I’m pretty thrilled to share that I was recently named a finalist in the 2020-21 Allied Health Leadership & Management Excellence Awards for my work creating Australia’s first occupational therapy (OT) franchise, ActivOT.
It’s wonderful news. But instead of just sharing the news, I’d like to share five nuggets of hard-earned wisdom I’ve learned along the way—I hope you find them helpful.
But first, some background: I’m the founder of ActivOT, Australia’s first—and only—private practice occupational therapy franchise. I’m proud to say I was the first entrepreneur to adopt the franchise model in occupational therapy, and one of very few entrepreneurs using the franchise model in a healthcare related business in Australia.
Why did I start ActivOT?
For a few reasons, but mainly it was my time working as a senior occupational therapist within governmental domiciliary care that left me fiercely determined to push the boundaries of OT service provision.
I saw, first-hand, a system dogged by incidents of misconduct and the poor treatment of the frail, elderly and those with long term care needs. So I blew the whistle, brought the misconduct to light and ultimately decided to build a business aligned with my values.
My vision for ActivOT was to build a business that helps OTs spend less time pushing paper and more time caring for people.
I set out to provide a service that gives clients more stability— to ‘shut the revolving door’ which frustrates clients who are constantly explaining their health to new therapists and which is also heartbreaking for the therapists who never get to see the fruits of their labour.
I sought out an efficient model that not only helps patients but creates opportunities for colleagues in occupational therapy to start their own businesses…the franchise model was exactly what the doctor ordered!
In 2007, ActivOT was born. We now have over 30 franchises across Australia and are always looking for occupational therapists interested in joining our team and starting their own business.
So, with that brief introduction, here are five key lessons from my career so far.
Choose your model and look outside your industry
Before I launched ActivOT, franchising occupational therapy practice was unheard of.
Ultimately, franchising is a win for my business because it’s scalable. It’s a win for the client because they are getting the stability of a highly skilled practitioner workforce (my team of therapists sign up for five years). And it’s a win for occupational therapists who get to see their clients progress and thrive.
My advice? Forget what everyone else is doing and look outside your industry or sector for inspiration. Adapt your business model accordingly.
Don’t let fear paralyse you
In 2018 I committed to leadership coaching with The Edge PR. This gave me the skills to adjust my mindset and overcome anything holding me back – especially fear.
Reframing things in my mind, having the courage to back myself and move through fear has been the biggest game-changer for me—professionally and personally.
Don’t let the fear of risk stop you from achieving your dreams.
Failing to plan is planning to fail
Many businesses struggle due to a lack of planning at all levels. Without planning, the entire team will struggle for direction. A lack of direction means, as their leader, I spend time putting out fires instead of taking purposeful action. Doing business without planning is very much like taking a journey without a map. I’m a big planner.
Get clear on your vision, assemble the right team around you and prioritise like a pro.
At ActivOT, we have regular planning sessions so that the whole team is focussed and our vision and direction is clear.
Help others succeed
I’m not afraid to say I intend to run the best occupational therapy business in Australia.
The way to do that is to engage the best occupational therapists in Australia and to help them succeed. Whether it’s our clients or the occupational therapists that are part of our team, success is all about helping other people.
Many occupational therapists struggle with the business side of their practice. ActivOT gives them the tools and structure to grow their business so they can focus on caring for their clients. Just like it should be.
While many believe that boundaries are limiting, I believe that boundaries in life and in business give you more freedom—not less—and that clear values-based boundaries can enhance the quality of your life and business.
In 2015, I had a near-death health scare. It reinforced to me, more than ever, that many of our daily stressors and struggles stem from a lack of clear boundaries.
Decide what your boundaries are and stick to them.
At ActivOT, we consider boundaries to be essential self-care and therefore a fundamental part of practicing occupational therapy. Supporting others requires a 100% commitment to self-care!
That’s it from me. What’s your number one career lesson so far? I’d love to hear from you.
Ps. If you’re an occupational therapist and you’re interested in learning more about what we do, you can get in touch with me via email@example.com.
Helen Whait is an award-winning innovator in occupational therapy service provision. She’s a franchisor, occupational therapist and mentor.