Blisscare Health co-founder Igor Statkevitch on why gossip has no place in the $6 million home care business

Blisscare co-founder Igot Statkevitch.

Blisscare co-founder Igot Statkevitch.

In 2011, brothers Igor and Andrei Statkevitch, along with Igor’s wife Skevi, used their experience from the corporate world to develop an at-home physiotherapy and disease prevention business to tap into the needs of the “silver tsunami” of Australia’s ageing population.

The trio developed a model for delivering physio and aged health care services at home and in retirement villages, making a conscious effort to provide personalised service in a sector that had been criticised for its patchwork service delivery. The Smart50 alumnus boasts a 114% three-year growth rate and turnover of $6.3 million for the 2015-16 financial year. Over the past six years the management team has learned a lot about finding strong talent to work in a sector that relies heavily on trust.

Co-founder Igor Statkevitch tells SmartCompany why good old fashioned business plans and honest communication have been such vital elements of Blisscare’s growth so far.

Before the business launched, I was a CPA by trade. I was an accountant, plus I managed my own businesses, and I’d also worked for all the major banks.

My wife Skevi, our business partner, also comes from a corporate background. She was at PricewaterhouseCoopers and she was also running an accounting business with me.

My brother worked in the healthcare space before. He was also an accountant by trade but he never worked as an accountant, he mainly worked in HR.

He had knowledge of the healthcare industry, and we had knowledge the world of accounting and project management.

Our company is all about healthcare management. We saw the industry and the way services were delivered and how it could be improved. After also doing a comprehensive analysis of the industry, we realised that innovation and delivery in healthcare required a different set of eyes.

The way we saw the challenge was as an opportunity. We were able to document a lot of those challenges and transform them into an opportunity.

I have run businesses myself, so I had already developed a business model. Having an accountant background, you know that unfortunately, statistically speaking, 96% business similar to ours don’t make it past the two-year mark.

The number one reason is cashflow, and then [people] don’t understand the risks, or cannot read the financials.

We’re very lucky that we all had accounting backgrounds, [and experience in] HR, legal and finance. We had all the necessary ingredients to build a successful business.

My principle is if you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

With any business that formulates a product or a service, an idea by itself is just an idea. Ideas are meaningless, unless they’re brought to fruition.

We make sure an idea can be brought to fruition.

Blisscare Health is a people business, and finding the right people is extremely difficult.

However, the thing that we believe in and [was present] in the first wave of people that came into the company, and I still believe needs to happen, is that people genuinely want to do better.

I have recruited every single person in the first five years. I had to learn how to define the people that would be good for us and the people that weren’t. We have [previously] allowed people into our company who were not suitable for us.

I need the team around us to support the business. Our vision is to change the way seniors’ health gets delivered.

It all comes down to the business model that I’ve developed: [staff] want to know the big picture.

People are hungry for that knowledge. I decided to completely open our hearts and tell people how we started this.

There’s no magic bullet to identify who will be in line with this. Some people might train themselves very well to hide their personalities, [but] if you interview a staff member and they say negative things about their previous employer, I already know they will talk badly about us as well. They’re not going to change. Or, for example, when someone complains, you think, “oh yeah, they might just be tired”, but I know when the times will be tough, I know they’ll be complaining about us [and our business].

We have a zero tolerance for gossip in our company. Gossip is the killer for relationships and trust. People think this is just a joke, but no. What happens is that you can actually harm someone’s confidence with gossip.

Gossip is something people sometimes accept, but luckily for us, I [always] hated gossip in the workplace. If staff are lacking the courage to be honest to the person, if people are gossiping, it means that people aren’t truthful and they are engaging in things that have an element of dishonesty.

I don’t want to build a company as a means to an end. If you employ a person whose character employs gossip or dishonesty, they will be tempted to say things to your customers that are not true. They will bend the truth.

Our people are the people who make our business run, and if someone really stuffs up, it’s my integrity on the line — I’m the one that has to manage it.

Our goals haven’t changed — from the beginning we had a picture and a vision about how we wanted to deliver. Our objectives are focused on healthcare at home, on training and education, and we are focusing on delivering that.

We have a number of projects due to be released this year. Very soon, Blisscare will become the pioneer in aged care.

During the induction process, I’ve said to our people that in order to build a successful business, [if you go] a usual way, that won’t work. If you want to succeed, go in a completely different direction to where the flow goes.

In the traditional aged care model there are mediocre services and patchy approach to service delivery; we say “why can’t we provide a quality service that is affordable, accessible?”

Why can’t we charge a reasonable fee and deliver something two or three times better than they’ve every received? Why do we have to follow the rules?

One of the things I have done before is called change management. Innovation without proper change management is impossible, like if you continue doing the same thing over and over with a couple of changes.

Business must innovate daily.

People working for their organisation must not just be doing their job; they need to be able to [come up with] solutions daily. I’m constantly encouraging our workers to do it, challenging them to constantly be the agents of change; that they need to value the solutions.

Often people believe they’re born entrepreneurs, but what happens is that having a passion for something is not enough.

They need to do their homework.

A lot of people go out there with guns blazing and want to do good thing, but they don’t plan, and have no knowledge of how to build businesses.

Count the costs now — it’s too difficult to count the costs after.

It doesn’t cost you anything to have a whiteboard and marker, that’s all. That’s the first initial investment to be making.

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