Settlement Services International’s rapid growth and transformation

Business overview

SSI is a community organisation and social business that supports newcomers and other Australians to achieve their full potential. With funding from state and federal governments, a fund-raising program and strategic partnerships in the non-profit and corporate sectors, SSI delivers a range of services for vulnerable people all over Australia. The organisation’s work supports refugees, people seeking asylum, culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities and other vulnerable individuals to build capacity and enable them to overcome inequality.

From a staff of one in April 2011, SSI now employs more than 800 employees and 350 volunteers. In 2018, SSI merged with Access Community Services. Over the five years to 2019, SSI increased its revenue from $9.4 million to $115 million.

The business challenge

After successfully diversifying into new areas, including disability and employment, and securing a number of new funding streams, SSI had to grow its organisational structure and size quickly and effectively. It grew from an organisation managed by one employee to a staff of about 500 employees in just a few short years.

This presented several challenges for SSI. It needed to develop the skills and experience of its executive team, and introduce appropriate team supports, along with a new business strategy and objectives, while successfully delivering services.

The solution

SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis sought expertise and support to grow the organisation. Executive Central’s Glenn Ball was recommended by a trusted colleague of Violet’s.

“The feedback was that he was excellent in coaching and mentoring, and up to date in the latest theories and practices around good leadership, management, and governance. Further, they said Glenn’s cross-sector knowledge of systems, process and people management was second to none.

“I then did my homework and found that Executive Central was a business with people of high calibre. It was very well regarded by past and current clients. Glenn and I got on like a house on fire and he was instrumental in helping me to establish SSI’s first executive team structure. He also assisted me to clarify what was required internally in order to establish executive systems and processes, and support the executive team to be the best it could be with a strong team culture.”

Glenn devised a business strategy with key goals and outcomes, and worked with SSI to operationalise it with a timeframe and resources. Glenn facilitated a series of offsite workshops with SSI’s new executive team to brainstorm terms of reference for the executive team, code of conduct, values, key goals and objectives, and a 12-month initial plan. He also ran a series of workshops in which then executive team reviewed the plan and determined how to operationalise it.

“Throughout that, Glenn acted as a brains trust to me so I was able to coach executive members who required it and refer others to the effective coaches from Executive Central,” Violet said.

Further executive development

SSI’s executives were invited to participate in Executive Central’s Coaching Academy to further develop their leadership and coaching skills.

“It was an extraordinary program that gave my colleagues and I great insights into our leadership styles and the chance to develop our coaching skills.

“I have used those skills on numerous occasions and benefited greatly from them. In fact, the academy inspired SSI’s own internal mentoring program, which we have now run for two years with great success,” Violet said.

Executive Central also undertook Life Styles Inventory (LSI) assessments for SSI’s key executive members. The LSI helped identify each individual’s thinking and behavioural styles to provide powerful insights into their strengths and areas for development.

Executive Central coaches also facilitated business planning workshops, and ran breakfast and leadership peer meetings for SSI leaders for their ongoing leadership development.

Business outcomes

Violet and the SSI executive team have successfully negotiated the rapid transformation of their organisation: it has grown its revenue by 1,100%; its staff has grown from 70 to more than 800; its service delivery portfolio has grown from two core areas to 13 service areas; and, it has grown from a state-based to a national organisation.

Violet said: “Executive Central has added great value to my career. I find I am a far better coach to people that I supervise and to peers in terms of mentoring.

“I have a better understanding of my leadership style and my ‘blue green and red areas’ through the LSI. The Executive Central Coaching Academy in particular was outstanding and has added great value. I also get a lot out of the ongoing professional development from newsletters and events such as breakfasts. Our relationship with Executive Central is a great collaboration and partnership.”