Mark manages our Cardinal Freeman retirement living community at Ashfield, in Sydney's Inner West. Mark joined Stockland after a successful career in hotel management.
I spent 20+ years in hospitality, mostly in international hotels in Australia and overseas. I had ‘climbed the ladder’ but I found myself looking for greater purpose. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next and my wife has a successful career in professional services, so I decided to take some time our and explore what I wanted to do next. I read some articles about growth industries and retirement living is one of those growing sectors. This sparked my interest as I could see the cross-over with my background, so I connected with people, built networks in the industry to understand more about it, and two weeks into my time-out I started applying for roles.
I still wasn’t sure if the retirement sector was for me until I interviewed with Stockland. I found that through the process I really connected with the people and the purpose. The values really resonated with me personally and I just felt like I belonged.
This role has been a real highlight, I feel like I’m really using my skill-set fully and I’m growing in the role and with the business. I’m being asked to come out to some of our other retirement living developments and consult on various aspects of liveability, function of spaces and asset management considerations – it’s very rewarding and I feel that my input is really valued.
From a development perspective I’m excited about where we’re taking the home options in terms of vertical living. It’s very exciting, as while other players in the industry are dipping their toes, we have really jumped in.
The purpose goes beyond the communities we create, it is really reflected in who we are as people and how we work together.
When I had my interviews I felt like I was a perfect fit. I felt like I could be part of it. Everyone just seemed really engaged and I think that reflects in way we build communities – that connection with our customers flows through to our connection with colleagues.
To me it’s about using diversity of experience and skills, and finding the best way to work together. With my team, I provide a framework and boundaries and they have the flexibility and autonomy to deliver on our priorities. When I was in hotels the check-in process was often so robotic so I would coach my staff to try and create a unique and memorable experience for every guest. It’s the same here, we’re trying to create a very personal experience for our residents. We are effectively working in their home so we are very mindful of that in how we work.
I tend to cringe when people talk about customer service and exceeding customer expectations but that’s something I have been personally proud of at Cardinal Freeman.
We've worked hard on the "3 P’s". We've spoke about purpose - what is our group's purpose and each person's purpose within our village team? For example, a doorman’s purpose is far more than just opening the door! It’s the first interaction most hotel guests will have and that should be warm and memorable for all of the right reasons. Then it’s about the promise, which is about who we want to be and what we will hold ourselves accountable to delivering. We met as a team, with residents, and with our colleagues in the operations team and mapped out everyone’s expectations and the experience we wanted to create. This then formed our promise which we work to meet each day. Finally, it’s about performance. Ultimately we are in business. We need to be delivering financially and if we get the other two P’s right this performance will flow through.
As a leader, my role is to connect my team with their purpose, what our stakeholders are looking for and get them to engage with the village team's promise. The team need to ‘buy-in’ to what we are trying to deliver because when they do they are empowered and can respond and make decisions more quickly.
It’s very rewarding for me to help people grow and become more than they thought they could. One of my team, who was in a lifestyle co-ordinator role, has within 18 months been promoted into an Assistant Village Manager role at another village. When I talk about growth it’s not just me, it’s about others growing as well.
This is one of the things that I have really enjoyed about Stockland. I like where we stand on gender, LGBTI+ and gender pay equity. I like the fact that we want people to be different and to bring a different perspective.
I have been encouraged to share my experiences and background with others. I don’t feel that others are intimidated by hearing other peoples' views or experience and are open to feedback on how we can do things differently day to day.
Diversity and inclusion is very relevant for the Cardinal Freeman resident community. Through the redevelopment of the community we have older dwellings and new facilities and apartments. We now also have a wider age group and more males than before. We've worked to create a lot of activities to bring people together - the newer residents and those who have lived here for some time. We did a lot of stakeholder engagement early on to work together to build a vibrant community and we make sure we use language to show that everyone is included. We look for crossovers in what people want and have found that we now offer a much broader array of activities because of the larger and more diverse group. We are also now able to attend more group outings off-site because the younger residents are able to drive the bus to take everyone safely to and from events. It really has meant ‘ a better way to live’ for our residents in so many ways.