Aspiring to succeed ever since she was just 11 years old, Marcella Romero has spent her career working tirelessly to achieve her childhood dreams – and help others along the way.
With a number of inspiring accolades to her name, none quite compare to being named 2021 CEO of the Year – A$0–100m turnover.
When master of ceremonies Ben Fordham announced Romero’s name at The CEO Magazine’s 2021 Executive of the Year Awards, a table of supportive Arriba Group colleagues leapt to their feet, cheering with utter jubilation.
And it was a double win for Romero, who was named 2021 Entrepreneur of the Year earlier in the evening.
Hosted at The Star Sydney, the prestigious business event attracted hundreds of Australia’s top leaders – all hungry to celebrate another challenging COVID-tainted corporate year, and Romero, Founder and CEO of Arriba Group, is certainly no stranger to the awards. She was previously named 2020 Managing Director of the Year, a finalist for 2017 Health and Pharmaceutical Executive of the Year and a previous judge for The CEO Magazine’s Executive of the Year Awards.
"It’s wonderful to acknowledge the good work being done in the health industries, especially given that health is the second-fastest-growing sector in Australia," Romero tells The CEO Magazine. "Awards like these are important to remind people in business and all leaders that our common humanity is powerful when working for the success of a program, initiative or company.
"By recognising what others do well, where leaders innovate or take risks, we all benefit from sharing the best, the challenges and the learnings along the way."
For more than 20 years, Romero has been working in Allied Health Services with her venture Arriba Group. As the parent company to Rehab Management, AimBig and LiveBig, the Founder works towards creating better futures for everyone.
This impulse to help the most vulnerable in society stems from her upbringing, which ultimately shaped her determination to succeed.
After migrating from Chile to Australia at just nine years old, Romero experienced a challenging childhood filled with adversity and racism, all the while watching her parents go from a comfortable life to working in factories and as cleaners.
"At the age of 11, I remember looking up in the sky saying that, one day, I would be successful and then my parents would never have to work a day in their lives," she says. Inspired to establish a company that makes a difference through workplace rehabilitation and by providing disability services and assessments, Arriba Group drives change every day.
"My motto is ‘together we can.’ Being from a migrant background underpins the way I view and value diversity and inclusion," Romero shares. "Industries that deal directly with people – from all sectors of the community whose lives have been challenged by injury, disability or ill health – help dreams come true."
Working together with her team of almost 400 employees across more than 100 offices, one of the entrepreneur’s core values is people, which she leads with authenticity and positivity.
"After more than two decades in business I know my skill set, and I’ve learned to be a very good listener because it’s essential to create positive working relationships with both staff and clients," she says. "Having an open-door policy is a touchstone of my communication style. I regularly think about how to improve my effectiveness as a speaker and leader, and what constitutes a mutual understanding or positive outcome.
"Exceptional leaders know how to manage staff through the thick and the thin; ‘fair weather’ leaders don’t succeed for long."
Passionate about supporting women in the C-suite, Romero hopes to inspire other female leaders to step up and celebrate their accomplishments.
"Being a winner at The CEO Magazine’s 2021 Executive of the Year Awards gives me a platform to inform readers about female entrepreneurs and executives and the fantastic work they’re doing," she shares. "This is one of my big passions, along with recognising and celebrating diversity in business and society."
The business has jumped from strength to strength since it was founded in her home with just five contractors. Today, Arriba Group works with companies including Allianz, QBE and Suncorp, and it holds about 35 per cent of the market share. The secret ingredient? Romero.
"My secret weapon is to be myself," she says. "I try to inspire staff because I believe in what I say and what I do. I lead by example, and I drive performance and excellence because I truly believe in what I say and what I do."
2021 CEO of the Year – A$0–100m turnover – Runner-Up went to Clayton Howes, CEO, Co-Founder and Managing Director of MoneyMe Financial Group Pty Ltd.