Over the coming weeks The Chamber of Commerce is sitting down with each of the winners from the recent Westpac Waikato Business Awards to find out what they did to stand out from the crowd. This weeks “Winners Insights” is with Craig Tamblyn, CEO of Hospice Waikato, winner of the 2020 Foster Group Community Contribution Award.

In a year of unprecedented strife, no business is more deserving of the Foster Group Community Contribution Award than Hospice Waikato – an organisation providing the best possible specialist palliative care for the most vulnerable in our community. Assisting over 1400 patients and their whānau throughout the 2019-2020 financial year, with so many different support services, it Hospice Waikato puts care at the heart of its mission.

To CEO Craig Tamblyn, the award is a testament to the many hours of hard work put in by all of the Hospice whānau this year.

“Our patients are always our priority, they are in the centre of everything we do,

along with the family and whānau around the patient. Hospice supports them all.

This award is confirmation that the business sector recognises what we are doing

and has let us know we are on the right track.”

At the advent of the Covid-19 lockdown the situation looked dire for Hospice. The forced closure of its retail stores immediately cast doubt and uncertainty over how the organisation could continue to operate with limited revenue coming in. Luckily the Waikato community stepped in and gave back to an organisation that has helped so many.

“Overnight we automatically went into a deficit of about $1.2 million with the loss of our retail stores. The wage subsidy helped but it wasn’t enough to cover all the costs involved in palliative care. Our team moved quickly to establish an online store to offer quality goods to our regular customers but it was a temporary solution to the problem. Thankfully once the lockdown lifted the community really mobilised and showed how much we mean to them.

“We had cars queuing up to drop off donations. I guess everyone used the time at home to declutter but what is traditionally our quietest period for donations turned into our busiest. It wasn’t a one-off either, our donations have continued strongly throughout the year and I just can’t express how grateful we are to our community.”

Community support has always been vital to Hospice and the non-profit made sure to support its volunteers throughout the process.

“We had two staff members who sole job during the lockdown was to phone our volunteers, ensure they were okay and check if they needed anything. I was on-site seven days a week, making sure we were meeting the Government directives whilst not impacting our ability to look after the well-being of our patients and their family and whānau.”

It is a combination of the community’s support and empathetic decision-making from the Hospice leadership team that saw the organisation survive the lockdown with a net profit. This gave Hospice the confidence to enter the Westpac Waikato Business Awards, something it had attempted previously but did not finish the application.

“We’d actually entered in years gone by but ended up withdrawing our application. The best thing about the process is it actually asked us questions that made us stop and think. We entered after a period of change but the process made us realise that there were more changes we needed to make. Post Covid we were able to stand there and say everything went incredibly smoothly, all the changes we had made, held up. That gave us reason to celebrate.”

Being nominated as a finalist in three categories- Not for Profit, Community Contribution & Service Excellence – is evidence that the changes made have worked. Hospice isn’t content to sit on its laurels however, and is committed to continually improving its business structure and practices, and the quality of specialist community palliative care it offers to its patients. To this end a Master Service Plan has been delivered by consultants Martin Jenkins to assist with strategic planning for the next 30 years.

“We know that our biggest growth area is going to be in the rural areas but what does that palliative care look like? How do you get the same level of service to those rural areas? We can’t do it all by ourselves. If we did, we’d fail. So we need to identify the key strategic partners and what those relationships look like. We are committed to providing the same level of service to both our rural and urban sectors.”

To those thinking of entering the Westpac Waikato Business Awards, Craig urges them to do so, even if you aren’t necessarily ready to win.

“I would encourage any NGO to enter the business awards. Just do the process, whether or not you win or even enter doesn’t matter. The questions that come out of the process allow you to figure out if you’re on the right track.

“It is sometimes really easy as a CEO to slide below the grass, to not actually have your head above. The awards application process helps ensure your vision is clear and forward focused.”


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