“Hey boss man… You’re on at 5pm and these are the details for our company birthday…”
So goes the message I get from our amazing event planning team as I step on a plane in Melbourne to fly into Perth for Life Ready’s 8th birthday celebrations.
I cringe uncomfortably at the term “boss man” because I certainly don’t feel in charge right now, but of course I know they mean this only with endearment, so I brush it off.
I read the message with a deep and overwhelming sense of discomfort and gratefulness. It’s a strange combination of feelings. Gratefulness, because I feel truly privileged to have such incredible people working alongside me. Discomfort, as I am visibly confronted with a deep truth I’ve perhaps ignored or not explored… That this thing that is “Life Ready” has certainly grown far beyond me as an individual.
I recall memories of Jess and I clamouring to do our job whilst trying to organise our birthday events each year. I would know every detail – from the sound set up, food and drink – but to step on a plane only a few hours before our largest annual celebration and know nothing except that I’m “on at 5pm”, was both overwhelming and frightening.
It led me to a question: why we do this every year? Why bother celebrating our birthday now we’re a few hundred people across multiple states with their spouses and families? Our events are large, costly and challenging to coordinate.
The truth is that it had crossed my mind. It’d certainly be a lot easier to not step on a plane and take a four hour commute across country for a “party”.
“The birthday celebration is not about just having a big party; it is an outward manifestation of a deeper philosophy that this is bigger than any individual.”
This would be true if that was all this was… a party. However in reflection, the birthday celebration is not about just having a big party, it is an outward manifestation of a deeper philosophy. That this is bigger than any individual, and no one person can take credit.
We are the collective ideas, passions and efforts of hundreds of like-minded people coming together to pursue meaningful work. Ours is a business of people, by people, for people. It has never been anything more than honest and authentic relationships, lived out in community, enabling all of us together to do more than any one of us could do apart. It keeps us humble, curious and inspired. The irony is, the more people we meet who share our convictions, and the more we know them, the greater our innovation and impact. Growth cannot separate from authentic relationships and authentic relationships need the wider impact of growth.
Moving to Melbourne and launching our company on the east coast was challenging to say the least, but the most significant learning is that no matter how well resourced, prepared or smart we thought we were, no matter the sophistication of our metrics, processes, dashboards and analytics, we couldn’t achieve the same outcomes without our authentic relationships.
It wasn’t until we made a conscious decision to invest back into friendships, refocus back on learning together, growing together, knowing each other and being known by each other that the processes, metrics and analytics were given meaning and produced results. It is the relationships that activate the value behind the processes and plans – the relationship is symbiotic.
The challenge for our company is that as we grow, we obviously get the upside of bringing in more like-minded people who we can learn and grow from, but with that comes the obvious challenge of making sure every individual we add is not simply added as a number, but that we invest the time and resources required to make sure they are known.
This is true not only of our leadership team, our admin and our practitioners, but also to our clients.
“Crucial to our success is our ability to manage the tension between growth and authenticity.”
Eight years and approximately 700,000 consults later, we are now over 75,000 clients, a few hundred employees, close to 250,000 consults a year, across two states. Crucial to our success is our ability to the manage the tension between growth and authenticity. I refuse to believe that it is either/or.
Both growth and authentic relationships are equally essential in staying true to our company mission. The question then is, “how”. How can we continue to bring people into the family whilst simultaneously ensuring that every individual is known and heard? How can we continue to help more clients whilst ensuring that every client is known genuinely and served uniquely to their context?
Our birthday is an annual reminder for me personally, but also for us all that we all need each other, now more than ever, and the relationship between growth and authenticity are not oppositional, but synergistic.
I’ll conclude with a simple realisation. I recall dreading the arrival of my second son Caleb that I might not have the space and capacity to love him, Linda and Joshua. Sounds silly, but I felt unsure about how much love I had left to give. I recall the moment he was born, and I laid my eyes on him, I was overwhelmed, because in that moment, I realised that our ability to care for and connect with people are not some finite buckets that we spread and allocate. The human capacity to love is infinite, but in that moment, I not only loved him with all my heart, but I also loved Linda more and Joshua even more as a consequence. I am reminded that this is the privilege of what we get to do as health care company…
Very few industries align making a living with knowing and caring for people. In fact, the more you authentically listen and know your clients, the better the outcomes. The more your clients connect with you the better their adherence to your treatment plans. The same is true in our leadership and of our people. The more we know our people, the better we can provide a great place to work that will enable them to learn and grow. The more they know what we stand for, the better our ability to keep, attract and develop great people.
“If we are to help people, progress in their unique contexts we must know them authentically, be known by them courageously and with that, use the collective experiences, learnings and resources as a foundation in building a legacy that will last and reach more than we could have imagined on our own.”
This is our challenge for 2019… know and be known – know your patients and be known by them. Know each other and be known. The statement is simple, but it requires humility, courage and vulnerability. It is not easy, but our core purpose has always been to move people toward their best quality of life. The foundation of this statement is simple – people, progress and individuality.
If we are to help people and progress in their unique contexts, we must know them authentically, be known by them courageously and with that, use the collective experiences, learnings and resources as a foundation in building a legacy that will last and reach more than we could have imagined on our own.