Each week, SHESAID features an inspiring woman who has been kind enough to share her story with our readers. She might be a leader in her chosen field, someone still on their own path striving to make a difference or simply someone with a remarkable story to tell. These women contribute their own knowledge, expertise and life lessons in order to truly inspire others.
Name and role:
Lauren Todorovic, founder and director of Aged Care Report Card, which is primarily a ratings and reviews website for all existing aged care facilities Australia-wide.
Tell us about your role? What is it? What do you do on a day-to-day basis?
Basically ACRC is a similar concept to ‘trip advisor’ but for the aged care industry with some industry specific considerations. ACRC was established to not only create a useful resource for people searching and comparing aged care facilities but also and most importantly I saw it as away of establishing a more transparent approach to sharing experiences of people living or working in these facilities.
On a day-to-day basis in the early stage I was juggling two full time jobs which makes life interesting! My clinical roles include working with patients who have been diagnosed with brain cancer and more recently setting up a Cognition and Dementia Service. Cognitive deficit is something that impacts as much as 80% of residents in aged care. I’m really fortunate to support this group of patients and I really love my work. I feel really privileged to be given the opportunity to work in this area and look after these patients, it’s not only changed my outlook on life but it is a big part of what motivated me to start my own business in the first place. I took the next step and here I am!!
You have been working in health care field now for a number of years, when did you realise you wanted to do this as a career?
I’ve been working as a nurse for 10 years now, I don’t know that I always wanted to be a nurse I found it really difficult in my final year of school to choose what I wanted to do for the ‘rest of my life’ so to speak. I was always the nurturing type and enjoyed caring for people (especially the elderly) and I saw nursing as great career to travel and it’s one of those careers that is so diverse allowing you to move from one specialty area to another which always keeps things interesting!
I went back and studied my masters 5 years ago as I needed some inspiration on what to do next after several years of clinical and practical experience. I always wanted to own my own business, initially aged care facilities or start up a day care centre, and given my nursing degree had absolutely no business subjects I thought I better go and learn the foundations of ‘good business’. This was a great decision and has thankfully positioned me well for everything I’m working on today.
What drove you to establish the Aged Care Report Card? Nothing has been done like this before in the aged care industry, where did the idea for ACRC come from?
ACRC is a new concept to the industry and we are the first ratings and reviews website for consumers and health professionals. Having worked in a number of aged care facilities I have seen first hand the varying levels of what you would call ‘quality of care’ I wanted to create a platform that would capture the voices of those most important in aged care – that’s residents, their families and health professionals. I wanted to also build and design a system that captured these different perspectives and arranged them in a useful way for families facing the often overwhelming and short term requirement of deciding a new home or facility for their loved ones. For families searching for aged care facilities, they really have very limited information around the subjective information and experiences of others on what the ‘care’ of a facility is actually like, there’s nothing that captures real life experiences or word-of-mouth. We aim to solve this and ACRC continues to work on projects directly and with strategic partners to continuously improve our solutions.
What were the stumbling blocks, initially getting ACRC started and since then?
Whilst ratings and reviews platforms are now relatively established in other industries (like hospitality, travel etc.) there was no other service that existed until recently in aged care. A shift is currently taking place where aged care providers are still in their infancy stages of accepting the new way of creating transparency. This new way of doing business and catering for the aged care ‘consumer’ the residents and families themselves, has come about a large part due to the trend of digitisation and continuously increasing accessibility of information making it far easier for consumers to be discerning in their choices of what is and isn’t acceptable.
We have found the innovative and IT savvy companies particularly are more across the importance of engaging with customers online and having a social media presence without succumbing to the fear of opening themselves up for review in the market place. We recognize these shifts can take time but also know that the market place is dynamic and the landscape is changing quickly; we are making these values and observations a core input into our planning at ACRC so we remain well positioned to serve the industry and solve the challenges for the consumer.
How did you overcome these?
Never take a ‘No’ or ‘We will get back to you…’ as the final answer. If you have a great product or service that creates value for people then why wouldn’t people be interested? It’s just a matter of getting your message and showing organizations the direct value to them in a way that is fair and reasonable and not threatening – persistence and a thick skin is the key. My background as a nurse and experience directly in palliative care, aged care and dementia does give me a sensitivity and deeper understanding, as do those in my team, of the sometimes hidden issues involved and challenges that need to be overcome to see positive change role out and be implemented successfully.
Did you have a mentor? Who/what helped you to get your career off the ground?
Early on in my career my grandma was my main mentor and someone I really looked up to. She provided guidance, advice and motivation for me. There’s something really special about having a close relationship with an older generation – their wisdom, life experiences and worldly advice are priceless. My grandmother inspires me to be a strong woman that stands up for what I believe and “never give up”. She was prepared to take risks and started her own recruitment company without any guidance or support from family or colleagues and her company is still active today. I have her voice in my head almost every day particularly when the struggles of working full time during my early start up mode with my team was non-stop!
My grandfather on the other hand inspired me to set out on a mission to make changes to the industry that meant all older Australians are provided with the ‘quality of care’ that you would expect for your own family never letting go of the ‘human touch’ for this vulnerable community in the population. Another mentor without a doubt has been my husband. He has encouraged and supported me to get ACRC off the ground and bring the idea to reality.
How has the company evolved since it began?
ACRC was in planning stages for 18-24 months before we went live in November 2014. It took a lot of initial planning, researching the industry, surveying hundreds of consumers and health professionals for our 7 Standards of Excellence in care and developing our methodology. We have come along way from the initial ideas we had to the engaging platform that we see today. I’ve had some great people supporting ACRC which makes all the difference.
You are very busy and working in an industry that for some can be quite draining. What keeps you motivated?
There is no doubt that nursing can be emotionally and physically draining, so it is important to take time out for yourself every now and then. Staying motivated is really important I like to set goals and targets – when I meet these it’s time for celebration! For example when we reach a certain amount of reviews on our website, increase our reach to the consumers or gain the support of a facility, the team goes out to celebrate. They are all key milestones for us so we need to celebrate when we are doing well otherwise it’s easy to forget.
ACRC’s vision of providing quality care to people living in aged care facilities also keeps me motivated. I often refer to it from time to time, which keeps everything in perspective and reminds me to keep going. Creating positive changes and improvements in the industry will take a combined effort from like-minded organisations all working together for the same purpose – ACRC recognises its leadership role in navigating through this and aims to champion these positive changes and improvements.
Where do you find your inspiration?
There are a few really passionate and vocal aged care advocates in the industry that I look up to and admire as I see them as change makers and dedicated to making improvements in the industry. I enjoy reading articles about other founders of startups and reading about their experiences they have faced going through a similar process. It does provide me with comfort that I’m not the only one going through similar challenges. Daily inspiration is found on my bathroom mirror with a card from my grandma say “Never Give Up”… this really hits a cord with me.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow the same path as you?
There is nothing more rewarding than doing something that makes a difference in the lives of others. I’ve worked in a lot of areas of nursing and for me it was about working out ‘what am I really passionate about’? I remember my University lecturer saying “there’s no point saying you want to save the world, instead choose something you’re passionate about and go after it”. That really was the ‘light bulb’ moment for me where I realised all I wanted to focus on was improving care in the aged care industry at this stage in my life. I didn’t want to look back at the end of my life and regret not having followed my dream of starting my own business. I knew the only thing I would regret was not giving it a go. So work out what YOUR passion is and then follow you dream. Life’s too short to have regrets and to be working on something you don’t love!
To see all of Lauren’s work with Aged Care Report Card, search a facility or write a review head to http://www.agedcarereportcard.com.au