“Employee health and wellness is a serious topic.” — CEO Q+A: Stephen Costello, co-founder, MD, Spectrum Wellness

Business, CEO Q&A | Wed 19 Sep | Author – Business & Finance
Stephen Costello, co-founder, MD, Spectrum Wellness

In our next CEO Q&A, Stephen Costello, co-founder, MD, Spectrum Wellness, speaks about workplace wellness, going the extra mile and taking a hands-on approach to business.

Q. What are your biggest challenges as CEO?

The biggest challenge for me is growing from a very small company to a much bigger one, with the right processes and systems in place to handle that growth. It’s something I find hugely rewarding but driving growth often means having to step back from day-to-day tasks and decisions and not say ‘leave that to me’, just because it would be quicker for me to solve a particular problem. As someone who likes to take a hands-on approach to business, I do find this quite challenging, but it’s critical both for the business and for the development of our teams.  As we continue to grow, I have the added challenge of looking at how we can address the needs of our customers in a scalable way that can be documented and communicated to new members of the team.

Q. How do you keep your team/staff motivated?

We’re lucky at Spectrum Wellness to have an inherently motivated team of people who are driven to be high achievers in their respective fields such as operations, marketing or account management.  Our team is also highly motivated by the company’s growth; there’s a real collective joy when we launch a new product or win a new deal.

We provide health and wellness services to some of Ireland’s biggest companies that have phenomenal onsite facilities like gyms, wellness centres, sleep pods, games rooms and innovative catering offerings. Whilst we provide many of these services, we’re not yet at a size whereby we can offer all of those benefits to our own employees. Therefore, when we do have health, wellbeing or social events, we try to go the extra mile and make sure they feel personal and fit the personalities in our company.

Q. What are the challenges facing the industry/organisation going forward?

The corporate health and wellness industry in Ireland can be quite fragmented with a lot of one-person operators providing niche services. It can be difficult for HR teams to evaluate and immerse these operators into their health and wellness strategies and oftentimes, they end up working with multiple suppliers, which isn’t always practicable. It creates challenges in terms of tracking data, results and employee engagement levels.  It’s really difficult to show the return on investment whilst also giving your employees a connected and cohesive service.  This is where Spectrum Wellness really works for companies and removes the headache of having to deal with multiple providers.  We deliver comprehensive digital and personalised onsite solutions for companies of all sizes; from 10 employees to 10,000.

Q. What new trends are emerging in your industry?

Employee Health and Wellness is a $43bn industry globally, so there are tonnes of opportunity for innovation, especially in the areas of AI (artificial intelligence), VR (virtual reality) and digital employee experiences. These are areas in which we are investing heavily.  However, many companies are challenging us to focus on our ‘in person’ services such as food demos, workshops and wellness expert sessions.  Their employees are digital natives. They spend most of their working day in front of a screen and what employers want is to be able to offer is support that doesn’t involve yet another digital solution.  So to truly engage an employee to make a behavioural change like quitting smoking, eating better or exercising more, it’s often human interaction from one of our wellness experts that offers the optimum outcome.

Q. Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?

I’d like to see a little more accountability for the “personalities” that have carved a revenue stream from health and wellness in general. Employee health and wellness is a serious topic.  It costs the Irish economy tens of millions annually in lost productivity and absenteeism, and I recommend companies take their advice on these issues from qualified professionals in their respective fields. I look forward to the industry in Ireland developing some level of accreditation for providing these services to companies.

Q. How will Brexit affect you, or have you started to feel the effects already?

We’re not in the UK currently, but it’s our first target market for our international expansion in late 18’, early 19’. Personally, I see the challenges being much more around the potential for “depressed” economic sentiment of employers limiting their investment in health and wellness. It’s the uncertainty that will really damage the UK in the long run, but until we know more about the outcome of the current negotiations, we’re not going to second guess the landscape.

Q. How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?

I’ve a really strong passion for growing this business and each time we create a new job, as a result of looking after the health and wellness of others, it’s a real win moment for me.  Because we are in a major growth phase I often feel that most days are spent taking one step forward and two steps back.  But about once a month we take a giant leap forward of about 50 steps and that is what defines our success and helps keeps me motivated. 

Q. What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?

My first day working as a lounge boy in a hotel at 16 involved me having to mop up of a puddle of spilt drinks. I wasn’t really putting my all into it and the general manager of the hotel saw this and told me, “If you’re going to do something, do it right”. I suppose that represents something deeper in that if you’re going to spend 50 years of your life doing something, whatever it is, try to be the best.  If you’re not trying to be the best, what’s the point?

Q. What have been your highlights in business over the past year?

In November 2017 we launched a nationwide health and wellness initiative with a major health insurer.  The service combines a cutting-edge technical product with a much-needed and highly-rated face-to-face experience. It took all aspects of our company to bring it together, and it’s an iterative product that will continue to improve.  Bringing that from conception to market was such a learning curve for me and a real highlight.

Q. What’s next for your company?

We’re now on a pathway to take all the learnings we’ve had in providing health and wellness services in Ireland to the global stage. We’re in the process of refining our digital offering and it’s a lot of fun right now figuring out how we can best deliver our services, both digital and personal, in a scalable way. We’re 95% through that process and it’s a really exciting time for the company.

If you’re going to do something, do it right.

Business & Finance, CEO Q&A

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