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Changemakers: Oriol Fuertes Cabassa

Social care innovator whose business model is revolutionising the care sector – and bringing huge cost savings for health systems

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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 driving through rush-hour 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 hours 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 is starting to pay off.

Just eight months after opening for business, QIDA (“cuida” means “care” in Spanish) has placed 400 carers with patients, provides 25,000 hours of care a month, and has raised seed funding of €1.2 million (£1 million)  – the biggest round for homecare in Spain, with investors including the European Union and Spain’s fourth-largest private banking group, Sabadell; all the while paying its carers 20% more than the market rate as part of its mission to raise the social status of the profession.

Fuertes Cabassa is grateful to his father for getting the organisation into launch position. 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. Only now is he stepping back, though he will continue to on-board any new employees, sharing the values and the story of the organisation.

Two main triggers prompted his son, along with two friends, to found QIDA and take a 95% pay cut on his McKinsey salary.

“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.”

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 in hospital he wanted His grandfather was then well looked after until he died, but Fuertes Cabassa was left feeling uneasy: “That’s when everything started in my mind. I started to think maybe we should solve this.”to go home. 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.

“Not only was it a pain trying to find a good carer, but also we were 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.”

The second trigger was his experience as a consultant with McKinsey in the healthcare sector for eight years and as an advisor to the Ministry of Health of Catalonia on a one-year secondment.

“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 are starting 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 (£420). At home it’s €100 (£86). 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 has started by offering its services to the 7.5 million people in the Catalonia region of Spain. Fifty hospitals and clinics now recommend it to patients and QIDA has plans to expand to other areas of Spain this year. It offers anything from two hours care a day to 24, and organises everything on a case-by-case basis.

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 the carer has been placed, a social worker is assigned to monitor the case, working with the family and the carer every week to ensure there are no problems. Then it’s up to the family whether it wants QIDA to install any home technology, such as sensors and Internet of Things devices to monitor the patient so they can know they are at home, eating and being cared for.

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 plans to start training QIDA’s own carers.

There’s plenty for him and his team of 17 full-time employees to do as they try to shift the public towards greater respect for the role of carers. “I really want to have a profound impact on the way business is done,” declares Fuertes Cabassa, who says he 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.

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He hopes his salary will increase over time, but his priority is to have social impact. His wife, whom he 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 how much her husband wants to help others – although their life now involves a weekly commute to see each other.

“I’m 31, 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 as he pulls up at his investor meeting. It’s in preparation for QIDA’s next round of funding, proposed for a year’s time – another record-breaker; this time set at €5 million (£4.3 million).

"I’ve learned to put everything in the calendar and protect it. If it’s in the calendar it’s going to happen. If it’s not, it’s not"

Three secrets to getting things done

1. Break up with your phone

“I changed the way I use my phone and
now only use it for my benefit, in a way I
enjoy. I don’t have Instagram, Facebook
and LinkedIn on my phone – only email,
WhatsApp and the apps I use to get around,
such as Google Maps.”

2. Be ultra-structured with your calendar

“This is something I practised at McKinsey.
I spend a lot of time optimising my calendar.
I organise the week two weeks in advance and
every Sunday I move things around in my diary.
I give myself three hours a day to work by
myself and they need to be straight hours –
they can’t be dotted around as my brain
works in chunks of good quality time. And I
have all my calls back-to-back rather than
leaving 15-20 minutes between them.
Otherwise, if you have five calls, you lose an
hour and a half of your day.”

3. Make time for sport

“Running is like meditation for me and
gives me a lot of energy. I like running
marathons. Every Saturday or Sunday I’ll
run 25km. I run two or three times in the
week for an hour and do 5 to 10km. Or I
will do a spin class from 7 to 8am. I’ve
learned to put everything in the calendar
and protect it. If it’s in the calendar it’s
going to happen. If it’s not, it’s not.”

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