Health recruiter Zonda Group eyes stellar growth with backing from Venturely Capital

Health recruiter Zonda Group eyes stellar growth with backing from Venturely Capital

Zonda Group founder Byron Van Gisborne

Private equity group Venturely Capital has taken a stake in healthcare sector recruitment company Zonda Group as founder Byron Van Gisborne sets his sights on driving revenue to $200 million within the next five years.

Van Gisborne, who is among Business News Australia’sTop 100 Young Entrepreneurs for 2023, has revealed that Venturely came on board as an investor last week after the retirement of Zonda co-founder Scott Clarke on 12 May, marking a major milestone for the company.

While Van Gisborne describes Clarke’s retirement as a ‘bittersweet’ moment in a recent LinkedIn post, reflecting on ‘two blokes and a dream embarking on a journey in the world of perm’, the young entrepreneur is equally excited about where he believes he can take the company with the backing of the new investor.

“We have huge plans to grow the business,” Van Gisborne tells Business News Australia, adding that this may include a future capital raising and potentially acquisitions.

The Gold Coast-based Zonda Group, which was founded by Clarke in 2010 as Career Building, rebranded at the end of last year to reflect the company’s new focus on providing staff for the health, NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) and aged-care sectors.

Van Gisborne and Clarke teamed up in 2018 when Career Building was a staff recruitment firm specialising in the construction sector. Clarke brought Van Gisborne on board as an equal partner to help him grow the business and potentially exit through a trade sale to the likes of recruitment giants Hays or Randstad.

“Career Building at that time was a $400,000 perm (permanent placement) agency,” Van Gisborne says. “The original plan was to be like a Hays or Randstad and be a jack of all trades.”

But the stellar growth of the company after it abandoned the fickle construction industry to expand into the healthcare sector has changed that plan.

“Over the past five years we have seen really solid growth in health care, and now we have diversified to include Zonda Care, which is an NDIS provider, and Zonda Aged Care,” Van Gisborne says.

“We have already signed up about 60 participants for Zonda Care since we launched it six months ago.”

Zonda Group currently has about 200 people working in the field as nurses, carers and support workers, and 60 across its recruitment business Zonda People.

Zonda Aged Care is currently waiting on compliance approvals from the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission before kicking off operations, which Van Gisborne expects will be in about three months.

Van Gisborne’s confidence in his company’s potential to achieve $200 million in revenue annually over the next five years, or 18 times current levels, is founded on the key fundamentals of Zonda's fields of expertise.

“It’s ambitious growth but it’s achievable growth,” he says, adding that NDIS and aged care will play a big part in accelerating the business.

“There’s a huge shortage of medical professionals across the entire health and aged-care industry, and we see several reasons why the industry will continue to grow.”

Van Gisborne says an ageing workforce and a lack of new recruits being trained have led to a shortage of skilled staff, which has been compounded by a drop in overseas medical professionals coming to Australia in recent years. Competition from the European Union, which is offering attractive packages for doctors and nurses, is adding to the pressure.

“Australian nurses and allied health professionals know they are in demand, and they are willing to leave a workplace for a couple of extra dollars an hour if they can get it somewhere else; I don’t blame them to be perfectly fair.”

Van Gisborne says that after rebranding late last year, Zonda is starting to gain traction among its key target markets, driven by old habits he learned when servicing the demanding construction sector.

“I think it helps that we came from that construction background where the industry needs what it needs ‘yesterday’. That has been our approach with healthcare, too.

“While compliance is more stringent, and it has to be, the ‘need it yesterday’ approach works really well in the health sector because our clients are understaffed.

“We have a lot of aged care companies, for example, already coming to us with home care packages even before we have started.”

Zonda Group is a high-volume staffing agency that takes a different approach to most recruitment agencies. Van Gisborne sees his company’s suite of allied health professionals, physiotherapists, support coordinators and clinical psychologists as much a part of his team as the recruiters who specialise in acute care, aged care and doctors.

“With many agencies, most people are focused on recruitment, but we consider ourselves a healthcare company that also provides agency staff.

“We staff hospitals with doctors and allied health people, and we can also put them into our NDIS and aged care business to service the elderly or disabled.

“Nurses can jump between health care and NDIS, and we give them the option to stay with the same employer.”

Van Gisborne describes one of the biggest challenges for the care industry as consistency of staffing.

“We’re driving to change that. For example, instead of offering a nurse a shift for a day or a week, we like to book them in for longer periods. We’re changing people’s mindset to take a nurse for three months so that the residents and the clients have that consistency.

“The staff member also feels part of the team and the employer can either extend their contract or take them as a permanent employee if they choose to do so.

“We find that’s a better model for clients and creates a win for everyone.”

Zonda Group has offices on the Gold Coast, Sydney and Townsville, as well as an administrative support team in Cebu, in the Philippines.

Van Gisborne expects the company’s physical footprint to grow in time, with Zonda’s services being deployed Australia wide, including regional areas such as the Torres Strait, as well as Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

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