Across regional Australia, businesses of every kind find it hard to attract and retain staff, but Renee and Matt Kelly have managed to build an allied health business with a team of nearly 40 in Mildura by focusing on career progression and values alignment.

Renee, an occupational therapist, and Matt, an accountant, live on a 10,000 acre wheat and sheep property outside Mildura in north-west Victoria with their four kids. Balancing their family obligations and running the farm means they require a lot of flexibility in their roles with their business, Lime Therapy. Building the right team has been the key to their success.

The region is home to a vulnerable, ageing community and the Kelly’s identified the need for allied health services. Lime Therapy offers speech, hand and occupational therapy, physiotherapy, and a specialised paediatric service called Lime Legends. Renee says she is always open to talking to professionals with new ideas.

“I have a real passion for making a difference, and being the difference. I have a constant burn to improve healthcare, so if someone comes to me with a skillset that can address a gap, I’m ready to invest in that. Convince me of the need and I’ll create the job, I’ll buy the equipment, I’ll set up the clinic.”

Renee says optimising the broader health matrix, including public and private healthcare, still has a way to go, but she believes there is great opportunity for the system to work collaboratively in the interests of patients.

“The idea of healthcare and making money is like oil and water, but it doesn’t have to be. Public and private health don’t need to stay in their lanes. Government schemes like the NDIS are recognising the value of private providers, but we as health carers need to be better at valuing our time, knowledge and skills,” she says.

“You can be efficient, effective, profitable and obtain really good health outcomes, including for the most vulnerable members of society.”

Creating opportunity for patients and professionals

That commitment to good outcomes stretches to providing balance in her team’s professional and personal lives.

"I feel responsible for my team’s career progression. When you bring highly qualified, specialised people into a regional community you have to give them a worthwhile career and let them make the most of what a regional location can offer,” she says.

“We’re flexible, we’re social, we offer balance. When we meet a potential team member I tell them they are interviewing us as much as we are interviewing them. We want them to meet our needs but we have to meet theirs, too.”

A desire to improve healthcare is what got Renee started, initially working with a few patients while Matt was at football on the weekends.

Starting out with a few business cards with her home address on them, Renee quickly reached capacity, but the demand remained and so she started recruiting. She and Matt now employ a range of professionals who have relocated from metropolitan centres as far away as Brisbane and Perth, who have bought houses and settled down in the Sunraysia region.

Telehealth brings healthcare to remote and regional Australia

Covid, unsurprisingly, was a big challenge for a business that operates through face-to-face appointments, but Renee maintained a positive outlook.

“I can always see opportunity in crisis. There always is.”

In fact, she says the swift adoption of telehealth has been the silver lining of Covid for rural and remote health, and she is keen to use it to stretch health resources into places it has been hard to reach.

Now that in-person visits are back on the agenda, though, Renee is excited to build the next phase of her business’s physical presence.

“We have outgrown our current location, not only in terms of size but in our values. Our current space is too clinical. We are designing a new centre of excellence that will put the needs of people first. I am incredibly excited about it.”

Learn more about how Australian businesses are adapting to shifting business conditions and changing customer needs at CommBank Foresight - insights for future-facing businesses. Or speak with a CommBank Regional and Agribusiness Specialist today.