Doing good. It’s smart business

Doing good. It’s smart business
Published: 
November 2012

Momentum takes a look at doing good. And why it might just be the best business decision you ever make.

SOCIAL ECONOMIC AND ENGAGEMENT PROGRAM

UQ Business School has a strong emphasis on social entrepreneurship and community engagement. Dr Neil Paulsen, Senior Lecturer in Management, runs the Social Economic and Engagement Program, a voluntary option for MBA students, which allows them to gain unique work experience with non-profit organisations.

OPERATION OPEN HEART

Operation Open Heart first visited Papua New Guinea in 1993. Coordinated from Sydney Adventist Hospital, it sends a team of cardiologists, surgeons, nurses, pathologists and physiotherapists to Papua New Guinea each year to perform around 50 operations in a two week period.

Based at the Port Moresby General Hospital, the ultimate goal is to develop a local cardiac surgery program and unit. Locally based surgeons have received significant training and perform some cardiac surgery procedures without assistance.

The need for surgery still outweighs the work that can be done, both in finance and time. This means that that Operation Open Heart and the local team must complete the sometimes heart-wrenching work of determining those patients most suitable for surgery.

Business is about value – trading goods or services in exchange for some kind of added value, or profit. Mostly we think of that as money, but corporate social responsibility programs, the rise of the social entrepreneur and simply the impulse to do a bit of good somewhere is a reminder that money is only part of the business story.

Dave Watson was a biomedical engineer straining within the constraints of his corporate career. Reaching his early forties, it felt like time to take charge of his working life. He would buy a business.

Dave bought Medical Equipment and Gases Australia – suppliers of medical equipment to the healthcare industry. It was, he said, “a pile of crap in a great industry” and launched into the toughest five years of his working life.

“I didn’t realise how consuming it would be – how hard I would have to work. I had, as a friend said, created a monster that had to be fed. No matter what your expectations, the experience of running a business can be overwhelming.” Business was good, but life was starting to crack under the strain.

Then a customer asked Dave to donate medical supplies to Operation Open Heart, a program that performed open heart surgery on children in Papua New Guinea.

The catalyst to ‘do good’ was a customer. Dave was chasing business. “But it was a turning point in my career,” he now sees. Dave not only donated the equipment, but was curious enough to join the team of about 40 Australian medical professionals on a two week trip to assess, operate on and assist in the recovery of around 50 children.

“Working in Papua New Guinea, everything was different. I was part of a team of dedicated people who worked hard to deliver results for local Papua New Guinea kids, who were so grateful and so uncomplaining. Professionally I was exposed to the whole care chain – from assessment of sick kids in remote mountain regions, right through surgery and until they were sitting up in the ward recovering at the end of the two weeks.”

Surprisingly, Dave’s involvement in Operation Open Heart changed how he viewed his business.

“The time I took out allowed me to think about money. What was it I wanted from my business? What kind of lifestyle was I chasing? Once I could articulate that, I worked with a consultant to understand how Mega Medical could be a great business and deliver the lifestyle I was after.”

Mega Medical employs 25 people and services medical providers throughout Australia. Dave focuses on company culture and strong team dynamics to make his business an effective and fun place to work.

He lives on his yacht and surfs four times a week.