In the Beginning….

Martha Nunes

Brenthurst Residence was founded in 1998 by CEO, Maxie Nunes. As an accomplished businesswoman with a flair for decorating and building, Matron Nunes brings more than 50 years’ experience in elder care and nursing home ownership to the management and care teams she mentors. We asked her some questions to discover more about her, her values and the origin of the company.

Q: Mrs Nunes I hear that you turned 80 this year and you are still keenly involved in the running of Brenthurst Residence as the CEO. What is your secret?

A: Tenacity makes me get up every morning to do forward planning, and trusting God for my every need. I work on having a positive attitude, on seeking to understand the other person’s point of view and giving encouragement and counsel where necessary.

Q: With all this passion for business and care of people how did you get started? And how did you develop your business?

A: Before I started my training at Groote Schuur Hospital, I spent a year in Conradie Hospital where I developed love for Geriatric Nursing. Pneumonia and T.B. was an enormous problem in my youth where the family had to struggle to take care of their loved one. I saw the helplessness in the community and noticed the deficit there was in managing care. There were also no district nurses to guide people in those days.

Q: How did you get involved with building and interior decorating?

A: I once sold my home and used the proceeds to buy a much larger house and developed the property to accommodate my family and residents, learning from my handyman as we added a room here and there. I am a fast learner and keen planner. I had a hobby in my youth of collecting pictures of interior designs, which I kept in a file. I later realized that I had a flair for it. I educated myself by visiting tiling stores and building suppliers and in the process learnt about modern trends. My advice – Do your homework!

Q: What has been key to running so many successful businesses over the years?

A: Once you have developed your strategy for how you want to structure your business, you go where your gifting guides you. Mine was teaching and educating people. I wholeheartedly believe that education, strong morals and healthy boundaries is the foundation that needs to be set. Trusting God is always the recipe for success.

Q: Why have you stuck with Aged Care, particularly care for Dementia Clients?

A: I went to work in an operating theater and although I enjoyed the structure of it, I missed the connection with people who needed their care needs taken seriously. When my mother took ill I struggled to find a suitable nursing home. I will never forget when she contracted scabies and I had to treat her at home and wash her vast wardrobe. This has caused me to set a very high standard of cleanliness, as well as using my love for teaching by starting a staff training program which includes a specialized skill-set to facilitate the efficient handling of all aging issues.

Q: I also hear that you have a passion for mentoring your staff. What motivates this and how do you go about your mentoring process?

A: Previously I had a large nursing home where we trained carers to become E.N.A’s (Enrolled Nursing Assistants). My Staff were so wonderful and grateful to learn that even today when I connect with one of them it encourages me to push forward with the current 3 year basic program that we teach to our carers and cleaners. They write exams and become so proud of their achievements that they develop a strong commitment to being excellent. I follow the same principals as when I was a student nurse – the older staff train the newer staff. Our monthly training, Service Excellence Program, trophies, awards and acknowledgements encourages their desire to learn more. My daughter, Matron Lizann Painter, who handles the training program and keeps the vision alive.

Q: Your staff seem to be a high priority for you. Tell me about this.

A: I consider my staff to be an asset. I make sure that they are not overburdened in their workloads because safety is a priority and having a sufficient ratio of well- trained staff on duty, who are alert and proactive keeps, our standard high. Having clear HR standards and swift corrective action creates helpful boundaries and happy a staff who feel safe to come for help, direction and support.

Q: If you were advising a young entrepreneur about starting a nursing home business what would you recommend?

A:~Choose yourself a personable bank manager, an accessible accountant and a knowledgeable gardener with good planting skills.

~Find a property that is close to public transport either a main road or a bus or train station.

~Research your competition in the area you want to operate.

~Get a copy of the Standards and Norms from the Department of Social Development and start your application once you have the groundwork in place

~Take time with staff interviews to get an informed picture of the prospective staff member, and follow up on their references. Choose team players who are teachable and avoid hiring people with big personalities.

~Get to know the Labour laws, engage a good labour consultant who can put your operating standards on paper. Set your standards and stick to them. Educate, educate educate!

~Develop your documentation, particularly a clear contract and price list.

~Budget: don’t skimp on food, cleaning products, skilled managers, beautiful curtains and bedding.

~Insurance: be aware of Occupational Health and Safety laws

~Good values in a business starts at the top. Work ethic and moral values will filter through to the rest of the business.

~Compartmentalize your business. Be happy and prepared to multitask.

Photo ofMartha Nunes
Martha Nunes
Job Title
Brenthurst Residence
9 Brent Road,
Plumstead, Cape Town, 7800