Viv Allanson is CEO of Maroba. She tells us more about how the industry has evolved over the years and what she believes it takes to make a successful leader.
Maroba was established in 1954 in an old maternity cottage in Mayfield offering 10 rooms for elderly widows and spinsters. In 1960 a parcel of land was granted in Waratah where Maroba has grown from its initial 10 beds to 155 aged care beds and 23 retirement villas providing accommodation and care for seniors from all walks of life. Maroba continues to be operated by the Islington Baptist Church, proudly maintaining its independence as a truly local service.
Viv Allanson is CEO of Maroba, she tells us more about the business and its ongoing strategy.
“Maroba is funded primarily by the Commonwealth Government along with a contribution by each resident in the form of a daily care fee and, if they have the means to contribute to their accommodation costs they will pay the published price by way of a Residential accommodation deposit or a Daily Accommodation payment,” she explains.
“The key to our future in a very competitive market is to continue to grow our brand and grow our services and accommodation offerings. Planning for expansion into community care and development of 51 apartments for retirement living within our Waratah campus will compliment and strengthen current service offerings.”
Technology is key in the aged care sector, and Viv and her team work hard to ensure it is used effectively.
“Maroba is well known in the sector as an early adopter so is always looking for innovative cost effective systems that will enhance resident outcomes and employee job satisfaction.
“When an innovation comes to our attention or we seek out a particular technology, we would establish a project team to research the offering and report back. If deemed suitable to our environment and the business case stacks up for the board then we press go and proceed with purchase and implementation.
“In some cases this sector has been very slow to adopt technology leaving some organisations behind in this now very competitive market place. As aged care leaders we must consider and sure up the future which lies both in our people and in technological advancement the two must be front of mind for organisations to progress and grow.”
Viv was promoted from the Executive Director of Nursing position to the position of CEO of Maroba in 2000. Whilst beginning her career in the Public Health sector she has not looked back since she made the move to Aged care in 1992. Her qualifications are numerous including a Master of Health Management.
Bringing her nursing experience to the role has enabled her to maintain her focus on the clinical and care issues whilst progressing Maroba’s business performance.
The focus now is to diversify the range of accommodation and services provided by
Maroba to ensure it continues to be a relevant and dynamic organisation. Viv was elected to the Aged and Community Services Association of NSW & ACT board of directors in 2007.
Now an award-winning CEO, Viv shares with us the key attributes that she believes she possesses to ensure her continued success, and what motivates her to keep on climbing.
“Connectedness is a driver for me as I see the world as one big connected family each playing a part in the others success and life outcomes,” she enthuses. “My personal approach is to always sew into the whole so that we all look good at whatever it is we do. I lend myself to individuals, organisations and to causes as I can’t ignore the call of humanity and am fully persuaded that I can make a difference one person at a time and one day at a time.
“Courage in the face of opposition and emergency situations has served me well and ignited the strength of the people around me who may otherwise be paralysed with fear or lack of self confidence in those situations.
“I wear my heart on my sleeve so no one has to second guess me, my team have come to rely on that transparency and honesty
speaking the truth in love does win others over.
“Having the attitude and demeanour of a servant leader has led to success after success and I don’t just mean personal or organisational success once again the success of our team and
for those in our care shines through.”
“My Maroba family are my motivators along with some amazing people in all sorts of business and leadership roles who challenge me and inspire me to never give up. I have a strong faith in my Creator who keeps me grounded and settled even in the midst of the storms. It is this same faith that causes me to Love the unlovable and gets me up each day believing I CAN make a difference.”
Being a CEO within the AsiaPacific region has not come without its challenges, and Viv talks about how she has risen through the ranks despite sometimes facing adversity.
“Over my 42 years working in the Health and Aged Care sectors the only constant is CHANGE which for the most part ranges from mild to extremely challenging. From leading the evacuation and emergency efforts and subsequent dismantling of the Area Health Service as acting Director of Nursing at Royal Newcastle Hospital in the 1989 Newcastle Earthquake to dealing with failures in care, the deaths of highly valued staff members and working alongside and supporting the poorest of the poor in third world nations I have learnt to overcome.
Flexibility is a key feature of who I have become, but flexibility without deep compassion for humanity can lead one into the quicksand. For me, this is about putting the people first yes, even before the organisation, for by so doing the organisation is always advanced and in a better position to deal with the next challenge.
“The Aged Care Industry, especially the Not for Profit sector, has been evolving from a cottage industry to a highly-competitive commercial environment during my 25 years in Aged Care. Within this competitive environment we face the dilemma of fluctuating and uncertain funding due to changing legislation especially in response to Federal budget constraints, financial cycles and unstable government where there have been more Aged Care ministers than you care to imagine. This has the effect of uncertainty in the extreme and therefore lack of investment and real growth in the sector.
In fact smaller organisations are constantly facing the question do we “Stay (the same), Grow or Go?’
“Workforce planning is particularly challenging as pay rates in our sector are not competitive so we always strive to create a desirable home for seniors in a family atmosphere where we ‘get to work’. This approach has supported low turnover and strong interest in working at Maroba.
“The Policy shift to Consumer Directed Care is driving great change within the region as we all look to how we can further set ourselves apart from the competition once the consumer controls the funding. It is being rolled out in the community setting and soon to be rolled out in the residential setting watch this space as some have already missed the boat.”
The APAC region is currently facing some exciting opportunities as the ageing demographic of the region is coming into focus more broadly. Viv embellishes: “There is great opportunity for Australian Aged Care leaders to influence the future for older people beyond Australia’s shores. We have learnt a great deal in care and service delivery over many decades and although Australia is still evolving we do have much to offer our APAC colleagues.
Not only in the area of expertise in the Built environment but also models of care, approaches to in-home care, training and development and innovation. I engage frequently with Asian Academics and business people who visit Maroba and I have found in every instance they are hungry to learn from the Australian experience. After all we do have so much in common People who are ageing and who desire dignity and choice in their frailer years and indeed we have much to learn in that space from our regional neighbours.
“For businesses who haven’t had any interest or contact with the aged care sector, now is the time to look at us with a new lens of interest and opportunity. Aged Care is the new black ignore it at your peril!”
Viv strongly believes in building relationships, rather than reputation, has given the company a competitive advantage, and she tells us more about its core values and principles.
“Our values are backed up by Christian foundations where we truly live by the Gospel of ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’.
Our Core Values guide us on a daily basis, these being: Accountability we choose unity and personal responsibility; Visionary – we choose to create a community that is spiritual, inspirational and passionate for all; Loving- we choose to enrich lives through love, respect and dignity;, and Willingness to Learn and Grow- We choose a journey of continual learning and growth.
“Being consistent and singleminded about our purpose and showing up in every situation and interaction with transparency, integrity and LOVE this simply means treating everyone as a family member and how you would like to be treated.”
As a successful CEO, Viv has huge aspirations for the future, both for her own personal development and for that of Maroba too.
“I am often asked by my peers what are your plans, what’s next for you or even one cheeky
visitor asked what do you want to be when you grow up?!
“I am still having fun within the context of Maroba, and the external organisations where I hold Director roles, however I am acutely aware that my contribution to my current organisation does have a use by date and with that in mind after 22 years I have allowed myself to dream of that moment when I do ‘grow up’ and it is time to move on.
“At 59 I still have an overflow that is impossible to switch off and I still have the passion for people especially those desiring the honour of a Leadership role. My Joy is to raise up Leaders and release them and so I plan one day to make that a primary focus along with sharing the wisdom I have gathered over my lifetime concerning matters of Health and Aged Care, the Built environment, Sustainability and issues that affect ‘organisational wholeness’. Some call that consultancy I call it creating Tsunamis when ripples won’t do!
“Maroba aspires to continue to be regarded as an influencer within the region, not only in the aged care sector but within the business community and community generally. Opportunities arise regularly for Maroba’s people to be the voice on a variety of issues from aged care to sustainability and lots in between.
“The “Braeside” apartments are our next project. Along with planning for community services
they will run parallel with a care team and building team.
Finally, Viv leaves us with some words of wisdom that she has picked up along the way during her tenure at Maroba as CEO.
“Maroba has developed strong relationships with learning institutes such as University of Newcastle and TAFE to create a multidisciplinary teaching and learning environment. From 2017 Medical students will join the Speech Pathology student unit, social work students and the
other allied health professionals and various levels of Nurses both students and qualified to engage in the Maroba learning experience.
“This has been a career dream to create a real “teaching” Aged Care service, as the foundation to my health career began in a teaching hospital environment where peer support and peer review where evident every day. I am convinced that the future of a robust Nursing profession depends on that same collegiality within safe learning environments in real “laboratories” called the residents home. (That home may be a facility or their own home).
“I also have challenged academics and educational leaders to change the way we “educate” all levels of our nurses and carers. We need a new lens like that of tourism and hotel services so that nurses become adept at “delighting” those in their care Consumer directed care will have NO MERCY on those who miss this vital platform of care the Consumer is Numero Uno , no longer someone we do things too. “The times they are a changing” and they have!”
So what is Viv’s overall philosophy of leadership?
I’m not sure who said this but it resonates very strongly for me
“You must always remember, you’re not here to serve me… I’m here to serve you. I’m here to give you the tools, resources and the products to convert our residents into raving fans.
“In addition, my job is to create an atmosphere where we’ll want to serve each other with a smile in our hearts, because that’s the only way this will be a great place to work!”