THE YORKSHIRE entrepreneur behind a fast-growing medical technology company is staking £21m on the international expansion of his business.
Frank Hester OBE has reinvested profits from TPP in a new headquarters in a suburb of Leeds.
His business supplies patient record software to three out of ten GP surgeries in England and Wales and has broken into the hospital, social care and mental health sectors.
TPP has also made big in-roads into Chinese and Middle Eastern markets.
Mr Hester, 49, said: “We have more opportunity around the world right now that we can service. There is so much opportunity in China alone that we have to expand to fulfil that.
“Over the next six months we are going to start to work on France, Germany and USA. Ours is a truly global business.”
Turnover last year was nearly £45m, of which nearly £12m was profit.
The company employs 210 people - average age 28 - but has room for a total of 650 in its new mill-style development in Horsforth.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt visited last Friday and said creating a more digital NHS has the potential to transform patient care, save time for staff and benefit the local economy.
Hr Hester, who has accompanied the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and Mr Hunt on trade visits to promote British business overseas, added: “We know there’s a lot of demand right around the planet for our software but at the moment we are constrained by our own resources, which are human resources.”
Mr Hester is confident that Yorkshire can create technology businesses of global scale.
He told The Yorkshire Post: “Absolutely. Why not? There is nothing to stop us. One of the tricks is having the drive. I’m pretty driven. I want to drive healthcare around the world. I want to do Africa. It is not about the money.”
Mr Hester said: “It is easier to think there are cleverer people in San Francisco or Seattle or London but there just aren’t. We are all facing the same problems... all the changing technology, we are all having to deal with it ourselves.”
He added: “We have a good skill set up here. Quite obviously people from the North are just as intelligent as people from the South and there is no reason why we shouldn’t grow our businesses, especially because a lot of modern businesses are location independent.
“Microsoft is in Seattle. It is the back end of beyond in America. It is not in Washington, New York or California. It doesn’t matter.
“IT is something that we as a country really excel at. It is creativity, intelligence and it feeds from our education system, the questioning.”
Mr Hester said British inventors are responsible for many global success stories, such as Sir Jonathan Ive, the design guru at Apple. The trick is keeping them in the UK, he added.
Mr Hester grew up in Armley, a working class area of Leeds, and read computer studies at Liverpool polytechnic.
He found work at Halifax Building Society and was involved with one of the biggest PC roll-outs of the time, successfully joining up masses of information relating mortgages, insurance and investors.
He co-founded TPP in 1997 with a university friend after observing from his wife’s work as a GP that healthcare was not joined up in the same way.
The business is now riding the wave as the digital revolution hits the health system in this country and abroad.
Mr Hester praised the technology sector in Leeds, singling out telecoms specialist AQL and even his locally-based national rival Emis Health, “by any view an impressive company”.
TPP will announce a Frank Hester scholarship with two local schools next month, offering financial help to students who lack the means to support themselves at university.
Mr Hester said he has no plans to sell or float his business. An exit would probably net him hundreds of millions of pounds and perhaps even more in the coming years as the business wins more work abroad.
Dream job? Set your own salary
In the war for talent, TPP has gone one step further by inviting staff to set their own salaries.
Employees told chief executive Frank Hester that he could attract more people if he paid coders more money.
His staff looked at the market and the kind of people they wanted to attract and suggested a £4,000 pay rise.
He agreed and saw an increase in the quality and quantity of new recruits.
Mr Hester said: “They were right. We had fallen a little bit behind on the pay. They are very in touch. If we are on the top end it makes such a difference to being in the middle.”
TPP competes with the likes of Rolls-Royce and GCHQ for graduates. Its coders start on £32,000 a year.