BookWise Solutions, a leading supplier of software to the NHS, develops software used to streamline room bookings and resource management.

Launched in 2011 by Denise Williamson and Lee Copestake with a mission to provide “the best healthcare scheduling” the company first came to market offering its Education product, used to book rooms in healthcare training centres. Since then, its in-house team has gone on to develop specialist tools that utilise the same scheduling technology, applying it to outpatient, oncology and renal specialisms.

After hitting the £1 million turnover milestone in 2021, the Burton-based healthcare software specialist has achieved steady growth, which continues into 2023. Last year 70% of BookWise’s new contracts were with NHS Trusts for its Outpatient product. And on top of that just over half of NHS Trusts now use BookWise scheduling solutions to increase their efficiency.

It’s a challenging time for many businesses and institutes, and the NHS is no exception, but this is where BookWise Solutions makes a real difference.

Denise Williamson, managing director of BookWise Solutions, shares her journey of co-founding a tech business and the challenges she’s faced along the way.

The journey begins

BookWise’s beginnings started in 1999 when Denise and her business partner, Lee, were made redundant from their recruitment roles. In need of a new opportunity, they were introduced to someone at Burton Hospital who needed an IT consultant to work with some problematic software, and instead of offering their recruitment services, Denise and Lee proposed taking on the software themselves and providing ongoing support.

This led to the start of their software development journey, and although the company they were working with at the time was struggling, the software they had developed showed promise, so in 2011, they bought back the software and rebranded as BookWise Solutions.

Obstacles to overcome

The early stages of developing BookWise were not without their challenges. When Denise and Lee took over the company, it had a significant amount of debt that needed to be addressed before they could begin to reach new heights.

On top of that, breaking into the NHS proved to be a difficult task and it wasn’t an overnight success story. By taking a strategic approach through attending and sponsoring conferences in NHS education centres, they organically built relationships with local hospitals and gained a reputation for reliability and quality.

Denise describes how all of these obstacles together shape how she leads her business:

“By becoming an active presence in the healthcare industry, and really taking time to build relationships, we gained recognition as a reliable software provider. It’s so important not to overpromise and even more important to stay honest – it doesn’t matter if you have to have difficult conversations, integrity is the cornerstone of building a lasting business, no matter the industry.”

Advice to women starting out today

Reflecting on her career, Denise shares three pieces of advice she would give her younger self if she were to start again.

1)     “Don’t be afraid of taking risks. I put my house up for collateral at one point – I’m not recommending everyone does this, but without taking the jump I don’t think I’d be where I am today!”

2)     “You absolutely have to trust your own skills and instincts – similarly to taking risks, if you don’t have absolute belief in yourself and what you’re selling, it’s hard to take your business to the next level.”

3)     “I can’t stress the value of integrity in yourself, the product being sold, and the relationships formed with clients and staff. Honest and trustworthy partnerships have played a significant role in guiding me throughout my career – and it all comes back to integrity. BookWise Solutions is proof that a small tech business can thrive by staying true to these values”

Denise’s story of developing her business is one of resilience and determination. From challenges of debt to breaking out into the NHS, Denise and her team have built a successful software development business. BookWise Solutions serves as an inspiring example of how a small tech business can thrive in the healthcare industry.