When then-27-year-old engineer Giovanni Siano came to Australia from Italy in 2011, he couldn’t get a job. Applying for over 150 roles, he eventually landed something in hospitality on minimum wage.
Today, he and his wife, Giselle Siano, run their own aged care business, Home Instead Geelong, which provides in-home care to the elderly. His entrepreneurial journey was fraught with ups and downs, but it is a story of genuine entrepreneurial tenacity and hard work that helped him gradually climb the ladder.
Giovanni and Giselle founded Home Instead Geelong in 2018, and the company now employs over 350 locals. It was recently named a founding member in three categories of the 2022 Committee Achievement Awards for Regional Victoria. It was also named Geelong’s ‘Business of the Year 2021’ and won the ‘Emerging Business (under three years)’ award at the Geelong Business Excellence Awards.
“Before starting the business, I worked as a business consultant in the aged care industry, specifically in residential facilities, working on those businesses,” Giovanni recalls. “I spent four years trying to improve operations and systems before finding inspiration and an opportunity to start my own business to help those people stay in their own homes for as long as possible.”
“I discovered a gap in the market where you frequently find people living in residential age care facilities who are not really ready for it, but because they didn’t have any formal support at home, they had no choice but to move into a residential aged care, which quite frankly, many people are now trying to avoid after COVID.”
Giovanni notes that his motivation for starting Home Instead Geelong stemmed from his desire to improve the lives of ageing people and their families. “Severe labour scarcity, that’s an example that frequently puts residents at risk, and that’s the notion that came about after four years of experience and fantastic ideas and deciding to establish my own firm with the help of my wife, who has now joined the full-time business in 2018.
“I began with four caregivers and no clients in my first round of recruiting. There is no brand recognition in the local territory; that is how we began, to improve the lives of the elderly.”
‘Mistakes are just opportunities’
Aged care providers provide an important service to the Australian elderly. Unexpected occurrences could significantly affect a provider’s regular business operations or financial situation.
Giovanni believes that making the change and remaining committed to the business despite setbacks will be extremely beneficial. “A word of advice: we learn by making mistakes. Sometimes trial and error is the best way to go about things, so I would have loved to have made all the mistakes I did along the way so that I wouldn’t be in that position.”
“Overall, I believe that mistakes are simply opportunities to learn, so perhaps trust the process a little more and be confident that things will work out when you begin.”
Talking about his initial apprehension and how fortunate he was to build a clientele quickly, Giovanni says, “In the beginning, you’re always unsure if things will turn out okay, and you resign from a full-time job, and all of a sudden, you’re out there with no income, and you don’t knock on doors and try to get your name out there, and then you lose a little bit of drive when you see that results aren’t coming right away.
“Fortunately, it didn’t take long for me to build a client base and quickly become the region’s go-to or trusted provider.” In just over four years, we’ve grown to 370 employees, including approximately 47 full-time office staff and providing nearly 20,000 hours of care per month. It’s been very rewarding to see and experience our community’s growth and how we can make a difference.
“We’re all about making a difference. We are all about improving the lives of Australians, and I believe we have demonstrated that we have the tools and capability to do so.”
While Initial difficulties are a given in the business world, and every entrepreneur faces their own set of challenges, for Giovanni, it was the ability to forge the community’s trust and recognition.
“When you first start, you are just like any other provider who has appeared in the community, and I have no earned trust in you. So I’m rebuilding that trust and recognition that, yes, home is scheduled on is a provider I should trust and entrust my loved ones to.
“It took a while, but once the word got out and the quality of the work started to show and spread within a community, it wasn’t long before we started to gain momentum and gain traction. So I suppose the other challenge has been attracting the necessary workforce. So that’s what we’re all about.”
“So that’s essentially what we do. We recruit and train caregivers to become outstanding and professional home instead caregivers, and they must have the right attitude, cultural fit, and a huge heart to do the job well in this industry. That is what we seek. We only hire people who have the right attitude, heart, and compassion to become fantastic caregivers. Identifying those people is difficult, but we’re slowly building a reputation in the community where people want to work for us.
“And I consider myself to be a preferred employer. Every month, we hire between 20 and 30 new caregivers. So we’re always recruiting, there’s always a demand, and I’m very pleased with our variety of activities and interests.”
The human-centric healthcare industry
Giovanni continues, “I believe it has become a little more competitive,” in reference to the industry’s increased level of competition. “It’s getting more and more competitive. I think that a lot of service providers are opening doors in this space while also abiding by the law.
“Also, the standards for the aged care industry have increased; assessors and the commission are scrutinising us much more closely to make sure we deliver high-quality care and assistance that complies with the rules we are required to follow. In conclusion, I would say that it is getting harder to operate in this sector.
“We’re compliant, and so far, there haven’t been any problems. We have a strong quality management system, and we have registered nurses who can follow regulations and manage the clinical governance related to what we do. We are now in a good position.”
“There are only so many things you can do with the resources we have. Every day there is more demand. The population is ageing, we live longer, more and more people want to spend more time at home, and the workforce is getting smaller.
“Due to the severe shortage, the only way to continue providing care for loved ones who are vulnerable in our communities is to use technology to improve processes and increase efficiency, as well as to supplement the care delivery process with platforms or robots. Artificial intelligence allows us to scale up efficiency.”
Outside funding or self-funding
Should you start your new business with personal funds or seek outside investors such as family and friends? Giovanni asserts that his company was self-funded from the beginning.
“You really don’t need much, just a small office space, which is what I started with, three by three with one desk and one board, one computer, and just me. As you gain clients, you begin to hire a second administrative assistant, followed by a third, and you rent out a larger space, after which I purchase a 500-square-meter office. That is, as long as you find your niche and are able to self-fund the business as it grows.”
“Businesses must, I suppose, enhance their systems, and offer high-quality training, so we must continue to improve the training and education sector in which we engage and perhaps even expand into new regions. We currently have investments in other areas.
“Therefore, maintaining sustainable and organic growth must be the main goal. Because this is a very tightly regulated industry and there are many hats you need to wear, and because it only takes one of them to fall off, you should do your research, be well-prepared, seek out expert advice, and invest in professionals who are knowledgeable in their field.”
Giovanni Siano, an engineer who was 27 at the time, arrived in Australia from Italy in 2011, but he had trouble finding work. He eventually found a hospitality job at a minimum wage after applying for more than 150 positions. In 2018, he launched his own aged care business, Home Instead Geelong, which offers older clients home care packages. He did this via grit and some genuine entrepreneurial determination.
Visit Home Instead Geelong here.