What Cliniko has learned about building a team and how it may work for your practice

Cliniko founder Joel Friedlaender has learned a lot about building a team in the 10 years since he started the company. Here he shares what has worked for his business.

Kate Hunter·

Cliniko founder Joel Friedlaender

Last month, our founder, Joel, spoke to the participants of Clinic Mastery’s ‘Grow Your Clinic’ workshop in Melbourne. Joel shared his thoughts on how to build productive teams, and earn high team retention rates, as well as announcing Cliniko’s latest business planning tool - the ‘Practitioner leaving cost calculator’.

You can watch Joel’s unedited talk here, or read the transcript below.

Joel Friedlaender:

‘I find it a bit difficult to come talk to a group like this, because you’re all health care practitioners, and I’m a software developer. And yes, I build software for your industry, but what I do day-to-day is build software - finding the parallels of what I’m doing and what you’re doing and what use I can bring was difficult. I think by speaking to the Clinic Mastery people all through last week, trying to understand more about the people here, and the businesses that you run, so I could work out what it is that I know that can be useful to you. And turns out, it wasn’t building software.

So, I’m going to talk about people, teams and culture with you and it’s something that I’m really passionate about. In our business… this is a picture of one of our meet-ups that we had late last year - our team now at Cliniko includes almost 35 people, that work everyday building, supporting, growing our business.

I started this really on my own, with my partner who was an osteopath, and when we came into it, we knew that we wanted to put together a team of people, and we worked to hire really great people into this team, as I’m sure everyone does, and wanted to sort of, get out of their way, to find creative people, give them more autonomy, support them however they wanted, reward them for working in this business and see what happened. It was kind of like, pretty open ideas in the beginning. But something we were conscious of as well, was that our context was going to matter.

So, I’ve heard already in the talks today, people talking about ‘put it through your filter’ and I guess my consideration for that, and I think about it in context, that every business is different. I knew that in starting this company it was going to be a software company, but it was going to be quite different to Google. So there’s no point in me going and having a look at Google, and say: “How do they do things? How do they hire people? How do they run a team? How do they build software?”, it’s going to have no application to me, at the start, a smaller developer building this product.

I think that something that we were conscious of is there’s no rules to copy. You can certainly get inspiration from others but there’s not a set handbook that’s going to say “this is going to make your business successful”. And I think we have proof of that, because if there was, there would be one. There would be this handbook that says “here’s how to make your business successful” we’d all follow it, and we’d all have great businesses. But the reality is different, and I think that’s the context, I think that’s the demographic your business is in. The modality, your goals for your business, the people you have on the team, who are your clients and patients, all those things are going to shape what actually works in your business.

So for us, as we started to build a team, and build the business, we were just cognizant of it, and we should do things in our company, in our business that makes sense for us. And I’d say, we sort of went down, I’d say, a bit of a different path than many businesses.’

The results have been amazing

‘Our team that works in the business, like I said, there’s 35 people working on Cliniko, and they really put their hearts into it. Like the people in our team just go above and beyond in the business, they really don’t treat it like a job. They treat it like their own thing, and it’s not through my management of them or anything like this, they’re just self driven.

I believe our culture has formed in a really positive way, and I thought I’d show you first some of the things that are a result of that culture, and some examples in our business, and then I’m going to talk about what we actually do, and things we’ve put in place to try to foster that.’

People love their work

‘So I would say, in our team, people really love their work. If you want to have a read of that quote, that was Gina who wrote this just the other day on our team chat. And this is the kind of thing, at the previous company I worked at, I was not writing this. Maybe far from it. The fact that we have these people in our team, that are really loving what they’re doing, and they’re driven to work on it, it has become a result, I think, of the culture in our company.’

People put the company first

‘Also, notably, they put the company first, you’ll need some context before you’ll understand this quote here. So one of the people in our team, Clint, who’s on the support team, he’s been with us for five years or more, and was feeling some burn out in the workspace and he needed some time off. He talks to me and asks if he can take three months off, to really just refresh, and get back into it.

Firstly, I said ‘yes’ because we have a policy about unlimited leave so, like we can definitely do that, and that was all fine. Then, the person who does our finance stuff, said ‘By the way do you know Clint isn’t going to get paid for those three months?’. And I said: “What? Of course he does, we have unlimited leave.” Like if you, you know, not paying for it, that’s not leave like this’ And I went and chatted with Clint and he said, adamantly: “I don’t want to be paid for it, I want three months off. I don’t want to think about work. It’s a long time. I’ve got enough money. I just don’t need to be paid, so I never want to talk about it.”

I actually had quite a long debate with him on this topic. Because I also didn’t want him to take time without pay, it’s part of his role, he’s afforded this amount of money, and in the end, part of this was this where he said to me “It’s just not happening and if it does, then all you’ll do is pay more tax on it as I’ll just buy the equivalent Cliniko subscriptions”.

Now, I’m proud to say I won, we did pay him for that three month leave, but it’s an example of the commitment people have to the business and the care for the business, that we’re talking thousands of dollars here that he’s going to forego in salary, and he was prepared to do that, and he thought that was the right thing to do. And that’s that sort of real commitment, and you know, being a part of the company and wanting good for the company.’

People are happier and healthier

‘I’d say people are happier and healthier in general. Probably my favourite of that is, one of the people in our support team, Bart, who lost 130 kilos since working in our company. I think that, the ability to have a flexible work life, he has the support for taking care of his health care, taking the time off he can take, and even the emotional support he gets within the team. It’s helped him to do so. He regularly admits he doesn’t think he’d he would have been able to achieve that in another company.’

Productivity is high

‘I would say our productivity is very high. So if we’re talking work days, Monday to Friday, during the week, you probably don’t notice but we release on average six updates per day to Cliniko that actually go live. Some of you did notice the colour one it seems. But there’s some other things that go live behind the scenes, which were performance updates, some of them you may not have noticed. There’s security fixes, there’s features that are coming in, there’s bug fixes. There’s a whole bunch of stuff that we’re releasing, and we don’t have a terribly big development team, but they’re launching six times a day. There’s updates going out to Cliniko every day, and it was based over the last year, so average for the last year. Our support team are receiving 250 inquiries per day com, and our median response time for those is nine minutes.

So, we’ve got this team that’s not particularly big, but they’re really prolific about developing the software, improving the software, and our support team is fast in handling a lot of enquiries. And again, I feel like the environment where we’re working, and the culture we have in the team, is enabling us.’

People use their own initiative

‘People use their own initiative. So this was a case, this is what happened just a couple days ago, and you probably can’t read it well. But Dara in our support team left a message in our Slack chat channel, and he said: “Anyone here? Two of the buttons are missing from the expenses page.” They were the ‘edit’ and ‘archive’ buttons, and within a minute, Hass saw that message and said: “Let me have a look”. Dara posted the screenshot for him, to show him the problem, and Hass notes that said: “Well they’re just not showing up, so they’ve not really been broken, but they’re not there.”

Anyway, within 13 minutes of Dara raising it, Hass already fixed the problem and was pushing that out live to our servers, for customers to receive that update. Now, no one went to Hass and said, you need to fix this problem, there was no one allocating it to him, he doesn’t have a process he needs to follow where he needs to get his manager’s approval to divert his time to work on this kind of thing. He has the autonomy, he saw there was a problem, and he fixed it, and he fixed it in minutes. I think that if we’d had a lot more process and bureaucracy in our company, that couldn’t happen.’

People are creative

‘People are creative. Has anyone watched any videos of Rachel on our Facebook? So she usually does these weekly updates for us, but this is not something that we decided as a company that should happen, this was something she just wanted to do. And we actually, at one of our meet-ups, she just showed up and said: “Hey, I’ve made a video about Cliniko and updates, and things like that. Can I share it with you, see what you think?” So we watched it and we loved it, and in the end we said “Rachel you should do more of these videos, these are fantastic.” And then she just went, and found in her own time, time to put together these videos.

We didn’t, you know, drive her, no one asked her to do it. She’s got her own video equipment, she set up her own, well it’s her room, but set up her own area to record things in, and just started making it happen. And after a while, I thought wow, she’d been doing the weekly for months, and then we decided okay we need to start to find you more time in the day to go and commit to this, because you’re doing it anyway, and you shouldn’t be working extra to make it happen. It was that kind of ability for her just to see something she thinks she can do, and add to the business, and go and do it that allow these things to start happening, and I think they’re really good for those of you who watch it, I’m sure you’ve enjoyed her. She’s quite entertaining in the videos, and it’s a good thing for us to have.’

People help each other

‘People just helping out each other. So this one was a couple of months ago, we’ve someone else in the team called Joel, so he kind of got the nickname “New-Joel”, which infers that I’m “Old-Joel” which I don’t like. But he was doing some exploring, he was, you know, he works in our support team, he was going to be handling chat, and he was just doing some exploring in the city, and wanted to let people know. And then Amy sees this and says: “No problem, I’ve swapped my shift around, I’ll cover that time for you”. Now, no one went to Amy and said you need to do this, and she didn’t have to check with someone to see if she could do it, she just saw that someone wasn’t going to be around, wanted to provide coverage for our customers and jumped in and did so.’

The team are like family

‘I’ll also say, largely, our team are like a family. So this is just a couple of weeks ago. This was actually my five year old daughter’s birthday party, and we just so happened to have at the time, a couple of our team. Michael and Jason are from Canada, Spider-Man and Captain America. Kelly, our designer, is the Joker on the left there. So this was just our team out visiting. My daughter really wanted them at her party, because she loves these people, she knows them, and she enjoys them. And they don’t mind jumping in and getting a bit silly, and being a part of this party. Though I can’t tell you the secret identity of Batman in the middle, but I think he’s got the best costume.’

People don’t leave

‘Something else, is that people don’t leave, because we’re a team of 35 people in the history of our company, we’ve had two people leave. And one of them was someone that wasn’t working out, and needed to leave. And the other one, we had one other person who had just moved country and the job wasn’t really what he wanted to do anymore. About 35 people, and in eight years, we’ve had just those two people leave. The industry average in IT is 13% of your team leaves in a year. There’s a lot of turnover in this space, and we just don’t have it.’

Too warm and fuzzy? Let’s talk money

‘So if all those things, talking about people and culture, are a little bit fuzzy and don’t really compel you that you should be approaching this. I just want to talk about the money side of it. And a lot of times when we talk about how we run our business, I think people will find it nice and what do you think you do, or all this kind of stuff, but they actually wonder in their business ‘is this going to make their business stronger?’

If you’re focused on profit and loss in your company, is this good business sense? I would certainly argue “yes”. I believe that a lot of Cliniko’s growth, and the productivity that we have, and support and all these things comes from that culture. But all of these numbers are out there. So, I was putting some thought into this. This is part of what I was talking to the Clinic Mastery team about during the week, and I really appreciate everyone’s help.’

How much does it cost your business to lose a practitioner?

‘Something really interesting about calling someone in Clinic Mastery is when I ask them like “What’s your cost of acquisition?”, they know. If I ask them how many patients does an experienced practitioner see versus new, they know this off the cuff, they don’t have to look it up. It was an amazing asset for me. What I’ve tried to work out is what happens when a practitioner leaves your business? What does that actually do? And I would like, if you’d take a minute and just have a guess, if someone left your business, what impact would to your bottom line? What you know, reduced revenue, whatever it might be, how much financial cost can you think there is to a business if a practitioner leaves? And let’s consider it’s an experienced practitioner, someone that’s, you know, doing well in your business, what does that cost your clinic?

So what I’d suggest, when you give this a bit of thought, is probably this. And then perhaps even, a little bit more. But again I want to quantify this.’

The cost to your business of reduced appointments

So some things that I looked up to teach you about the cost of a practitioner leaving, was reduced appointments. So you have someone that’s full, leave your clinic, higher utilisation rate, someone new comes in, and they’re not going to get full capacity right away. So there’s a gap there. You’re probably going to be feeding them more new patients, to start supplementing to get them up, and patients have a cost of acquisition, so there’s going to be some costs there.

Probably they don’t change over on the same day, you might have a few weeks of the room being empty. Perhaps you’ve got patients that follow that practitioner, and leave with them, and those patients that leave have some sort of, remaining lifetime value that you’re going to miss out on. You’ve got the time you’ll need to spend to actually hire someone new. You’ve got training time, to train up this new person. And then the other thing if you’ve got a welcome pack or cost of placing ads, things like this.

So, when I talked to people in the Clinic Mastery team to understand these numbers, and get some averages across businesses, and I put it all together, I came up with $90,000 is the cost to your business, of someone leaving. Now I know that sounds like a high number, like I said it’s probably more than what you were considering before, and for every business it’s going to be different, but I have a solution for that too. So we’ve actually built on the Cliniko website just in this last week, a tool that lets you calculate the cost for your business, of a practitioner leaving, by plugging in your numbers.

If I could work out how to switch out of this for a second, I will show you what that looks like. And, hoping, I’ve still got internet, so basically it looks like this, you can go in and say: “An experienced practitioner does this many appointments per week, a new practitioner does this many, how many weeks do you think it will take until they fill up and get to that space? What’s the average price of an appointment?” And just by tweaking this, so if your average price for example is only 60 you can say, and you can go and tweak all of these different dials here to match your clinic. As you work through you’ll see the revenue losses, and then you’ll see the recruitment cost, and overall you get a value at the bottom there as well.


I’m going to share a link to this page with you at the end, I’ve got up on a slide a QR code you can scan, and you all have your phone so you can check out the cost of your clinic in a little bit. I didn’t want to share it just yet because then you’ll ignore me.’

Losing a team member isn’t just about money

‘Of course, when someone leaves your practice, I’m talking about a monetary value there, which is significant, but it’s not just about that. There’s the effect on the team moral, there’s all the little things you have to do, and extra work, and there’s business cards, and signage, and whatever it might be, you know better about the other parts of it than I do. But there’s a lot to it. And the reason I even went down this path was, you know I’m a big believer in looking after your team and building a culture and getting this sort of retention. And I think that this justifies doing it. I think that even if you don’t necessarily believe in the soft aspects to it, this shows you that even spending some money in that direction is good for your bottom line of your business. It’s going to cost you if you don’t.

So if you decide that this means maybe I can go and afford to spend a few thousand dollars a year per practitioner in my business to look after them, and to keep them happy. And you’ll realise that is going to save you potentially $90,000 if they leave. All of a sudden that few thousand makes a lot of sense, and is maybe the best money you’re spending in your business.’

Hiring might be your most important job

‘So I want to walk through, then we’ll talk about if you want to achieve this culture, hopefully we all agree it’s a good idea, what are some things you might do?

I would say it absolutely starts with hiring, and probably in your business hiring is your most important job. Because if you bring the wrong person into your business, no matter what else you do, it’s going to be tough. You want to bring in someone with the right personality, you want to bring in someone that’s capable, someone who you’re going to be able to work with, someone that you like. You know, we talk a lot about the business side of things, but ultimately you’ve got to work with this person, and whether you enjoy your day, every day in your business matters too. So it should be someone you like.

One of the things I actually asked people at Clinic Mastery was how much time do you spend hiring. And I did that just to work out the total calculation, you know how much time did you spend? How much did that cost? But one of the things that kind of surprised me was the average number I was getting, was about 10 hours to spend hiring. And I thought, that’s quite low, considering how important it is for your business to bring in the right person, 10 hours is not a lot of investment in that part. And then you may have this person for years in your company, and it’s only 10 hours to let you choose which person it was that came and joined.

Now, we’re in a somewhat unique situation with Cliniko. We’re a remote company so when we hire, we can hire from anywhere in the world. So we do get more applicants, but I would spend at least 150 hours if I’m hiring someone into our business. Now notably, because we can hire remotely and we offer some perks and things like that, we get a lot of applicants. Like when I hired a support person recently we had 800 people apply for that role. So we’re doing a lot of time to review applications, I did 90 interviews in that process. And that was intense, and that was a lot of effort, but I know it was worth it. In the end we’re going to hire someone that’s going to be on our team, someone talking to our customers, someone that comes to my house and dresses up for my kid’s party.

So I think that this, like for me at least, this is easily my most important role. I’ve got to bring the right people into the team. And I think that if you’re not, you know, getting 20 plus applicants for the job, then you’re not spending time on that front, maybe have a look at why not. What can you do in the hiring process to spend more time to attract more people? What is it that will get people to come and join your business. I think that also when we hire, sometimes you kind of fall into the trap of only hiring people who are looking for work. You put a job ad up on Seek, and only job seekers are there. But probably the best people to work in your clinic, already have a job. Let’s assume they’re quite a good practitioner, they’re good in the business, they have, you know, good patient visit averages, all these kinds of stuff. They might not be job seeking, they might already have work. So you need a way to kind of attract these people to want to work in your business. How different would your hiring process look like if people knew of your clinic and actually just wanted to work there? They’ve heard great things about it, the culture is amazing, people are happy there, people never leave, jobs come up rarely. They’re waiting for you to actually go and hire. So I think building the culture can help on that process, but there’s other things you can do.

Like Jack was doing some really cool stuff earlier with Instagram which I had no idea about. But you can use that for hiring. You can use this for example, I’m not saying go poach from your neighbour or something like this, but you can reach out to people on these networks which I do. You can have just a Facebook post that is the job that you’re advertising, and maybe offer referral codes for anyone. So put the Facebook job ad up, and say share this with your friends, if one of your friends ends up getting the job, you get $500. And all of a sudden you’re going to have a lot of people on Facebook sharing your job around, and you’re going to get a much bigger reach, and not just the job seekers. And chances are people that see your posts are practitioners, are friends with other practitioners, it’s your right audience.

So it’s one example that I think, you need to get creative on the hiring time and particularly advertising your role. I also think when you put a job ad up, it’s exactly that, it’s an ad. You’re trying to entice them to come work for you. If you put a job ad up, then it’s like you must make this requirement, this requirement, this requirement, and you know it’s basically telling already, you’re going to get a lot less applicants.

What I think you want to do is put a job ad up and really entice these people to apply. And then spend the time to go through it. Yeah you’re going to get some applicants that aren’t worth the time, and you’ll need to reject early on, and spend a bit more time there. But you’ll also have an opportunity to find someone better.’

Real autonomy

‘Peter talked about the way we think about motivation, and I’m a huge fan of the principles in it, autonomy, mastery and purpose. And I think autonomy is really important and, particularly, it’s really important for people that are going to be good in your business. If you’ve got someone in your company that’s really creative, cares about the business, wants to do well, they’re the ones that need autonomy. And I think that they’re also the ones who you want to be in your business.

So, I know if I was going to look to work in a different company. I wouldn’t go somewhere where I’m micro managed. I would go somewhere where I have the autonomy, I have faith in my own abilities, what I’m going to do, and I want to have autonomy in the place that I go. It’s even a selling point for you in hiring.

Now, how autonomy works in a healthcare business, I have less to say to you, because I don’t know, I haven’t, so I don’t know. But I think about things like our support team trying to cover 24 hours a day, for Cliniko customers. That wasn’t driven by me, and it certainly wasn’t driven by a manager because we don’t have any, that was by themselves. They just wanted to do it. Now, so they’d get themselves working in a schedule to cover these hours. There was no one dictating the schedule to them, no one’s ever said to any one of our support team: “You must work these hours.” But they set themselves up with hours, they overlap, they cover each other, they just take care of it. And I imagine there’s some parallels with that to you business, that you’ve got people, you’ve got a set amount of rooms, like your resource is your rooms, and you want them full or you want them used as much possible. Your practitioners do too, they’re making their money, no doubt, when they’re actually seeing patients. Or if they’re not seeing patients, their life’s not going to be going as well as it would be.

So they’ve got the same goals (as you). Maybe you don’t need to be the one to set up schedules and work it out, maybe they can do that amongst themselves. Assuming you’ve hired good people, and the right people, they also want to help each other in the team. So it’s not like they just want to steal all the best shifts and do it, they’re probably nice people who want to make sure the other person in your team gets enough time and enough things. So maybe that’s one place where you can open it up, and give you more options there. I’m not sure what else. Like I said, not having run a health practice myself, but I think it’s worthwhile considering that. That in our company, they have autonomy with everything.

For example, if a support person, you know needs to deal with a refund, or a credit, or something like that, they don’t need approval, they do it. If anyone in the team needs to buy something for their work, or just an idea, or gift for someone, they can just do it. Like we don’t have rules, we don’t have budgets, we don’t have any of this kind of stuff. We trust that our team want to do right by our company, and we trust that, and they do. And if there’s an occasional time when someone makes a decision that you don’t think is great, I think that’s probably an acceptable cost, and the upside to all that outweighs the downside.’

Transparency starting at the top

‘Something else that you need to achieve autonomy is you need some transparency. If people in your business are going to be making decisions, they need to see the big picture because they can’t make decisions in the dark. So what that means for your business, again I don’t know, I might mean sharing financials, is there a reason why they can’t know how the business is doing? I assume that you’re not just like squirreling away billions of dollars that nobody will find out about. Probably they can know the constraints, probably they can understand that, maybe there’d be more reason to get more efficient in the practice, save some costs, generate more revenue, if they saw the big picture. Maybe they’d be able to make some financial decisions on spending or other things if they saw that big picture.

Again, I said I come from awkward spot of not being a health business, so I don’t exactly know which parts of the transparency will apply to you, but I think in general you need to keep in mind that if you want your people to be creative, innovative, making decisions autonomously, they have to have information available to do so.’

Improve your work space

‘I think improving your workspace is important. I think one of the big contributors to enjoying your day is how you feel in your environment. One of the things that I’ve become, sort of, more aware of in improving and building Cliniko is that, pretty much every field is a creative field, and we don’t necessarily think of it like that. But there’s not many jobs now that are real mechanical jobs. So a healthcare practice, that’s a creative field, software development, that’s a creative field. A lot of people think of it as this scientific, mathematic process, but I think that any sort of job where the outcome you get from it isn’t dictated by time is probably a creative field.

You know, you can see patient and in five minutes you can have an amazing result, or in an hour you could. There’s some variance there. And maybe it’s how quickly you worked out what was going on, or you just remembered the right thing from your training, applied the right thing, had a little bit of luck, or whatever it was, but you can have different results in different times, and there’s this creative aspect.

I think that sometimes, when we don’t look at our jobs as creative, we can’t apply the lessons that people have learnt in creative fields. So if you’re an artist, you know you need inspiration. You know they have techniques that they go about to actually get that inspiration. They set up a nice environment, they might go and read some books, or go into a space, or listen to music, or do something that sort of stimulates that creative, I don’t know the word I’m looking for, the creative something.

But, when you think about your workspace, and think about these practitioners, and they’re doing creative work. Make that environment stimulating. Now it’s probably not that same environment for everyone, some people like colour, some will like minimalist. You know, if you got more than one practitioner sharing a room, they can probably work it out. It’s the autonomy, let them chat about what makes sense in their room, or works for both of them. But actually spending some time to improve that space will probably improve their attitude, their enjoyment of work, their creativity, their quality of sessions, these sort of stimulations they can get from the room.

And there’s things you can look at. You can look at options for natural light, you can put plants in a room, you can have paintings on the wall. But mostly I think you can talk to the people working in those spaces, and try to help them, you know, come up with ideas that they would find an enjoyable space to be in.’

Encourage more communication

‘I think more communication around the team is always going to be positive. You want them to be a team, you want the people in your company to work together, look after each other, support each other. And I think this is one place where we do have a lot of parallels between your business and mine, because my team is remote. So we’ve got people all around the world, and in different time zones, and they are not in the same room, and we use Slack to chat with each other a lot. It’s really busy.

But you as practitioners are also off in your room treating patients most through day. So asynchronous communication for you makes a lot of sense. If one person’s available for a chat, someone else isn’t, you’re not always sitting around in the same room all the time. So I do think using a chat tool like Slack, or something else that achieves the same purpose, but maybe going down the path of really encouraging asynchronous chat, is the only way you’re going to get good communication when you’re in a business that sort of silos you off into your own room, one-on-one with someone regularly throughout the day. I think that communication can be important, I think you know, not just business wise, but social needs. In our Slack things we have like, a DIY channel where people share projects they’re working on, there’s a books channel, there’s a food channel, most certainly there’s a coffee channel. So there’s a whole bunch of things in there for people to chat about, and that fosters that sort of friendship in the thing.’

Include families

‘Also something else I think that’s really important for culture, is families. It’s a funny thing in business, where a lot of companies, it’s a very one sided relationship. So wherever you work, you most likely you finish the day, you go home to your family and you talk about your work. So your partner knows the people you work with, what went on in your day, they know the stories, they know the things. But people in your work don’t know the partner, and it’s this weird one sided thing, where they’ve heard everything about the company, and they know all the people, and people in the company do not.

I think that, once you recognise the family is involved whether you, you know like it or not, they’re going to be. People are going to have them, and you can actually proactively try and include them. And that could be things like, if you’re having a team dinner, bring partners, bring kids, bring the family, the people that are important to them. If you’re going to set up a Slack environment and have a team chat like this, create a social channel they can invite their partners into, so they’re not left out of that as well.

There’s a lot of things I think you can do to encourage the support. And have a think about, like we’ve talked about retention, how much less likely is someone to leave your business if their partner loves that they work at your company. If they feel connected to the people in that company, they like the company, they feel like the company does right by you, a lot less likely that person’s going to leave.’

Support friendships

‘I also think a similar concept for friendships, again there’s like, can be a funny thing in business where especially when you’re in a senior role, you don’t want to be too close to the person. Because then when you have to have the hard chats, or the big things you talk about, you’re friends. And I’m not a fan of that. I think that like, yeah it’s harder. If you’ve got to let someone go, that you’re friends with, that’s rough. If you’ve got to have a hard chat about performance and you’re friends with them, that’s tough. But it’s still better. It’s still better to be friends with these people, day to day, everyday, through all the other things, you’re going to get advantages from this. I think, you know yourself being friends with people, and encouraging friendships within the team, again creates a bond in your company, they’re going to help each other out more, they’re going to do right by your company, you’re going to have better retention. You want to foster a kind of friendship. So I would say a good thing for this, we do meetups. Now we kind of do it also because we’re remote and we want to get together every now and then and see each other. But even if we weren’t, in hindsight I would do them. Because I think there’s something special about getting together, for a few days and just spending some time.

I think that if you’re going to do a meet up, it’s important that you actually stay together, it’s those little moments that actually build a bond and build a friendship. So when you’re having breakfast together, or you’re sitting around at night before you go to bed, and you have a glass of wine. Those times are when you’re going to be your most productive. You know the actual work part is during the day. It’s nice, but you do work at other times as well. It’s that sort of connection and friendship that can form in these periods that I think will really help your company out.

And again this can come back to that cost of losing someone. If we think it’s $90 000 to lose someone and building some friendships and bonds in the company, and making them feel looked after at a meetup, costs you $5000 for the whole team, or whatever it might be. Then all of a sudden, this is probably money pretty well spent.

Now you want to make sure the meetup is something they look forward to or enjoy. You don’t want it to be a bunch of awkward team building sessions, and in a place they don’t like to go, and bad food, or something like that. So I think there’s an onus on you, to actually choose a nice location, put on a nice event that they look forward to. And then the team bonding can be a side of that, but they’re just happy to have a bit of holiday anyway, or you know, whatever you might do for it.’

Make your purpose the focus

‘The other thing is, people can really get behind their purpose, so they need to know why they work in your business, what you’re trying to achieve as a business. It’s unlikely that making you the most (money) is going to be their most compelling motivator. So you need to work out, what they’re there for. Are they there to help people get better? Do they want to make sure they see someone straight through from start to end and actually get better? You know what Pete was talking about, with his plan to take them right from the beginning, to fixing them, forgive me if I forget some steps, mobility, preventing, re-injury, all this part, that’s something people can get behind. They can feel really good to know that in your clinic, they’re supported to actually help people, and get them better, and prevent recurrence of that. They can get behind that part of it, or whatever else it might be. You know every business is different, that context matters again. So work out what it is that is your purpose, and make sure you communicate that clearly in the team. And hopefully build a team around it, that will also believe in that purpose.

As an example, for us at Cliniko, we have kind of three things to work towards. So we want to make the best software possible, we want to work in what we consider a more sane way, where people’s lives are improved through the outcome, not inhibited. And also we want to do some good in the world, so the way we achieve that part of it, is we give 2% of our subscriptions to charity. And again that’s something the team can get behind, you know, they know that as Cliniko grows and as we do better that is more money going to charity. Now we have a close connection to a particular charity, Beyond The Orphanage, where we get updates and I think that’s important too. We actually know where that money’s going, and the team finds out about it, they can see that information, they can see the results of it, and they know that the work they do is actually making a difference in the world, on top of what we do directly with Cliniko and with our customers.

The way we started that, was we started donating 1% to charity, almost from the first day we launched. And it was good then, because $4 a month, I could afford it. No problem.

We kind of knew that in running the business, if we can’t afford 1%, we’re doing something wrong. So let’s just tick that 1%, and then we were fortunate enough at the start of this year to increase it to 2% because we’re able to do so. But I think, considering, to have some kind of, you’ve got to work out who the team is and what they care about, and then you bring out some other benefits for your company succeeding that they can also get behind.’

Foster development and growth

‘Also, time is mastery, has been mentioned a few times, people like to get better at things, so you need to make sure you’re supporting their development, and again this is an area you’ll all know much more about than I will. You know, you do your mentoring, you do other things to help them skill up. So you might have a budget for them to attend conferences or something like that.

But the other thing that I’d consider, and maybe you already do, is that there’s some instances where you have a manager, and that manager is the one that’s kind of doing your mentoring and doing your learning. And that’s like, one person. So a good example is our support team. They don’t have any support team leads, or managers, they all just work together. But if we did, probably the support team lead is the one that’s actually reviewing tickets and giving feedback to everyone. So they’re getting feedback from one person, one person’s thoughts. Whereas how we work, is we do peer review, so everyone in the support team just reviews each others messages and chats they’re having, and provide feedback.

So now, all of a sudden you’re getting a lot of different perspectives, from really different ideas to help support you, and help you get better. So I don’t know how difficult that is in your businesses, but potentially if you’re doing mentoring with someone, it doesn’t matter senior, junior, whatever, maybe finding a way for everyone to share knowledge, could assist as well.’

Pay enough

‘Lastly, I say pay enough. So I don’t think pay is the motivator, I don’t think pay creates a good culture, but we do have to pay enough. If someone is begrudging the amount you pay them, you know the other stuff’s not going to matter, they’re going to be annoyed. Or if they’ve got serious stresses or financial issues, they’re not going to do good work. So I think that pay is like taking it off the table. Pay them enough so it’s not the primary concern, but don’t think that overpaying is going to be the thing that drives these people and motivates them.’

Easy right?

‘So with all of that said, I’m sure that all sounds easy to achieve in your team, and there’s one thing about it, it’s that you have to do all of it. And the reason I say this is because if you do, you pay them well enough, you’re doing your meetups, everything’s great, and then you stick them in a horrible room that’s tiny with no light, and it smells, they’re not enjoying their work. So it’s really a case that you can’t have any weak spot in this, you have to do all of it well enough. It’s not that you have to be amazing in every step of it, you’ve got to make sure there’s nothing that’s killing your culture or causing some toxicity in it.

That’s all I have for you, I think there’s still a few minutes I can do questions. But while I do, this is the link to that tool that I showed you early on, I’ve put a QR code up here, if open the camera on your phone and if you’re close enough to it, that will just open the with a link, and you can tap it to open up that tool.’

Author information

Kate is our resident capsicum disliking, dog loving, former photographer who has a penchant for pinot noir and whisky (not together). Follow her on Twitter @huntbyday.

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