Former district nurse Cheryl White, 44, turned CEO of Apollo Care Franchising Ltd, reveals how being hospitalised with burnout turned her life around.
Sitting in the office with my one-week-old son William on my knee, I fought back tears. It wasn’tsupposed to be like this. My mum, Sue, was a highly experienced, trusted pair of hands in the business – helping me to manage our team of 35 care staff. Yet, I still felt personally responsible for everyone.
A lengthy waiting list was building up at work; more service users to add to the 50-plus on our books… I had another six-year-old son, Daniel, who I took to meetings with me. I felt exhausted, overwhelmed… Guilty for being at work and guilty for being at home. I had become everything I swore I wouldn’t be when I left my career in district nursing in 2011 to set up my own home care services provider company.
At one stage in my pregnancy, I was typing on my laptop with two drips in the back of each hand. It should have been a wake-up call, but it wasn’t until I was hospitalised with palpitations in June 2014 that I fully hit rock bottom.
William was only two months old. I couldn’t stop the fluttering in my chest – crushing waves of panic. At Arrowe Park Hospital in Birkenhead, I had a battery of tests over a two-day period including an ECG and a CT scan. The final verdict: panic attacks caused by burnout. In some ways, it was a relief – the confirmation I needed to press ahead with a plan of action I’d already started to put into place.
Back in 2013, my accountant identified I was at breaking point and asked: ‘Have you considered franchising?’ I waited until I got into my car to Google what she meant! I learned that I wouldn’t have to be involved in the day-to-day running of the business anymore or manage huge teams of staff 24/7. Instead, I could create a blueprint of how Apollo Care should be run with my values, procedures and policies as the DNA; then license other people to operate their own business under our name.
I changed our name to Apollo Care Franchising Ltd that year, but it wasn’t until I was discharged from hospital – lesson fully learned nearly 12 months later – that I truly leaned into my new business plan.
Fast-forward to 2021 and, today, I have 12 Apollo Care franchisees across the UK, with active plans to take on another eight over the next 12 months. Ten years after I left district nursing, I have celebrated a record £4m in turnover – having experienced a 48% growth in turnover during the pandemic.
Through my other business, Mercury Franchise School, I have helped health and social care business owners who have been trading profitably for at least 12 months to set up franchises in more than 30 different areas. Best of all, I now have more time for my children, my partner and my passions such as horse riding.
I used to think working more hours and taking on new staff was the only way to expand, but it came at a significant personal health cost. Post-pandemic, it’s vitally important that business owners look after themselves and grow in a healthy, sustainable way.
5 Signs You May Be Approaching Burnout
Feeling constantly tired, even after many hours of sleep
Communicating aggressively or emotionally – leading to increased conflict
Palpitations, stomach knots and other physical sensations that are new for you or increasing in frequency
Low mood, pessimistic thoughts and feelings of anxiety or dread
Overwhelmed at the idea of more staff or service users to care for
To find out more, visit mercuryfranchiseschool.com