Following is a guest blog by Damien James, founder and CEO of Aged Foot Care, Australia’s largest and most awarded podiatry provider. Established in 1997, the company caters exclusively to residents in Aged Care Facilities throughout Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. Here Damien gives us an insight into some of the factors that have helped him turn a radical business idea into a thriving health care company that continues to grow.
1. HAVE A CLEAR VISION OF THE FUTURE
When I first established Aged Foot Care (AFC), there was no other company like us. Despite podiatry being a very well-established industry, no podiatrists had decided to focus on just providing care to patients living in aged care facilities.
Instead, podiatrists would often fulfil their private practice commitments during the day and fit aged care residents in after hours or on the weekends. Unfortunately though, this didn’t suit most residents living in aged care because these were the times they wanted to spend socialising with visiting family and friends.
So right when developing my business model, I knew I wanted to create a service that fostered stronger relationship, rather than hindering them. I felt if my company could do that we’d be providing emotional comfort as well as physical comfort which was the key. Today AFC’s vision is to ‘help create a world where residents living in aged care are joyous and optimistic’, and that undoubtedly stems from my original vision all those years ago.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a clear vision when you first start up a business. It keeps you on track and motivated to succeed. From the start I had a clear vision and I truly believe that’s what gave me the passion and drive to pursue my idea and turn it into a reality.
2. STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD (WHILST CREATING VALUE)
Any business owner will tell you, you need to know what sets you apart from your competitors in order for you to stand out, and from experience I know that’s absolutely true. If you fail to differentiate yourself you’ll have very little choice but to compete on price, and when that happens, there’s very little profit left over to help you build the type of business you may be dreaming of.
The fundamental thing to remember though is to ensure your point of difference is valued by your target market. There’s no point in being different just for the sake of being different!
When I first started building the company a common frustration expressed by prospects was a lack of continuity with podiatrists. I believed there was value in working hard to solve this problem as it would immediately differentiate AFC’s service and offer value at the same time.
It would also allow us to build strong relationships with our patients meaning we’d provide both physical and emotional comfort. And that’s why our USP is “Healthy Feet. Happy Heart”. It encompasses our goals as a company and aligns perfectly with our vision.
Our guarantee of long term continuity of service is how we ensure we fulfil our USP. It’s one of the most important aspects of our company as it assures the same podiatrist is always sent to the same facility. We see it as cornerstone of our business because it gives our podiatrists the unique opportunity to develop strong relationships with residents and facility staff over the long term.
It’s also because of our continuity of service that I know our podiatrists genuinely care about the residents they treat. We see it in the little things that they do every day, whether it be having a dance with a resident or staying back after work to play some bingo.
Creating smiles and spreading joy through our work is still at the core of what we do, it’s what we feel makes us stand out and it’s a fundamental reason why we’ve featured on BRW’s Fast 100 list two years in a row, placing 80th in 2013, and 69th on the 2013 Great Places to Work list.
3. HIRE THE RIGHT PEOPLE FOR THE RIGHT JOB
This is where you can make it or break it! You can have a great vision and a brilliant model for creating value and differentiating yourself but if you can’t attract, and keep, a great team it’ll all fall apart. I know that because I’ve made this mistake in the past.
In the beginning recruitment was one of AFC’s biggest constraints; basically we just didn’t know how to attract the right people. But we kept working at it because we realised it was essential for us to attract and keep great team members if we were going to create a valuable point of difference and ultimately move closer to our vision.
To attract the right kind of team, we’ve really had to focus on improving our company from within. Implementing a structured recruitment plan, strengthening our internal communications channels and developing the most supportive systems, have really helped us attract and retain the right kind of people, those with ‘golden hearts’ that really understand what our company is about.
I honestly believe it is crucial to ensure you have the right team around you. Many companies hire just to fill a position, but at AFC we wait for the right candidate to come along, even if it takes longer than we hope for. Your team members are the ambassadors of the company, and they need to live the values your company holds dear, it’s not worth compromising that.
Today I can proudly say that we employ over 60 team members, with, 30% of new starters in the last 12 months referred to us from within our current team. That’s pretty amazing considering that not too long ago recruitment was one of our weakest areas.
Find out more about Aged Foot Care’s story at http://www.agedfootcare.com/.