Founder and CEO of Afea, Esha Oberoi spoke with Nas Campanella on ABC Radio Sydney about the workforce challenges in the support work industry.
After a string of unrewarding jobs that lasted no more than 6 months, Esha Oberoi fell into support work in her early 20s. As Esha puts it, she walked in and had a pulse, therefore was hired. Only on-the-job training, and not much in the way of background checks.
Esha felt a deep connection with her clients, noticing they were feeling the same isolation she had felt through her teenage years due to her depression and anxiety. That’s when she decided to do something about it.
Founding a business at 24
Noticing that many of her clients didn’t need full-time care, Esha decided that she would attempt to redefine what care meant, and how it was delivered.
This started not in residential care, but in the home. By educating families to the benefits of home care, Esha was able to keep people in their homes, with their families for longer. All they need is a skilled support worker with whom they have a connection.
Shifting industry standards for support work
The pattern of the industry has always been to hire a support worker, and send them to clients. Esha knew that this wasn’t going to be helpful for anyone, so she decided early on that she would invest heavily in training, and upskilling.
Today our support workers (Afea Carers) have an induction, on-the-job training with their clients, and regular on-site check-ins from our Care Managers.
Challenges with finding support workers
The industry has seen many changes since the role out of the NDIS, which has seen many providers pop up, and a shortage of support workers. Esha wants the community to know about how rewarding this industry is, and how many opportunities can come from it.
Esha Oberoi, founder and CEO of Afea Care Services shares her secrets to success
One of the questions I’m most often asked is: ‘what are the secrets of success’? Did I have a lucky break? Do I come from a family of business owners? Was I given a helping hand by someone in the industry?
The answer to these is no.
Whilst it would be great to think otherwise, the reality is that it all came down to a few simple things. I nurture relationships and I work on keeping myself mentally and emotionally strong. For me, success hasn’t been quick or easy. It has been thanks to persistence and repetition.
This may not sound very trendy, but I didn’t have ‘quick wins’ in anything. In this modern world, we are used to instant gratification to get what we want. Success is the price we pay for instant gratification.
What is instant gratification?
Instant gratification is the desire to experience exactly what we want right now. It’s become all pervasive in our lives. Rather than planning and cooking a meal from scratch, we can simply order in or heat up frozen food in the microwave. Instead of waiting each week for our favourite program to come out on television, we can binge watch the whole series. We are living in a world of convenience and abundance.
Sometimes it’s great. Afterall, who doesn’t like being able to order something online and get it express shipped to your house the next day? However, all this luxury comes at a cost. We are now used to the many conveniences in life and we are losing patience, which is needed for long-term, sustainable success and happiness.
Instead of instant gratification, success is all about delayed gratification. It’s about being persistent and working hard to eventually enjoy the rewards.
Secret to success: persistence
There have been many moments when I’ve wanted to give up. Especially when growth isn’t achieved, despite the amount of effort put it. Or the market substantially shifts, and we have to pivot our whole strategy. We are all human and these events can easily destabilise us if we don’t continue to persist and repeat the basics.
A huge part of success is failure. Sometimes you need to have failures in order to learn the right path. As acclaimed American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou said:
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated.
In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”
This is why I believe persistence is so important in growing success. After a failure, I really question what I did wrong. I dive deeply into why I experienced failure and how I can adjust my strategy for next time. Then, dust myself off and keep going. We may have to do this many times, but eventually, we will get there. At which point, the goalposts change again so we continue to learn and grow.
Secret to success: repetition
The second thing I believe to be the secret to success is repetition. Malcolm Gladwell famously wrote in his book Outliers:
“The Story of Success that the key to achieving world-class expertise in any skill is to practice in the correct way for a total of 10,000 hours.”
Although there has been much debate about this, the basic idea is true – in order to enjoy success, we need to have experienced repetition. We need to be dedicated enough to put in the practise hours. Whether that’s learning a skill like playing the piano, chess or running a business.
What about you? What do you believe are the keys to success?
Work-life balance, clean eating, exercising, socialising on top of coronavirus is difficult for everyone. Unfortunately, the emotions we feel do not go away, they’re what makes us human. The good news is there are ways of dealing with them, without judgement. Here are my top 5 tips for managing mental wellbeing.
1. Accept sadness rather than suppressing it
After years of hardships, I was left suffering from depression and had to learn to embrace my emotions and heal from the pain I was carrying.
We become skilled at suppressing our emotions, believing we have recovered from negative events in our life, when often these traumas resurface if we haven’t properly acknowledged and worked on them.
Our natural response to failure, stress or rejection is denial. We deny those feelings that are negative by compensating our emotional bodies with alcohol, food, work or retail therapy and never actually make an effort to confront how we truly ‘feel’.
I was not immune to this. I took to drinking in my youth and as an adult became a workaholic – anything to distract from having to feel. I think we all have a tendency to block how we feel by seeking distractions. The thing is, these emotions actually never go away, they just build up until we start to see imbalances in our bodies, whether emotional or physical, such as sickness and stress.
It’s incredibly important that we continue to work internally on ourselves, particularly now in the midst of a global pandemic when emotions and fears are high.
For me, that means spending time alone and evaluating how I feel. Am I centred? Am I out of depth? How do I want to respond to this situation? Giving attention to our internal selves allows us to stay connected to our emotions, keeping them in check and leading to better mental health.
When we begin to acknowledge our emotions, we learn to face our ‘failures’ and recognise the lessons in each. We can start accepting our imperfect selves and begin to celebrate our evolution instead of judging and criticising our mistakes and failures.
2. Find a place of mental stillness
Have you ever rushed a decision that you later regretted? Being ‘busy’ is often worn like a badge of honour, when in fact more and more research tells us that multitasking isn’t effective and trying to do too many things at once is detrimental to our health, focus and outcomes.
Whenever I find myself feeling like I am rushing, I turn to meditation. It’s so easy to say, “I don’t have time,” but when a 5-minute meditation might lead to better decision making and less headaches down the track, it makes sense to make time.
Meditation has helped me stay in the eye of the hurricane – that place of stillness when there is constant chaos in life from rapidly growing a business and juggling a young family.
I also love meditation because it has given me space to allow all of my thoughts and emotions to surface in a safe and private place. The results come from being able to allow those aspects of ourselves to reveal themselves, giving us an opportunity to let go of them. Meditation brings the calm back into the chaos of life.
3. Reflect and journal your lessons
By writing things down, we can better reflect on what we have learnt and achieved. We often underestimate our value but can overcome these limiting thoughts through introspection and journaling. Write out all of the things you weren’t aware of before that you are aware of now.
Learn to listen to your inner dialogue and begin to re-write any negative scripts you’ve been telling yourself that are becoming your truth.
4. Make decisions using your second brain
Our second brain lies in our gut, which is why we often say ‘my gut instincts’. Use your instincts and tap into your emotions when making decisions. Seek to understand your emotions instead of blocking them out.
Even a negative emotion such as envy can give us so much insight into ourselves. Jealousy allows us to understand what our aspirations are and what we truly desire at that moment for ourselves.
Next time you find yourself feeling this way, use that insight to inspire action towards your wants or needs at the time. Then, let it go and release it, so you are not burdened by it.
5. Let go of attachments to outcomes
One of the best things I have done over the last few years is practised the art of going with the flow and letting go of any attachments to events, outcomes, achievements, people and places.
Never has this been so relevant. Coronavirus has thrown the world into chaos and brought many plans to a halt suddenly. It’s natural for us to want to be in control of our lives, but we’re all largely subject to outside influences beyond our control. Instead of fighting these with anger and fear, it’s important we learn to embrace the new directions our lives take us in.
I have deep aspirations for myself but I don’t attach to them. I visualise what I desire, but then let those thoughts drift and release any attachments. This is an incredibly powerful tool and something that is easy to practise.
We’re often asked, “What does Afea stand for?”. Is it a word? An acronym? An anagram?
To make sense of the story, you have to go back to the beginning. When our CEO Esha Oberoi founded the business in 2008, she had been working in a nursing home caring for the residents. She quickly noticed some of them didn’t require round the clock care and could have remained living at home.
Esha had been battling with poor mental health for some time and noticed the same feelings of isolation and helplessness in some of the residents in the nursing home. She decided to be the change she wanted to see and created a service that sought to empower the older community with independence. Providing support in the comfort of their own homes would prolong the need for residential care.
Through helping others, Esha gained self-confidence, and her own wounds started to heal. Her clients were her family, and her true family were there in support. She had found her place in the world.
The name for the business was never going to be something clinical or obvious. With Esha being so personally attached to her Mission, it had to come from the heart. She decided it would be an acronym of her immediate family’s names, her father Anurag, sister Freya, herself Esha and mother Anju.
Afea stands for family. This is the foundation on which the business was built and remains to this day, despite growing to operate nationally.
Employees think of their team and their clients as an extension of their family, their workplace a second home. All decisions made are in the best interest of the Afea community, and that’s the way it will always be.
Check out our culture book for the Afea journey and to hear from the team!
By Esha Oberoi, founder and CEO of Afea Care Services
Last year, one of our old Afea team members requested me to mentor him in starting his own NDIS provider service. This person was our 11th employee and he was integral in growing Afea to what it is today. He was now asking me how he can build his business. He wanted to offer the same services as us in the same market as us and he wanted my help to do it.
What did I tell him? Yes of course I would mentor him. This may sound surprising and some might even think it’s foolish. But I believe mentoring my competition can only stand to benefit both of us. Here’s why:
I believe there is enough for everyone
My belief in spirituality has taught me to live with a mindset of abundance. If we believe there is enough for everyone, we open our minds to seek more opportunities. We experience the magic of limitlessness.
With a closed mind and thinking that we live in lack, we also close our minds to further growing and progressing ourselves. This results in limiting any new opportunities too.
We all are on different paths
We live in a fast-paced world where there is a constant need to reinvent our businesses, our practices and our value to the people we serve. Even the business practices we have tried and tested will need to be further evolved.
Sharing our previous experiences to a less mature business may be useful to a newcomer. They may be able to take different learnings from our experience and use it to create a different outcome. If they take this knowledge and do something with it, it is harmless to me as we are on a different path.
Although we may technically be ‘competitors’, we all have different strengths and weaknesses. We are running our own race and the most important thing is to think about the impact we have on our own world.
I like to help
This probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise considering my line of work, but I love being able to help others! I believe my level of compassion increases when I share my knowledge.
If a simple conversation can help save another person from burning their cash or making some other costly mistake, then I want to have that conversation. I have nothing to lose from sharing my own mistakes in the hope that it can help another person grow.
Mentoring is soulful
One of my interpretations of life’s motivation and purpose is to have fun and experience joy. Why else would I want to wake up every morning, if not for a couple of uncontrollable belly-laughs, creating heart-warming connections with others and ultimately feeling more love in my life?
Given these intentions, it makes it easy for me to make decisions around the relationships I hold with people around me. It feels so much more human to cooperate, collaborate and partner with my competition to increase our collective value towards the community.
This year we have supported a handful of smaller providers in growing their market share by helping them introduce metrics and KPIs as well as giving them useful contacts.
Despite this, we have still managed to grow and expand our footprint. Most recently, we have set up a new office in Melbourne and we’re already growing rapidly. It only proves how much abundance surrounds us and how mentoring our competition benefits all of us.