From a home office in Sydney’s Hunters Hill to a flourishing business with more than 100 offices nationwide, the Arriba Group consists of Disability Employment Services Panel providers AimBig Employment, LiveBig, and Rehab Management, which provide workplace rehabilitation, health and safety, and wellbeing solutions to clients in the private and public sectors.
Founder and CEO Marcella Romero looks back on its growth with pride. “I’ve always had an incredible growth model,” she reflects. “It started in my home with five contractors 22 years ago, and now we have more than 400 staff. We work all over Australia with insurers like Allianz, QBE and Suncorp. We also work with government departments, and hold about 35% market share.”
Marcella equates the company’s success to a focus on quality, customers and innovation. “Last year, we were appointed by the Australian Financial Review as the eighth most innovative health company in Australia and New Zealand,” she beams.
“We’ve put a lot of focus on our quality and high performance, and making sure that we get good outcomes for our clients.” When Marcella’s family emigrated from Chile to Australia when she was nine years old, she saw her parents go from a comfortable life to working in factories and as cleaners.
“At the age of 11, I remember looking up in the sky saying that, one day, I would be successful and then my parents would never have to work a day in their lives,” she recalls.
“Giving them a sense of financial stability was important to me.” Other children weren’t always welcoming to Marcella, and enduring racism gave her resilience, strength and a sense of purpose that nothing could get in her way.
“Having come from a minority ethnic group, it was important that the line of work I went into was one that could help people in some way,” she says. “I’ve always been an entrepreneur, and started this business to be a voice for people and do something meaningful.”
Inclusion is essential to Marcella, and she firmly believes people should not be excluded because of their ethnicity, cultural beliefs, religion, colour or sexual preferences.
For example, 50% of Arriba Group’s senior leaders are female, and it makes sure a percentage of its suppliers are Indigenous.
The company also has a strong CSR policy, and partners with numerous associations like Jeans for Genes, Cancer Council, Vinnies CEO Sleepout and Pink Ribbon.
“Everyone’s equal to me,” she says. “Having faced adversity myself, I treat people with respect and help those who are in need. Giving back to the community is important.”
I’ve always been an entrepreneur, and started this business to be a voice for people and do something meaningful.
Marcella believes she can help companies who also want to contribute to their CSR policy by finding a way to do so through AimBig and LiveBig. “We have record growth and, at the same time, we’re helping people,” she highlights.
“Many people have no idea how to engage people like us to help them with employing people with disabilities. We’re employing people, so we’re helping the economy. It’s a win–win all-round, and other companies can do it too.”
Marcella puts people first in her businesses and believes in mutual respect for everyone. “We have a strong working relationship with our customers,” Marcella says.
“They’re at the heart of everything we do. We use an agile approach for every facet of what we do and work with our clients to identify gaps in the market.”
This value spills over into the company’s relationship with its staff. “Without our people, we wouldn’t exist,” she states. “I walk the talk; I respect people, regardless of their title. There’s a strong focus on staff retention, attraction and creating value for our people and clients.”
Finding the right employees is no easy feat, and Marcella considers hiring people as one of the greatest challenges of the industry. “It’s difficult to attract enough people as we grow,” she explains.
“We’ve had 100% success rate winning bids since 2010. It’s about keeping up with the demand because we’re good at getting customers. I’m proud of our team because we work hard to grow our business and create a future together.”
Marcella leads by example, and will never ask anyone to do something she wouldn’t do herself. “I have a connection with people and inspire them,” she says.
“I think it’s imperative to include them in your vision because they want to be part of something amazing. I’ll soon be sharing our three-year plan and strategic vision, engaging them to partake in the process and create the future together.”
She motivates her team by maintaining a passion and energy her staff can look up to. “I love what I do. I miss it when I’m on annual leave. They see an authentic approach to leadership. I have strong expectations, and we perform well together. People want to do a great job. When you do it together, it’s special.”