Driving company culture from the treatment table

A strong workplace culture is one of the only sustainable competitive advantages that a service business can create. And culture, in any business, is the responsibility of the CEO. Why is culture the responsibility of the CEO? Because it’s too important to be delegated.

Since 2004, The Physio Co has grown from one person with a vision into Australia’s 8th Best Place to Work and most talked about physiotherapy practice. Culture really is everything to business success and I have obsessed over creating a caring, values-based family culture in every part of The Physio Co. In the eight years since The Physio Co was founded, I’ve personally worked every job from physio to bookkeeper and cleaner to CEO.

As CEO, there is an ever-existing tension between leading the management team and spending time with staff and clients. Over the last few years, I’ve focused on building a strong management and admin team in The Physio Co’s South Melbourne support office. By spending more time building our culture in the support office, I’ve spent less time on the road with our physio team. That’s been a mistake.

Today, The Physio Co has a solid and sustainable admin team that lives and breathes our core values, has a buzzing daily huddle and is growing our family culture. But we also have a physio team that hasn’t had the same attention from the founder.

As a student of entrepreneurial and values-based businesses I’ve learnt three important things that apply here:

  • I’ve learnt from Richard Branson that successful entrepreneurs should always have enough time in their life to be able to dive back into their businesses when they’re needed;
  • I’ve learnt from Verne Harnish, that CEOs always need to be market-facing. That is, they need to be in regular contact with their staff and clients; and
  • I’ve also learnt from SmartCompany‘s Aunty B that entrepreneurial businesses often get ‘stuck’ in their growth cycles when they get to around 50 team members. (The Physio Co welcomed our 50th team member in April this year so I probably should have seen a new challenge approaching!)

With all this in mind, this week I’ve made a move that puts me back leading our front line physio team. My new role will involve growing our family culture, supporting our physio team and mentoring our first line managers. This move won’t be forever, but it is absolutely the right decision for the time being and I have Verne, Ricky and Aunty B to thank for that!

If you have a comment, thought or similar experience to share, I’d love it read it. Please drop me a line in the box below.

Tristan White is a husband to Kimberley and a dad to little Alexandra. He’s a qualified physiotherapist, ironman triathlete, blogger and CEO of The Physio Co – Australia’s eighth Best Place to Work. His passion is to build a strong family and workplace culture and share what he learns with the world. Tristan’s Culture is Everything blog was ranked by SmartCompany as one of Australia’s 25 Best Business Blogs in 2011.



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