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Oriol Fuertes Cabassa MBA2015 could see that the way we look after the long-term ill and elderly had gone wrong. So he founded a company – taking a massive pay cut – to do something about it.
If you want to understand his high-performance mindset, consider how he conducted the interview for this article. He scheduled it to coincide with his journey to his next meeting, discussing his life, his work and vision via Skype while en route through busy Barcelona to meet a potential investor.
That shouldn’t be surprising for a man who measures his life in terms of direct social impact per hour worked – something he says stems from inheriting his mother’s boundless desire to help others. After giving up his job at global consultancy McKinsey to start homecare provider QIDA in March 2018, his approach has been a success, and much of it he credits to his MBA at LBS.
Now approaching its fourth year in business, QIDA (pronounced ‘cuida’, which translates to “care” in Spanish) cares for 3,500 new elderly patients every year, providing 8,000 hours of care a day, which equates to more than 240,000 hours of care a month! Carers, too, are taken care of with the business paying its carers 20% more than the market rate as part of its mission to raise the social status of the profession.
The business broke their initial €5 million euro target, raising more than €8 million (£6.7 million) with help from the leading social impact funds of Spain (such as Creas, Ship2B and FBS), as well as through investment from Spain’s fourth-largest private banking group, Sabadell. Plus, there has been great support of the Ministry of Social care through SEPIDES. And despite it being tougher than Fuertes Cabassa thought it would be and having made a lot of mistakes along the way, the business is growing. He says: “I am living a dream and would make the same decisions to start QIDA.”
1. “Made me global”
Thanks to the diversity and variety of cultures of people enrolled at the London Business School, Fuertes Cabassa was able to broaden his social circles, which has given him improved business networking opportunities around the world. He says he went from having only 95% of friends and contacts in Spain to having more than 75% in the rest of the world.
2. “Made me an entrepreneur”
Fuertes Cabassa says that the MBA gave him many skills that he needs today to be the CEO of his startup QIDA, which grows 15% month-on-month; a startup that is disrupting healthcare and social care in Spain. He also expresses how the MBA improved his innovation skills, ability to negotiate, influence, networking and international exposure; which has been key for fundraising.
3. “Gave me the best memories of my life, and a wife!”
The two years that Fuertes Cabassa spent with LBS were, according to him, unique. He says he met the best people in a great environment and place – London – and he met his wife. “When I think about those years, only good memories come to mind,” he says.
Fuertes Cabassa is also thankful to his father for getting the business into launch position right at the start. On retiring from a career in banking, Manel Fuertes Andreu volunteered two years of his time to start building the company – ﬁnding out about the market, setting up the website, getting the company registered – so that his son could start selling from day one. He continues to support the business today, by helping to on-board any new employees, and by sharing the values and story of the organisation.
Two main triggers prompted Fuertes Cabassa, along with his two friends, to found QIDA and take a 95% pay cut on his McKinsey salary:
First is a personal story. Fuertes Cabassa experienced the diﬃculties of ﬁnding a good home carer ﬁrst-hand when his grandfather, who had Alzheimer’s, fell and broke his leg in 2017. After surgery, he wanted his grandfather to be well looked after until he died, but it took the family two months to ﬁnd a suitable carer. In the meantime, Fuertes Cabassa’s elderly grandmother had to bear the burden of looking after her husband when he left hospital. It made Fuertes Cabassa feel uneasy: “That’s when everything started in my mind. I started to think maybe we should solve this.”
“Not only was it a pain trying to ﬁnd a good carer,” he continued. “But we were also seeing bad companies who only cared about our money,” explains Fuertes Cabassa. “Then there is the issue of the massive black market of uninsured, low-paid carers.”
"I only live once and when I die I want my best friend to stand up and say: ‘This guy actually changed the world.’ I am working every day for that."
The second trigger was his eight years’ experience as a consultant with McKinsey in the healthcare sector, and his time on a one-year secondment as an advisor to the Ministry of Health of Catalonia. “I was advising a bunch of governments and ministers around the world and they all have the same problem. They all have hospitals that they cannot aﬀord; healthcare systems are becoming more and more unsustainable as populations age and costs continue to rise,” he explains.
“The shift we have started to see is that hospitals are realising it is cheaper for them to pay a carer and get certain patients who can manage out of hospital rather than keeping them in a bed. The cost for a night’s stay in hospital is €500 (£418). At home it’s €100 (£84). So both insurers and hospitals are starting to look at what group of patients it is cheaper to have at home. The families are happier and so are the patients.”
QIDA started by delivering its services to the 7.5 million people in the Catalonia region of Spain, with fifty hospitals and clinics in the area recommending QIDA to its patients; offering anything from two hours’ care a day to 24, all organised on a case-by-case basis. Now profitable in the region, the business has since expanded with new offices in Barcelona, Madrid and Bilbao.
Regardless of the region, its three-step process starts with understanding the needs of the family. Anyone who calls up will talk to an advisor who has been trained to assess the situation. The family then has a choice of three carers who they can interview face-to-face. Unlike other companies, QIDA bears the whole risk, so that if the family doesn’t choose any of the carers, it doesn’t pay a fee. After a carer has been appointed, a social worker is assigned to monitor the case, working with the family and the carer every week to ensure there are no problems.
Tech, product and data are now core to QIDA’s success, and – at the request of the family – can install any home technology, such as sensors or devices to monitor the patient, giving the family the safe knowledge that their loved ones are at home, eating and being cared for. QIDA’s 12+ dedicated employees drive the success of the Tech, Product and Data arm of the business.
The biggest challenge so far has been ﬁnding the right caregivers. Fuertes Cabassa estimates that 30% of Spain’s carers are Spanish and 70% are immigrants, mostly from Latin American countries, including Colombia, Venezuela, Peru and Argentina. To ensure high standards, he has plans to start training QIDA’s own dedicated carers.
The company has done plenty in shifting the public’s attitude and respect for the role of carers, proudly growing from its initial 17 full-time employees to 110. “I really wanted to have a profound impact on the way business was done,” declares Fuertes Cabassa, who says he has and still is applying everything he learned on his MBA at London Business School from 2013 to 2015. “More speciﬁcally, Professor Alex Edmans’ TEDx Talk on the social responsibility of business made me see that, actually, we can ‘choose to not choose’ when it comes to having purpose and proﬁt,” he adds.
He hopes his salary will increase over time, but his priority is to have social impact. It was actually one of the reasons he chose to study an MBA at LSA. Whilst he had achieved a lot by the age of 25, he had not ventured far beyond his home country. “I was a guy from Spain. I wanted to gain international exposure, though I’d never really travelled until I came to LBS; where you have 50 or 60 different cultures around you and learn their ways as you study, party and travel together. It changed my life.” His wife, whom he also met at LBS, has been very supportive of his business venture. Based in London, where she works as a senior manager for Amazon UK, Sirinad Uawithya, who is from Thailand, knows just how much her husband wants to help others.
“I’m 34, so I’ve got maybe 50 years left and I need to achieve more, give more, change the world for the better, so I think about how I can use my time to have a better impact,” explains Fuertes Cabassa.
At LBS he used his time to oﬀer tutoring in corporate ﬁnance and help fellow students get into consulting, winning his MBA class vote for top student impact, along with the Bain Student Impact Award.
“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had this obsession that I only live once and when I die I want my best friend to stand up and say, ‘this guy actually changed the world’ – and I am working every day for that,” he says confidently.
“I think about how I can use my time to have a better impact.”