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29 September 2020

Patient sample: Hammond, A

A blog post from our Director of Communications, Alistair Hammond 

I started this job almost a year ago. It’s fair to say that plenty has happened. Given events, it was a pretty good time to move from business travel to the healthcare industry. And I can honestly say I love my job.

So – a look back. What have I learnt?

Three things:    

  1. Unilabs attracts good people.

When I worked at a communications consultancy, our Founding Father was a big believer in mantras, one of them being: “Don’t work with xxxholes.” Sadly, as the consultancy grew and grew, this one ended up as more of a guideline, a “nice-to-have.”

Now, I’m sure there are people in the healthcare industry who live for the financial metrics; maybe everyone I meet is on their best behaviour (Spoiler: nope); and I know that there is always pressure to perform, to deliver. But I haven’t met anyone in this company who doesn’t worry about the patients, who isn’t motivated by improving people’s lives. Who doesn’t care.

It’s easy to be cynical about people, and sometimes it’s justified. Not here. Maybe the work attracts people like this, maybe it’s specific to Unilabs – either way, I love it.                 

  1. Unilabs is super-lean.

Having worked as a journalist, a start-up wrangler, and a comms advisor to clients big and small, I recognise the signs of corporate flabbiness: team leaders who are focused on office politics; people with unclear responsibilities; the backbiting that comes from smart people not having enough to do; initiatives that drag on and fizzle out.

That’s not us.

If Unilabs were a person, it would be a long-distance runner with “good-but-not-fancy” shoes, quietly racking up the miles, winning races with minimal body fat and a smile.

  1. We can do better, and we will.

One of the strengths of Unilabs is that country teams can be excellent in their own unique way. Like people, every team has different talents. Some teams are particularly well-placed to serve patients directly, some have amazing government and media relationships that help us win business, others serve specific industries very well. Local realities vary from place to place, every country has a history, and each healthcare system is run differently.

Part of being super-lean also means that we don’t have a heavy-handed Centre™ breathing down our necks: we simply don’t have the means or people to micromanage delivery at the local level, even if we wanted to.

Besides, Unilabs is doing very well: why fix what ain’t broken?    

But of course this decentralised set-up also means we sometimes miss opportunities. A new way of working, a tweak to a formula, a smart piece of software, a person with unique insights. When something works in Slovakia, it may well work in France, too. Not always, perhaps not even often, but sometimes. The way I see it, if we can keep the local creativity and excellence, and add a pinch of Best Practice, we can be even better.

Sometimes it’s a simple matter of letting others know what you’re doing. Maybe we’re sometimes too comfortable in our own team, in our own language. Maybe we don’t always realise that others have faced – and fixed – the same problems we have. And maybe we’re proud of what we have done, but too civilized to blow our own trumpet.

I say: blow that trumpet. If not for yourself, then for your team.    

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