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Paul Tansey on wellbeing, learning from failure and company purpose

In the latest episode of the Evolve to Succeed podcast, Paul Tansey, managing director of digital marketing company Intergage, talks about his life-changing health crisis, what he’s learnt from failure and how to instill – and maintain – a company’s sense of purpose.

Here are some highlights from the podcast:

Tell us about your health crisis. what did you learn from it and how has it changed your life?

I had a routine medical for an insurance product and I’m sat there [at home] with my shirt off being medically examined by a nurse and my wife has offered the nurse and I a cup of tea and she’s gone off to make it. [My wife] has come back in with a tray just as the nurse is putting one blood pressure machine back in her bag saying, “I think that machine might be faulty.” She takes another one out and straps it onto my arm and takes a reading and, as my wife is putting the cups of tea on the table, [the nurse] says, “What are you doing this afternoon?” and I say, “Well, I’m very busy, I need to go back to the office now,” and she says, “No, you’re not actually—you’re going to hospital right now.”

She told me what the blood pressure reading was and it was astronomically high and said, “You’re in a real danger. And you have to get to hospital not tomorrow, not at some point in the future, but this afternoon so cancel everything and go.” And just then my wife Tanith had come in to hear that news—I’ll never forget the moment when she looked up and her eyes were full of tears. She knew that I’d been overworking and we had that moment when we just looked at each other and she knew it and I knew it, that I’d been overworking for a long time. I’d stopped exercising and I was smoking and I was binge drinking on a Friday just to take the pressure off, all those behavioural things, traits where you know you’re relying on crutches.

And so I went to hospital and [they took blood pressure readings again] and someone told me, “I’d rather roll the dice every morning than have your chance of a stroke or a heart attack.” That was a moment. So I got back on the fitness trail and I would say to anybody, any entrepreneur, that it’s clear to most of us that the way we have to deal with stress is to maintain a level of fitness. The stress of running a business requires us to be mentally fit, so we should be physically fit [too]; I think it’s really difficult to be mentally fit if you’re not physically fit. You can do it for a bit but I actually think the two things are so linked. Being an entrepreneur also requires us to have a support network and Evolve is exactly that—it provides value for entrepreneurs to deal with that kind of pressure.

Intergage is one of those businesses I admire because it’s got great values and ethics, and will do the right thing not matter how hard it is. How important do you think it is for the business owner’s values to be reflective of the company’s values?

Yeah, it’s this whole idea behind mission and purpose. I’ve been saying for a long time that a marketing agency has a really useful purpose in society. Our job is to help other businesses grow so we can help contribute to growth, employment and opportunity, so we have to be really valuable. And in these times, particularly the difficult times around Covid-19, we very often see businesses that survive are the ones who do their marketing well …

… And I think if you’ve got a strong sense of purpose—and I know that ‘Mission, vision and values’ is somewhat cheesy and corny—but all of those things really matter. If you don’t get those things right, if you’re not open and transparent with everybody about what you believe and why you think you’re here, you can’t attract people; if you do get it right then I think certain businesses become magnetic—I don’t believe that businesses that have a strong sense of purpose ever have a problem recruiting. I think [companies with strong beliefs and purpose] become magnetic to talent and to a certain extent to customers as well because there is a trust thing going on. And your staff, if and when they leave your business, do they say good things or bad things? When they leave, and they leave well and they say, “This company lives their values and I’m leaving for a good reason,” then I think that’s a real mark of a company that lives its values.

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