Family in business together – it’s in the genes!

masterclass, family businesses

I was six weeks old when my mother, Dena Blackman, established Australian home care provider, DIAL-AN-ANGEL in March 1967. Meanwhile, my father, Leon, was running retail menswear shops established by his father in the early 1950s.

Family business is part of my DNA. I grew up learning the ropes of both businesses, and role modelling my parent’s strong work ethic, resilience and tremendous empathy for helping others.

I worked alongside Dena from 1986 and was mentored to become her successor on retirement in August 2003. It was a true family affair with my eldest sister Nadine running the Brisbane operations for 20 years and my second sister, Nicki, involved in the mid-1980s.

Being a third child in a family of four did not faze me. I took to learning and leadership and had the drive and determination to succeed. Early on it was clear that Dena and I were in sync, and that I was the natural successor.

DIAL-AN-ANGEL was a national organisation with 10 offices nationwide. By 2014, it was supported by 10,000 contracted Angels, 1500 staff Angels, and 80 office staff. More than 40,000 families were assisted in its 48 years of operation.

After 11 years as CEO, I led the strategy of selling the family business. It was sold in September 2014 and I worked with the new owners for nine months.

The family gene for business niggled, prompting me to seek out market gaps. On 11 May 2015, DR Care Solutions was born with the mission of assisting families to find the right care, support and accommodation for their ageing or disabled loved ones.

I was aware of the complexity of the care sector and the emotional vulnerability of Australians trying to navigate it. With 34 years’ experience in the aged care, disability care and home care sector, I had the expertise to support families during this phase of life. I work with families to determine whether they should downsize, remain at home with good quality support, consider other options or move into residential aged care.

It is a family business with my partner and two adult children assisting on an “as needed” basis to help build a sustainable, professional, scalable family business.

Family Business Australia (FBA) has been a critical support in my business journey. Dena and I joined in 2001. We benefited from its wide-ranging support catering to start-ups through to multimillion-dollar family enterprises. We signed up to family business governance courses, strategic planning courses and the peer-to-peer forum groups. To help us through the complexities of succession and exit planning, we engaged FBA Accredited Family Business Advisers.

Having experienced membership benefits and knowing that family business is the backbone of the Australia economy, I have given my time to the organisation. Since November 2016, I have been Regional Chair of FBA NSW/ACT Chapter and a National Board Member.

I will be joining fellow family business owners on Friday 18 September 2020 to celebrate Family Business Day. It is a day of support for the sector and an acknowledgement of the qualities of such businesses: trusted, loyal, agile, and efficient when times are difficult. The sector’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has proven this!

Danielle Robertson, Founder, DR Care Solutions