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E37 | Tristan White on Why Culture is Everything

Today’s guest is Tristan White, CEO of The Physio Co. For 10 consecutive years, The Physio Co has ranked as one of Australia’s 50 Best Places to Work. Today we find out how he has achieved that. The Physio Co exists to help Australian seniors stay mobile, safe & happy, and since its inception in 2004, The Physio Co has grown from just one person with a vision to change seniors health care forever, to today where The Physio Co has more than 150 team members and delivers over 300,000 physiotherapy consultations per year.

Tristan regularly shares his journey through his blog Culture is Everything and latterly through his book of the same name, as well as his podcast, Think Big, Act Small.

On today’s podcast:

  • How he grew his team to 150
  • Why he set his 10-year goal to have treated 2 million seniors
  • What new goal they’ve just set for the next 10 years
  • His journey to date as well as some of his pitfalls
  • The challenges he faced early on hiring people
  • The importance of finding the sweet spot between being a friend and a boss
  • Why he chose to write his book
  • The different types of culture businesses can have
  • What he wishes he knew earlier on in his career


Today’s guest on The Melting Pot is CEO of The Physio Co. For 10 consecutive years, The Physio Co has ranked as one of Australia’s 50 Best Places to Work and to reach that, Tristan White has had a steep learning curve.

He shares with us some of his top tips on making sure your business culture is the best it can be.

Be a flexible boss

It’s just as important to be a boss to your employees as well as a friend. In fact, Tristan believes his friendships are deeper because he is so honest and open with him, the same way he is with his employees.

Being able to tell someone they have spinach in their teeth is one thing; being able to tell them they have body odour is another. That takes a different sort of courage, but one that leaders need.

Create a strong business culture

Every business has a culture—a culture by default or a culture by design. The culture by default leaves managers being reactive and fighting fires constantly, whereas the culture by design creates a system of behaviours that enable people to work to their best.

Tristan strived to create the second type of culture with The Physio Co, and it’s seen him win awards for his efforts.

Business core values are everything

The core purpose of a business is like the floor of a house: the walls are the core values, they are the behaviours you expect employees to demonstrate daily (for Tristan these are: respect for all, be memorable, think big but act small, find a better way). The roof is the vision of where your business is going (The Physio Co has a 3-year and a 10-year timeline). Finally, your employees then have the run of the house as long as they operate within the parameters of the house.

Be flexible in your business direction

Sometimes businesses take a U-turn, and that isn’t something to be feared. Your initial goal doesn’t always have to be what you end up doing.

Tristan had a strong head-versus-heart moment when he realised what he wanted wasn’t what he thought he did. He had always thought he wanted to work in elite sports therapy, where he could help athletes work harder and go from 90% to 100%; he didn’t expect to enjoy working with elderly people so much. But he did because he felt like he was making a tangible difference.

Don’t be scared of change, nor of following your heart.

Leaders have a choice of how to lead

Leaders should find the sweet spot between caring about the individual members of the team and focusing on the performance of the business. If you are too far at either end, one will suffer.

Measure your goals

Measuring your goals internally and externally is the only way to figure out if you’re on track. Tristan opts to measure goals internally through a high ENPS (employee net promoter score),  and externally through a third-party organisation called ‘Great Place to Work’ annual study.

He has participated in this study every year for the past 10 years, and The Physio Co has ranked each year among Australia’s 50 Best Places to Work.

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