As Chief Executive Officer of Medea Park Association, Margaret Williams has dedicated her career to caring for community members, taking on various roles within the healthcare sector and for that, she is also the winner for the 2020 Telstra Tasmanian Business Women’s For Purpose & Social Enterprise Award.
Beginning a nursing career at age 18, she is passionate about the aged care industry. She aims to contribute to the community through her role as CEO alongside her volunteer work.
Medea Park is a residential care facility that strives to be a family orientated organisation that provides a warm, loving and happy environment for residents and community care recipients. Medea Park is located in St Helens, Tasmania.
Can you please let us know how you came to be in your current role?
My entire professional career has been dedicated to caring for members of the community, commencing my nursing career at the age of 18 years. I have continued in the health care sector moving into a senior clinical nursing role in Intensive Care at Monash Medical Centre Melbourne, to management in the private health care sector in the 1990’s. I completed several academic courses whilst working full time and was offered a senior nursing management role in the Cardiology Department at Epworth Hospital, also in Melbourne. I was then offered the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) role at Malvern Private Hospital, a surgical and medical operation owned by Medical Benefits Fund (MBF).
I moved into the aged care sector as CEO at Claremont Home, a medium sized facility in South Melbourne for 11 years before moving to Tasmania in 2012. After completing my service at Claremont Home as CEO I was appointed as a Life Governor in recognition of my dedication to the senior residents in South Melbourne.
After I moved to Tasmania I commenced work with Uniting Age Well. This company operates 20 residential care communities and employs over 3,000 personnel across metropolitan and regional Victoria and Tasmania. I have managed 9 of these facilities over a period of 6 years, essentially as an interim manager whilst the Human Resources team sourced suitable candidates to manage these facilities.
I commenced as CEO of Medea Park Residential Care in St Helens, Tasmania in September 2018 and continue to manage the home.
If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
One of my regrets is that it took me some time to commence higher education.
I would have commenced post graduate education shortly after completing my Critical Care course. I realised then, that although I loved this challenging area, I knew that I wanted to be a successful manager in the health care sector.
Was there a significant turning point when you decided to become a business woman?
When I worked at Epworth Hospital as the Associate Operations Manager in Cardiology, I realised that I wanted to be a senior manager and assist and encourage others with establishing their career paths. Shortly after this time I was appointed as the CEO of Malvern Private Hospital. This was the most rewarding part of my professional journey to date. I felt well supported by the management of Medical Benefits Fund (MBF) that were the owners of several hospitals in Victoria and New South Wales, including Malvern Private Hospital.
Initially, what difficulties did you face?
The first difficulty was to understand the business, including the financial stability, business growth opportunities and the challenges linked with the growth including staffing, hospital improvement and building its reputation. The hospital was operating well but needed to grow in a very competitive area. This included the review and development of a budget and business plan. Trying to identify the opportunities and establishing an understanding of the market for small private hospitals in greater Melbourne was a major task for me then.
Who or what was integral to you overcoming these hurdles?
Support from MBF and networking with the other MBF hospital CEO’s at the time. Educational opportunities both internal and external supported by the company. Working on the development of business plans and market opportunities.
I have to say that the most important person in my support network who helps me overcome hurdles has always been my husband, Bruce. I would not be in the position I am if he had not been there as an advisor, volunteer and supporter of every position I have undertaken, and every important decision I have made in these roles.
Looking back is there a piece of advice you wish to pass onto someone starting out their business journey?
The best investment anyone can inject into any business is to give your team time, support, acknowledgement and praise. Listen to the people you work with and consider their ideas, as often, you may not necessarily be the smartest person in the room. Sometimes their ideas may not seem practical but consider all possible outcomes before dismissing them.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful business woman?
- Problem solving: Use staff engagement and input to develop solutions
- Financial management. Understanding your income and how to optimise the income and reduce costs (where possible) without comprising care delivery.
- Leadership: Develop a leadership style that is clear and engaging but always ensuring that the staff and residents are involved in the changes/decisions.
Who do you look up to in business? Who inspires you?
Professor Fiona Wood: the plastic surgeon that invented the “spray-on skin repair” that assisted many burns victims and has now been established as a progressive treatment for severe burns. This technique was used to assist many of the survivors of the Bali bombings.
Gina Rinehart: Chairman of Hancock Prospecting, a privately owned mineral exploration company. She has established herself as a highly successful business woman (in a very male dominated business) that is known for her tireless work.
Ronni Kahn: The founder of OzHarvest a business that is dedicated to reduce food wastage in Australia and distribute the food to vulnerable people across Australia.
What do you think your key to success has been?
Every day holds new learning experiences and I have learnt to establish disciplines including patience, understanding, inclusion, consultation with staff and other stakeholders. These crucial steps have been key to my success. I maintain that these qualities will always assist in establishing a strong foundation for creating and maintaining a harmonious workplace and a successful business. Business reputation in Aged Care is critical to the ongoing viability of the business. I have endeavoured to ensure in all of the businesses I have managed that “community outrage” does not become an impediment to the success of the business.
What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?
Many women tend to lose motivation or avoid confrontation due to many obstacles in the path of becoming a manager or leader. Some of these obstacles include prejudice, family responsibilities, discrimination and lack of opportunities. Women often feel unworthy of acknowledgement and promotion and therefore avoid the challenge.
What does being named the 2020 Telstra Tasmanian Business Woman of the Year mean to you?
Having been acknowledged with this prestigious 2020 Telstra Tasmanian Business Women’s Award has elevated the reputation of Medea Park and raised both local and state awareness of our facility. It has also provided an opportunity to lift the profile of Aged Care and convey a message that the sector is not all “bad news”.
My career has been extensive and this is an acknowledgment of the many years of extremely hard work that is part of the health care sector and especially Aged Care. I commenced in Aged Care as I felt it was an area where one can really make a difference and contribute to the lives of older Australians in a meaningful and positive way. In Aged Care you can become a part of many residents lives and make the experience a positive one for you and them.