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An interview with our founder, Paul Browne

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LDK’s journey started over 20 years ago with Paul Browne, our Founder and Managing Director.

His personal experiences with Australian seniors inspired him to create a better future for them. This vision, that every senior Australian will be treated with Love, Decency and Kindness in their ageing journey. This vision is brought to life in our vibrant LDK communities.

We sat down with Paul to interview him and learn more about his story and this lead to beginning of the LDK journey.


Paul Browne:
We’ve done this before!

Interviewer:
Yeah, we’ve done this before Paul! Let’s get into it. So, you’ve run several successful seniors’ living businesses and you’ve got a unique and interesting story. We’d love to hear what initiated your love for elderly Australians?

Paul Browne:
That’s an interesting one. I spent the early part of my working career as a policeman and in that role, we had the unfortunate job of going to nursing homes to take possessions of people who had passed away. This is where I came to see how undignified the environment was, what people were forced to live in, the smell, the lack of normality. The feeling of depression, the palpable feeling of depression. It really affected me.

After several years, I moved out of the police force and ended up in the residential development world. I ended up buying into a motel in Tweed Heads and decided that I would convert that into what I thought was a better type of seniors’ living. A mix between retirement living and aged care so I set out to do that. I found some investors. I got my first display unit ready and got to advertising. I was the salesperson, the cleaner, everything we could possibly think of, and then finally, I had my first enquiry. It came from a guy called Milton Houston. Who now has become a very big part of our story and as you join our organization, you’ll see Milton’s name everywhere! Our main boardroom in the head office is named after him, as are several areas down in Greenway. He is an integral part of what we’ve done.

Milton came to me as a very frail, broken, elderly man. He was a war hero and a self-funded retiree. He had so many ailments you almost couldn’t count them…. But that didn’t hold him back, he was still driving a car and a very active member of his community. He was terrified of being forced into a nursing home, so he came and looked at what I had to offer.

He looked at the two-bedroom unit that I had on display and he told me while he was sitting on his walking frame, that he was in. He got out his checkbook to write me a check for $375,000 that I desperately needed. As he wrote the cheque, he stopped before signing and looked up at me and said that he would sign the cheque under one condition… “that you promise me that I never have to leave; that you care for me until the end and I can stay here”. And I kept that promise. And that promise I made started a journey of over 20 years. 20 years of ups and downs… learnings which enable us to do everything so well now. It was very much a steep learning curve.

The promise I made to Milton was one that we would care for him. And we did. He lived with us for over 4 years, in that time we became very, very close personal friends, he was a mentor to me in many ways. You’ll also hear the term Tickety-Boo around the organisation. That also comes from Milton. I used to see him getting across the car park with his walking frame, all bent over and he’d be doing about 1km every four hours to get to his car. So during that I’d walk over and ask, “how are you Milton?” And he’d look up at me and from the corner of his eye with a wicked grin on his face he’d say, “I’m tickety boo Browney”. I’d say “look that way” and we’d have a laugh. The promise I made to Milton we were able to deliver, and I was honored that he asked me to be one of his pallbearers.

It’s a very intimate thing we get into here folks… and if you join our organisation, love, decency and kindness is what it’s about.

Interviewer:
That’s a touching story wow. Thank you. So that is how you started LDK- with a massively courageous, huge vision. In your opinion, what is the key difference between LDK and other providers?

Paul Browne:
I think the core difference is our culture, our love, decency and kindness. That is not optional. When you come and work in our team, it’s not something you can choose to be. We came up with the idea of naming our company by our values and we wear them on our sleeves and you, as part of our team, will be held accountable to yourself, to each other and to our residents, to make sure that you are living, working and displaying Love, Decency and Kindness always. From the physical side, people live in a normal residential environment, so they live in a real community where they can go down to the bar, go to do the dog park with their dogs, to the movies every week in our theatre, tinker in the men’s shed or have friends meet them at the restaurant for a nice meal. They have a fully self-contained apartment.

We’re creating villages that have the same entertainment and the same opportunities to live the fullest of lives, for life irrespective of care needs. For the many decades I have worked in the industry, I had never seen anyone do it like we do it.

So, I guess you can say that these two points, our culture being non-negotiable and the living circumstances, are the reason for our difference and the reason why our model works.

Interviewer:
On the note of culture, so many people voice to me that you are the heartbeat of LDK. That you are the culture. I’d like to know what that actually means to you?

Paul Browne:
That is very lovely to say. I don’t believe that it is just one person or one thing that drives our culture. LDK is infectious, the feeling and the sentiment is something that you can physically feel and that everyone seems to want to embody once in our environment. The heartbeat comes from the connection we make with our residents.

The Milton story is just one of the thousands which I have had the privilege to have, of those who have lived with me over the 20 something years. I do have favourites I must admit, it happens folks. You just find someone that you really click with, sometimes it’s that you share an interest, or their story just really touches you and you just fall in love with them. When you really understand the value of personal interaction and connection with senior people who have been around for such a long time, have experience of love, success, failure and everything thing in-between. All of this is encapsulated in one person who can really give you a lot of insight and experience. I have had a lot of mentors from those who have chosen to live with us, and have found that when you open up your heart and your mind to them and you treat them as equals, they are actually better than me usually, only when you have this, will you understand LDK and how much more than just than one person our LDK culture really is.

Interviewer:
Beautifully put. What else would you say that anyone working at LDK can expect from you as the founder? What can they expect from you?

Paul Browne:
I’m a very down to earth human. I am very proud to be part of the team, not the leader so much, but part of a really valuable, strong team. As executives, we’re not what is important, those who make or break our business are our personal carers, cleaners, nurses, the people who go in and spend time in people’s homes. They are the true front of our business and are so valuable. It’s important for me and for us to recognise that too. We wouldn’t have LDK. We wouldn’t have a business. We wouldn’t have the ability to look after and care for our senior Australians without them.

Interviewer:
Too true. So you’ve touched on the fact that anyone joining LDK needs to actually have this in their DNA. Love, Decency and Kindness that is. What else do you expect from anyone joining the team?

Paul Browne:
I think the term that springs to mind is teamwork. There are so many workplaces where people play games, in these places I believe the love and kindness ceases to exist. So you know, rumour mongering and other things of that nature are just not tolerated at LDK.

I can’t force you to love someone, decency is something we can judge, but kindness is really where it is at, where we can influence our workplace. I can ask you to be kind in everything you do in your interactions with staff, fellow residents and people you’re working with. So just be kind and judge yourself on those values. If you do so, you’ll be a valued member of our team.

Interviewer:
Sounds straightforward! What is one last message you’d like to give?

Paul Browne:
I guess the one message is that of opportunity, we are going to grow exponentially. We already have a model that has been proven to be extremely attractive to seniors and their families. We are doing record sales; we’re getting people moving into our villages at almost record rates. LDK can have a real future for you. I don’t want people to be pigeonholed into a career path either. We want to build a company where you have opportunity to move and grow. If you want to become part of the membership team or a personal carer, or you want to do further studies, we will push this and you to be your best. Some years ago, we had a gardener who came to me one day and said he’d like to be an occupational therapist. So that is exactly what we got him into, and he does it so well. He’s still at the organisation after 15 odd years doing a magnificent job and he is as happy as he could possibly be, because he’s found his true north. So, opportunity to grow and become your best self is what I really want to put out there.

Interviewer:
Paul that was wonderful. Thank you.