2 girls – one business. What it is like to run Medcall.

What's it like running Medcall photo



You know going into business can be a very, scary prospect for many of us!  Even more challenging – a business within the grossly underfunded, massively growing Aged Care Sector.  But everyone relax, these two have it in hand!

I interviewed the two owners of Medcall (Jane and Andi) and was enthralled by their candid, straightforward and knowledgeable take on what they do and the industry…read on!

 So, what was your decision behind investing in a business in the health recruitment space?

Jane:  Despite the fact that Andi and I were competitors for many years, we always liked and had a mutual respect for each other.  After moving to Medcall (known at the time as Nightingale) as GM – I contacted Andi to see if she would join the company.  As it turns out, the owners wanted to sell the business – it was a great opportunity.  It is a case of the right people, in the right place at the right time.  Our skills are complimentary, our personalities blend, we share the same business philosophies, we laugh together and there is implicit trust

(Andi gave me her part of the purchase $$ without even a shareholder agreement or deal!! – now that’s trust).

 What have been the hardest aspects of running your own business so far?

Jane:  Three things, learning a lot more around the financials of the business – when the buck kind of stops with you and especially being the only director, I had to stop and learn the rules.  Secondly, the health & safety of all our staff – it’s a big deal and pretty important to me to ensure I balance responsibility without being freaked out by it!  Lastly, when we first took over the business we undertook a restructure that resulted in changes in roles and jobs in the business, that’s not cool, I don’t like that on a personal level, but understood it had to happen and it actually went really well too.

What did you do in the early days to define a distinct team culture and has this evolved?

Jane:  It still is the early days!!  At time of buying the business Andi and I agreed that who we are and how we conducted ourselves actually mattered as much as what we did and what we offered. And from this the philosophy ‘People who Care’ was created and it quickly became our tagline.  The whole team were part of this, if you asked the team they would say that we are always striving to be People Who Care, and constantly recruiting and seeking people to join us and engage with who feel and act the same way. Care before commercial!

What are the most significant changes that Medcall and more broadly, the recruitment industry have had to deal with in terms of client and candidate behaviour?

Andi:   Over the last few years it has been increasingly evident that clients have taken their recruitment in house, as they have developed their own HR teams. This has happened before and when it is managed well has been a large investment and added value to the organisation.  However, we have also seen it be costly, ineffective and some organisations have reverted to outsourcing recruitment with people like us.

Jane:  Andi’s right – our biggest competitors in many ways are our clients, and that is an unusual position to be in.  We are sometimes seen as the ‘last resort’ if they haven’t had a good response to their own permanent recruitment strategies or for gaps in their roster.  This is fine, and we are happy to help when that is the case, but the cool thing for us is that we attract candidates considering a new permanent role/career change who want anonymity, and a relationship with someone who is invested in helping them find what best fits their skills and expertise.  They seek almost an ‘advisor’ type relationship and we are known as being highly confidential and straight up.  I would rather a person got their best possible role and the client had their new superstar and take time to achieve that than meet budget (yikes don’t tell the bank!).  Our reputation has grown with our perm candidates and regular interaction with them over social media has grown. As long as we continue to stick to ‘what’ we do and ‘how’ we do it, we will continue to attract and grow our unique candidate pool and have a fab time matching them with their best new employer!

Andi: Last week, we had a client comment after we advertised on their behalf, that we get a slightly different candidate because of that anonymity and that they trusted us to work on their behalf with those candidates who prefer not to apply directly.

 How has the trend for mass global migration affected you?

Jane: Over the last 3 years we have seen 5-10x  more candidates applying for roles than in previous  years, and often applicants do not even have the minimum requirements for the roles we are recruiting for (predominantly Managers, Team Leaders and above).  These roles require a level of expertise, professionalism and experience. We are fielding literally 100’s of candidates each week of which we are only able to work with just a few – a very arduous task and something that our clients must really struggle with!

 Tell me about the role that technology plays at Medcall in 2015?

Andi: Huge! How we advertise, attract & maintain loyal candidates, access clients and their company’s info, market trends, and of course promoting our own business and values, all utilises technology. It’s also a massive component of managing, supporting and training our temp workforce on our bureau.

Jane:  We share industry information, professional development courses & opinion via our blogs on our website and social media. You can’t beat face to face interaction but technology leads to those introductions!

 What changes do you think the recruitment industry needs to make to its traditional business model in order to remain relevant to its customers over the next decade?

Andi:  Be aware of what’s happening, observe current trends in the sector, and be prepared to adjust and adapt; otherwise you’ll be left behind.

Jane:  Don’t make assumptions about how people will behave – use analytics and social skills e.g. talk to them! We’ve chosen to invest money to market and sell our ‘story’ to attract candidates and clients – the right ones, ones who align with our values too.  You have to arm candidates with knowledge, through professional Development courses, informative blogs and honest opinions on the sector.  Lastly: always have a 2 way relationship – seems simple but often not done!

 What changes do you believe smart clients and candidates could make going forward that would make a big difference to them?

Jane: The big thing is around being responsive and open minded.   The health sector is risk adverse and requires high levels of compliance.  Sometimes the fear of getting it wrong does not allow you to get it right.

Andi:  NZ is a very small market, the health sector is small and the aged care is smaller again & specialised.  So rather than recycling the same people, it would be great if organisations were prepared to look outside the sector for people with transferable skills – from overseas or from different health care sectors within NZ. Then mentor and develop them – this would be a real plus.

Jane:  It is a pretty interesting landscape – we have some really big publically listed smart organisations, a variety of not for profit groups, smaller private groups, some stand alone sites, religious run services.  This makes options for candidates huge and varied.  The clients who are agile, understand and promote their unique offering and are genuine in their relationship with their staff will be most successful.  Aged care is generally less funded and doesn’t pay as well as the DHB’s or private sector, but actually if you ask most Nurses, Clinical Managers and Facility Managers, most of them say money is not the major factor for staying in those roles. So, smart clients will value their staff through retention strategies, development and a culture that allows and trusts staff to shine and perform with confidence.

Is the sector keeping up with the effect of technology on communications?

Jane: There are some big variances in the sector in terms of technology, with some of our big commercial organisations being incredibly tech’ savvy and the smaller sites and businesses have little or no technological infrastructure or support.  I am a Nurse and so I see that the care of the resident/patient is paramount and the IT, communications, marketing etc is all there to support care.   I do get concerned that some Nurses or clinical managers are having increasing responsibilities as business people – and I can tell you from experience that you don’t study to be a Nurse because you want to run a business.  The commercial/marketing part of the business in my view should be managed by those who are skilled and know how to do it.  Increasingly we are seeing the larger organisations hiring business managers who may be nurses or business people and allowing them to focus on the business side whilst linking to clinical.  This allows our clinical leaders to get on with providing safe and awesome care and support to the staff/residents.

What would be your final comment about being in a health care business in the sector?

Jane: I love aged care, it is that simple.  We run a business where I work with people I like, and provide services I am proud of to clients I respect, so that people are cared for – how perfect is that? I wake up excited to go into work every day!

Andi: Running a business that has such an excellent reputation and where we can make a difference for our clients and staff everyday is pretty awesome.

Interview by Lisa Garrity August 2015