Twilight Aged Care is a not-for-profit, community based aged care provider with 100 years of history behind it. Throughout that time, they have evolved and adapted to changing economic and legislative environments – their continued success has depended on it.
Over the last three years, the aged care industry in Australia has suffered from a challenging financial environment and substantive policy changes. As it has for a century, Twilight Aged Care has survived and prospered by being flexible and adaptable in governance and strategic vision.
“The environment that we operate in has certainly had some ups and downs since 2009,” says John Stuart, CEO of Twilight Aged Care. “Our market has been impacted by what’s happened on a global scale. As a company, we’ve had to ride that wave and be smart about how we manage our investments.”
When the financial crash first happened, Twilight Aged Care restructured their portfolio. In the short term, Stuart says the balance sheet took a bit of a hit. In the long term, however, it helped them to endure the volatility of the market and come out as strong as ever.
In addition to the global financial crisis, aged care in Australia has also had constraints placed on it by the Aged Care Act, and the changes that were announced in April. “When that news was first announced, there was a lot of press around perceived impacts on the industry,” Stuart recalls. “We responded by being strategic.”
One example of that strategy was being very proactive in ensuring their documentation supported the claims they make in terms of subsidy payments. Stuart figured that the Department of Health and Ageing would put an increased focus on validation of claims – which has proved true. After not having a validation in a year and a half, Twilight Aged Care was subjected to three in as many months.
“There is an increasing focus by government to audit the claims that have been made, and strategically we recognized that was highly likely to happen,” Stuart explains. “We’ve made it our business to make sure we can defend our claims.”
“Changes happen, it’s about how you deal with them,” he continues. “To be a thriving aged care company, the leadership need to be very active and proactive in managing the environment they are operating in.” That’s what Twilight Aged Care has done – become proactive.
When reforms are announced, the tendency is to predict “doom and gloom,” Stuart says. “That’s a natural response for people, but from a company point of view you need to be a lot more agile than that, because it’s the survival of the business that’s important.”
Flexibility and agility
Like Stuart says, Twilight Aged Care has survived – and even thrived – amid a plethora of industry challenges because of their flexibility and their agility. He credits those abilities to the company’s leadership. Their Board of
Directors is chaired by John Laurie, an experienced and well respected leader within the business community of Sydney. The rest of their Board holds a range of skills that encompass legal, medical, business, and finance.
Twilight Aged Care also has very skilled peopled in finance, legal and care delivery. “There’s a very balanced view taken of the environment and what our company’s mission is,” Stuart says. “We’ve taken great care at appointing the right people in the right roles.”
That flexibility and agility benefits residents because it means Twilight Aged Care is able to deliver on their promises. Their central mission is to provide a home-like environment that is welcoming to families but also delivers a high standard of care. In order to execute on that vision, they need to make sure the company is viable, which is what being flexible is all about.
Twilight Aged Care employs approximately 160 people. At the ground floor, Twilight’s staff is also talented and dedicated, and without their efforts, the organisation would not have made it as far as they have.
“People like working for us,” Stuart says of the company’s corporate culture. “We don’t have an issue at any time in recruiting people. In fact, staff refer people to us – so whenever we advertise for care staff or others who work in the homes, we always have a significant number of applications.”
Stuart credits Twilight’s exceptional corporate culture to their ability to work with people. They have a culture of growth within the organisation. Two staff members recently celebrated 15 years with Twilight Aged Care. They both started as kitchen hands – one of them is now the admin assistant for one of their homes and the other is their activities officer. Another staff member who started as a cleaner is now the company Environment and Health & Safety Manager.
Twilight has also assisted their nursing staff over the last few years to earn qualifications in aged care. Stuart says “growing your own people” is a rewarding exercise that brings long term benefits in terms of employee satisfaction and retention.
The company also supports staff by offering flexible working hours, working hand-in-hand with them to ensure their duties at the company fit in with their own family requirements. Even more, they host parties and social events, particularly around resident functions. In recent example, one of their residents turned 100 – making four centenarians living at Twilight – and the staff put together “the most wonderful party,” Stuart says.
Moving forward, Twilight Aged Care will continue to evolve and adapt to changing market conditions. As baby boomers have entered the aged care sector, for example, the expectations of consumers have steadily increased and Twilight has had to keep up. A lot of their money goes into upgrading their facilities, to ensure they all look pleasant and appealing. They also communicate very closely with families to ensure that their expectations are understood and they know what can practically be provided.
In the long term, Stuart recognises that people want to stay in their own homes as long as possible, and funding for that cause has been increasing over the last few years. “We see our opportunity is in looking at breaking into the community care space,” he says. “We’d look to purchase a community care provider should that opportunity arise.”
They have no plans to abandon residential care, however. They have capital development plans to renew their existing infrastructure, and in 2010 they purchased their Glades Bay Gardens facility – which has started to really find its footing, Stuart says. “Now that we’ve had that experience, we’d look to expand our residential places through the purchase of further aged care facilities.”
In general, the goal for Twilight Aged Care is to continue down the path it’s on. They want to continue to provide an exceptional quality of care in a welcoming environment, using their flexibility to navigate the changing times and remain in a solid financial position. “We’re 100 years old,” Stuart concludes. “We’d like to make sure the company is in a good and solid state to carry on another 100 years.”