Danielle Robertson had big shoes to fill when she stepped into the role of CEO at Dial-An-Angel. Having worked in the business for 17 years prior, it was a natural progression for Robertson, whose mother, Dena Blackman, created the company back in 1967.
How did it all come about? As a young mother, Blackman had identified a gap in the market for quality home care services, and before she knew it, the business seed had sprouted.
“I had a wait list of 22 clients before I interviewed my first angel, and that’s when I knew it was really going to be a desperately needed [area],” says Blackman, who continues to oversee the day-to-day running of the business. “I thought it was going to be a hobby, I had a six-week-old baby!”
The philosophy that steered the business on its growth path many years ago is still very much part of its ethos today – providing quality service and retaining a personal touch with both staff and clients.
Live-in as well as visiting ‘angels’ are able to provide all home-based services, including domestic housekeeping, child care, in-home nursing, elder care, garden and home maintenance, pet care and assistance with home and corporate functions.
The ties that bind
What was initially thought of as a casual business venture has since expanded to 11 offices around the country.
The company has implemented a client feedback system to consistently monitor the level of service and expectations from clients.
“It helps us develop areas that we might not be so strong in,” Robertson says.
And the feedback system extends not only to clients, but to staff as well. Staff surveys are conducted on issues relating to marketing, IT, people, office equipment.
“Word-of-mouth has been the biggest way of referring our services and the feedback policy is part of that – anything to do with the day-to-day running of the office.
“They give me feedback and they get a response and have something actioned. I’m taking a lot on board and making changes based on their feedback.”
Robertson maintains that systems have been imperative to the company’s success. “We’ve got the systems now to cope with the sheer volume of bookings coming through to make sure we have angels in the right place at the right time.”
The biggest challenge facing the company today, Robertson says, is recruiting quality staff. “We’ve never had to go out and do a huge marketing campaign, our biggest challenge is getting suitably skilled and qualified angels.”
However, she prides herself on retaining the staff who have helped build the company to what it is today. “I’ve got long-term staff members who have been with me 20 years, most of those are managers of each of our branch offices now.”
And it is this insistence on recruiting the best of the best without compromising quality that has seen Dial-an-Angel remain the leader in its field.
“We have our finger on the pulse. We know our clients details and their children’s birthdays – the kids love receiving a letter from Dial-An-Angel – it’s just that personal touch.”
Leader of the pack
While business is booming in Australia, there are plans to eventually expand internationally. The business has registered trade marks in New Zealand, the UK, Canada and the US, in addition to local protection.
“It’s just a matter of taking on a manager who has learnt the work here and then adapt [to the region]. There are different tax and employment laws, and we have to know each area very clearly before we start opening up.”
As the business continues on its progression path, Robertson says achieving a work-life balance can be hard. “I’m very fortunate, it’s a team effort [with my husband and two children]. I seem to juggle it and cope OK. I do work very long hours, and it’s a fine line, you need to make sure you have that work-life balance, otherwise marriages fall apart.”
Blackman gives her daughter the full seal of approval and says she admires all of her qualities. “I wish I had have been like her [when I was younger], I think the world is her oyster.”
And while the sky’s the limit in regard to expansion, the business has been steered successfully thanks to two savvy and dynamic businesswomen at the helm.
“The feedback from the staff, and particularly from Dena, [is very rewarding] because she’s seen how the business has grown in the time that I’ve been involved – it has developed and expanded quite rapidly,” says Robertson.
And the client loyalty that has been part of Dial-An-Angel’s success since 1967 looks set to continue well into the future.
According to Robertson: “We still get clients ringing up saying that people who were receiving child care many years ago are receiving elder care through us. It is very rewarding and we say that we provide help from cradle to grave.”
The burgeoning home services areas has seen greater competition, which Robertson sees as a good thing to ensure they stay ahead of the field.
“There are a lot of agencies coming along on our coat-tails, but we provide the total concept in family care. We always [have] the highest rates, to make sure we get the cream of the crop for the angels – our clients are paying premiums and they expect premium service.”
It is this confidence and commitment to service that should further propel the success of Dial-An-Angel. “This industry is exciting, it’s very fast paced, we’re on that treadmill and we have to keep going. I try to make sure that our planning, our vision and the company is heading in the right direction.”