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How to motivate your employees

'Moving from being a micromanaging small business owner to an empowering team leader is a journey, and it was very hard ... I'm pretty sure that's why a lot of small businesses don't grow past a certain point.'
Tristan White, The Physio Co.

Top tips

  • Create a 10-12 year long term vision with a 3 year achievable goal
  • Make your core purpose and values real
  • Recruit staff whose values align with those of the business

The business

When Tristan White started The Physio Co in 2004, he was working solo. In its first year the company completed 1500 consultations. At the end of  2013, the company had 60 employees, is ranked by BRW as the 5th best place to work in Australia and is well on the way to achieving its 10 year goal of providing '2 million unique and memorable consultations to Australian Oldies by 31st December 2018'. The Physio Co has grown consistently - 35% year on year - since it began nearly ten years ago.

The trigger to define goals

'By about 2008 the company was employing around 20 people, but I had no strategy.'

Tristan says that in 2008 he felt 'stuck' in his business. 'I'd built this complex web where I was the decision maker on everything. I really didn't enjoy what I was doing and I wanted to change that.'

In 2009 Tristan started working with business coach Cameron Herold to create a picture of what the business would look like in 2012. 'Once we had the vision, we worked backwards so that we knew what had to happen each month between 2009 and 2012 and we could strategically grow the business.' 

Goals for 10 years and 3 years

Business 'guru' Jim Collins coined the term 'big hairy audacious goal' or BHAG, and this was an idea that appealed to Tristan, after he'd read Collins' book Good to Great. 

'I think a business needs a long term vision that extends 10-12 years out; a goal that is bigger than ourselves and creates purpose. In my experience, most people want to be part of a business that actually does something significant in the world.'

A shorter goal works alongside the long term vision. 'A three year goal is much more actionable. The ten year goal really is for the business owner. For many team members or new staff, three years is already a long time. It is easier to align people to a three year vision than asking them to look 10 years into the future.' 

When searching for a tool that would enable him to put his plans into action, Tristan adopted the concept of the 'Painted Picture'. 'It really describes in great detail - not only the goals that we're working towards but what the business will look like at a certain point in time.'

The Painted Picture may be detailed but it consists of simple statements.

'The job of a business owner is to make the complex as simple as possible.'

Learning to let go

Staff are involved in creating and bringing the company vision to life. Tristan admits that the transition to allowing others to make decisions caused him some stress at the beginning. 

'Moving from being a micromanaging small business owner to an empowering team leader is a journey, and it was very hard ... I'm pretty sure that's why a lot of small businesses don't grow past a certain point.'

Purpose and values embedded in the culture

The core purpose and the core values of the Physio Co are part of the company's day to day operations. 'The core values explain the behaviour that is needed to bring the vision to life.' 

He says that repetition of the core values helps them remain present and the wording of the core purpose and core values has a tremendous impact. 'Keeping them simple is how you keep them alive.'

The Physio Co actively uses their core values in the following key areas.


'We're not looking to recruit people who are all the same but we're looking for people with similar values.'

Performance reviews, rewards and recognition

'The highest performing members of our team are rewarded because of the way they live the core values.'

Daily meetings

'A 12 minute meeting in our support office every day ensures there is clear communication amongst team members and helps us focus on bringing the vision to life.' 

The challenge of change

The continual growth of the company has led to some challenges, particularly around structure and leadership. 'About 12 months ago we outgrew our organisational structure. We had become far too complex for the management team we had in place. I didn't see it coming; I think I was asleep at the wheel.'

Triggers to watch for.

A drop in staff retention

'A few of our physios started to look for their future elsewhere.'

Customer feedback

'We were short staffed as a result of staff leaving, so we didn't have enough physios to deliver on all our programs. If you say you're going to do something and then you don't, that doesn't go down very well.'

Tristan worked to rebuild relationships with the physio team and ensure the management team was structured more sustainably - to avoid a repeat of that difficult period.

The result

By creating a long term goal and achievable, short term goals, Tristan White has gone from being a solo operator to having 60 employees and an award from BRW for being the 'Best Place to Work - Under 100 employees' in Australia in 2014.