From its origins in healthcare, Uniplural Group has expanded its offerings into childcare, education and other community services. Now, over 10 years later and fresh from its major rebrand from Apex Group to Uniplural Group, Chairman Aaron Axiaq is gearing up for significant growth as the company seeks to extends its services further while always keeping sights of its roots.

Aaron Axiaq may not have taken the most conventional route to his current role, but his organic trajectory has nevertheless led to success. Before he shifted into business, Aaron spent more than 16 years caring for patients at their most critical moments as an intensive care nurse. Now, as Chairman of Uniplural Group, he is spreading that spirit of care across different pockets of society.

“Moving from nursing into business isn’t a typical career path, but ambition and consistency are integral to who I am. When I felt there was a lack in community care and that I could contribute my expertise through a private company to fill the gap in the community, the choice seemed clear,” Aaron explains.

“Naturally, there were ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’, but I’ve always been fascinated by leadership and management. At the ITU, I managed a team of 20 nurses while working with a multidisciplinary team of doctors and consultants, not to mention patients and their families. I also used to mentor university students, and today some of those students work with me. Business certainly comes with its own challenges, but I’ve never looked back.”

What is now Uniplural Group began in 2012 as Apex Community Care, with Aaron building on his experience in community settings, from hospitals and private homes to prisons and industrial zones. Starting with just five employees working out of a small office in Mosta, a former pet shop that the team transformed into a workspace, the company quickly grew.

Within a year, it had opened its first childcare centre and expanded its staff to 50, necessitating a move to a larger office in Żebbuġ. By then, the vision for the company had evolved into what Aaron describes as a “one-stop-shop for all the services that people require in the community”. That meant branching out into community nursing, childcare – starting with one location in Fgura that has expanded to seven today – and then cleaning services. Most recently, the group even ventured into hospitality by acquiring a boutique hotel in Birżebbuġa.

Along the way, Uniplural Group also stepped into education with the launch of its teaching academy, offering accredited, tailor-made training for every sector in which the group operates. “The benefit for students is that they can study with us, and then we can provide them with work,” Aaron explains. “My dream is for them to be trained as we were, with a spirit of care and love for their work. Ultimately, the customer is at the centre of everything we do, so we need staff who care and who understand our clients’ needs.”

Beneath it all, though, what is it that unites Uniplural Group’s diverse operations? For Aaron, the answer harks back to his beginnings. “The group is holistic: we provide services our society needs. Beyond that, what sets us apart from our competitors can be summed up in one word: care,” he asserts. “Whether it’s nursing, childcare, cleaning or teaching students in our academy, we want to deliver a service with a difference. Whatever the product, we want to care for our clients and ensure they’re completely satisfied. The entire group rests on the concept of care.”

This vision has seen the company navigate the waters to where it is today, closing off 11 years of operation in better shape than ever. “2023 was an important year for us to lay the path for the next decade,” Aaron says. “It was a crucial year because we put systems in place and carried out the restructuring we need to be ready for 2024 and beyond. I expect the group to make headlines in 2024. We’re evolving across all our sectors while also reaching for international markets. The plan is for Uniplural Group to make waves – not only locally but internationally as well.”

Naturally, this growth also brings new challenges, the most significant of which has been the company’s recent rebrand from Apex to Uniplural Group, triggered by its plans for international expansion, where another firm already operates under the same name. “It was difficult for me because Apex Group felt like my baby, but in life you have to adapt to needed changes,” Aaron admits.

“Our new identity emerged through an incredibly rigorous and fruitful exercise locally and in Europe, and the result is something totally new but which still represents our core values. I didn’t want us to forget where we came from, and we now have a strong name that encapsulates everything about us. It’s a big challenge – and one that’s still ongoing – but I’m proud that we’re making it a reality. This will be the proof of the promise we made a year ago: to grow the group in a new and exciting manner.”

Looking forward, Aaron expects Uniplural Group’s ventures to increase in significance in line with the anticipated rise in its level of growth. “We’re determining which investments are the best for us to make and where they could lead us,” he says. “Our major investments in 2024 will be in hospitality, education and care services, as they are our three main pillars going into the year. That said, internationalisation remains our focus because we believe there are huge opportunities for us outside Malta too.”

Aaron is also keenly aware of the changes the group’s new phase of development will require. Uniplural Group currently employs around 400 people and expects to increase that number by 25 to 30 per cent over the next year. “We started small and developed a family culture, so now it’s about changing people’s mindsets – and therein lie the challenges of change,” Aaron explains. “One of my jobs these days is to evolve the mindset of employees who have been with me for 10 years or more: we are growing and getting stronger, but now the bigger picture requires different things from each of us. It’s not easy for me or them – and if I had a flaw, it’s that I try to please everyone – but I know we’ll get there.”

With this confidence, Aaron is embarking on what he foresees to be a “remarkable year” for Uniplural Group, in which he hopes to see the services, professionalism and education the company has worked so hard on making waves across Maltese society and beyond.

“My dream was always a holistic group,” he says. “No matter how much we grow and diversify, and no matter the new ventures we engage in, I never want to lose sight of where we started. I set out with a strong commitment to care, and I still maintain that commitment. What’s more, I intend to keep a firm hold on it. For those who work with me, I want to lead by example and share this devotion. Whether we’re offering a service or working on ourselves as a team, that commitment must always be there.”

This article is part of the serialisation of 50 interviews featured in MaltaCEOs 2024 – the sister brand to MaltaCEOs.mt and an annual high-end publication bringing together some of the country’s most influential business leaders

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