Peoplecare is a national, not-for-profit healthcare provider employing 200 people based in Wollongong. With a history of providing health insurance for Wollongong’s steel making industry since 1952, in 2006 the fund became an ‘open fund’ for all members of the public. Today, Peoplecare provides health cover for more than 70,000 people on 34,000 memberships and strives to deliver the highest levels of customer satisfaction.
My background is not typical for CEO. My undergraduate was a Bachelor of Nursing. I transitioned to private health insurance from nursing in the public health system around 20 years ago and was fortunate to gain expertise in population health management that’s been quite unique in health and health insurance.
I got to the stage where I thought, ‘What’s next for me?’. I ended up doing my PhD at the University of Wollongong. I could only work one day a week while studying full-time, and an opportunity to do that came up at Peoplecare as clinical advisor, if you like, in population health management. That was 10 years ago, and I’ve been here since. I came on board full-time when I finished my PhD and 2 years ago I was appointed as CEO.
So quite the unexpected story, but just a phenomenal kind of one for me, and the experience and opportunities that I’ve had I’m really grateful for.
It brings the best of everything into one place, you’re close enough to the city but you have a real community with family and friends. Some of the most amazing, beautiful beaches and facilities that you can find anywhere too.
I have a ritual, if I’m near North Beach, I always drive around the lighthouse and look out at the beach. It’s my reminder that I live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world. It is easy to take it for granted because it’s so accessible.
The morning begins with a coffee, I’ll sit and enjoy some music and sitting on the lounge. Normally the work day begins at 8am. If I’m busy, it’s 7am. If it’s before that, somethings not working, that’s the indicator.
The benefits of the lower cost of business. Of course, there is lower rent in Wollongong and staff costs and the associated costs of staff turnover, which are lower here. The lower cost of business can be transferred to clients too and can become a selling point.
Wollongong people typically want to get more out of life than just the office and competition. It is about that work life balance, family and community that I find fun and inspiring. There is competition but the competition is from a community perspective, rather than an individual view. We want to succeed as a region.
The support from the CEO’s and the business leaders here is outstanding. Taking on big challenges is much more achievable and enjoyable with good people around who are looking to help you succeed.
Often people simply have a lack of awareness of Wollongong in general. Consistently, though, when people come here for the first time they realise it’s much nicer than first thought in terms of the environment and lifestyle, many eventually choose to buy homes here and live locally.
Wollongong provides an opportunity for you to grow your business with lower costs and access to some amazing talent. For you and your family, there’s the lifestyle, but truly there is a community that want to see you succeed. That is the most valuable aspect. We all have a role in the community and that is part of the connection you get here.
Peoplecare has prioritised culture as a defining characteristic of the organisation and maintaining our culture is crucial. In terms of metrics, we’ve been awarded as an Kincentric Best Employer for three years running now. Peoplecare is passionately not-for-profit. We are here for our members. Peoplecare hire on culture first and we are about genuinely caring for our members.
We employ 200 people in Wollongong and we’re able to maintain high retention rates here. Staff that chose to come to Wollongong, they are drawn to the lifestyle and values, the work-life balance. Many are graduates from the University of Wollongong. There are also staff who commute to Wollongong to work with us.
There are opportunities in roles that are entry level for graduates. The University can offer interns, or placements for projects. It becomes part of students learning at university. Students are able to take on meaningful work. They come up with some amazing ideas.
We’ve recently started a more formal program with technology interns. We’re doing technology-based work to transform traditional service. We have four interns currently, all from the University of Wollongong. They benefit and we benefit, it’s a real win-win.
The Illawarra Business Chamber and Invest Wollongong can help, they can assist with the value proposition for moving to the region and provide those important metrics, these are great formal mechanisms.
There’s also a community where you can reach out and connect very easily with business leaders, they are generous with their time and willing to have a coffee and a chat. You can get a feel for the area, information relevant to your sector and hear first-hand about others experiences operating here.