No man is an island and certainly no business operates in a vacuum, which is why Natalie is very much aware of the 360-degree implications of overseeing Vassallo Group in a global context. And during her first two years of “transition”, by her own admission, she has had to “face a lot of music”.
“I took up this position post-Covid and in a war era,” she begins. “Every business has to position itself in the global scenario. It has to continue to adapt to what is happening in the world and we are responsible for how the world continues to evolve. That is how I see my role and that is how I would like to see the Group evolving. Sustainability is key.” Lessons are still being learnt from the challenges of the pandemic and war but there is no going back to ‘before’.
“We can never go back to how it was. The most important thing is for each business to take stock of available opportunities today, with how things are evolving right now and what we can do with today’s opportunities. The orientation of ‘now’ in each business perspective is very important. Whatever made sense yesterday might not make sense today. The world is moving forward and you need to continue to adapt and adjust to realities.”
For Natalie, the highlights of this year evolve around the success brought about from the Group’s new developments, namely the Campus Hub and Vassallo Business Park. While the greatest opportunity ahead remains the digitisation in the care industry, creating different scenarios to beat the trend of surplus in commercial properties is also of great importance. The need for transformation, she believes, continues to be felt, especially in industries which face labour shortages or lack of quality in the workforce.
“Success in facing all the changing realities is not just carrying on regardless. If it’s raining you don’t just open another umbrella. You need to re-analyse.” And, if team work makes the dream work, then a more democratic leadership style is the recipe to ensure the business continues to evolve. “One of my aspirations is that the boardroom continues to become a forum for discussion.
That is an accomplishment for the Group, for all directors and for me as the chairperson looking at how the transformation of the boardroom can continue to happen. The boardroom has become more of a collective discussion now with the involvement of all members.” And one of the results of such a consultative approach was the introduction of an annual meeting with all the banks to continue strengthening the Group’s relationship with its stakeholders. “It enabled us to be transparent with our progress and gave all CEOs the opportunity to interact with each other and with our stakeholders.”
If this year was HILA’s time to shine with the opening of Santa Rosa and offering services to the new Dar Bjorn, next year the Group will mark two major milestones: the expansion into Gozo with the inauguration of Dar San Gużepp in Ghajnsielem and the introduction into the education sector with the Mediterranean College of Sport.
“We are very proud and excited about the Gozo project,” Natalie says enthusiastically. “I am sure we can deliver our quality mark in care.” The Mediterranean College of Sport reaffirms the Group’s commitment to society while combining the family’s love for sports. Natalie credits her brother Pio for his vision to create this college and his unswerving passion for football which he pursued “through great opposition”.
“He is a great influence to a lot of people, including me, and now our business model is actually delivering it nationwide. Our ambition is to train students so they can have a dual career – in sports and business.” But it takes more than just ambition and talent. “Unless you have resilience, discipline, determination and perseverance you will not survive.” Which is pretty much the formula for the Group’s evolution