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Eastside Professionals’ Secrets of Success

Jump To:
  1. Paul Trudel-Payne and Emily Goodrich, Co-founders of the Duo Realty Group
  2. Veronica Finch, U.S. Army Vet & Microsoft Senior Global Diversity & Inclusion Manager
  3. Sean Stratman, Experience Farming Project Mgr. & Owner of Dancing Crow Farm in Carnation
  4. Michael Meotti, Executive Director at the Washington Student Achievement Council
  5. Detlef Schrempf, Director of Business Development for Coldstream
  6. Wendy White, Vice President of Marketing for Egencia
  7. John Christianson, Founder and CEO of Highland Private Wealth Managment
  8. Melissa Maher, Senior Vice President of Expedia’s Global Partner Group
  9. Dr. Michael Hatzakis, Overlake Medical Center Musculoskeletal Clinic
  10. More Words of Wisdom

Few “survival of the fittest” scenarios are as merciless as the one American entrepreneurs confront. According to one Gallup study, on average, 400,000 businesses open in the U.S. annually, while 470,000 businesses close their doors forever.

So, what is the missing ingredient that turns startups into super stars? What is the secret of success?

For Brantley Foster, the scrappy and enterprising protagonist portrayed by Michael J. Fox in The Secret of My Success, simply ambling into a vacant high-rise corner office and creating an upper-management position for himself was good enough.

Truthfully, though, you are better served by gleaning advice from professionals who thrive in their industries.

To that end, we sought council with effective Eastside professionals to learn how to be successful in family, business, and life.

Paul Trudel-Payne and Emily Goodrich, Co-founders of the Duo Realty Group

The Daring Duo of Real Estate -

Courtesy Duo Realty

The Daring Duo of Real Estate

Paul Trudel-Payne and Emily Goodrich
Co-founders of the Duo Realty Group

Home buyers and sellers often turn to Paul Trudel-Payne and Emily Goodrich of Redmond-based Duo Realty Group to find the right Eastside residence. The pair offered insights into mindfully navigating one of life’s biggest transactions in a residential real estate market that grows more competitive with each closing. — TM

 


 

What advice can you offer for someone buying or selling a home on the Eastside?

EG: Interview your broker. Choosing the right broker sets the tone for the entire experience, and the right broker is often the main factor in your property selling for top dollar, or you winning your dream home in a multiple-offer situation. Your broker should have a true understanding of the current local market, strong communication skills so you’re never in the dark throughout the process, and be skilled when it comes to drafting a competitive offer, or negotiating the perfect terms for selling your home. Also, remember to have fun. You deserve to enjoy the experience. It is your broker’s responsibility to make that happen.

How has the residential real estate industry evolved over the course of your careers, and how have you managed to stay apace or ahead of these changes?

PTP: Due to technology, clients now have an abundance of information at their fingertips, from home value generators to virtual agents. We have survived and adapted to these changes through being a relationship-focused business, and we use technology to our advantage. We schedule virtual tours via FaceTime or Skype for clients moving to the area. We have apps to help research school districts or childcare. We coordinate escrow signings remotely for international clients, share our industry connections to help with remodels, and sometimes even host the housewarming party.

Are there certain skills inherent to success in the residential real estate industry that translate into other aspects of your lives, both personally and professionally?

EG: The importance of communication is key to being successful, and it’s a skill that translates across all aspects of our lives — and we don’t just mean talking a lot. We understand the importance of giving clear directives, responding in a timely manner, owning up to mistakes or shortcomings, being honest with the people around you, and even showing kindness through words.

How have you developed professionally over the course of your career? How would you compare yourselves during the first year of your careers to where you are today in your careers?

EG: When we first started as brokers, it was about saying yes to every opportunity and figuring it out as we go. There was no consistency to our service. This definitely worked in terms of having immediate business, but there was no plan or foresight into business for tomorrow. After about six months in the industry and constantly searching to find new clients, we realized we had to distinguish why new clients would want to work with us and if it were possible to get those new clients to refer us.  We had to learn how to make one client turn into two or three clients. Today, we have truly developed into a brand- and referral-based business.

How has your understanding of the residential real estate industry evolved over the course of your careers?

PTP: Yes, (the industry) has always been about helping people buy and sell homes, but it truly is much deeper. This is an industry that truly calls for a business-focused mindset, and it is much more complicated and serious than we could have ever imagined. That is what makes it exciting. We are presented with challenges every day, and we have never once been bored. The constant change keeps us on our toes and keeps us fresh when it comes to being innovative in our approach. 

What is the best piece of business advice you ever received?

PTP: Don’t allow fears to give you limiting beliefs. This small piece of advice truly shaped our business. When someone said we can’t, or that hasn’t been done before, we responded with, let’s try.

What advice do you have for finding work/life balance?

EG: We find time every day that is just spent with our children and spouses. We step away from our phones and computers and just interact. Sometimes, it’s watching a movie together. Other times, it’s playing outside. We also plan annual trips throughout the year for our families, to get away and decompress. This scheduled family and “me” time has really made us better brokers. We come back to our clients focused, re-energized, and never burned out.

Veronica Finch, U.S. Army Vet & Microsoft Senior Global Diversity & Inclusion Manager

Photo by Jeff Hobson

Attracting Diversity

Veronica Finch
U.S. Army Veteran and Senior Global Diversity and Inclusion Manager at Microsoft

A West Point graduate and United States Army veteran, Veronica Finch was introduced to the human resources field while in the military. That interest continues today in the civilian world, where she has spent the past five years increasing diversity and inclusion at the Redmond tech company. ­— SRM

 


Five tips for being more inclusive when hiring:

  1. The first step is understanding what type of diversity is important to you, and there are so many types of diversity out there. Is it racial and ethnic diversity, veteran status, people with disabilities, or even introversion and extroversion? And identify how you think that will strengthen your company. Is it for culture? Is it for building out a product? There are so many types of diversity that can enrich the culture and the company. You can’t tackle everything at once. We find the best tactic is to put your resources toward one area.”
  2. “You have to put in time and resources if you expect to have an impact in the diversity of your company. That could mean building up your recruiting team.”
  3. Review job descriptions: “Ensure they’re written in an inclusive way. A lot of times, we find that job descriptions themselves have bias. They can have non-gender-neutral terms — like, ‘manpower’ or ‘chairman’ — that can influence how people are experiencing the company. Make sure you’re not unintentionally excluding those you’d like to attract.”
  4. Broaden your scope: “If you’re a hiring manager and you know that these three schools or these three companies send good talent, and you’ve had good results, you tend to like to hire from them. But you have to think, ‘Is that really giving you diversity in your company, if you’re hiring from the same sources?’”
  5. Be aware of your own bias: “We all have it, but don’t allow it to underwhelm you. Let it allow you to look at candidates holistically and bias-free. Make sure you have a comfortable interview process, and that it’s universal for everyone.”

Five qualities veterans bring to the workplace:

  1. Utility players: “We have lots of versatility and are able to plug in and create impact and change quickly.”
  2. Leadership: “We’re great at working as a member of a team or leading. We’ve had the benefit of being broken down and built back up, but that doesn’t happen in isolation. You’re all being broken down together and being built back up together. We’re really skilled at accomplishing tasks and having more impact in a short time. We’re always learning and always developing.”
  3. Being mission-focused: “If there’s an organization that really needs someone to come in and make things happen quickly and efficiently, a veteran is the perfect person to go to.”
  4. Dealing with ambiguity: “There’s this misconception that veterans are not good at thinking outside of the box or being creative problem solvers. But throughout our service, we’re given a lot of responsibility. We have to do a lot with very little; we’re in an environment we’re unfamiliar with or with people we’re unfamiliar with. Very rarely do we get a road map to get things done. We can get a lot done with very little.”
  5. Connecting with people: “The military is very diverse. It’s one of the most diverse organizations in the world. You have to work with people from a lot of different backgrounds, from all walks of life and with different abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. We’re really good at making connections, finding commonality, and building rapport. It allows you to ramp up much faster.”

Sean Stratman, Experience Farming Project Mgr. & Owner of Dancing Crow Farm in Carnation

Photo by Audra Mulkern

City Professional, Country Professional

Sean Stratman
Experience Farming Project Manager and Owner of Dancing Crow Farm in Carnation

With a background in archaeology and agriculture, Sean Stratman said he had an affinity for healthy soils, and jumped at the opportunity to be involved in agriculture full-time. He established Dancing Crow Farm in 2011 and also manages the Experience Farming Project under the umbrella of the area agricultural organization Sno-Valley Tilth. — SRM

 


 

Q: What are some keys to being successfully self-employed?

A:“Identify what success means to you, and ask yourself, ‘Is my chosen profession the best way to get there?’ Having those conversations are (important) when you’re trying to figure out what you’re compatible with and what (job) you’re trying to do. If one is using their highest best skill in a chosen way to create value, the steps to achievement will be a dance not a trudge.”

Q: What advice do you have for someone who wants to jump into farming?

A:“It’s not something that I would recommend jumping into uninformed. I really recommend to all people to work on an established farm, or a couple different established farms, to make sure you know what the practicality of farming is and the day-to-day events (because) it is something that people attach themselves to as a romantic notion.”

Q: How do you build a brand that draws customers in a marketplace that’s saturated with options?

A:“Farming is about accruing value over time with a well-designed system. That comes in the forms of cash and currency, the second is accumulation of knowledge, and the third — and maybe most important — is the social goodwill generated for your community. Get to know your customers.”

Michael Meotti, Executive Director at the Washington Student Achievement Council

Photo by Heather Davis

To Degree or Not to Degree? That is the Question

Michael Meotti
Executive director at the Washington Student Achievement Council

For many decades, earning a college degree was essential to landing a job. Prospective candidates without college degrees were often overlooked, and proof of higher education was enough to be hired for an entry-level position, regardless of whether a field of study was relevant to the job.

Michael Meotti, executive director of the Washington Student Achievement Council, said companies are even more critical now. Not only do employers want to see that candidates have a degree, but they also want it to be relevant to the position they’re applying for, and are combing resumes for related skills.

However, more and more young adults are weighing the pros and cons of getting their degree at all — some say it’s a costly investment that doesn’t always lead to fruitful careers.

Meotti said there are instances when higher education is more necessary than others, namely, industries including technology and health care.

“These are areas that are going to require degrees,” he said. “If you want to work in the elite corporate world, those are going to be jobs where employers are looking for people with degrees and graduate degrees.”

Those wanting to step right into the working world out of high school have some high-paying career options, which tend to be skilled jobs, including welding or crane operation. However, those positions are generally cyclical with the economy and can be less stable than careers achieved with higher education.

“In a boom time, you may be able to walk in and get that $100,000 job as a crane operator, but one thing we do know is when the economy turns down and you look at the general unemployment rates, unemployment is worse among people who work in lower education levels.”

The higher education system nationwide needs to be more accessible for those that want to continue their education, according to Meotti. Some people aren’t ready to go right into college, he said, and decide to revisit school later in life, when they want to advance their careers.

“We’re not quite ready across the country to have an (education) environment that can work for those people,” Meotti said. “They’re working, and they can’t stop working. They have kids, and they can’t stop being a parent. (The higher education system) needs that kind of flexibility.”

He added: “What we really want to have is this environment where education opportunities are available when people are ready for them.” — SRM

Detlef Schrempf, Director of Business Development for Coldstream

Photo by Jeff Hobson

Detlef Schrempf

Director of Business Development for Coldstream

When National Basketball Association fans think of 6-foot, 10-inch University of Washington graduate Detlef Schrempf, they probably recall his tenure with the Dallas Mavericks, Indiana Pacers, Seattle SuperSonics, and the Portland Trail Blazers. After all, the German-born, Seattle-raised athlete played professional basketball for 16 years, touting three All-Star selections and two trips to the Olympics, before retiring at the ripe old age of 38.

But Schrempf didn’t make it into our advice issue based on his basketball prowess. We didn’t ask him to explain the mechanics of the perfect jump shot — though he probably could. Instead, we were interested in what he’s done since hanging up his jersey in 2001. That’s been a lot of things, including joining Bellevue-based Coldstream Wealth Management as its director of business development, and continuing work on his nonprofit, The Detlef Schrempf Foundation. — JK

 


 

On networking and selecting new clients:

I’ve been doing this for a while, so typically when I reach out, or get introduced, or just have that first meeting with someone, there’s a reason for it. I’m at a stage in my life where I want to work with people that I think I might want to be friends with. So I do my due diligence and I figure out if this could be a good contact for us, not just as a client but someone we can relate to.

On planning for life’s ‘what ifs’:

(At Coldstream) we plan for the “what ifs” — what if something happens, what if the market takes a tumble? — because if we are well-prepared for those things, our families can usually weather the storm. I think there are a few big mistakes that you can avoid that might have a huge impact on your financial independence down the road.

Oftentimes, even the smartest people in the world, they are so focused on what they do, that they don’t pay attention to the personal details; they have no overview. They think (this period in their lives) doesn’t end, that it lasts forever, and when they think about retirement, they go, “Oh, shoot, I should have thought about this 10 years ago.”

It’s never too early. When you look at a company matching a 401(k) and compounding it over years, even if you start in your 20s, by 40 any money you put in there you are accumulating (returns). Unfortunately, most of us don’t pay attention because we don’t have that overview, that looking-ahead planning. Maybe you just don’t have those three extra lattes you have every week, and you put that money aside. It takes some discipline, and most of us don’t have it.

On donating time and money to charitable causes:

Like the song goes, (my wife and I) were “young, dumb, and broke,” and even though we weren’t broke, we were young and dumb, and we didn’t know what we wanted to do. I was fortunate enough to play basketball; I got paid to do it, and I was able to use that leverage to open doors to sign with partners and sponsorships, and support our community. But at the same time, I just played basketball. I didn’t save any lives; I’m not a doctor, I didn’t write any books; I played basketball. So I used that as a vehicle to hopefully have a positive impact here in the state and the community that we love to live in.

There are so many different ways (to give back). I think it comes down to how do you want to impact someone, how do you want to help? For a lot of people, it’s about writing a check, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

“There are so many different ways (to give back). I think it comes down to how do you want to impact someone, how do you want to help?”

For some people who don’t have that kind of money to give away but want to support, you can give your time. Volunteers are needed everywhere. You have to do a personal inventory on what you really care about and why. Is it children, is it pets, is it the environment? What is really in your heart?

Then look at charities that are out there that you can help. Is it a viable charity? Is it something from a business standpoint that you should support? How much money does it raise? Are its salaries in line with the industry? Are they making an impact? Are they donating enough money or creating enough programs to help the community? So there’s a decision process to go through.

On early retirement and second careers:

My first career, I probably maxed out. That was about as long as your body can take it. If my body could still take it, I’d still be playing today because that is an unbelievable career and a pretty great way to make a living. But you know, at the same time, I played basketball for a long time and I retired, I would say, at an early age. I retired at 38. In the business world, that is where most people are kind of in their prime earning years; when they reach a particular level of pay, they are at the top of their profession, they are making good money. For me, it was basically over. It is something a lot of pro athletes struggle with.

Transitioning to a second career takes a commitment. I was 20 years removed from college. It was like starting over. At any age it is a challenge. For me, I figured I could do it, I could learn it, and if I didn’t like it, I could walk away after a year. Apparently, I liked it because I’m still here.

I had enough name recognition that I was getting my foot in the door. But oftentimes that was because people were more interested in talking basketball than actually talking about Coldstream and how we can help them. It took a while, (people were asking), “You were a basketball player; how can you help us?” (I had to show them) I’m the guy that builds the trust, builds the relationship, and a little bit of the glue that holds us all together. So people finally figured that out, and now I don’t (hear), “Oh you’re a basketball player,” much anymore because a lot of people have aged out. I get more, “Hey, you were on Parks and Recreation?”

On time management:

I’ve gotten better with my work/life balance. Maybe it’s because I’ve gotten older and can’t do as much anymore, but I used to have a hard time saying no. I’d just book myself solid. When I’m in town, I’m meeting with people — breakfast, coffee, lunch, dinner, drinks, whatever — and then when I’m away, it’s emails, phone calls, things like that.

From a charitable standpoint where you can’t be at every event, to a business standpoint where people say they want you to come to an event, there’s no upside for me to go there. A lot of times people want me to go somewhere just for me to be there.

Someone sent me a note recently — three months or so ago — that said, “Happy 20,000,” and I said, “What the hell is that?” They said, “Today, you have been alive for 20,000 days, and the average lifespan is 30,000.” I’ve got 9,900-some days left, and I’m running out of days. You’ve got to make it count.

On learning from one’s mistakes:

I always tell people that we all have skeletons in our closet, and people always think that’s about relationships. But I think, no; in everything we do there’s stuff we are not proud of. From my standpoint as an athlete, you read all these stories about these guys who are broke or have been defrauded out of money by a bad agent or investment guy or something. I look at my stuff; I’ve done plenty of stuff that I wish I hadn’t.

I’ve offended people, I’ve cursed people, I’ve invested in the wrong things; I’ve got plenty of stuff in my life that I’m not proud of, but I think that has shaped me to who I am nowadays. There are probably a couple of investments I’d like to have back, but it is what it is. Those are the things that shape us as human beings. So, to say I wish I could do this one or that one over — yeah there’s lots of little things. But there isn’t one major one that I think: God I wish I had done that instead.

Wendy White, Vice President of Marketing for Egencia

Photo by Samantha White

Marketing is War

Wendy White
Vice president of marketing for Egencia

Pepsi versus Coca-Cola. McDonald’s versus Burger King. Microsoft versus Apple. One business truism has long existed — marketing is war.

Wendy White knows this well. For the past 25 years, White, a former United States Army military intelligence officer, has worked in leadership roles at Intel; Motorola; Microsoft; and now Bellevue-based Expedia, where she is the vice president of marketing for Egencia, the company’s business-travel brand.TM

 


 

Q: You spent 12 years as a military intelligence officer in the United States Army. How did that experience carry over into your career in corporate marketing?

A:I learned about psychological operations — propaganda development — which is essentially marketing. It was all about communicating propaganda to audiences to get them to do specific things. I learned a lot about the basics of marketing through that, and then chose (marketing) as a career.

Q: How has the industry evolved over the course of your career, and how have you managed to stay apace or ahead of these changes? 

A:I think we trusted our gut a lot more than we do now. Today, we use a lot more data. You really can’t be in marketing if you don’t understand data and how to analyze it and apply it to make decisions. That’s a big evolution. If you don’t (adapt to industry changes), you don’t really keep moving up in your career. You’ve got to be a constant learner.

Some people really hate sales pitches from vendors. I will go take a meeting to learn about why that technology is there, or why that vendor has a new solution. What am I missing about a trend or an opportunity to leverage technology or data or insights in different ways? You have to be willing to be intellectually curious and stay really well-educated. Things move way too fast not to.

Q: Are there certain skills inherent to success in the marketing industry that translate into other aspects of your life?

A:Having real empathy or a real customer orientation, they apply to every aspect of your life. Just putting others at the center of the journey. Thinking about your customer, understanding your customers’ needs and what journey they are going on, and knowing where you fit in — you can take that same experience and apply it to anything, really, just in terms of understanding others’ needs and requirements. I feel like I do that every day with my family and other relationships.

Q: What’s the biggest challenge, setback, or failure you have faced in your career? How did you respond to it and even grow or move on from it?

A: Not every job is right for one person, and not every person is right for one job. Sometimes you realize, “Gosh, I’m not the best person for this job.” Or you take on something and you might realize, “I don’t love it.” That’s happened to me.

Be self-aware and plan a path out of it — a graceful exit — when you are not the right person. Or steel yourself up when you don’t necessarily have the skills. Take the time to say, “OK, I’m not quite ready,” then go invest in yourself and make yourself ready. 

Q: What’s the best piece of business advice you received?

A: As a person who is a total Type A personality and just throws herself into her work, a friend told me, “Hey, we’re not curing cancer.” Giving yourself permission to know how to draw lines and boundaries is the most important thing I’ve ever done as a professional, a mother, and as a woman.

Q: What was the biggest break or opportunity presented to you over the course of your career, and how did you take advantage of it?

A:When I was at Intel, I worked on a special project and was exposed to senior executives who suddenly showed an interest in my career. I’ve had women in my career who have kind of pushed me forward or encouraged me to take opportunities. Sometimes, it just takes somebody telling you, “I think you can go do this.”

Q: When you look at who you were starting out in this industry 25 years ago versus who you are today, what differences do you see in yourself?

A: Early in my career, I really suffered from Impostor Syndrome — this concept that you’re not quite sure you are ready for something, or you are not quite good enough. I didn’t really believe in myself the way that I should have, even though I was qualified for what I was doing. I’m at a point now where I feel really comfortable and happy giving advice and pulling people up behind me in a new way, in a way that gives me a lot of satisfaction. I think I got there through maturity and experience.

John Christianson, Founder and CEO of Highland Private Wealth Managment

Photo by Justin Fox

Living Fully

John Christianson
Founder and CEO of Highland Private Wealth Managment

In 1999, John Christianson faced what he called his own crisis, which led him to establish Highland Private Wealth Management. “I realized I wanted a life that had more texture to it, more color, and one that I could have some creative control over,” Christianson said. Today, Highland helps individuals who may be experiencing wealth for the first time use their money to align with a life of meaning and purpose. Moreover, Christianson hosts a regular podcast called The Wealth Confidant, during which he chats with successful individuals and couples about their journey of turning meaningful wealth into a meaningful life. JK

 


 

What is the money for?

Let’s take someone is who is younger and is on an early track to being successful. If we are defining success financially, then there’s plenty of firms that will help them manage financial success. But I think what will distinguish their life over the long term will be answering the question, what is the money for? The secret sauce is about being thoughtful and inquisitive about what you care about. If money is a means to an end to helping me create the things that are important to me, what is important to me. You need to really clarify what those things are, and what an ideal future looks like.

Shake the family money tree

The next thing to think about is, what is the history you have around money? Writing your money history down is really facilitating. We all have learned about money from someone, mostly our caregivers. The follow up to that, what lessons did you learn from your upbringing that you can still apply to your life today? Sometimes those vows we take because of the way we were raised — like the “I don’t want that to ever happen again” thoughts — start to create behaviors around money that aren’t healthy. Understanding all those pieces helps you get at that fat underbelly of the dynamic between money and life.

Saving for tomorrow while living for today

We don’t know how long we are going to be here. You can save up all of this money and never experience anything. A lot of times we’re talking to clients about the idea of balancing that savings for the future, which is an important thing to do, but also living in the now. And sometimes that takes encouragement from somebody to say, “That is okay to do, you are still going to be okay.”

Melissa Maher, Senior Vice President of Expedia’s Global Partner Group

Photo by Jeff Hobson

Female Empowerment Through Mentorship

Melissa Maher
Senior vice president of Expedia’s Global Partner Group

Melissa Maher has a bounty of travel tips to readily share with anyone who asks (and we did), but not because she’s a senior vice president at one of the world’s most popular travel discount websites. Rather, Maher confesses her “home” is aboard a commercial airline that ferries her back and forth from an underutilized home in California, and the Bellevue Expedia office.

Maher’s insights on packing light and being flexible when faced with delays are helpful, but we thought we’d be remiss if we didn’t talk to her about her mentorship of young professional women at Expedia, and some of the lessons she has imparted to them. JK

 


 

Form your posse

“A lot of people think of networking as this fun, social aspect, but I think it is ultimately how we build our network and cultivate deeper relationships with our peers. A while back, I formed what I called a posse of women at Expedia. Essentially, I sought out people I could trust, feel vulnerable with, get advice from, and give advice to who were not in my direct department. We help each other process career challenges, give counsel to each other, celebrate success, provide insights and recommendations, and help bolster each other’s professional endeavors.”

Make time to develop your brand

“Focus 85 to 90 percent of your time on your regular job, then make sure you carve out 10 to 15 percent (of your time) to develop your brand. What I have done to build my brand within Expedia is to make it a point to get in front of my leaders and my peers by presenting projects or initiatives that I am working on. This ensures that people understand what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. A lot of times, I’ll use my boss to help me get in front of the CEO more often. Or I’ll help our young leaders get in front of presidents and vice presidents more often, just to get that visibility and their name out there.”

Climbing the ladder by asking for what you want

“When I was in high school, my mom told me, ‘People can’t read your mind. They don’t know what you want. Most of the time, if you want something — additional responsibilities or to take on a new challenge — and you ask for it, the odds of someone saying no are pretty slim.’ That is really how I’ve built my career. My career has grown because I’ve said I want to take on this new challenge, or that new challenge.”

Dr. Michael Hatzakis, Overlake Medical Center Musculoskeletal Clinic

Photo courtesy Overlake Medical Center

Safe, Fit, and Healthy

Dr. Michael Hatzakis
Overlake Medical Center Musculoskeletal Clinic

It’s important for both employers and employees to take preventative measures to avoid injuries on the job. When these measures fail, employers should have effective and efficient back-up plans on hand to guide their employees to the simplest and quickest recovery process possible. Dr. Michael Hatzakis, a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Specialist at Overlake Medical Center’s Musculoskeletal Clinic in Issaquah, has treated countless work-related injuries over the past 20 years. He shares his thoughts on what employers can do to keep their employees safe, fit, and healthy. — ZB

 


 

How employers and employees can prevent on-the-job injuries:

Be thoughtful and intentional about matching employees with a job. Before hiring someone, be knowledgeable and transparent about the physical demands that the position would require. If there is a lot heavy lifting involved in a job, the company should consider hiring a specialist to observe workers perform that task and make sure they are doing their work in a way that will prevent injury.

Similar measures also should be taken if the job consists of sitting in front of a computer screen for a large portion of the day. “Before you start a new job, look at the position of your desk, monitor, and keyboard to make sure they’re in the right place for your height,” Hatzakis said. “If a former employee who is 6-2 leaves their desk setup for a new hire who is 5-1, the way everything is arranged will likely lead that new employee to injuring themselves.” Employers, then, need to have an established process to check that their new employees have their monitors and keyboards in the right place. Companies ideally would have a physical therapist or consultant come in to do a quick evaluation of the work environment for every new employee or for a type of job, such as a job that requires lifting boxes off a conveyer.

Offer incentives to keep employees strong and healthy. Give discounts on gym memberships to incentivize employees to exercise often, or give them a break in their insurance premiums if they do join a gym. Even better, a company can offer a small gym on its campus and provide employees with a lunchtime respite to perform relaxing stretches and endorphin releasing exercises.

Know the physical difficulties of the job. “People who work at computers, for example, tend to curve their shoulders forward, which leads to headaches, neck conditions, carpal tunnel, pinched nerves, and more,” Hatzakis said. “Exercising the upper body — doing rotator cuff strengthening, swimming, racket sports — can strengthen shoulder muscles and prevent repetitive stress injuries.” Employers can help employees anticipate these needs and provide tools to offset negative effects.

When Injuries Do Happen

The costs and complexities of post-injury care depends completely on the initial treatment location. “For example, if you have a back injury and you go to a surgeon, surgery is what will be considered,” Hatzakis said. “If you go to a physiatrist, you’ll have the benefit of all possible non-invasive treatments that will likely make more sense early in an injury.” Dr. Hatzakis recommended that employers support employees to navigate that first medical step to receive the most appropriate and logical care at the right time. Of course, an employer can’t decide how and where their employees get healthcare. But an employer can provide guidance or financial incentives when employees first see a physical therapist or physiatrist, who can offer the most effective solutions and allow people to return to work more quickly. 

More Words of Wisdom

Photo by Naeem ul Haq

Never stop learning. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of running a business and fighting proverbial fires, but it’s important to budget time for continuous learning to find and achieve your company’s full potential. Whether it’s meeting with mentors, reading an article, or taking an online course on the side, exposure to new information, ideas, and perspectives helps you to optimize and grow your business. And don’t just prioritize continuing education for yourself — make sure your employees feel empowered to spend time learning via external channels as well.” 

Fahim ul Haq,
Co-founder and CEO of Educative Inc.

 


 

Photo by Ian Coble

“Conduct an exercise of having your team journal and categorize time spent on tasks during a given week, aggregate the hours, find the biggest time sucks, and assign the most impacted team member with researching a technical solution to that particular task. What drove us to found Downstream was experiencing the amount of time wasted manually managing Amazon search marketing.”

Connor Folley
Co-founder and CEO of Downstream Impact