Health Care Where It’s Needed

W & L Services

Headquartered in Norwood, South Australia, W & L Group of Companies is a nationally recognised mobile allied health and aged care provider serving over 350 facilities with more than 230 allied health therapists. The organisation has operations in every state and territory including rural and remote areas.

Started by Nick Heywood-Smith, the company’s CEO, himself a certified physiotherapist, and his wife Nikki in 2003, W & L Services strives to enhance quality of life for the elderly by providing exceptional qualified mobile services in aged care facilities and in private homes. The company also provides educational resources for its therapists and other caregivers so they may deliver the best in brand services that clients expect and demand.

“Our core mission is to improve the quality of elderly people’s lives and to educate those who look after them,” explains Nick. He also shares that when the business was initially established, he maintained a large team of allied health care professionals and was “trying to be everything to everyone. We’ve really narrowed that focus [now] to our five core services – physiotherapy, podiatry, speech pathology, dieticians and occupational therapists.”

Reputation Speaks Volumes
It’s been said that you can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do – you have to deliver. It’s not only a brand of distinction but a good reputation that’s enabled W & L Services to be a proven winner in a very competitive arena, a commendable achievement considering the company was initiated from a small home based office. It is this reputation that allows the company to retain its competitive advantage, its credibility, and its trust among its numerous clients.

“We never set out to be a cheap service. To be honest, I actually set out to be the most premium service because I believe that our quality is so high,” shares Nick. “The best way we have grown or pushed that growth is through referrals and testimonials from our current clients… we didn’t set out to be a national company. The reputation absolutely plays a huge part. I feel that the way that we market our services quite often is through that reputation, through referrals and testimonials that we get back from a happy client.”

The health care industry in Australia is moving toward a consumer directed care model and for this reason, says Nick, “Your reputation is everything. You have to deliver quality services otherwise your reputation is gone and consumers will choose someone else or another supplier. Typically, our business model has been B2B and there will be more opportunities in B2C. That’s going to be an interesting transition I think.”

Delivering and Keeping the Best
Attracting, and more importantly, retaining, qualified staff is a challenge requiring retention strategies that aim to foster employee engagement, satisfaction and enthusiasm, cultivating key core values. In essence, employees need to know that they’re respected and treated like the valuable assets that they are.

“The hardest thing for us has always been finding good staff,” adds Nick. “When they do come on board with us there is quite an extensive training program they have to go through. They have to learn about the Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI). [This] includes a lot of E-learning training programs… this allows us to grow into other states and to actually train our therapists in other states prior to actually meeting them face to face.”

As an added incentive to employee retention, W & L Services allocates five per cent of therapists’ salaries toward continuous placement development courses (CPD). “If it’s going to improve them as therapists and it’s going to improve their ability to deliver services, then we will fund that. That’s a good retention strategy for us. Therapists really like getting their training paid for.”

Aside from the training therapists receive through access to W & L’s educational website, they can also access external courses provided by different associations specific to their field, like podiatry, for example. “We would pay for that if it relates back to our service delivery, being typically aged care,” Nick affirms. “There’s a clear career progression pathway for any person that enters our organisation… I have quite a young team but they’re extremely well trained in aged care.”

Partnering for Growth
W & L Services recently partnered with Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA), a nationally recognised industry leader association providing support, training and advocacy for providers of residential and community care. ACSA acts as a voice for the industry, ensuring the ageing population of the nation has access to a sustainable health care delivery system.

Regarding this partnership, Nick explains that, “We chose to go into a national partnership with ACSA because they tend to have as members most of the large aged care organisations in Australia. We have a very strong presence in a few states but not in all states; we wanted to build that presence and brand in all the other states. Because ACSA is probably the leading aged care association in Australia, we thought by cross branding and partnering with them we would get access not only to their members, but their CEOs of larger organisations.”

Changing Trends
Nick believes that W & L has a vital role to play in easing the demand from members of an ageing population that now wish to remain in their own homes as long as possible while still receiving a high level of service delivery. “There will always be a need for aged care facilities but in Australia, many baby boomers are not wanting to enter aged care facilities in our towns and villages. They’re quite happy to pay for services to come to them, obviously at a higher cost. They’re quite willing to pay for that,” he says.

“The future of aged care in Australia, I believe, is moving toward a more mobile delivery of services. At the moment we service mainly aged care facilities, but I think down the track, we’ll be going more to people’s homes.”

From 2012 to 2060 it is anticipated that the population of Australians aged 75 and over will increase by at least 4 million persons, from 6.4 to a 14.4 per cent of the population. This will place a significant strain on the health care delivery system, something that Nick readily acknowledges. “There’s definitely a shortage of health professionals in Australia,” he says. “We are quite active in trying to bring over trained allied health professionals or nurses from overseas.” In the past, W & L has sponsored health professionals from the UK, Canada, Botswana and India, and says Nick, “We are actively looking into the Philippines for homecare nurses… there’s a bit of red tape around their qualifications and their suitability to work in Australia and bridging courses that need to be done. But we’re actively looking at those options as well… There’s no question that therapists from around the world would love to come and live in Australia. Our preference is always to employ and recruit Australian therapists, but we will look overseas as well.”

W & L realises that its clients are not only the aged care facilities and the elderly clients, but also the allied health professionals. “One of our mottos is to offer wellness opportunities and lifestyle rewards in all relationships,” concludes Nick. “That’s what we’re hoping to achieve.”

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

January 18, 2019, 3:28 AM AEDT