Spreading Its Wings
While she was vacuuming one day she said, “My goodness – I wish I could dial an angel.” And the rest, as they say, is history. DIAL-AN-ANGEL now has offices in eight locations nationally and a reputation for excellence in the home and family care industry.
The company’s Angels perform a variety of roles, from neonatal care and eldercare to domestic cleaning and garden maintenance. In the last two years, DIAL-AN-ANGEL has been taking some huge steps forward. “Our Perth office changed hands in November last year so that was an exciting change,” says Dena’s third daughter and DIAL-AN-ANGEL CEO, Danielle Robertson. “We’ve co-located our Sydney offices in March last year so that was good having everyone under one roof. We’ve become a Disability Care provider, which was quite a process, but we finally came through with that and are listed on the Disability Care website as a provider so that’s quite exciting. We became ISO certified as well.”
Becoming ISO certified was a two-year project for DIAL-AN-ANGEL that Ms Robertson says came to fruition in September of last year. “We’re just in the process of becoming an approved provider of aged care which will hopefully give us an opportunity to apply for aged care places. This will mean that we can provide community care. We’re just about to launch our new website. That’s been a two-year project as well,” she explains. Being the President of the National Nanny Association, Ms Robertson has been pushing very hard for the Childcare Rebate to be opened up for in-home nannies. “The Productivity Commission has requested submissions in February this year and the first recommendations should be coming through in early July as to whether they’re considering opening it up to in-home nannies. This is likely given that childcare is such a big topic at the moment – as is aged and disability care, so we’re in a very good space.”
While DIAL-AN-ANGEL is undergoing some transformative changes, it is still a family business doing whatever it takes to give clients from all walks of life a helping hand. “Being Australian owned and family operated for 47+ years is something that we’re proud of and it’s rare these days to find a business like ours which has lasted the distance,” comments Ms Robertson.
Businesses of all sizes can assist their valued staff with specialised home help services and DIAL-AN-ANGEL is continuing to move further into the corporate sector. “A lot of the firms that we work with provide incentives to women and men who are returning to work after parental leave by providing DIAL-AN-ANGEL gift vouchers to a certain dollar value; some are $1250, some are $1500+ worth of services. We also provide pop-up crèches on-site and that’s becoming a little more popular.” Another DIAL-AN-ANGEL service that is proving to be invaluable for corporate sector clients is emergency childcare and eldercare – some professional services and national law firms will pick up the tab for an employee if their normal childcare or eldercare arrangements fall through and they need to be at work for a case or a meeting that just can’t be missed.
At the moment, many care providers are dropping Veterans’ Care because it tends to be short-term work with heavy paperwork involved. The Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) sometimes broker to DIAL-AN-ANGEL – but not at their usual set rates. “We’ve gone into Disability Care which is very similar to the way Veterans’ Care is run so it’s very high volume but very low margin and involves short visits,” explains Ms Robertson. “The Angels might do two hours here and there which is not very cost effective from a planning and logistics basis. We are aware with what’s happening with DVA and Community Care and I think that’s what sets us apart from others. This Consumer Directed Care is what DIAL-AN-ANGEL has been doing for 47 years. The centre of attention and focus has always been our clients.”
While there is high demand for homecare services, particularly with palliative care, many providers are here today, gone tomorrow. “It’s a worry, isn’t it?” remarks Ms Robertson. “Our focus has always been our people and our clients – what do they want and what do they need? We’ve never relied on government funding and that’s a key thing that sets us apart.”
Indeed, the barriers to entry for any government work or brokered work are becoming higher due to accreditation and quality standards, and Ms Robertson believes that the way the industry is heading, a lot of the backyard operators who undercut professional organisations will soon go out of business. “We’ve been going for 47 years and are still Australian owned and family operated business and there are not too many businesses these days who can say that,” she shares.
Recruiting the right people and matching them with the right clients is paramount. DIAL-AN-ANGEL has a stringent recruitment process, ensuring that only top quality applicants become Angels. A ‘clear’ police clearance is mandatory for all applicants and anyone wishing to work with the elderly or the disabled also requires a Senior First Aid certificate. Those likely to encounter children require a Working with Children or Vulnerable Persons check. Out of a hundred people interviewed, the company may only register ten as Angels. Ms Robertson says that paying above the award helps to attract better quality staff and being casual work, the job offers flexibility so it is perfect for anyone who is semi-retired. “They can choose their own hours, choose their own days, choose where they want to work and the sort of work they want to do.”
While Ms Robertson may be CEO of the organisation, she once worked as an Angel and often handles many of the care enquiries herself. “Our Angels are so important to us and we’re also Corporate Champions of older workers, so our oldest Angel is 86 and she cares for a client who is 89!” she says. “We are part of the government’s Corporate Champions program for older workers – that is anyone over the age of 45 – so we’re regarded as an employer who really looks after workers over the age of 45. They’re reliable, loyal, they’ve got a good attitude, take pride in their work and go above and beyond what’s requested because they just know that it helps others and they get a lot out of it.”
Many of the Angels have over ten years of service and some even become clients later on. While DIAL-AN-ANGEL pays well above the award, people apply to become Angels because they want to make a real difference in people’s lives. Clients are phoned for feedback after an Angel has been to his or her home and Angels who have given more than a booking requires may be rewarded with the company’s ‘Angel of the Month’ or ‘Angel of the Year’ awards. Sometimes, clients even go on to become Angels. “It’s quite amazing how it all works actually, but our Angels are what make us who we are today.”
Clients can come from just about anywhere and sometimes make very specific and unusual requests for help, like one family in Rockhampton. The mother had her hands full with five children, two of whom were twins. She requested one Spanish speaking nanny and another Mandarin speaking nanny to each work 40 hours a week so that her children would grow up multilingual. DIAL-AN-ANGEL was able to accommodate the request.
In a different vein, people who have had cosmetic surgery have been making an increasing number of requests. They may need transport, overnight care or just companionship at the hospital. There has been a client request from Lord Howe Island and while DIAL-AN-ANGEL does not have an office there, the company recruits to fulfil bookings in these situations.
While DIAL-AN-ANGEL has had dozens of approaches from people interested in becoming franchisees, careful selection and recruitment is important. The team has not ruled out the possibility of franchising in the future but the company’s reputation is far too important to allow just anyone to become a franchisee. “We’re not actually in the business of franchising but in the provision of care; but there are loads of opportunities when the time is right. We just haven’t found the right people but when the right sorts of people do pop up then we will make that expansion.”
Undergoing ISO certification and becoming a Disability Care provider has certainly put pressure on the company’s bottom line but Ms Robertson says that the Angels are pleased that DIAL-AN-ANGEL now covers their superannuation and insurance requirements. “We did change our business model in 2012,” she explains. “Previously we did use contractors but now we employ all our Angels. I foresee that over time, many agencies will go out of business if they don’t comply as it becomes an even playing field. With changes to Consumer Directed Care, Disability Care and the Childcare Rebate coming I believe that we are placed in a very good position with our bases set. The business is on very solid ground and we’re excited about being ready for the future now.”