Miranda Smith Homecare was established over 17 years ago, making it the longest running private home care agency in New Zealand. Miranda fits into The Icehouse having done the Owner Manager Programme back in 2009. Miranda is also on the advisory board for The Icehouse.
Brief description of what your business does and how it started?
People come to us looking for careers to help them in their own homes. We recruit, but we continue to provide the services and manage them all the way through. I am based in Hawke's Bay. We also have offices in Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, and Taupo. I have Miranda Smith Homecare and then I have, Care Attorney, which is another business. I look after new-born babies right through to end-of-life care.
When I was 22, I produced the idea. I went overseas, lots of people were working, lots of New Zealanders, Australians and South Africans used to do homecare over there to make money and then go traveling. I tried it and I was bad at it. I got a job with a lady who ran her own agency. I worked for her for two years. I learned everything from her. I came back and laid on the beach in Taupo for three months before my parents were like what are you going to do? That is literally when it just sorts of came out of my mouth. I am going to start a home care agency, it was never a plan, I just blurted it out one day. It was quite an unusual choice. I would not have thought when I was at school that I was going to spend most of my life looking after others.
How fast did it take to grow the business?
It grew based on what my focus was at the time. When I had children, they came to the office with me. I took time off where I needed but I carried on working, I just was not as focused on growing the business.
It took a year, and my first client for the first year had dementia, and I thought he would tell everyone about me, but I do not know that he really remembered who was caring for him. The first year was my biggest learning curve. In my second year, I just worked hard at making lots of connections, through doctors and community organizations. It was not until late into year 2 and 3 that there became a bigger need for home careers as no one else was doing it.
Do you have contractors or employed staff?
All my careers were independent contractors, right up until five years ago when we employed them all. It was a great model to start a business on, having contractors and being able to provide them work when you had work. The employment model suits us more now, just being bigger and needing to have more structure. We have around 280 staff now.
When you did OMP in 2009, did your GFC hit at the beginning of the program or was it throughout?
I signed up for it in 2008. I remember thinking, oh, God, this is such a lot of money. What am I doing it for, things are trekking along well, what could go wrong? By the time I started the course the entire Auckland market had plummeted. It went from here down to there. We were more of a luxury item, compared to now being more of a necessity, but for those in 2009, it was only available for people that could afford it and suddenly that got tight.
When I hit that first session of OMP, I was stressed, and I just really could not believe it. I was 33 and still thought I was quite young. I was like what is happening to me, I have had growth, I had 10 years of growth and it came as a bit of a shock. Somethings going wrong and how do you fix it? It was just the best timing for me, to be in it and to have all that support and knowledge, was amazing.
What has OMP taught you?
When you started businesses in those days, it was really, fake it until you made it. When I got to OMP, I really realized how unprepared I was for any kind of disaster and how my business was not going as well as it should have been because of my lack of expertise around me. I think, I just thought I knew everything, that I did not need anyone else. I had a lot of staff, and I was trucking along.
What were your first impression when arriving on day 1 at OMP?
It was daunting. There were 23 men and 2 women. I walked into that room, and I am quite a confident person. No doubt I walked in confidently, but inside I was going ahh, and it took the first day and the first night having a few drinks and you realize no matter how big you are, or how well organized you are, if you have the best team in the world, everyone still has cash flow issues, HR issues, and everyone is happy to help each other.
The thing with Icehouse is it is an open conversation. I was so scared about putting my finances down and within 24 hours you are just like, right, look at this, tell me where I am going wrong and that peer feedback is incredible because you know, they are doing it for good genuine reasons.
It was just a wonderful experience and meeting other people and knowing that there was somebody to pick up the phone and go, this is my issue today and they go, I had that last week. Sometimes the public looks at your small-medium sized business and goes, it is so cool, it is so easy. Well, it is not, you know, daily challenges, we have big disruptions like we are having right now and back in 2009, it is scary, and you have a lot of responsibility and a lot of stress.
What were your objections for not signing up to OMP sooner?
I just did not feel like I was really meant to be there. I knew that my turnover was enough to be there, but I still thought it would be minimal compared to others. I was aware that I had not had any formal education or training past school. I was really scared that I was going to say something stupid. I do not know whether that is all women. We are not great at putting ourselves forward and going, look at my business, these skills, the vulnerability I have is what can make a great business.
I just do not know that we have enough business stories with women that say, it is hard. But it is a remarkable thing to have, and you can grow with your family, and you can have all these benefits, that you may not get if you are working nine to five for someone else. It just takes a little bit of confidence. Anyone that is thinking about doing it, once you are on OMP, you just wonder why you had not done it sooner.
Who is someone you look up to in business?
David Irving the founder of The Icehouse. Once I started getting to know him through a business capacity with The Icehouse, he just has this incredible ability to listen to people, and really is thinking and understanding what you are saying and seeing opportunities and challenges while you are talking. That is such an amazing ability to read or understand what people are saying, when they do not even realize they are telling you. I have been working with him for the last five years and he has met all my coordinators, he will talk to them and hear the issues. He is just so kind and thoughtful.