When healthcare executive Jane Crowe joined Community Options Australia in 2016 as its new Executive Director, she was ready for a new and rewarding challenge. Two years on, Crowe has rebuilt the not-for-profit’s quality framework, achieved financial sustainability and introduced a new business model, ready for future growth.
We talk to her about her career transition into the NFP sector, the initial challenges she’s faced, and uncover her secret for leadership success.
You’ve been executive director at Community Options Australia for a little over two years now. What’s the purpose of Community Options Australia and what are your responsibilities?
Community Options Australia is an innovative not-for-profit organisation with the purpose of enabling people to access community care choices to remain independent in their own homes. Our unique hub and spoke model brings together a range of community care organisations, to work to deliver best practice, generate economies of scale and offer flexible delivery of services to meet fluctuations in demand. The model is built on technology and collaboration.
My role is to lead the organisation and demonstrate our vision for innovation, agility and continuous quality improvement. Primarily, this is ensuring Community Options Australia is focused on its strategic imperatives and that we have the right team in place to deliver. Ultimately, it’s all about relationships and people.
What attracted you to the role and what initial challenges have you faced?
Initially I was attracted to the role as I felt personally aligned with the goals of the organisation. And once I met the Chair and other members of the board, there was an instant connection and understanding.
We share the same open communication style and a no-nonsense approach to getting things done. I immediately knew that there was a cultural fit and that I would have autonomy and scope to transition the organisation.
In terms of challenges, I arrived at a time where the strategic direction was still being formed and the organisation was facing an uncertain financial future. There was some historic thinking that needed to be addressed. In saying that, it was really an ideal start as there was an opportunity to be part of the scoping and crafting of the strategy, and unpack the financials to really understand the levers available. Once this was done, the challenge shifted to moving the organisation to where it needed to be.
You came from the private sector with experience in a variety of senior management roles. How have you found the transition into the not-for-profit sector?
This may be surprising, but the not-for-profit sector is really not that different. If you’re equipped with the right tools and experience, strategy is strategy. Relationships and communication skills transcend sectors. And a sound financial knowledge, including the ability to read and interpret a P&L, will take you far in any role.
The people I’ve met have also been very warm and open to outside thinking, to growth and change. I arrived in the community care sector at a really interesting and challenging time, and I’ve met some truly inspirational people who have been very generous with their wisdom and support.
What elements do you think you need to have in place to run a successful not-for-profit?
Don’t even consider this if you don’t want to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in. You have to be flexible, and let go of traditional roles and hierarchies. Strong communication skills are essential. You must have the strength to focus on the vital elements, and not get distracted. And last but not least, you must have strong ethics and wear your values on the outside.
What’s your secret for success at executive director level?
Be authentic. Don’t pretend to be someone else. Your key stakeholders will see through this in seconds. They are human too. Be humble. Treat everyone with the respect and dignity they deserve. I am instantly wary of someone who values titles, or speaks down to the receptionist. Be real. I am very driven to achieve and extremely competitive, but I don’t take life (or myself) too seriously!
What are the strategic priorities for Community Options Australia into 2018?
This is a really interesting time for us. The last two years have been about rebuilding the quality framework and creating financial sustainability for our foundational programs and so now our focus has shifted to growth.
We are constantly refining our hub and spoke model and can see many opportunities for us to replicate this more broadly. The data and platforms we have spent so long building and perfecting are now in a position to offer insights and value to improve the delivery of services.
Our new contract with the Department of Health is for the national delivery of a unique new program and the technology and learnings gained from working with individual client budgets positions us well for future sector changes. We have the right team of people who are aligned with our purpose and driven to succeed.
And lastly, we have built outstanding relationships with new technology partners and I’m excited at the prospect of how this will enable older Australians to remain in their own homes for longer.
How did you first come across NGO Recruitment?
I first met Richard Green at NGO Recruitment when I was initially considering a move into the not-for-profit sector. He provided me with some great advice and insights. A few days later he phoned me with this role … and here we all are!
How would you describe your experience with NGO Recruitment?
Honest, open and transparent, so there were no surprises. I genuinely felt like NGO Recruitment took the time to understand what I brought to the table, and was focused on ensuring the right fit both for Community Options Australia and myself.
Thank you for your time Jane.
Community Options Australia is focused on providing innovative solutions to connect and enable people to access community care choices to remain independent in their own homes.
To find out how Community Options Australia brings together organisations across the diversity of the community care sector, please visit https://www.communityoptions.net.au