Ben Hughes
Ben Hughes

What has made Pippa’s Guardians the business it is today? Managing Director Ben Hughes shares the secrets of its success.

I am often asked how I got into this line of work and what exactly is a Guardian. It’s not exactly a well-known job although there are 47 accredited AEGIS agencies. Someone once asked me if I was a ‘manny’ which did sound about right!

My mother, Pippa, formed Pippa’s Guardians in 1997 after her role as a Registrar at Cheltenham College – my old school. In April 2013 I relocated back from Melbourne, Australia with my four-month-old and new wife and bought Pippa’s Guardians from my mother as she wanted to retire.

At first we looked after a handful of students in key schools such as Cheltenham College, Cheltenham Ladies’ College and Wycombe Abbey. Before long we were being asked to care for students in new schools and I had the burning ambition to support my family and grow the business.

In truth expansion has never been a challenge, we are fortunate that way, but sustainable expansion has been. Pippa’s Guardians could be double the size it is today but it would have compromised our level of service and we’d have been neglectful to our students. One of the biggest challenges was saying no to new business as I knew we couldn’t cope with the demand.

Employing caring, compassionate, organised and trustworthy staff coupled with safe and welcoming host families is the key to our success and the biggest challenge we have faced. Importantly our fees have remained consistent and we rarely (if ever) discount. We either do it properly or we don’t…. this was always Mum’s mantra and I have carried it on. These are children after all, not something you cut corners on.

I am fortunate in that my mother genuinely cared for her students for a long period of time. The foundations were there for me to build upon and it has been a wonderful and varied seven years since I bought the business. Being the guardian to students throughout the UK, and in 140 boarding schools, is not for the faint hearted. There is never a dull day and it is only because of my incredible staff of 35 that we can offer the personal service we pride ourselves on and support our students properly. After all, our students are mostly teenagers, a long way from home, in a new culture learning in a new language – this is not easy and they need a lot of support and guidance.

‘It’s harder to leave than be left behind.’ What I mean by this is that the students themselves are often fine, busy making friends and relishing the opportunities in some of the best schools in the world. It’s our parents, who bring them over in September then fly home without them…. this takes a lot of courage and why I believe it’s harder to leave their children here. It’s actually quite humbling that they ask us to take on their children. If it was my daughter in China I’d be in turmoil – as would my wife.

Never did I imagine we’d enjoy the success we do today and my five-year plan certainly reflects this. Today, aside from guardianship we offer summer schools, university advice, university guardianship and school advice.

It’s been a brilliant time of my life and I wouldn’t change a thing. We are going to continue to grow and evolve but only if it is sustainable – and our students remain our priority. This is something I will never lose focus on – that’s my promise to you.