Heading in the right direction: reputable brand, long history and poised for growth
SummitCare is an organisation that has been providing quality residential aged care services within the Sydney metropolitan area for almost 50 years. Residents of the organisation’s nine centres are residents of unique communities. Within these communities, residents are able to live life to the fullest, while at the same time having the peace of mind that all their care needs are met.
As an organisation, SummitCare has built a reputation for providing the highest standards of care. In the late 1960’s, Emerich Wohl and his wife Elizabeth established the Wohl Management Group, which contained several nursing homes within its portfolio. The Wohl’s commenced their business with an aim to give back to the community. “That’s an underpinning component of the Summitcare journey, and that’s transitioned through these three phases,” says Cynthia Payne, CEO.
The first phase of the business consisted of Emerich Wohl’s tenure as owner-operator. When his two children, Peter Wohl and Agnes Martin, took over the ownership structure following his death in 2000, the second phase began. The third phase started only this year, when Peter Wohl took over total shareholder ownership after Agnes’ retirement. “What is unique about SummitCare is that it has a long history with the same ownership transferring through the generations,” Payne says.
Payne herself joined SummitCare in 2002, and has served almost 10 years as CEO. Her background is in the aged care sector, where she first worked as a nurse. When she joined the organisation, it was known as Summit Health Care. In 2008, she led a rebranding initiative where it was renamed as simply SummitCare. “With this change in brand name also came new growth through a new development,” she says.
Today, SummitCare has nine aged care centres across New South Wales. What sets these centres apart from other aged care residences is the continuous private ownership structure, the culture of experience, confidence in care service delivery and the forthrightness present within. “What it says it does, it actually does,” says Payne.
At the simplest level, SummitCare is differentiated within the sector by being the only aged care service in Australia that has been awarded Silver in the Australian Business Excellence Awards. “Coming with that accolade are a range of performance indicators,” Payne explains. “We have a very high staff retention rate that exceeds most industry benchmarks, and we have a very thorough approach to how we’ve aligned our operations around our customers.”
SummitCare use a third party to conduct comprehensive telephone surveys that gather feedback from their residents and their family members, with response rates between 80 and 90 per cent. These surveys cover every aspect of service delivery, and SummitCare uses the results to continuously improve what they do. “We genuinely use that feedback to innovate,” Payne says.
Personnel wise, satisfaction and staff engagement within SummitCare is equally high. The organisation employs more than 900 people across their services, and with the imminent introduction of a new development, that number will soon be higher. Payne describes the culture among those people as very strong, and says there is a high level of engagement within their staff. Another survey they recently conducted validates this belief, as it found that – of the survey sample – 94 per cent of the staff were found to be ‘dedicated’. That number puts SummitCare at the top of the health and aged care industries.
Staff turnover is a common industry challenge, but SummitCare has avoided that. Payne says their employees, on average, have been with the company for 7 or 8 years. She credits this amazing retention to the fact that leadership makes employee satisfaction one of their key focuses. “From the very beginning when someone is recruited into the organisation and throughout their entire employment, it is very collaborative relationship,” she says.
At SummitCare, they are investing strongly in recognising their staff. They have talent management strategies, and offer opportunities for career progression and planning. A SummitCare employee can enter the organisation as a direct care worker, and advance into a management role. “That’s just something to be celebrated,” Payne says. “We have a strong focus on recognising our staff, and we’re seeing the fruits of that focus paying dividends.”
Another common industry challenge is contending with strict regulation, and in that arena Payne is hoping for reform. “We are waiting diligently for the current government to make a decision on the way forward for caring for older people,” she says “We’re very hopeful that a reform agenda will flow, starting with this year’s federal budget in May.”
In 2009 SummitCare commissioned a new facility in Newcastle. “This was a new physical asset brought to the group,” says Payne. The centre has 142 beds, and features a new product mix – having both high care, low care, and extra service options. Most importantly, SummitCare will further extend their product mix in their next facility with the introduction of community based service. “Not only will we service the people that live under the roof of that building, we’ll also extend the services to reach out into that local community,” Payne explains.
Moving forward, SummitCare will continue to pursue that type of diversification. Peter Wohl, now the single shareholder, views that pursuit as the path to further growth. “We want to use our core competence, and our ability to meet care needs, and leverage these into other opportunities,” says Payne. Their new development, which will be located in Baulkham Hills, would be a reflection of this strategic goal.
Beyond diversifying, Payne describes the end-goal as being continuous improvement. “We are just coming off the back of a major market review exercise where we have taken a very hard look at how we compare with our competitors,” she says. This review measured brand presence and consumer experience, and it showed that SummitCare compared exceptionally favourably. By having an operationally effective business that is aligned with what the consumers want, SummitCare will continue to maintain a strong brand identity and will continue to seize opportunities to improve their standing.