Tristan White’s story started like many others. He had a dream to work in a job that inspired him. He didn’t find that job, so he created it.
In 2004, The Physio Co (TPC) was born with one team member: Tristan White. In the thirteen years since, TPC has become a remarkable healthcare success story with over 100 team members and 1,000,000 physio consultations delivered to Australian seniors. They have also been listed as one of Australia’s Best Placed to Work 9 years in a row.
Tristan will be sharing his full story at the Entrepreneurs’ Unconvention this September (you can get tickets here). Ahead of the day we caught up with him to get insights into some of the unique systems they have used to build a world-class culture.
Talk to us about how The Physio Co started… did you start off as a one man team? There will be a lot of solopreneurs in our audience who want to take themselves out of the day-to-day and scale their business, but don’t know how. What’s your advice for doing this? What’s the first three steps they should be taking?
The Physio Co (TPC) started in 2004 when I was a recently graduated physio with a dream to find a job I loved! At the time, my head was telling me that I wanted to work in the sexy part of the industry – elite sports physio – but my heart guided me to something very different: starting a 1-person business helping older people in aged care homes.
As a 24 year old bloke with a healthy ego who had told everyone I knew that elite sports was where my career was headed, I was pretty embarrassed at the start to tell my mates that I worked in aged care.
The first few years at The Physio Co were a whirlwind of delivering the most memorable service I could, growing the number of clients and locations we worked at and starting to employ the first team members. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but, I was determined to firstly create a job for myself and secondly a business big enough to employ more positive people for me to work with.
A long time ago, I learnt from Richard Branson that the best way to learn how to run a business, is to run a business! So you need to start.
I reckon emerging entrepreneurs should do their planning before they start a business and they should make sure they understand the risks; but, they should definitely make a start selling their product or service sooner rather than later. The world needs more great businesses, not just great business plans or ideas!
Once a business has started and has some momentum, most entrepreneurs then want to scale up to something more significant. In my experience, scaling up takes a disciplined approach to focus on two critical things at the same time:
1: Staying obsessed by the ever-present need to make sales every day, week, month and quarter; AND
2: At the same time working towards building the systems, processes and recruiting a team to share the load and create a sustainable business.
Congrats on being ranked yet again as one of Australia’s 50 Best Places to Work for the 9th year in a row. What would you say is your ‘secret’ to building such a strong workplace culture?
TPC’s ‘secret’ to being one of Australia’s 50 Best Places to Work is our commitment to living the Culture Is Everything system.
A strong and sustainable team culture needs to be based on firm foundations which are fixed. These foundations include core purpose, core values and a clear vision. At the same time, the business needs to be flexible in the way that the foundations are lived―for example, evolving the products and services delivered to match the needs of clients; and changing the ways we communicate to clients and team members.
This specific, repeatable system that we have created at TPC helps us continue to do great work, grow our team and maintain a strong culture.
A culture by design based upon the Culture Is Everything is our not so secret, secret!
As a business grows it can get harder to maintain that startup magic and culture. What advice can you give to business owners who are in the scale stage and want to ensure culture doesn’t become diluted as they grow?
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, believes that even for businesses that have been around for 5, 10, or 20 years, it’s critical for leaders to keep a ‘day 1’ mentality. That is, keep the focus on being lean, entrepreneurial and close to your customers.
The same applies to your culture. Systems can be created that help retain the magic including things like a rhythm of parties, a culture of catching people doing something right and a commitment to personal, face-to-face conversations wherever possible.
Creating a world class culture begins with the people you bring into your team in the first place. What does your recruitment process look like? How do you ensure you are finding the right people for your organisation?
TPC has multi-step, multi-person recruitment process. In fact, there are up to 7 steps and 3-5 team members involved in the selection process.
It takes time to get to know potential team members and decide if it’s the right time to start a relationship together (ie start working together).
Another important part is that ‘maybe’ has to be ‘no’ when recruiting new team members. If, at any stage during a recruitment process, a potential new team member is assessed as a ‘maybe’ (‘maybe we should hire’ as opposed to ‘yes we should definitely hire!’) – we respectfully part company and wish that person well for the future. A strong culture can be diluted very quickly if team members that don’t add to the existing high standards are selected.
What’s the one interview question you ask every interview candidate?
My go-to question is, “Would you say you’re a lucky person? Why / Why not?”
What’s the biggest mistake you see entrepreneurs make when it comes to team culture?
The biggest mistake I see leaders and business owners make is thinking that they can delegate their responsibility for the culture of their business. Many things can be delegated and systems put in place to share the load, but, leaders must understand that their actions, in every interaction, every day, define the culture of their business. It’s not what we say, it’s what we do. People are watching, learning and following our every move.
What’s the one thing you wish someone had told you before starting a business?
I wish someone had told me that running a business will be simultaneously one of the most challenging and one of the most rewarding things you ever do. But, it takes time. You’ll need more patience, persistence and resilience than you ever imagined possible. But, if you dream big, stay focused and never stop learning, you will have the opportunity to do something useful in the world and that is absolutely worth the years of commitment.
So, what’s the future looking like for The Physio Co? Where do you hope to be in 6 to 12 months from now?
Next year, we arrive at the end of our 10 year obsession to deliver 2,000,000 consultations to Australian seniors by 31 December 2018. I hope we’ll be celebrating a huge milestone and then resetting our focus onto something even more significant.
We can’t wait to have you at the Entrepreneurs’ Unconvention. Can you give us a quick insight into what you’ll be talking about?
I’ll be sharing the TPC start-up and the repeatable system we have developed to build Australia’s Best Place to Work. The audience will learn the skills and confidence they need to help grow their business with a strong and scaleable team culture.
Want to learn more about the unique strategies Nik and Alex used to drive HiSmile’s rapid growth? Get your ticket now to the Entrepreneurs’ Unconvention, where Tristan will be sharing his story.