At social enterprise Clean Force, the biggest reward is helping staff change their own lives. This is more than just a job.
For Aaron Robinson, this is a lifeline and one that brings him great satisfaction.
“It's really given me so much more motivation, so much more focus in my life,” he says.
Aaron was diagnosed with schizophrenia and depression as a 20-year-old.
Over the next two decades, stress linked to his condition and side effects of his medication made working very difficult.
Then, five years ago, all that changed, when he landed a job at social enterprise, Clean Force.
“I'm happy to be employed, I'm happy to own my own house, I'm happy to have a little baby. I'm just in a really, really good spot in my life at the moment,” Aaron says.
Staff like Aaron are also a source of joy for managers Jim Dinuccio and Paul Fraser.
It all began 17 years ago when Jim and Paul responded to an ad in the newspaper.
A company was looking to start a social enterprise in the commercial cleaning sector.
“Even though I'd never worked with people with a mental illness, I thought, maybe I can contribute something,” Jim says.
Their first challenge was to design a relevant business model.
Paul says, “We were also out there in our own way, breaking down those barriers, changing pre-conceived ideas about what somebody with a disability, what somebody with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia could do.”
A few weeks in, they secured their first job. Even then, it was only four hours a week.
But persistence paid off, and soon they had a foothold in the commercial cleaning industry.
The next challenge was matching their staff with appropriate roles.
“[It’s about] understanding their barriers, and understanding how to find workarounds to achieve their employment goals,” Paul says.
Clean Force has 95 cleaning staff, and almost half live with a mental or learning disability.
So the team get mental health training, while managers work closely with their doctors and psychiatrists.
Today, Clean Force has 50 clients, including John Holland, Brotherhood of St Laurence, AMES settlement services, across 150 sites.
One of their biggest customers, is Telstra, on-board for 7 years.
Over 16 years Clean Force has serviced contracts worth more than 20 million dollars, turning over almost 4 million last year.
And by reinvesting profits into its people, everyone benefits.
Paul says, “If we were to close our doors today, we want our employees to be able to meet the expectations of employers in the general labour market.”
It's a formula working for Aaron.
He says, “knowing my routine and knowing at the end of the night that I've done a good job, I can lock up and go home happy.”
Helping their staff lead independent lives was the ultimate goal for Jim and Paul.