the business techniques that work. My experience has allowed me to design a system that works not just for me but also for our many businesses; I call it The Linear Line.
In essence, this system is based upon control. Many businesses have created two backbones to their business model. The first, is their own team. Where would we be without our trusted employees? Employees who create and employees who are tenacious. The second is their tier of suppliers, who become by default the second Maginot Line.
The Linear Line Business Model
My model, is slightly different; it is all of the above, with various layers. Our Linear Line is based upon keeping the margin for our company and in doing so, creating our own conveyor belt that allows you full control on delivery.
The conveyor belt that I refer to is a visual mind map, that allows you to internally cast your thoughts through a process that you can see from start to finish. In my view, most projects that do not meet deadline fail to hit their timescale or cost due to outside factors.
How many times has a supplier told you he will have it back to you within a certain timescale and then he misses that flag in the sand? The ramifications of this can be enormous, especially when normally this kind of delay blindsides you, as you have passed on the process to someone else. You can’t always know what their issues were. Did they have the capacity? Did they have the funds to take on the job?
These issues can turn your project upside down. Not forgetting, you are paying them a hefty margin on top of their cost and yet you have lost control. The Linear Line, allows you to gain control, by having clear line of site and creating a higher margin.
On any of our building sites, we bring in a cost at 50% of the recorded QS evaluation. We do this due to keeping a very tight grip on our costs as well as a tight rein on timescales. Yes, this can be a lot more time consuming, but not more stressful.
Stress comes when you have been blindsided and you have to deal with what has transpired in a very short timescale, but when you have had an element of control you can normally see it coming and address the situation before it lands.
When I crashed into the world of our homeless, there was never a light bulb moment. I was led to believe like many others, that our homeless were mostly professional beggars. Let me just stop you there, that is just not the case.
Tackling Liverpool’s Homeless Crisis
In Liverpool we have well over 200 homeless sleepers who have either chosen or have been forced to make their home in the darkest of doorways strewn across our city. I was led to think there were just 27 registered homeless and that as a city we did not allow a second night out on the street.
This is clearly not the case. I have been shocked and humbled to witness just what the guests of our streets were being given as an option. My first call to action was one of self preservation.
Signature Living now own over 1 million square foot of city centre properties. We have had our fair share of break-ins that ultimately end up as a crack den. This occurred somewhere everyday, so I decided rather than fight against them, I would give them a far better option.
When Signature Shelter was born at Kingsway House, all I did was open our doors. To my astonishment, within 4 days we were feeding 150 people a day and giving shelter, warmth and safety to over 80 people. Sadly, we gained no co-operation from our council whatsoever.
In fact, they tried to close us down on numerous occasions. If they could hit us, they did. Memorably, I received a stern message from a high ranking police official who stated that if anyone were to pass away upon my property, I would be held responsible and would be tried for corporate manslaughter.
This is at the cusp of what is wrong with our society. It is okay for a person to die in a doorway but god forbid, you take a humanistic stance and give them, safety and shelter, not to forget regular meals. If you dare to try something that has a different flavour to the one that has become stale, you had better brace yourself for their sinister retort.
Ideas for a Fresh Approach
Now I am in the eye of the storm and I think it is fair to say, that I understand were I stand implicitly. I have recovered from the natural trauma of being weighed down by the day to day issues that our homeless carry in their dishevelled back packs and feel that now, I can clearly see the way forward.
After all, isn’t that what an entrepreneurial businessman will always do? We always look for the straightest line. My Linear Line will not be bent by politics, as I do not believe they have taken the time to understand just what transpires on this dishevelled path.
I believe that the homeless system that we abide by in the U.K is smashed to pieces. The people who work within it have given their lives not for a wage but because they really want to make a difference. However, they are jaded by red tape and an ever decreasing pot of money that more and more organisations are fighting over.
It’s this that ensures that the freedom of information and knowledge that flowed freely through the hands of every organisation has stopped due to each organisation becoming the opposition, whilst they fight amongst themselves for their much needed funding line and ultimately survival.
Every homeless person, that I have ever met, will always be wary of anyone coming into their lives, they clearly have trust issues. This is due to what has transpired in their lives before and after they became homeless. In many cases they have been ostracised by their families, been forced to fend for their possessions in doorways and yet, our system does not reflect one that gives continuity.
To gain the trust of a homeless person is difficult at best and yet our system pulls them away from the personal foundations that they have created within our shelters. Here is an example of a path from addiction through to a home.
Last year our city put around 100 people through the rehab process with an average cost of 12k per person, sadly only 5 will make it through the process and gain back their place in society. This is a huge cost to our tax payers and yet we have never tried to change this vicious circle. Here is my view of why it breaks down:
Lets just say that we have a homeless person who gains entry into a homeless shelter. Over a period of time he strikes a relationship with one of his carers and a trust is formed. Eventually, that homeless person will hopefully want to get back to what he has lost. Usually that will be their family and friends. And so the process begins…
We then break that tie with the shelter and the individuals who have helped them and then send them to a new set of people. There is no trust here, but let’s say that trust is built and our guest gets further through the process. They still don’t know where they are going to live or if they can gain employment.
He or she are now one of the lucky 5% and reach the other side. They are then sent out to a far off accommodation, always used by ex-addicts. This means that before they have a chance to build up any relationships with neighbours they are ostracised. The jury has cast their vote long before their arrival.
Feeling alienated and without a pathway to gain employment, you can see why they look for escapism and for many escapism is their re-alignment with their addiction of choice.
This rehab system has been in play for many years, with just a 5% success rate. And yet we have not tried to change it. As a business, with such a low success rate, I think it would be fair to say that they would have gone bankrupt a long time ago and yet this system is allowed to just keeps on failing.
New Opportunities and Support
I would like to create a process based on what I have developed in business, which is called The Linear line. I propose that we take on 20 homeless addicts into Kingsway House and each addict will be given a group leader, preferably with personal knowledge of addiction.
Each homeless guest will be given a home and an address, which will be shared with 3 other guests. Signature Living will supply 5 apartments within Kingsway House. This accommodation will sit next to Signature Living’s Head office. In this way, myself and my team will be on-site to address any situation.
With our fresh approach, we’ll also be feeding up to 200 people a day, taking people off the streets and pulling them away from the city centre, giving many of them accommodation. This will be an entirely unique way of tackling Liverpool’s homeless crisis, offering those suffering with addictions a glimmer of light at the end of a very dark tunnel.
Though generous sums of money are given to the homeless in good faith, we will be filling their stomachs with food every single day without fail, which will mean there is no need for begging, for a fact the money that you hand to them will be feeding their addiction. If we are to succeed in stopping homelessness we have to starve their addictions. We will do this by using our very strong online platforms to send a strong anti begging message to the people of our city.
The reality is, the rehabilitation process people go through time and time again in the UK simply doesn’t work. Before this programme begins we do not ensure that his or her addiction has been flattened out, we need to ensure that their last memory whilst on the streets was a very poor one, by starving their addiction by eradicating begging, from our streets.
While there’s always an exception, most don’t make it out to the other side, returning to their addiction of choice as a coping mechanism. That’s where we come in to make the change. We’ll be supporting our city’s homeless every step of the way, easing them back into society, giving them hope through jobs and a home.
Once we feel our new guests have become stabilised, we will start the process to wean them away from their addiction. This process has to be given a very large flag in the sand. Our flag in the sand will be anchored by the fact that we are on our own path, a path that has not only employment, but also a job, pitched on the green.
Thankfully, we don’t have to ever venture out to any other government quango or any other homeless operator. I have witnessed with my own eyes the level of frustration that our homeless must endure, even when they actually want to gain help on many occasions, it just isn’t there. That can be due to a lack of funding, beds or just a lack of connectivity.
A Sense of Hope and Community
Our Linear Line is all based upon hope and a definite, for the first time, with the alignment of Signature Living. We have within our grasp over 850 apartments in Liverpool and employ over 800 staff with a need to expand this number to 1200 within the next 6 months.
Not only can we assure our guests that they can have their own accommodation but they can be employed in cities such as Liverpool, Manchester, Preston, Bristol, Belfast, Swansea and Cardiff, that is once they have gone through our second stage.
Once our guest has gone through our rehab process, and they have moved through to their own accommodation, they can now see that they have their own path to walk upon. But we will still be there holding their hand along the way, as their own accommodation will be within Kingsway house. We will be there for their every need, until we are all in agreeance that they are ready to move on.
The main difference between what we can offer and what is out there now is that we are in control of the whole process. We can be there for our homeless guests through every high and low, ensuring that they feel apart of a very close knot community, never letting them feel alone or afraid.
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