How I’m #Bossingit – Adam Burley of Burley Inclusive

What’s your business?

We provide personal tutoring for adults with learning disabilities in North Somerset and Bristol. We are a brand new form of community college working with people in their own homes, communities or workplaces.

We combine education and social care and our 16 staff currently tutor 25 young people.We provide personal tutors and create learning programmes that best enable and support each person to be independent.

We also help develop educational skills like English, Maths and ICT and  teach how to apply them, for example in shopping, budgeting or CV writing. We now train professionals and carers working in the sector all over the UK.

What’s your background?

After graduating from Plymouth University, I worked in a learning disability care home and then became a qualified Special Educational Needs (SEN) post 16 lecturer.  Both of these gave me the experience to create my own business in this sector.

Why launch your business?

As a lecturer I had to help young people with learning disabilities and autism out of education and into “what next?”.  The options were “educational services” or “care services”.  I couldn’t see why college level education couldn’t be offered within a care setting,: so within a home, a community or a workplace. So that’s what I set out to offer.

I also had a close friend pass away and watched a colleague leave the college to start their own enterprise.  I decided life was too short not to give things a go.

How did you do it?

I started out in October 2013 after I attended an introduction business course offered locally by North Somerset Enterprise Agency (NSEA). I then contacted everyone I knew in the field to let them know that I had a new learning model for people with learning disabilities.  I worked part time at

college and ran a few training courses to keep going financially.  I also spoke with as many influential people in the field as I could and went to parent carer forums to discuss my new idea.

What’s the secret?

If there is a secret to my success, I wish someone would tell me what it is too!

I think the reason I have been successful so far is because the business meets a genuine need.  Our new approach to education is having such a powerful impact.

I don’t think there is a secret to what I do, just a genuinely good idea at the very beginning. The plan for the business wasn’t created on a whim, but carefully considered after having gained considerable experience in multiple areas of the sector.

The hardest part?

Being dyslexic, I need to take extra time over the administration and that requires hard work. But I take so much satisfaction from everything else – the teaching, training, recruiting, band practice, social club, holidays, gigs and watching the service users thrive – that it doesn’t feel like work, so I‘m always eager to put the hours in!

Most important lesson?

The mistakes you make are the most valuable to growing a successful business. Providing you don’t make the same one twice, your product and service will continually improve.

Biggest shock? 

At the very beginning of the company I wasn’t fully prepared for the differences between teaching directly in the home and teaching in a classroom setting. The classic customer apparently “always being right” has caused a couple of very delicate situations.

Would do differently?

I have certainly encountered situations in which I have felt “I wish I could change that”. But then I reflect on how much I have changed and developed as an employer. It is a huge learning curve and I respect that as the business grows I will learn more. I have changed and developed the most as an employer. I have improved vastly in how I interview and communicate with my team.

I have a fantastic team now. Everybody brings such a valuable skill set. At our group activities such as band practice, our social group and our provision in partnership with the Avon Wildlife Trust, there is such a positive and infectious atmosphere.

Why do you love it?

I feel there is sometimes a misunderstanding that business is only started to drive a profit. Many people are driven to try and make a “change” to others. Having a real chance to be influential in how services for adults with learning disabilities are designed, funded and reviewed is a real passion of mine and the main factor in what I love about setting up on my own.

Would you recommend it?

Yes, I would recommend considering the start-up of a business to everyone. Putting ideas to paper and planning an ideal job and formulating how they would work in something they’re passionate about will be time well spent.  Whether I would recommend them starting one I don’t know – I would have to see their idea first 😊

Top Tip?

If the business is something you’re passionate about, even the 80+ hours weeks don’t feel like work.

Has it been worth it?

Yes. Absolutely! At this point I can’t imagine myself doing anything different. I am truly grateful to everyone involved in the business that I have the continued opportunity to operate Burley Inclusive.

Burley Inclusive Ltd, 10 Valda Road, North Somerset, BS22 9RB, Tel: 01934 611542 www.burleyinclusive.co.uk

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